RSW Agency New Business Website Series, Pt. 3: Minding Your Website Analytics Without Going Down the Rabbit Hole
Welcome to the 3rd installment of our series around agency new business websites, in this post, we’re talking website analytics.
If you haven’t yet, this series provides further context around our latest eBook, A Guide To Help Agencies Drive New Business Through Better Websites.
It’s surprising when we find out that an agency client hasn’t set up website analytics, even as rudimentary as website tracking.
But it’s also understandable.
To the less technically minded, the words website analytics can be intimidating.
The good news is that there are a lot of user-friendly tools out there that can help you make sense of your data, and the most popular one (Google Analytics) is 100% free.
Website analytics are the backbone of your website’s performance.
If you’re not reviewing these metrics, you’re wasting time (which is ironic since many people don’t bother looking at this data because they’re too busy).
In this post, we’re going to define what we mean by web analytics and look at some of the most basic metrics everyone should be tracking.
Let’s begin with a short quiz. How many of the following questions can you answer off the top of your head (approximations are a-ok)?
- About how many unique monthly visitors does your website get?
- What’s your homepage bounce rate?
- What’s the most popular page on your website?
- Which items on your main navigation get the most clicks?
- Which blog post sees the highest conversion rate of email subscribers?
- Do you have more desktop or more mobile visitors?
If you were able to answer all the above questions you can go ahead and skip this post (and head over to Amazon to order the 50th Anniversary edition of the Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead”. I can’t help it, I’m a big fan).
If you didn’t do so well, the good news is all of those answers are relatively easy to figure out, and we’re going to tell you how.
If you’re familiar with Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, you’ll be familiar with the second habit:
Begin with the end in mind.
Before you start poring over all your website’s metrics you need to take a step back and determine what success means for you and your company.
What is the goal of your website?
Once you know what it is you want your website to do, you can use the data from Google Analytics (and/or any other tools you may choose) to improve those numbers.
Key web analytics you should be tracking
Website traffic refers to the number of visits your site gets over a specific period of time.
We mentioned in our eBook that the pre-internet equivalent of the modern business website was a Yellow Pages listing or billboard ad.
However, there was no real way to know how many people saw your ad in the Yellow Pages (or how many specifically sought out that ad), or jotted down your number from that billboard on the side of the road.
But we can see exactly how many people visit your website at any given moment, and how they got to your site to begin with.
Unless someone has a specific website in mind (think YouTube or Amazon), chances are most people arrive at a website via a link instead of directly typing in that page’s URL.
Any page that links to your site is known as a traffic source, the most common being:
- Search engines
- Links from other sites
- Links from email campaigns
- Links from social media
While you should be using (as well as tracking) all four of the above traffic sources to drive visitors to your site, you’ll want to put a lot of focus into being found via search engines (if you missed our post of Search Engine Optimization, you can find it here).
We mentioned in our first post that your website is the hardest-working member of your new business team.
It should be working for you 24/7, and it’s the traffic from search engines that will be able to drive people to your site at all hours of the day.
Not only do search engines have the potential to bring a lot of traffic, most people admit that they find sites that rank highly in the search results to be more reputable sources.
It’s definitely worth some time and effort to bolster your SEO.
When someone visits your website and then leaves without viewing a second page, we call this a “bounce”.
An example would be if someone finds one of your blog posts from a search result, clicks through, reads the article, and then leaves your site without visiting any other pages.
Your bounce rate is the percentage of those aborted visits measured against your overall traffic.
This metric is extremely important as it can give you valuable insight into your website’s performance and user experience.
The numbers will obviously vary from business to business, but if your bounce rate is higher than 30%, you’ll want to look into what may be accounting for this high number.
Common reasons for high bounce rates include clunky or convoluted navigation, slow page load times, poor web design, or a lack of interesting or useful content.
Hand in hand with your bounce rate is the average time on page which, as the name suggests, is the average amount of time visitors spend on a particular page.
It reveals whether or not your visitors are actually reading your content.
If you have a 2000 word blog post but visitors are only spending 10 seconds on average on that page, it’s safe to assume that most people aren’t actually reading that post.
And because I know you’re dying to know, on average, users spend around three minutes on most websites.
New Vs. Returning Visitors
As exciting as it is to get new visitors onto your site, the ultimate goal is to have people returning to your site over and over again (don’t forget the second habit).
In order for this to occur, you need to give people a reason to come back to your website.
If there’s never any new content, or the user experience is poor (navigation is convoluted at best and each page takes painfully long to load), people aren’t going to come back.
Of course returning user rate is going to vary depending on the website, but if your user return rate is below 20%, then your website isn’t as engaging as it could be.
Desktop Vs. Mobile Visits
I know, it’s 2020, mobile-first has been a buzzword for years.
But, it’s one thing to know your site is optimized for mobile users, and another to know exactly how many of your users are on mobile and how many are on desktop.
More and more people use their phone almost exclusively to check email and browse the internet, and user experience for desktop and mobile look very different.
If nearly all your visitors are on mobile, but your website UX is better optimized for the desktop user, then you have a problem.
Bottom line is that this information is easily available, so you should be keeping an eye on it.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to website analytics, and this post barely scratches the surface.
If you have a small new business team (especially a team of one), you won’t be able to invest the time into web analytics that your website deserves.
But, as I said at the beginning of the post, tracking website analytics saves you time in the end.
Concentrate on the low-hanging fruits of web analytics (those mentioned in this post).
If you’re brand new to this, besides the free Google Analytics, there are countless resources out there that will get you up and running in no time.
You may never get a chance to speak to some of your website visitors, but fortunately, they speak to us in the form of metrics and analytical data.
Figure out what it is they are trying to tell you, and then optimize your site so that it can work for you the best it can.