The ways in which consumers discover, explore and research services and products has changed irrevocably over the past decade; the increasing ways in which the internet is entwined in our lives has led to major shifts in how businesses market to, and connect with their target markets.

Websites are today no longer a nice-to-have marketing tool – they’re an absolute essential. Yet even the shiniest, most pixel perfect of all online presences often mislead their business owners into thinking that they’re acting as an invaluable asset – when the truth may well be far more complex.

Web Analytics: For the complete picture

Web Analytics grows business, guides marketing efforts and provides insight to:

  1. The keywords and search terms that are delivering customers to your digital door.
  2. What your customers are looking for, and what serves of interest to them.
  3. The performance of your social media pages.
  4. The quality of your content, pages and website design.
  5. The trends behind consumer behaviour – and the ways in which your target market can be segmented.

Lindsey Nelson, of Digitalist Mag, expands on each of these in her article on 5 Reasons You Should Use Web Analytics.

Essential metrics to track, analyse and harness

Web analytics presents a rich array of data to tap into – for figures that lead to the insight that can help you re-design your web presence and optimise it for conversion. Whilst there are many metrics that are available through programmes such as Google Analytics, the following five may well be the most important of all.

1. Visitor numbers

The amount of traffic that a website receives is the most fundamental metric as to how successful, or otherwise, off-site marketing activities have been. Broken down into unique visitors and return visitors, this data can demonstrate just how well that marketing budget is working for you – as well as whether your audience is becoming a firm fan of your brand, or otherwise.

2. Referral origins

Visitor numbers are only half the story – knowing where your visitors arrive from provides the other half – allowing you to assess not only the breakdown of visitors by medium (such as social media platforms, search engines, outside blogs, directories and paid advertisements) but can also be used alongside other analytics (such as those that follow). These provide a chance to segment your audience – helping you to understand the differences between their behaviour when visiting your site. This can also guide your content creation strategy for each medium – crafting content that engages and that ultimately converts a visitor into a customer.

3. Bounce rates

A ‘Bounced’ visitor describes those who arrive and then immediately leave a site. The bounce rates of various pages serves as the crudest form of what’s working, and what isn’t – allowing you to make changes and test the outcomes.

Often times the reasons behind high bounce rates can be surprisingly simple, as Venture Harbour address in: 19 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate Today.

4. Exit pages

Exit pages are where a visitor, who has viewed more than one page, leaves the site. Unlike bounced visitors these are important to understand as these visitors have invested at least some of their time before ultimately leaving the website.

Web Analytics World runs through a step by step process for Exit page analysis.

5. Conversion rates and sources

Conversions rates can be said to be the singular measurement of how successfully your website is at winning business. Whilst obvious drops in this rate can demonstrate a technical error on your website, nurturing, tweaking and editing your website to improve this rate is a complex journey of trial and error.

Here’s a detailed guide from Avinash Kaushik as to conversion rate improvement best practices.

Going beyond mere metrics

Beyond these five core metrics may lie a world of business goals – and programmes such as Google Analytics provide the potential to set up tracking to assess your efforts, against your goals. Kissmetrics dive into the details as to what goals are important in their blog: 4 Google Analytics Goal Types That Are Critical to Your Business, covering URL destination Goals, Visit Duration Goals, Pages/Visit Goals and Event Goals.

The best resource for a step-by-step tutorial to set these goals up comes from Google themselves: Create, edit and share goals.

Alternatives to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the world’s leading platform for free web analytics – yet for many the metrics, data and consequent possible analysis that this provides is too limited for what they need.

Beyond this platform, the following tools serve as viable, and for the most part far more comprehensive, alternatives.

  1. Piwik
  2. Dash
  3. KISSMetrics
  4. Clicky
  5. Woopra

Each of these is weighed up and evaluated by Site Point – covering the pros and cons, and providing clear overviews of each platform.

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With a background in design, I started my career working in various UK based start ups. Branding, social media campaigns and digital design were my main strengths. Then, I dived into the business side of things. I am now a key researcher and creative content writer at CompanyFormations 24.7.