Guest Column: Web analytics: The secret to growing business
Guest Column by Dean Swanson
In last week’s column, I wrote that “small businesses can use digital analytics to improve their marketing.” Bridget Weston is the CEO of the SCORE Association. Her background is marketing. She has some great tips for using web analytics to measure your online marketing results. I share her suggestions to add to this discussion to help start using analytics.
1. Set up your analytics based on the goals for your website. Those might include:
• Generating leads
• Making sales
• Educating customers about your product
• Getting customers to fill out a contact form
You may have different goals for different website pages. Be sure to measure data that’s tied to your goals. For example, if your goal is to educate customers, pay attention to the amount of time customers spend on the site and how many pages they view. Those numbers will show if they’re interested enough to keep digging for more information.
2. Understanding analytics terms. Here are some things you can measure using Google Analytics.
• Visit: Any session in which a visitor interacts with your website
• Unique visitors: the number of individuals who visit a website during a specified time period. (If the same person visits more than once in that time period, he or she counts as one unique visitor.)
• Page views: Each time a visitor views a page of your site, it counts as a page view. One visit may contain dozens of page views.
• New visitors
• Returning visitors
• Bounce rate: This refers to the number of users who exit your site after only viewing one page.
• Pages per visit: How many pages users view in one visit
• Average time on site: The average time a user spends on the site
• Exit page: An exit page is the last page of your website that a visitor views before leaving your site. If certain pages keep showing up as exit pages, it could be a sign something is wrong with those pages. Perhaps it’s too hard to find the information visitors are looking for, so they get frustrated and leave. On the other hand, if your most common exit page is your contact form and visitors leave after filling it out, that’s a positive result.
• Traffic sources: There are three kinds of traffic sources:
— Direct traffic: people who type your URL in the address bar of your browser. Direct traffic can indicate customer awareness of your website and show the effectiveness of advertising. For example, if your cable TV ads repeat a custom URL and lots of people type in that URL, that means it’s working.
— Referring sites: people who come to your site by clicking a link on another site. Referral site traffic indicates how strong your online presence is on other sites.
— Search engines: people who visit your site because it showed up in their search results). Measuring search engine traffic shows you how effective your SEO is.
• Keywords: The keywords you use in your marketing, advertising and your website may be different than the words people are actually using when they search for what you sell. Web analytics can provide these keywords, which you can then use to improve your search engine rankings.
• Conversion rate: This is the percentage of people who did what you wanted them to do (“converted”), whether that’s registering to download a free e-book or sign up for your newsletter.
3. Why analytics are so important? While you may be a bit overwhelmed the first time you look at your Google Analytics dashboard, know that the information in front of you can help propel your business forward. Here are a few ways you can use analytics to appeal to your audience.
4. Page views and time on site. Page views and time on site allow you to see which pages your visitors are staying on and viewing. This information is especially helpful if you’re posting different types of content. You can determine which types of content interest your audience, so you can tailor it to what they’re looking for from your business.
5. Demographics. With demographic information about your audience, you can ensure you’re hitting your target market. For instance, if you’re running ads that aren’t targeted enough by location, you may see an increase in visitors from a different area than where your business resides. You can then modify your targeting to attract more local customers.
6. Traffic sources. Traffic source information is especially helpful if you’re advertising online in multiple places. With your analytics, you can see exactly what avenues your visitors are taking to get to your site and determine which advertising options are the best investments for your business.
7. What do these numbers mean? The most important measurements for your website will vary depending on your business and your website goals. For example, if you want to expand your business nationally, measuring how many people visit your website from out of state, and which states they come from, could be important.
Whether your measurements indicate success or failure will also vary. If your goal is to get customers to your website to fill out a contact form, a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing as long as the one page most visitors go to is the contact form. On the other hand, if your goal is to sell products, a high bounce rate is bad, because it means few visitors are buying.
Remember, web analytics display trends over time. Review your analytics at least once a month to get a better overview of what’s happening. Then, make changes as needed, and use your analytics to see how well they succeed.
Dean Swanson is a volunteer-certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region.