Website analytics simply means tracking what is happening on your website: who visits when, what do they read, which products do they buy. Tools to track your analytics have become very sophisticated and can provide you with very useful insights into your visitors – their demographics, interests, favourite articles etc. Knowing about and capitalising on these insights will fuel your business fire.
As with all types of data, there are two important steps: the obvious one is to collect relevant data. The second, and even more important one, is to analyse and interpret the data. In this article I share why analytics is crucial for your website and what you need to do to interpret the data in the right way.
1. Get to Know Your Users
Most people think that website analytics only means obsessing about how many people visit your website daily. But analytics is much more than that. I would even say we need to take a step back from the question “How many users visit my site?” and ask “Who visits my site?”.
Even if the number of visitors is still small, it is essential to know who visits your website and why. As you run a business online, you will rarely meet your customers or readers in person. Hence, it is more difficult to know who are your customers/readers than in the real world.
Analytics can give you very detailed answers: When do people visit your site? Where are they from? How old are they? What is their gender? What do they read most often? How do they click through your site? How did they find your site?
2. Analyse What Your Users Enjoy and Build on It
If you have read my previous article about how to plan your website, you will not be surprised that I will emphasize again that it is important to have a concept. In this concept you probably have thought about factors such as your target audience, what they enjoy reading, their shopping behaviour (if applicable), where they come from and which language they speak.
The concept is the basis of your site. This basis needs to constantly be evaluated and further developed. This is where analytics and data come in: with the help of data you can assess if the content and products you had in mind for your target group works. Did people really read it or buy the products? Or did they read other articles more?
Analysing your data is a very good reality check. As entrepreneurs, journalists or bloggers we sometimes think we know exactly what our customers or readers want. However, we can be wrong. And it is better to fact check than to waste time on content nobody actually enjoys.
Sometimes I have a certain idea for an article in mind and assume this will be a popular on my website. After I publish it I see that my readers did not find it as interesting and focused on other articles more – sometimes articles I did not deem too important. I then go back and make notes and think about how I can write more content about the topics my readers actually enjoy.
3. Where Do Visitors Come from?
Gaining traction is one of the biggest challenges of running a website. I mentioned this in my post about e-commerce – a website is like running a store in a village in the middle of nowhere. Your store may be open, but nobody knows about you as yet and you have to draw attention to you and make them want to come all the way to visit you.
When you start a website, a lot of initial traffic will come from your own sources: word-of-mouth or your social media. Some people might share your site or they may refer to you on their on websites. Analytics shows you where users are coming from. And it helps you to focus on the sources which work best for you.
Example: If you are a blogger, you will probably use Instagram to promote your blog. As we know, Instagram requires a lot of time and effort. You may want to check the conversion. This means how many people actually come to your website from Instagram. If you see that the number is rather low, focus on the channels which send you more people.
It is no secret that I highly recommend to focus on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the beginning. Analytics help you track who came to your website because they search online. Which keywords did they use? Which search engine did they use?
4. How Much Time Do Your Visitors Spend on Your Site and When and Where Do They Leave?
The “bounce rate” has become an important term in website analytics. It refers to the percentage of visitors who enter the site but then leave (they “bounce”) instead of continuing to stay on the page or move on to other pages of your website. Without getting too technical, simply put it means you need to check where people leave your site. Furthermore, analyse when they leave or how much time they spend on your site on average.
Example: Some time ago, a lot of articles recommend to invest in Pinterest to draw attention to your website. For many sites it seemed to be really beneficial at first: a lot of traffic was generated. However, the visitors “bounced” quite fast. The reason may be that they expect to see something different and leave immediately if they do not find what they are looking for. While increasing overall traffic is a good thing, a high bounce rate is not. You may now think that these people may still remember your website and come back. However, if they bounce that fast, they are unlikely to remember you. They have clicked on a pin on Pinterest without probably paying attention to the name of your website. Hence, it makes sense to assess what is the right social channel to promote your site.
5. Analyse Outbound Links
Website analytics not only show you where your visitors come from, it also gives you insights into where they are going to next. You will probably have outbound links on your site – for example if you are a travel blogger, you may link to your recommended hotels and restaurants. If you see that some of them get a lot of clicks, you may want to reach out to them and discuss possible partnerships. It is always easier to reach out based on facts. Website analytics provides you the data to convince possible partners.
We have covered all the reasons why you need website analytics. You may now ask where you can get started. I personally work with Google Analytics. (Note: this is not a paid post, this is just sharing my personal experience.) So far, it fits my needs. In general, I recommend to not make it too complicated. Start with a free analytics tool and take it from there.
Do you have any further questions about website analytics? Or what are your recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended services above.