If you play any role in doing business online, you must be familiar with web analytics.
Understanding the importance of web analytics is vital if you hope to achieve your online goals—no matter what they are.
Among other things, web analytics helps you learn more about your audience and study your users’ behavior to identify pain points you can solve.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics of web analytics and walk you through why this information is so essential for your company’s website.
What Is Web Analytics?
Web analytics helps you understand what’s happening on your website by providing insights into what’s working and what’s not.
It is the collection, organization, reporting, and analysis of data about your website visitors.
You can take this data and use it to optimize your website for a better experience and performance.
Web analytics tells you, among so many other things:
- how many visitors came to your website
- how much time they spent on it
- how many pages they viewed and how long they spent on each page
- how frequently they left without taking action
- how often they complete an action you want them to take
Analytics play a critical role in both regular assessment and digital marketing audits. We’ll go over those metrics in more detail over the course of the article.
You can use several tools for web analytics, but the most popular by far is Google Analytics, followed by Adobe Analytics and Kissmetrics.
There are also behavioral analytics tools like HotJar and CrazyEgg, designed to give you visual cues about visitor behavior.
The Importance of Tracking Web Analytics
Nearly any business can create a website on the internet. But what separates businesses that see success from those that don’t?
Data-driven decision making.
Web analytics is the key to making data-backed decisions that help your business improve its web presence, connect with your audience, and reach your online goals more quickly.
We’ll dig into those benefits and more.
Measure Web Traffic
One of the primary goals of web analytics is to measure website traffic.
However, to get that traffic, users first have to find your website. Web analytics tools can tell you how people are getting to your site.
Google Analytics breaks this down by:
- Direct Traffic (visitors who typed in your URL or found you through a link in an email or offline source)
- Organic Traffic (visitors who came to your website through search engines)
- Paid Traffic (visitors who came to your website through paid advertising)
- Social Traffic (visitors who came to your website through social media platforms)
- Referral Traffic (visitors who came to your website through another website)
Let’s see what that looks like in a graph:
Once someone has gotten to your website, there are a few ways Google Analytics breaks down their time on your website concerning traffic:
- Users are unique individuals who have visited your site within a date range.
- Sessions refer to the total number of website visits within a date range (whether they look at one page or twenty pages, one session is logged).
- Page Views tell you the total number of individual pages viewed within a date range.
You can also use a tool like Keyword Rank Tracker from SERPtimizer to measure web traffic per organic search keyword, or per page.
Measuring web traffic over time is a great way to determine how your business is performing online.
Understand Your Audience
Not only should you be measuring how many people are visiting your website, you should seek to understand these visitors.
Web Analytics offers great insight into what kinds of people are spending time on your site, their demographics, their interests, and more.
Google Analytics provides you with demographic information (Audience > Demographics) like the age, gender, and location of your website visitors.
Google Analytics also provides information on your visitors’ interests (Audience > Interests), such as what kinds of products or services they may be looking to purchase, and what other sites they visit.
On top of interests and demographics, web analytics tools can also provide useful information on your visitors’ technology (Audience > Device or Audience > Browser).
This tells you about the device (phone or desktop), type of device (Apple iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.), and browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) your visitors are using.
Understanding these insights is immensely helpful for businesses.
They should help you evaluate two things:
- Is our current marketing bringing in the right people?
- How can we make adjustments to our site to better cater to this audience?
For example, if you’re a B2B company and primarily work with C-suite executives in their 40s-50s, yet most of your traffic is from those in their teens and 20s, you may need to evaluate your marketing strategy.
Similarly, if you’re seeing the majority of your site traffic coming from mobile devices, it would be worth evaluating and investing further into your site’s mobile experience.
Study Your Visitors’ Behavior
Knowing how visitors’ interact with and behave on your site helps you create a usable site that meets your visitors’ needs and solves their problems.
There are plenty of web analytics tools and reports to help you identify user behavior and engagement.
The Google Analytics Site Content (Behavior > Site Content) report shows you vital metrics for each page on your site such as the total number of pageviews, average time spent on the page, and bounce rate—a metric that reveals how many visitors left the site from that page without taking any action.
A high average time on page indicates your content is engaging your audience.
Less than 30 seconds probably indicates they’re landing on the page, quickly scrolling, and exiting. Over a minute or so indicates they’re likely reading a significant portion of the page.
Behavior Flow (Behavior > Behavior Flow) reveals the paths users take through your site, from the landing page to their second page, and so on.
If you have any goals configured, the Conversions (Conversions > Goal Completions) report can show you what desired actions are being taken on your site and how often.
On top of web analytics tools like Google Analytics, other types of software can help you analyze your users’ behavior as well.
