Many web owners freak out when faced with the decision to install and use web analytics software. Either they are not technologically proficient or they cannot make sense of all the data points provided by this kind of software. If you have had these reservations yourself, it’s time to get over them. In a nutshell, you shouldn’t run a website or a blog without incorporating web analytics (WA).
There is simply too much valuable information that WA provides to ignore. It could mean the difference in having a successful website. There is something to be said for WA software providing too much information. After all, Google has courses on how to install and interpret the data for their analytics program. After completing all the courses, you can get certified that you have mastered the software. The very fact that these courses exist speaks to the complexity of the provided data.
The key to success with WA is knowing what you want to measure and at what levels are important to you. In essence, you need to draw your line in the sand as to where you want your numbers to be. That does require an understanding of these numbers and also may require trying to find out what numbers others web owners have experienced.
Once you determine what you want to measure and track, the next step is to continue to analyze the gathered data. Many website owners install WA software and then forget about it after a while. WA can give you insights into items such as what pages are being visited and how long people are staying on those pages. You can also tell which pages people are leaving from, although the software can’t give you the reason why people are leaving. These are all important data points which can help you to fine tune your website. When you know which pages people are responding to, you can create similar types of content to get them to further engage in your website.
There are many more data points that WA software captures. This is why you have to focus on the data points that you believe are important to track. Network with other bloggers or web owners to find out what they are doing. Incorporate what makes sense for your website.
There is a time commitment associated with WA, in both learning it and monitoring it. This is what often turns people away from using it. But the benefits that you gain from using the software will override the time outlay by a wide margin.
Web Analytics as a Business
If you finally get around to installing and using web analytics software, you will discover how much data they capture on the behalf of your website. You may think this is great. But most webmasters have no clue as to how to decipher these metrics. That spells huge opportunities for people willing to take the plunge and get through the learning curve.
Google makes training available for its version of web analytics, named appropriately enough, Google Analytics (GA). Even if you aren’t using GA for your own website, the training is extensive enough to learn what you need to know regarding web analytics. Tools may call metrics different names among vendors. They also may have different ways of capturing and reporting the metrics, but similarities between the products will exist throughout. After you go through Google’s training, other vendors’ software packages will be a breeze to learn. You just have to figure out the differences.
There will be plenty of webmasters that don’t want to deal with the intricacies involved with web analytics packages. Websites that are starting to gain traction in the search engines should be easy prospects as they won’t want to lose that positive growth. It is a matter of reaching out to these website owners and presenting yourself as an expert on web analytics. You can customize reports for these clients and charge them monthly maintenance or monitoring fees.
Using your web analytics expertise can also be a way in to offer other services like SEO or as a Social Media Expert. Another possibility is to offer video creation services or any content generation for that matter. To keep your time free consider outsourcing much of this work. You could even tie everything together by offering to become the Content Marketing Strategist for these companies. Simply put together a content strategy for the particular business and set up monthly payments based on services the clients agree to pay for. You can offer a discount if they client takes on all of the services you offer.
Basing a business off of web analytics is quite feasible because it is an activity that has the potential to improve the visibility of clients’ websites. This could lead to an increase in sales and customers. You help keep the business owner from having to learn complicated software. They can continue performing the core tasks which is the reason why they started the business in the first place.
Top Web Analytics Metrics to Track
Most web analytics programs track hundreds of variables. To come up with a predefined list of metrics that are the same for all webmasters equally would be a daunting undertaking, if not impossible. What works for your website may not work for others. You may not get a lot of traffic to your website but the people that visit tend to buy from you. But there are a few metrics that most webmasters feel the need to track. They are also the metrics that tend to be common across most web analytic software packages.
Bounce rate is the number of single page visits divided by the total number of entrances to that page. Typically, a high bounce rate indicates that visitors were not interested in what the page had to offer or convey. However, this is not always the case. Suppose you gave your readers exactly what they were searching for and the page answered the question they had. They no longer need an answer so they leave your page. In other words, you gave them too much information. If you instead, gave them some of the information and then you asked them to subscribe to your newsletter in order to get the rest, this will not only help your bounce rate but it will build your list as well.
