Website traffic analysis tools have been around for a long time, used by webmasters, site owners and marketing individuals to try and make sense of what visitors do on any given website. Online trends demanded a change from analytics tools which traditionally only gave you the numbers of visitors that ended up on your site, where they came from, how many views a page received, and so on. The latest analytical technology not only gives you those visitor totals but also goes into further detail enabling you to analyze, and hopefully understand, how visitors engage online and how users interact with your site, offering ways for you to benchmark your site against others.
The challenge however still remains in understanding the data and identifying trends. This is never easy and requires a learning curve for most, therefore, the best strategy is that you plan ahead and think about what it is that you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, before you slap a bit of analytics code onto your site. Once you have a full grasp of these goals you can easily execute a strategy into both your site and any Analytics tool that will allow you to track and monitor how your site visitors respond.
Your target market
Before you start implementing analytics to your site, it is important to know your target market. These are the people you want to reach; those you either want to talk to or sell your products to. Not only do you need to know who your target market is, where they are and how to reach them, but you also need to define means to engage with them and provide timely information to them.
- The first step is to attract them to your site, so, plan your marketing efforts to reach these potential customers in every possible way you can. There are many ways of doing online marketing but your money will be well spent if you start with a proper strategy built upon the knowledge you’ve gained from researching your target market.
- The second step once you’ve attracted visitors to your website is to keep them coming back for more, or at least, make them stay a while. This requires that your site talks to them in the right way. Use content that is fresh and engages the visitor. Offer your visitors ways of sharing and interacting with and through your site.
- The third (and crucial) step is how you set up and use Analytics to ultimately verify whether your efforts have reached your target market and whether they are enjoying the content that you are showing them on your site.
Where is your site traffic coming from?
Visits to your site will be a direct result of your marketing efforts and how well you “advertise” yourself online. By analyzing your site’s web traffic via analytics, you will know, and learn, exactly how successful your marketing efforts have been. You can track traffic by source (organic search, paid search, referral links or direct visits) and dissect individual pages to see how people discover, engage and enjoy your site, or not. Depending on your analysis, you will know when to cut the fat from your marketing plan and focus on the most strategic and productive campaigns or add to them when you see you are spread too thinly.
What is happening on your site compared to what you expected to happen?
If you are not seeing what you expected in terms of increased traffic to your site through a specific marketing channel, then you need to adjust and make changes where necessary for that channel. If you see a good number of new visitors to the site but fail to retain them then you will need to look at making changes in terms of design, navigation, structure or content.
Only by looking at the analytical data can you see where the potential pitfalls are. You should know how people navigate your site, where they spend their time, what they do and how long they stay around. You should know whether you are talking to the right kind of people and giving them what they are looking for.
One important thing to remember is that you should be making changes on a “trial-and-error” basis. If something you tried does not work, scrap it completely and try something else. Eventually you will find something your visitors will enjoy.
You might also discover that visitors may respond in different ways and that it may not necessarily be the way you thought it would happen, therefore be prepared to revisit your original goals and change your strategy so that you can make the necessary changes to your site and how you track it in Analytics.
What trends do you see?
The Web is constantly changing, what worked last year may not work this year. By tracking your site traffic, you will be able to see trends as they unfold: trends in who is coming to your site, how they are interacting with it, what they want and how they buy for example. You will be able to respond proactively to changing patterns, rather than reactively scrambling to fix a situation after it has become a major problem.
Be sure to always look at historical analytics data over longer periods of time and not just the recent data. In some cases trends are easier to spot when you look at a longer timeline but this may depend on the marketing channel and the timelines associated with it.
Are people interacting with your site?
This ties in closely with the overall strategy and purpose of your site as well as Usability and Accessibility issues. Are visitors visiting because of the great content or is it because they want to find out more about that specific product? Whatever the reason, they should easily be able to find the content or the product they are looking for and do something with it (…complete the site goals).
You should allow your visitors to make informed decisions right there and then by giving them the tools to engage through that content or product. If you provide content, allow the visitors to print it, PDF it, email it, store it, share it or bookmark it. If you sell products, make sure the visitor can see a demo, test the product, buy it, share it or comment on it.
It is essential to provide your visitor with the correct tools and for you to track those tools to see what visitors are doing once arriving on any page. Set up some goals or track events via your analytics tool to see what your site visitors like doing while they are on your site. This way you can see whether the tools that you’ve provided are of interest and whether they are able to easily use it. This also creates a platform for you to communicate with your visitors and learn from them.
All of the above may help you to identify any problems your site visitors may be encountering while spending time on site. And that information can help you significantly improve their user experience and your sales.
If you are serious about using your web site as a tool for business, it is absolutely essential that you define your goals first, implement the correct strategy to both your site and Analytics in order to track your site traffic and make informed decisions. The bottom line is this: you can make wise decisions for your business by tracking the right metrics, but if you start out wrong, you will end in failure. Make absolutely sure that you target the right market, that your goals are clear, that your strategy is sound and that you have executed it into all the right places. This should make it easier for you to then track in analytics, but if you incorrectly implemented or you are tracking the wrong metrics, you will make the wrong decisions.