Crazy Egg and HotJar provide page tracking, scroll tracking, and heat maps that reveal what visitors look at, how far they scroll, and more.
Understanding how users engage with your website should help you identify user pain points and consistently improve your website experience.
Identify Pain Points of Your Website
The web analytics tools and features we’ve covered are only helpful if you know how to use them to identify pain points and make site improvements.
Here are some key places to look to find the biggest pain points of your website, all of which can be found within Behavior > Pages in Google Analytics.
Pages With the Highest Bounce Rate
Pages with high bounce rates don’t necessarily mean people aren’t engaging with the content, and a high bounce rate not always indicative of poor user experience.
Nevertheless, it does indicate users aren’t navigating further into your site or taking action.
Within Google Analytics, you can navigate to Behavior > All Pages and then sort the “Average Time on Page” to identify pages with the highest bounce rates.
From this list, you can find your highest priority landing pages with high bounce rates and flag them to make improvements.
You may need to highlight the call to action better or provide more enticing internal links to relevant pages.
Pages With the Lowest Time on Page
Time on page metrics of less than 30 seconds typically imply that the content isn’t engaging the site visitor.
If you navigate to Behavior > All Pages and then sort by “Avg. Time on Page”, you can find the pages visitors are moving through quickly.
It’s worth noting that not all pages need to have a high time on page, such as a short landing page with a clear call to action.
Try to identify pages you’d expect users to spend significant time on, and improve these.
You may want to use more enticing copy at the beginning of the page or even adjust your approach to the page entirely.
Pages With the Worst Conversion Rates
Not every page needs to have a high conversion rate, but any page you intend users to convert on should.
If you have goals set up in your Analytics account, you can find conversion rates for your pages in Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and sort by “Goal Conversion Rate”.
You may need to move calls to action higher up on the page or test different microcopy around the conversion ask.
In addition to digging into web analytics, you can also utilize site surveys to ask users questions and discover their pain points.
Identifying user pain points can help you continuously enhance your site’s user experience.
Enhance User Experience
Interpreting web analytics plays a big role in enhancing your user experience.
Many of the reports we’ve covered above will have the end result of improving your site’s user experience, but we’ll cover some more specific examples here.
There are four key areas of your site you should investigate for user experience insights:
- content / visual design
Let’s get into them.
One of the best web analytics reports to investigate traffic as it relates to user experience is the new vs. returning visitors report found beneath Audience.
If the majority of your traffic is from new visitors, it may indicate a poor user experience, decreasing the chances of return visitors.
Technical issues can lead to terrible user experiences.
Web analytics tools help you identify these, but a better source for finding technical issues is a site audit.
SERPtimizer offers a site audit tool to help you find technical issues related to links (more on these below), images (like missing ALT text), and redirects.
Your site’s navigation is the primary way users move through your site. The Google Analytics Behavior Flow reveals how users move through your site.bp
You can identify the key pages missing from the most popular flows and make them more prominent.
Visual / Content
Investigating visual and content issues can help you determine if you need to adjust copy or experiment with different colors and imagery around calls-to-action.
You can set up Enhanced Link Attribution within Google Analytics or use another tool like Crazy Egg or HotJar to glean this insight.
A quality user experience can improve a range of things, from brand awareness to SEO.
Boost Website’s SEO performance
Not only can web analytics insights help you improve audience engagement and user experience—but it has significant implications for SEO as well.
Measure Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is one of the biggest indicators of SEO progress.
In Google Analytics, you can navigate to Acquisition > Channels > Organic Search to see how you’re performing.
Web Analytics helps you examine and analyze this traffic over time.
Identify the Keywords Driving Traffic
To dive deeper, you’ll want to know which keywords and search terms are driving this organic traffic.
SERPtimizer’s Keyword Rank Tracker can show you your highest ranking keywords.
You can see how much traffic they may be contributing to your site.
Optimize Website Performance
Your site’s performance is key to successful SEO.
Tools like SERPtimizer’s Website Performance Analysis can help you improve your site performance for better rankings.
Slow loading pages and bulky code can harm rankings, so with the right analytics, you can eliminate them.
We’ve covered how to use web analytics to improve engagement and user experience, but what does this have to do with SEO?
Most SEOs agree that user experience and how users behave on your site is a major ranking factor.
For example, if a user finds your site but quickly bounces back to the search result page, this likely signals to Google that your page isn’t the best result for the query.
So, make sure you’re constantly utilizing web analytics to improve user experience.
Focus Your Content Better
Web analytics can do a lot to help you focus your creative efforts better—whether for future content ideas or improving existing content.
The Google Analytics Behavior section can give you tons of insight into your content.
