But do you REALLY know what is happening on your site?
Your site is a microcosm of your business – a digital representation of all the functional areas that make up your business: technology, marketing, sales, and service. Your web site provides you with a lot of valuable data about your customers, and you must learn to harness this information and use it to your advantage. Understanding how to get this data, how to read it, and most importantly, how to react to it is what web analytics is all about.
Web analytics gives you insight into the who, what, when and where of your web site and marketing efforts. Not using website analytics is like flushing your money down the toilet. Unlike traditional advertising, the Internet gives you the capability to measure how well you are doing. This in turn allows you to adjust your strategy.
Web analytics allows you to ask questions like:
- How did they find you?
- Which way did they go?
- Which pages are popular…or not?
Most business owners ignore web analytics. Even those who have taken the time to install an analytics tool like Google Analytics often don’t check the results. And when they do, they are usually given a brief glance with little thought as to how this information can improve your business. But if you are actively looking at how your website is performing, you can adjust various factors to change the results you are getting. For example, if you have a high bounce rate (visitors coming to your site who only visit one page and leave after a few seconds), you can implement strategies to change this behavior. Typically, sales are made only after someone has visited a site multiple times – how can you get someone to be a return visitor?
Be careful when looking at your site statistics. There is a big difference between a “hit” and a “visitor”. A hit is any file download. A hit can be a page of text, an inline graphic, or a downloadable movie or sound file. Thus, if you have a page with 10 pictures on it, a person coming to that page will generate 11 hits. Many people confuse hits with accesses or visitors, which makes 10,000 of them by noontime sound as if their site is packed with people (when it really isn’t). Hits are the pennies of the Web.
An access is an entire page served. Accesses (also called page views) are the smallest unit to track, because they help you determine where people go in your site.
A visitor is the true one-dollar bill of the Web. Unfortunately, unique visitors are more difficult to define. That’s why there’s so much incentive to get visitors to register – people are anonymous as they view your site. Programs are available to help webmasters track visitors going through their sites, but only if a visitor registers can you get their email address and other contact information.
A repeat visitor is the ten-dollar bill of the Web. If a visitor bookmarks your site, it means she is willing to come back. In the mail-order business, such a person is called a responder.
If people order things from your site, they turn from visitors into customers, the ultimate goal. A customer is the highest level of status a visitor can attain. A good web site strives to turn random surfers into customers.
Remember that web analysis is not about understanding, it’s about doing. Your goal should be to understand your site’s statistics as a means to implement changes that will result in more sales. The good news is that you have this information available if you take the time to understand it.