If you have a website for your business, you must track visitors to your website and what they are doing. There are a number of tools available for tracking this, and the most popular and one of the most useful is Google Analytics. (Here’s how to set up Google Analytics if you haven’t yet.)
In these two posts, I’ll explain some important metrics you should be looking at in your Google Analytics data (or any other website tracking tool you are using).
The first thing to do, after you have logged into your Google Analytics account and selected the website you want to view data for, is to adjust the date range to your liking. The date range you select at the top applies to all the graphs and tables inside Google Analytics. I usually set it to current month or current week. You can change this any time you want, so feel free to try out different options. Click on compare to get all data for the previous period as well.
Now let’s get started.
Visits: Total Visits, Unique Visitors, Page Views, Pages per Visit, Time per Visit, Bounce Rate
Of course, you need to know how many visits your site is getting. How many visits do you get on average per month and per week? How have your number of visits last month and last week changed from previous months and weeks? What days of the week do you get more visits? Is your business seasonal — do you get more visits in certain months of the year?
Once you’re inside your Google Analytics account and have selected your date range, look at the sidebar. This is where you can dive into your data. But first, just scroll down to look at some basic metrics for your site: visits, unique visitors, page views, pages per visit, bounce rate, visit duration or time on site, and percentage of new visits.
Unique visitors gives you the number of people who visited your site (where the same person may have visited multiple times). Page views gives you the number of total views of all pages (i.e., pages x views). So one unique visitor might visit your site 5 times in the same month, and view 3 pages on each visit, thus accounting for 15 page views.
Pages per visit is the corresponding metric to page views: it is the average number of pages visitors looked at. Bounce rate, on the other hand, is the percentage of visits that only had one page view. That is, how many times did visitors just view one page on your site? Bounce rates are usually high for blogs, because visitors come for one blog post and leave. But for most businesses, high bounce rates is a bad idea. (How high? I’d say 50% is normal; 80% or more and you should be concerned. Ours is around 70%, since much of our visits are to the blog.) Average visit duration gives you the average time spent by visitors in your date range. These three metrics indicate how engaged visitors were with the content on your site.
New vs. repeat visitors is another metric you should look at. If you have a high bounce rate but more repeat visitors, that indicates your content is engaging. A high bounce rate coupled with few repeat visitors might indicate a problem. Like everything else, this depends on your objectives: if you are trying to expand to new audiences, you might want more new visitors; if your objective is more leads, you should be more interested in repeat visitors.
You should combine the above metrics with the ones I’ll explain below for more perspective. For example, if you look at the Pages table, you’ll get data like page views, time on page, bounce rate, and so on.
On the sidebar on the left of your Google Analytics view, go to Content > Site Content > All Pages. This gives you the pages on your site ordered by the number of views. Go down to the bottom first and click on the “Show rows” dropdown to get more rows (the default is only 10).
Now look at the top pages on your site: what does this data tell you?
The first thing to look at is: are your important pages getting enough views? If you are a B2B services site, for example, are enough people going to your Contact page or filling out your leads form? If you are an e-commerce site, are people going to the check out page or to the shopping cart (and how does this compare with the number of completed purchases)? Are a lot of people going to a page that you didn’t think was important and don’t have a lot of content on (maybe the About Us page)?
Now look deeper into the data. What are the exit percentages on each page? How does the number of people exiting from the Contact Us page compare to the number of inquiries you’re getting? How many people are exiting from the purchase process without buying?
How do page views compare with unique page views, i.e., how many people are returning to the page? If you have a blog, you should have fewer unique page views for the main blog page, as more people return to see if you have published something new. For the blog posts themselves, unique page views and page views should be pretty similar.
Look at entrances: how are people entering the site? You can click on each column heading to order the data by that column, so try sorting your pages by number of entrances. What are the popular doors to your site? Now compare this with bounces and exits: are people getting what they need on these pages? How can you optimize these pages better, since they are the digital equivalent of your store window?
Read the other two posts in this series:
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