You’ve most likely heard the famous business mantra – “if you can measure it, you can improve it”.
Any traditional bricks and mortar business will have a set of specific metrics or reports by which they measure the performance of their business. These include:
- Profit & Loss Statements
- Balance Sheets
- Inventory Reports
- Sales Funnel Reports
- Cash Flow Statements
- Accounts Payable Reports
- Accounts Receivable Reports
These reports and a host of other metrics specific to your business will make up the dashboard by which you can easily measure how well your business is performing.
Each one of these reports tells a specific story. The challenge for business owners is to be able to first understand what the numbers are saying and then react accordingly.
For example, your accounts receivable report may show that your customers are taking an average of 60 days to pay on a 30 day account. This delay in payment may result in your business having to organise for extended credit from your bank or financial institution or rely on an existing overdraft facility to cover the payment of raw materials to your suppliers. The longer you wait for payment from your customers the more it impacts on your cash-flow and the more it costs you in finance. Being able to generate a report that alerts you of slow account payment enables you to make decisions to improve your collections process and at the same time save you money and increase the performance of your business.
So, web analytics are no different, they are simply the reports and metrics which make up your online dashboard by which you can measure the performance of your website.
So what are some of the metrics that web analytics can measure?
There a literally dozens of metrics that web analytics will measure. However, they are broken down into 3 main headings.
Seachability is primarily about search engine optimisation or SEO as it is more commonly referred to. Your SEO activities drive traffic to the most relevant pages of your website. SEO traffic is primarily driven by:
- Keywords or keyword phrases
- Direct traffic
- Referral traffic.
Analytics will tell you what keywords or keyword phrases visitors used in the search engines to find your web site. Knowing what keywords visitors use to find you can help you optimise your site further for those keywords or on the other hand give you an indication of what keywords your site cannot be easily found for.
Each individual keyword can be examined to determine its value to your website and your business. Some keywords will turn out to be more informational or research based keywords, whilst other keywords will be more transactional based.
For example lets use the digital camera market. When somebody searches using the keyword “digital camera” chances are they are starting off in the research stage of buying a digital camera, they are essentially looking for broad product information.
The next stage of the process is using more defined keywords based on product categories, for example “slr digital camera”.
Searchers then move into even more brand defined keyword phrases such as “canon slr digital camera”.
They then arrive at a particular model of camera which could be “EOS 7D canon slr digital camera”.
The final stages are usually search terms that contain the words “review” or “comparison” followed by “purchase” or “buy”.
It is important to know at which stage visitors are finding your website so you can refine your content, call to action or online activities and sales process accordingly.
Now direct traffic is a much simpler concept. It measure visitors that arrive at your site by keying in your website address or URL directly into the web browser. It’s like knowing somebody’s phone number and dialling it without having to use directory assistance. Direct traffic is a great measure of how effective your traditional or off-line marketing is working in driving traffic to your website. For example, including web addresses in newspaper or magazine advertising, flyers, business cards or direct mail campaigns.
That leads us to referral traffic. This measurement tells us how many people arrived at your site by clicking on a link on another website. This link may have been a listing in a business directory, Yellow Pages Online, a forum, blogs, an email, online articles and other websites. Referral traffic is a great measure of the popularity and authority of your website and is an accurate measure of how well your online advertising is working such as banners, video marketing such as YouTube, article marketing and other online advertising strategies.
Therefore the searchability or SEO metrics will answer:
- What keywords or keyword phrases visitors used to find your website
- What the most popular keywords are
- What your most popular pages are
- Which outside websites visitors arrived from
- Which outside pages your visitors came from
- How effective your off-line or traditional marketing is
Usability is all about understanding your visitor’s behaviour whilst on your site. Web analytics enables you to see how visitors use and navigate your site. Are they struggling to find the relevant information, answer their problems, take a desired action and achieve their goals? If they are, there is very little chance that you will achieve your goals either. According to a recent IBM study, every $1 invested in making your website easy to use returns between $10 to $100. Think about it….
The usability metrics will answer:
- How many pages visitors viewed on your site
- What pages visitors viewed on your site
- How long they spent on each page
- What pages they arrived on
- Which page they existed your site from
- What actions they took on the site such as downloading a brochure, filled in a form, watched a video, placed on order or left a comment etc.
Accessibility is all about the technology used to access your site. By making your pages accessible to older and new browsers, assistive devices like screen readers and the emerging mobile technology you can significantly reduce the amount of people who arrive at your site and then leave quickly without taking a further action or looking at another page, referred to as a “bounce rate”, because more people will be able to successfully access your pages.
An example of the importance of monitoring this metric is the decision to create a mobile phone version of your website. If you can see there is a significant or increasing amount of traffic from mobile phones and your site does not display well on this format, then it would be good business to invest in a mobile version of your site.
Web analytics allows you to see which browser and the browser version, screen resolutions, operating systems and more. The best way to explain it is; Would you turn away customers from your shop because they arrived in the wrong type of car?
So there you have it; a quick overview of the benefits of using Web Analytics. The only thing left now is to go and get yourself set up. One of the best packages on the market is free and available from….. Yes you guessed it Google. Check out Google Analytics. Happy tracking.
By Gary Weis,
Web Marketing Strategist
Small Business Internet Marketing