As a business owner, I often get asked by my business peers why a small business owner would ever need to use web analytics. The answer is simple – to make your website works for you. A website is not an expense item in your financial statements. It is a marketing asset that needs to be leveraged to make more money for your small business. And understanding the basics of web analytics can help you do just that.
So what exactly can web analytics do? In a nutshell, it explains what visitors do on your website, where they came from, what they looked at, the number of times they visited, and other such juicy bits of information. But what’s so enticing about these bits? Well, stringing such pieces of information together can help determine how to make the best use of your site to meet your business’ goals.
Let’s say you have an informational site. The goal of your site might be to drive awareness of your business. Better yet, it might capture leads for your business. With web analytics, you can figure out how effective your site is at driving these leads and how you could improve the effectiveness of your website. Let’s stick to this example for the rest of the post and take a look at the top 10 things you need to know about web analytics:
- Web analytics is a journey, not a destination
Even after 10 years of using web analytics, I learn something new about it almost every week. There is just so much to learn. And that’s why it can get daunting. So as a business owner, instead of looking at it as a checkmark on your to-do list, approach web analytics as a skill to be mastered. Here is a good list of resources to get started with learning web analytics.
- Free is fantastic
Some of the best web analytics tools out there are free. Google Analytics tops the list, but there are other options such as Piwik, which are really good too. So which one should you choose? If you’re just starting out, then Google Analytics will more than meet your needs. If you are looking for alternates, here is the case for using Piwik.
- Get it right and keep it right
Even the biggest companies struggle with this one. The data that is stored in your web analytics is as good as the quality of the analytics setup. The saying goes “Garbage in, garbage out.” So making sure that you are measuring your website’s performance right is half the battle. There is a lot more to be said about how to do that. Read more on how to properly set up web analytics.
- Beware of the aimless analysis
When you get into your web analytics dashboard, you will see a lot of “cool” reports and charts. Here is a screenshot of the first screen in Google Analytic
There are a lot of things to click on once you get into Google Analytics. But beware! You could easily spend an hour clicking around and not find anything useful. Why? Because it is very easy to get carried away once inside. So make sure you know what you are looking for before you get into Google Analytics! Which brings me to my next point…
- Identify measurable goals for your website
The best way to use web analytics is to have highly measurable goals for your site and then measure them using web analytics. Using our example site, the goal of this site is to generate business leads. So set up this goal in your web analytics. Then measure the “conversion” rate of this goal periodically. Here is a screenshot of how a goal will show up in your Google Analytics report:
In our example, we want to measure how effective we are with capturing leads. In this case, those leads are generated when visitors fill out a “contact us” form. Once this is setup as a goal in Google Analytics, you will be able to measure the “conversion rate.” Speaking of which…
- Know your conversion rate
In web analytics speak, conversion rate is percent of a goal reached given the traffic to the site. I am over simplifying, but the formula typically is “Number of times a goal is met/Total visitors.” To use web analytics effectively, you should know what your rate generally is. So once you log into web analytics, you should be focused on understanding why that rate moved up or down. Bonus points to you if you have a conversion rate goal in mind that you want to get to!
- Know your most important channels
To improve the effectiveness of your website, you have a lot of levers. One of those levers is the channel mix driving traffic to the site. Not all marketing channels are equal. Depending on your type of business, you may get more traffic from Google vs from Facebook or vice versa. Use your web analytics to figure out which channel drives the most traffic, and then figure out why! That’s how you can generate actionable insights from web analytics. Ask why search drives so much or so little traffic. And ask how you can make your social media traffic click on that contact us form.
- Each channel has its own secret sauce
Each marketing channel is unique. And the way to make the most of the marketing channel is also unique. For example, let’s say you run an email campaign for your informational site. For email, the levers are: open rate, click through rate, and conversion rate. These three levers are how you can increase the number of leads your site could generate. So learn how to find these rates in your web analytics. And then figure out how to improve them.
- Integrate your marketing tools with web analytics
As a business owner, you may be familiar with tools such as AdWords, HubSpot, Constant Contact, and MailChimp, and you may very well be already using these tools. To make the best of your web analytics, integrate the tools into your web analytics. By integrating these tools, it makes sure the channel-specific data such as open rates flows into web analytics, and you then don’t need to look at multiple tools to get your answers.
10. Segmentation will make you king
Segmentation is the key to finding crazy good actionable insights in your web analytics. By segmentation, I mean slicing up the data in ways that is relevant to your business. Google Analytics comes with a very large list of built in segments. So you don’t even need to build any segments. Just use them to theorize why your website’s visitors behave the way they do. Here is a screenshot of a few segments available in Google Analytics:
Let’s say the conversion rate for our informational site is 2.5%. We want to know what we could do to improve that conversion rate. We could start with channel segmentation and look at this conversion rate for “Organic Traffic” vs “Paid Traffic.” Then we could look at segmentation by device used, and so on. We will eventually end up with segments that convert at a rate higher than the average and segments that convert lower. That’s where the magic happens. Now that we know the segments that convert well, we can look at why that might be the case. Only then can we determine how to duplicate that same goodness into segments that don’t convert as well.
Effective websites use web analytics
In short, web analytics is the key smart business owners use to improve the effectiveness of their website (and the great news is that it’s free). It’s a competitive world out there, and the big brands are already using web analytics every day to improve their bottom line. You should, too. Good luck!
Abhi Jadhav is the Managing Partner at Bay Leaf Digital, a web analytics consulting company that helps Marketing departments across the country uncover growth opportunities and improve their bottom line.