A website is a substantial investment and just like any other investment, its performance needs to be measured meticulously. The basic key performance indicators (KPIs) for a website can be tracked, recorded and analyzed by using web analytics software. Web analytics is a fairly large business and the cost may exceed six figures. Fortunately, there are a number of free alternatives for measuring the performance of your site.
Since it is the most comprehensive and free option, I recommend using Google Analytics which not only measures and records historical visitor data, but also helps you analyze the data and export to various formats with graphs. The information here is based on Google Analytics but it applies to any program you use.
If your website does not have a built-in metrics tool, your web designer or web master should be able to integrate a web traffic analytics tool. If you are planning to upgrade your website or get a new one designed for you, then make sure you have Google Analytics installed.
This will help tremendously with understanding how visitors find your site, how they navigate within the site and how they become customers or just leave. Understanding visitor behavior enables you provide relevant content in a timely manner.
Once your analytics tools are in place, you can then measure what works the best and modify your strategy to optimize the return on your web design investment. Being able to track the traffic of your website will give you priceless insight into what people expect your website to provide for them, and show you how behavior differs between people who do and don’t take the next step and contact you or buy your products on your website.
If you haven’t installed Google Analytics already, you can start by signing up here and get your tracking code. A tracking code is a small piece of code which includes a unique ID number for your website. Once you signed up you can either follow Google’s instructions on how to install it or ask your web developer to do it for you.
Please make sure that the tracking code is installed on every single page of your website, not just the home page. The code has to be on every page to work properly.
Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool and it might look intimidating at first sight, but it is actually very straight forward once it is setup right. Let’s look at the definitions of basic terms from Google Help.
Visits refers to the number of times your visitors has been to your site, a single visitor may visit 3 times and it will be counted as 3 visits. It shows an overall picture for the website and helps you see some important indicators like the peak days of the week or the peak times.
Pageviews refers to the number of pages visitors viewed. A single visitor should view more than one page otherwise it means the website does not engage with the visitor.
This is where Pages per Visit ratio comes in handy, it shows the average number of pages per visit. It is a good indicator of relevancy of the content because it means users browse other pages instead of just leaving, so the higher the better.
Pages per Visit ratio is more meaningful when used together with Average time on Site which simply measures the duration of each visit. Together these indicators reveal the real engagement level.
But what about the visitors who visit and just leave for some reason? It is called a “bounce.” Thus, Bounce Rate refers to the percentage of people who visited your site and immediately moved on without looking at any other pages. A bounce rate of 100% would mean that everyone who found your site left without clicking anywhere else on your site. The lower the bounce rate, the better it is.
You can also see how your visitors find your website by glancing over Traffic Sources section. It lists search engines, direct traffic (bookmarks) or referral links. This section can help you strategize your search engine optimization (SEO) approach. It also gives you a good idea about the keywords relevant to your website. If the keywords listed here are not your strengths then you might want to change the content. Furthermore, this section shows you how many people visit your site from your Twitter links, Facebook posts or other social media sites. It is certainly one of the best aspects of understanding the return on your social media efforts.
Have you ever wondered from where in the world your visitors come to your site? Google Analytics has an answer for that too. It is called Map Overlay and displays from which city, country or continent your visitors come from. If you are getting a good number of visitors from China, why not add a Chinese version of your site and start interacting with your potential customers. Without analytics you wouldn’t be aware of it.
Other useful indicators include Absolute Unique Visitors which shows the number of visitors rather than the number of visits. New / Returning Users ratio shows the ratio between your new visitors and returning visitors, it is similar to having new customers visit your store which is a good thing, in general.
Please keep in mind that none of these indicators are meaningful on their own. They need to be combined and compared to understand what is really going on. For instance, if you have high new visitor ratio you might think you are attracting a lot of new visitors which is great, but, if the number of visitors are the same for the entire month, then it means people never return to your website!
There are quite a number of different key performance indicators for a website, but the ones listed here are a good place start. As you look at your data closer you will be able to drill down to other indicators and soon improve the return of your precious investment in web and social media.
Similar to other business intelligence tools, the data about your website becomes more meaningful as you measure longer periods of time. It is good to start as early as possible and it is never too late to start.
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, please share with us.
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