You're connecting to customers every single day, in many ways. Every time a customer walks through your door, reads one of your tweets, calls your store or visits your website, you're engaging with customers. It doesn't have to be in person, nor does it always have to end with a sale, but web analytics can offer insight into how you’re doing.
I'll take it as a matter of course that you want to keep engaging with customers better. You're not just making sales, but you're creating real, long-term relationships built on values and mutual benefit.
Enter web analytics. Don't let the jargon dissuade you from diving into data. Through this article, I'll break things down into bite-sized pieces. Also, while reading, please remember this important nugget:
You don't don't have to do everything!
I'm going to share a few ideas, and if you take on one, or just get inspired, that's good enough. You're (probably) not a data analyst, and you don't have to become one to be successful!
What is web analytics?
Data is just pieces of information. Information is anything you're interested in knowing about your customers. The number of customers who walk through your door, how many of them buy something, and how many of them don't — this is data.
Analytics is the process of looking at this data and breaking it down into smaller, useful parts that you can use to make improvements to your business.
Web analytics is the same idea, except the data is based on actions of your customers online.
That's it! Pretty simple, right? Anyone can do it.
How do you get data on the web?
The world's most popular web analytics tool is Google Analytics. It's free, it's mighty powerful, and has tons of interesting information. Google Analytics is also relatively easy to install.
Here are some tips on getting Google Analytics set up:
- Go to Google Analytics to sign up.
- If you're using GoDaddy's GoCentral Website Builder, follow these steps.
- If your site is on WordPress, I recommend installing a Google Analytics plugin like Monster Insights.
- If your website was coded from scratch, Google Analytics will give you a snippet of code that you can copy and paste into the pages you want to track.
The whole process will take about 15 minutes, especially if you're using a plugin.
How can web analytics help me?
Web analytics can answer questions that you have about your customers. Some of the most important questions that I use analytics to answer are:
- How do my visitors find me?
- How many customers on my site are new?
- Which pages on my website are customers visiting?
- Where do my site visitors live? Are they nearby?
- Are they on mobile or desktop?
If you have any question about your website visitors, you'll likely find the answer in your analytics. I like to break it all down into three overarching areas:
- Are people noticing us online?
- Are people finding what they’re looking for on our site?
- Do customers complete the primary task on our website?
Already we're seeing how the answers to these questions will help you connect with customers better. Let's take them one by one and then learn precisely where the data lives that will answer these questions through web analytics.
Are people noticing me online?
You can't connect to customers online if they can't find you. Your website is only useful if people are visiting it, and only if they're the right people.
For example, if you're a coffee shop in Cape Town, you don't need visitors in Brazil to visit your site. While the attention is nice, it's way better if local folks can find you easily.
The best place to find this information is in the Google Analytics Acquisition area. You can get there by clicking Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
Here, you're able to see how many people visited your site, but (almost) more importantly, see how they found you. People who found your site via a Google Search show up as Organic Search whereas those who found you via a link on another website are Referrals.
So if you've been hard at work on your search engine optimization or you've been active on Facebook, web analytics can tell you if your efforts are working.
You can also learn where you need to work harder at attracting customers.
So if it looks like you're not getting much traffic from organic search, do some searching yourself. Go to Google and type in something like "How can I increase Organic Traffic" and, instantly, you'll get some ideas on how to better reach customers.
OK, but what about the "right" people? First, find out whether your visitors are in your area, if you're a local business. Click Audience > Geo > Location.
You can also explore demographic data at Audience > Demographics and see if your site visitors are in the right age group or interest group for your service. You can even use Google Analytics for target market research as you learn about who is most active on your site.
Are people finding what they want on my site?
Web analytics uncovers opportunities to better engage people who are on your site. When you understand which pages people are viewing — and how hard or easy it is to get to those pages — you can deliver more of the right stuff or less of what drives them away.
There are a lot of different reports you can explore, and they're found (reasonably enough) under the Behavior heading. I recommend exploring the various reports under Behavior, but the best two are Behavior Flow and Site Content.
However, let's discuss metrics for a moment. If you look at behavior metrics, you can apply these learnings to all reports.
The most import metric is bounce rate. In the words of web analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik, bounce rate measures the “I came, I saw … Yuck, I am out of here” customer experience.
Bounce rate tells you how many people visited your site, took a look and left without doing anything — not even clicking to another page or anything else. So, when it comes to connecting with customers, if your bounce rate is super high it indicates you're not connecting very well from the beginning.
The solution is usually quite straightforward: Change the content of your site to meet the needs of your visitors better.
Do customers complete the primary task on my website?
The other very valuable metric is conversion rate, which measures the percentage of people who visited your site and completed a task. Whether the task is making a purchase, merely hanging out for five minutes, or reading more than two blog posts, you can set these tasks to be whatever you want. Setting up goals can take a bit of thought but it's still quite easy to do in minutes.
Conversion rate is your primary validation metric in web analytics.
It tells you whether your hard work is indeed paying off.
I'll share an example from my own experience. I was chatting to a Teacup client who, at the time, spent about two hours a day on social media. She'd drive hundreds of visitors to her website. Her conversion rate from this traffic, however, was 0 percent. On the other hand, when people found her from other channels, like Organic Search or Referrals, her conversion rate was closer to 8 percent, yet she was putting no effort into increasing the number of visitors from those channels.
So, what would you do? Wouldn't you instead spend those two hours doing productive things that attracted valuable, interested customers? It was a revelation. Her five minutes looking at web analytics allowed her to focus her time and investment on her real customers!
Web analytics is power
Dramatic? Nope! Web analytics is indeed powerful. When you know more about your customers, you can serve them better, connect with them better and grow your business much, much better.
Remember, analytics is far simpler than you might think, so don't let the vastness of it dissuade you from exploring it. You don't need to do everything. Just a few minutes per month will teach you more about your customers and set you on the right path for success.