Measuring Your Website's Performance Key to Boosting Sales and Marketing
Your website can be one of your most valuable marketing assets, or it can remain an untapped resource you'll never fully comprehend. Without knowledge of your websites analytics—the "statistics" behind your website's operations—you can't measure any of your website efforts or programs.
By fully understanding your website analytics, you can begin a full-fledged website update and maintenance plan.
The Case for Knowing Your Analytics
Think of your website as a marketing tool, such as a direct mail campaign. You (we hope) track figures such as how many mailings you sent versus how many responses you received, and how many of those responses converted into sales. Without tracking the results of your mail campaign, you’d have no idea if the monetary and time investment was justified. Likewise, neglecting your website analytics leaves you in the dark about your site’s performance.
You'll need to familiarize yourself with stats such as:
- How many people visit your website in a given period?
- What do visitors do when they visit your website?
- How long do visitors remain on your website?
- Where does most of your website traffic come from?
- Which pages on your website are the most and least popular?
By analyzing these issues, you can understand how incremental and/or large website changes affect the behavior of visitors and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Your website, if it is not already, has the potential to be your most valuable marketing tool. Any information you can gather about your website will help you make strategic marketing decisions.
Web Analytics Buzzwords to Know
Every field has its jargon, and web analytics is no exception. Unlike many buzzwords, though, the terms bandied about in the web analytics community aren’t abstract theories or useless pabulum. The majority of analytics are concerned with measuring what actions your website visitors take (sometimes called “user behavior”).
The analytics components you’ll want to pay the most attention to include:
Hits. This may be one of the few web analytics terms you’ve heard consistently. Some web development agencies, marketers and business owners alike brag about the tremendous number of hits their websites have received. In reality, it’s not the be-all, end-all measurement. Hits are simply requests for files from web servers. In layman’s terms, that means every request your web server receives is deemed a hit.
If your web server receives a request for a specific webpage with six images, that amounts to seven hits. The web page itself counts as one hit, and each of the six images counts as a separate hit.
There’s good reason many analytics experts avoid "more hits" as a gauge of success. Unless you’re very technical by nature and want insight into all the activity demanded of your web server, don’t rely on hits to determine your website’s success or failure.
Page Views. When someone successfully loads one document—i.e., visits one of your web pages—you have earned one page view. Unlike hits, page views are a much more insightful way to see how often people are viewing your web pages, and which web pages are the most popular. While page views can include other documents such as Word or Excel files or scripts, this metric generally sticks to your actual web pages.
Visitors. This metric measures the number of people who have spent time perusing your website. As you’ve probably guessed by now, the higher the number, the better. But it’s not that simple. Knowing the number of visitors your site receives is great. But it doesn’t reveal what they do after they visit your site (such as convert into a sale). Consider this number an indicator of how well your marketing efforts to push people to your site are working, not how well your site is fulfilling its purpose.
Bounce Rate. We’ll readily admit it: This one looks completely nonsensical at first glance. However, this indicator constitutes a very important metric for judging your website’s content and your targeting. Your bounce rate is composed of how many visitors look at only one page on your website then leave (or “bounce”). The lower the bounce rate, the more visitors are exploring other content in your website and, presumably, finding your site useful. The higher the bounce rate, the more visitors are abandoning ship after a cursory glance. A high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean your site is the problem. Visitors may bail because they are the wrong visitors; that is, they are not your intended audience. You may need to readjust your targeting efforts.
Time on Site. Back to terms that sound like what they mean, knowing how long visitors remain on your site is an important indicator that they’re engaged. Of course, a short time-on-site isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you run a pizza parlor and a visitor leaves your website after finding your phone number, that short time-on-site resulted in a sale.
Traffic Sources. Traffic is usually defined as the data visitors send and receive when viewing your website. Knowing the origin of that traffic—the traffic source—can reveal a great deal about the make-up of your visitors. It can help you determine if a referral site is bringing in visitors, if any search engine optimization (SEO) efforts are bearing fruit and if you’re receiving traffic from unexpected sources.
