August 12, 2019

Website Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide to Measuring What Matters

Companies that have never used website analytics often shy away from the subject. Tracking and interpreting analytical data seems too complicated and time-consuming to add to their already overloaded plate.  On top of other responsibilities, staring at a sea of data points and metrics doesn’t sound too appealing. But in reality, monitoring website analytics doesn’t always have to be a full-time job. 

Most analytics services are free or affordable and can offer any level of insight that your company has time to focus on. Being able to see concrete data about consumer behavior on a website allows the business owner to tailor how they interact and what they offer as a company. Analytics also offers clues as to what is working and what is not working within a company’s online presence, making it easier to solve what is not effective. Analytics provide insights into what the customer wants, an integral aspect that should be the company’s ultimate focus

Still not convinced? Below we have outlined the top five data metrics to look for when starting your analytics account, and why they matter. 

Before We Start – Connecting to Analytics 

First, you must understand what metrics mean and how they relate to your business goals. There are a variety of options for your business to use, but the most common (and most effective) is Google Analytics. You can find a more detailed description of how to add Google Analytics to your website here

It’s important to note that it takes about a week to collect analytics and accumulate data before you can effectively look at your website’s metrics.

Our Top Five Website Data Metrics

Website Traffic (Users and Sessions)

Definition: The number of visitor sessions on your site on any given day, week, or month.

Importance: Website traffic is often seen as the most wanted metric at the beginning of your analytics process as it provides direct insight into how many people are viewing your website. Monitoring traffic over time can show a business whether its website is growing in visitors or declining. Also, looking for spikes in visitors could show when you’ve made a great marketing or promotions decision. For businesses with both an online and in-person presence, looking at this metric can give owners a good idea of how many clients you’re receiving from online traffic vs. in-person visits. 

In most analytics services, website traffic can be broken down into more specific data, such as users and sessions. Users refer to anyone that views your website and is typically separated into new and returning users, which helps determine how much new traffic you’re getting as a company. Sessions refer to a time a user is actively engaged with the website and is displayed typically through average session duration, number of sessions per user, and pages per session. 

Example: Sherry has owned an ice cream shop in downtown Gainesville for the past three years but recently started investing more time into online marketing and her website. After setting up Google Analytics on her website’s pages, she can use the website traffic/sessions metric to know that she gets the most users on Friday-Sunday, not during the week. With this insight, she can tailor her marketing strategy to boost posts on the weekend when it will reach the most possible customers. 

Traffic Source 

Definition: Where your visitors are coming from on the Internet, usually broken down into four categories: organic (search engines), referral (linked from another website), direct (people who type in your direct domain name into the browser), and social (linked through social media).

Importance: This metric is crucial for figuring out what means your visitors are using to end up on your website. Looking at the source of traffic can provide a critical context for understanding the value of your marketing efforts and the places in which they will be the most beneficial. 

Example: Sherry has been setting aside a certain amount of money every month to use in Google Ads advertising, and boost her company’s ranking organically. But when she checks the Google Analytics page, she sees that 70% of her website traffic is coming through the pages linked in her social media. Based on this insight, she instead uses that money to invest in Facebook advertising to maximize her efforts.

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
-Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of HP

Bounce Rate 

Definition: When a user visits a single page on your website but makes no other action, typically leaving the website immediately. 

Importance: Bounce rate is a key metric for determining the quality of your web presence. This means it shows whether users actually find your website useful and stay long enough to learn more or be converted into customers. In almost all cases, the lower your bounce rate, the more effective your website is at keeping users interested. The main drawback of this metric is that a high bounce rate can’t specifically tell you why a user is leaving so quickly, that needs to be determined through further research and critical thinking. That being said, some common causes of high bounce rates are slow website loading times, unresponsive features, and poor navigation. 

Example: Sherry notices that her bounce rate has been rising steadily after implementing a new header image and home page design on the website that features the types of ice creams offered. To combat this, she switches to another header design and features the shop’s hours and location instead. She then monitors her bounce rate for a few weeks to see if it improves or declines more. 

Top Pages 

Definition: What pages accumulate the most amount of visitors on the website (shown through the number of page views and percentage of traffic each page receives)

Importance: This metric helps companies understand what information provided on the website is useful for customers, and what needs to be focused on in the future.

Example: Sherry looks at the top pages metric for her website and sees that most people are navigating to her page on hours, location, and local events. Using that insight, she decides to share more about local events on social media and makes sure to link hours and location on all channels and ads. 

Conversion Rate

Definition: The rate at which internet traffic is converted into customers (or follow through on any action of value for the company like more followers, product downloads, etc.)

Importance: This metric provides more insight into the needs of the internet audience and what actions are resulting in a conversion (which is the ultimate goal for most companies.)

Example: As mentioned above, Sherry sees the number of page views she gets per day through website traffic/sessions is highest from Friday-Sunday. She’s hoping that most leads from the website will lead to more followers and likes on social media.  When checking her conversion rate data, she sees that out of all her website’s page views/sessions, she gets the highest conversion rate (or increased number of followers and likes based on her goals) on Sunday nights. From that insight, she creates a campaign on social media sharing posts of each week’s Sunday Sundae creation. 

So What Metrics Should I Pay Attention to in Analytics? 

Ultimately, choosing what analytics to focus on in the long term depends on your company’s goals. That being said, the five mentioned above are a few basic ideas that can jump-start your analytics journey and get a better understanding of your company’s online presence. Once you have mastered these you can slowly adopt more specific metrics and decide which to focus on. 

As a marketing agency, we use every piece of advice given through this blog to serve our clients (and our marketing efforts) most efficiently and effectively. We exist to help businesses develop their own goals and offer support in understanding metrics to facilitate the highest amount of success possible. Ready to understand and grow your online presence? Get in touch with us today.

Alex McKenzie