As you can see, you can even filter to only focus on blog content if you utilize a /blog/ or /resources/ subfolder.
Determine Your Most Popular Content
Web Analytics tools will help you identify which existing content on your site is most popular by giving you the most visited and the most engaged with pages.
This information can fuel your future content strategy and better understand what your audience wants.
Identify Your Worst Performing Content
Web Analytics tools will also help you find content that has poor engagement.
With this information, you can either update and improve these existing posts or determine that you should steer clear of these topics in the future.
Find the Highest Converting Content
Content that gets read is great, but the best content converts and helps you achieve business goals.
You can use this data to create more content around topics that convert or find your lowest converting content.
Then, you can consider improving underperforming content by adjusting the approach to the topic, using more enticing copy, or optimizing your calls-to-action.
Drilling into your content can help you both identify what works for future campaigns and optimize existing posts.
Identify Dead or Broken Links on Your Website
Dead links (or broken links) are links on your site that no longer exist. In other words, the link takes the user to a non-existent page or one with an error.
Checking for dead links on your site isn’t just an SEO best practice, but it also improves the user experience.
You can use Google Analytics to find 404 errors by navigating to Behavior » Site Content » Content Drilldown and searching for 404.html.
Or, a quicker solution would be to use a tool like the aforementioned SERPtimizer’s SEO Audit, which quickly identifies broken links.
This route can also be more thorough as analytics won’t identify a 404 error for URLs that haven’t been visited.
SERPtimizer’s audit can also identify broken external links.
Then, you can go about fixing those links and using them to point towards other useful content.
Track eCommerce Metrics
If you sell products or services directly on your site, eCommerce metrics might be the most important data you can look at.
Here are some key eCommerce metrics you can pull and evaluate through Google Analytics, assuming you have it configured for eCommerce:
- Revenue: how much money you’ve brought in through the site over a period of time.
- eCommerce Conversion Rate: what percentage of site visitors completed a transaction over a period of time.
- Transactions: the total number of transactions in a given time period.
- Average Order Value: how much users are spending when they purchase through your site.
A low eCommerce conversion rate should indicate you need to improve your product page calls-to-action or optimize the checkout experience.
Also, a low average order value may help you add in some steps to the checkout flow that encourage the user to add similar products to their cart.
However, these metrics are only the beginning of measuring true eCommerce success.
You should use these metrics to help you determine broader metrics like Customer Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition cost.
They will tell you how much you’re spending on new customers compared to how much revenue they account for.
Determine Your Brand Awareness on Social Media
You can’t use web analytics tools to track the number of followers or likes on social media platforms—but you can see which social media campaigns are leading to site engagement.
If you’re tagging your social media posts with UTM parameters, Google Analytics and other tools should neatly categorize traffic from these campaigns for you.
You can navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns to pinpoint specific campaigns and check out Acquisition > Source / Medium (depending on how you’ve set up your UTMS) to pinpoint specific platforms and post types.
From here, you can analyze which platforms and campaigns lead to the most traffic, highest engagement, and most conversions.
This data will help you determine which campaigns need to be improved, what types of campaigns perform well, and which are your best performing platforms.
Influence Marketing Decisions
We’ve discussed several ways you can use web analytics to improve your website.
On a much broader scale, web analytics can improve your overall marketing strategies and tactics.
Here are a few metrics that should be influencing marketing decisions.
Overall Goal Completion Rates
If you have goals set up in Google Analytics, you’ve got a wealth of information pertaining to key actions you want users to take.
For example, from this single view alone, we can conclude:
- The page with an 11.69% conversion rate is performing really well. We should focus on driving more traffic to it through internal links, organic search, and social campaigns.
- The page with a 1.10% conversion rate needs some attention from our Conversion Rate Optimization specialist.
What’s more, you can break down each goal and determine what kinds of conversions resonate best with your audience to determine larger campaigns and marketing pushes.
Goal Completion Rates by Source / Medium
To take this example a step further, we can also evaluate which channels and sources lead to the highest number of converting visitors.
Right away, we see two referral sources or social media platforms that lead to very high conversion rates, but have low traffic.
A savvy marketer will ask, “How can we get more traffic from those sources?”
Beyond conversion rates, you can also look at many of the metrics we’ve covered above to uncover trends in the market, audience patterns, and a lot more to influence marketing decisions.
Web analytics provides innumerable opportunities for businesses to improve their websites, marketing, and overall businesses.
Analytics also offers insights into who your audience is, how they behave, and what they’re looking for online.
Making data-backed decisions using analytics can change everything.
But remember—you have to do more than just set it up.
Analyze, evaluate, and make changes to improve your business on a regular basis. Do this, and your business will see success online.