Conversion Rate. This is what it all boils down to, especially if you’re in eCommerce. This analytic traces how many visitors perform the action you desire and “convert.” For example, you may want visitors to complete an info form. Then your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete a form. You can monitor multiple conversion rates, such as the example above, the number of people who complete the form and turn into a sale, and even how many visitors it takes to the page to lead to a sale. And when it comes to defining progress for this one, the goal is a little easier: a higher conversion rate is always better.
These web analytics terms only scratch the surface. If your website plays a big part in your sales and marketing mix, it will behoove you to track even more analytics. For a comprehensive—and we mean comprehensive—compendium of web analytics terms, peruse Statistical Concepts and Analytics Explained.
Take Advantage of Free Analytics Tools
To gather analytics, you’ll need to employ web analytics software, usually available online. Before you can see just how your website is performing, you’ll likely have to insert some code into key pages of your website. Some analytics programs may also require installing software on your web server.
While this all may sound intimidating, the more popular analytics programs provide fairly useful documentation to help you along. If you’re not at all technical, finding a freelance web developer who’s willing to charge a flat rate or agree to a reasonable number of hours for getting your analytics up and running may be worthwhile.
Don’t let a lack of technical expertise stop you from gaining insight into your web analytics.
- Google Analytics. By far the most popular and widely used among all analytics tools, Google Analytics will probably be your first stop. The program includes a variety of customizable reporting options and the ability to segment visitors to detect more detailed patterns of how certain people behave on your site, just to name a few. You won’t need to install software, but you will need to insert code into your website.
- Piwik. This Google Analytics alternative (pronounced “pee-week”) is an open-source program. That means you can edit the program all you want. It also means you’ll need some tech acumen. And you’ll have to install Piwik on your web server. Before you write off this system as too complicated, investigate what it could do for your business. Consider hiring some temporary tech savvy help to manage the implementation.
- GoingUp! It’s not just the exclamation point that gets small business owners excited about this tool. The basic website statistics plus some useful extras such as your Google PageRank standing and keyword tools make this a formidable contender. Remember: You can always use more than one tool simultaneously.
Before deciding on the right analytics program(s), do your homework. Think about what analytics information would really help you improve your website—and define what exactly “improve my website” means. Take the time to explore the multitudes of analytics tools available to decide which one—or ones—best fit your business needs.
Setting Benchmarks and Goals for Your Website
There’s no set number or percentage for what constitutes “good” or “bad” page visits, visitors or conversion rates. Every industry and company is different. Before developing targets, you need benchmarks. Start with these steps:
- Collect as much data as possible over 90 days. That will indicate, on average, how any given metric or rate performs on a weekly, daily or monthly basis.
- Once you’ve gathered data, see how it plays a role into your overall sales and marketing efforts. For example, is eCommerce a larger or smaller part of your sales portfolio than you expected?
- Consider how updating your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) programs will best be tracked in analytics.
- Concentrate on the metrics that matter to your goals. Don’t worry about the ones that have no bearing on your overall website strategy.
- Make realistic goals. For example, if you’re aiming to improve your monthly page views, think in terms of percentage. If you average 5000 page views a month, 8000 would be great, but that equates to a 60 percent increase in monthly page views. A number like 6,000 might be more realistic, while still representing a fairly aggressive 20 percent growth rate.
If your website has been long neglected, launching new content and promoting your site may very well result in large spikes for your key metrics.
- Give yourself adequate time. After you launch new content or create new campaigns integrated with your website, change won’t happen overnight. You’ll likely need two to three months to monitor analytics to notice success, stagnation or failure.
While we don’t encourage you to judge your website’s performance by analytics averages or industry standards—at least not at the onset—Analytics SEO does provide a few analytics averages, including:
- Time on Site: 160.6 seconds
- Bounce Rate: 42.5 percent
- Average Page Views per Visit – 3.8
Like most marketing efforts, your website analytics won’t improve overnight. But simply knowing where your website stands and tracking its performance over time will make your business strategy and marketing planning all the more effective.