This is the last page that a user visited on your website. It’s the place where the user decided that your website is no longer relevant to what they are seeking. If you see a page with a high exit rate, you may want to try and determine what it is about the page that is making visitors leave. Perhaps there is no call to action. It could even be something as simple as grammar errors. Paragraphs that are too long and wordy can also generate high exit rates.
Average Time Spent on Page
If Google sees that you have pages that people are spending a lot of time on, they are going to reward you with higher rankings, all things being equal. If this number is high, you are likely doing something right with respect to the content you are presenting. Try to determine what it is about the page that is keeping people on it and do more of the same.
As stated in the first paragraph, there are many other metrics that you can track and what I believe are the top three may be quite different than what others believe should be the top three. Over time, you will develop your own priority on which metrics to track.
Webmasters focus too much attention on exit pages but entrance pages can be telling as well. If visitors use search engines to find your page, this will add a tick to the entrance page count for that page. In most cases, the home page is going to have the highest entrance rate count. But if you find that other pages are getting significant hits, you can find out what it is about those pages that are sitting well with your readers. Use this information to possibly improve other pages that aren’t getting as many hits.
Page Views and Referrers
This is going to tell you which pages are getting visited the most. This can be used in conjunction with the referrers metric to get an idea of where the traffic to these pages is coming from. This could be an indication of pages that have gone viral. The great thing about exploring these metrics together is you can determine which pages are getting legitimate views and which are likely due to referrer spam. Referrer spam is a technique that tries to get webmasters to visit the spam site. The belief is that Google will see this as valid visits. It’s important to filter out this when doing any kind of analysis. It is certainly disappointing to see a surge in page views due to referrer spam but it is good to know when it is happening and try to block it.
This is a metric that is too frequently overlooked. Yet, it is probably one of the most important. In many web analytics tools you can set up actions that get triggered when the user performs those actions. This then becomes part of your metrics. You’ll see this called goals or events in many of the tools. But it means the same thing. Take a look at the documentation in your web analytics platform on how to set this up as it may be different from platform to platform.
As stated in part 1, not everyone is going to agree on which are the most important metrics and will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with your website. However, these are ones that appear again and again when searching for information on which web analytics metrics tend to be the most important.
How to Learn About Web Analytics
With so many data metrics contained within web analytics solutions, it can be a daunting task to learn how to use and interpret the software packages. This article will describe some online resources that are dedicated to helping people learn more about them.
Google Analytics (GA)
Arguably the biggest player in the web analytics space, there is plenty of information available to learn about this solution. Google has a program where you can get certified, which means that you are qualified to use the software and can even help others. After getting certified, you should be able to easily transfer your skills over to any other solution provider as GA tends to be the most comprehensive, at least at the time of this writing.
Webtrends.com offers free training videos on how to use its products. While this is geared to specific products, you will get a grasp of how to apply the metrics to your website. The product line is rather extensive and includes features such as analytics, heat maps, A/B testing, demographic targeting, etc. Keep in mind that this is a paid solution. They don’t make their pricing available which is often an indication of a high end product line.
Amazon has several books available that you can purchase to learn not only about how to use analytics but in many cases how to improve your website by using analytics programs. These too, tend to be geared towards GA but as mentioned before, these skills can be ported to just about any other platform. The great aspect of Kindle is that if it turns out the book does not offer help or is not written well, you can ask for a refund. As an aside, you do not need a Kindle device to read Kindle books. Amazon makes readers for every device.
There is probably a tutorial on YouTube on just about any topic you can imagine. The same holds true for web analytics. Many of the videos will try to sell you their solution or product. But there is one that gives a complete overview of the web analytics process. It’s a great starting point and is less than 10 minutes. In this particular video, there is no sales pitch which you should find refreshing. The information is also well presented. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duhHDISQUaM. Feel free to search for other related videos. There are new ones appearing frequently.