In your own mind, it’s easy to imagine your website drawing in visitors and effortlessly guiding them on a journey through relevant content, building their confidence in your business, and leading them on their way to becoming customers.
But without statistics on which to back these assumptions, you can only presume that your site is getting the traffic you want, and that visitors are getting the experience they want from your site.
Luckily, there are technologies available for website owners to find out who is coming to their site, and what they do on your site, but it does require the business to expend some effort in determining what visitors they want, and what actions you want them to pursue. This post will help you determine what your goals are for your website, and how to use Google Analytics to find out if your website is meeting these goals.
The Google Analytics help site runs through various installation scenarios, whether you’re planning on monitoring a simple, one-page website, or a complicated network of dynamically created sites. Following the steps to setup Analytics is a fairly straightforward process. One thing to take note of is the “Analytics UID” number, which is important if you’re using a content management system or blog platform because Analytics plugins for those systems may require this number to install.
Aligning your website with your business goals
A business should put a lot of effort into creating a website that gives the public an accurate impression of it as a company. Chances are that your company knows what experience it wants to convey, but it’s not always easy to translate that vision to your website. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to draw from your company’s mission statement.
Furniture store Ikea is an examples of a company with a strong brand identity and well-defined customer experience. Ikea’s mission statement is as follows: “Ikea’s mission is to offer a wide range of home furnishing items of good design and function, excellent quality and durability, at prices so low that the majority of people can afford to buy them.”
Ikea has been able to translate this mission very well onto its website, which gives its users a graphic and modern experience, but does not alienate its middle-of-the-road customers who could easily be turned off by extravagance. Functionally, it allows visitors to shop online, but also encourages them to visit their brick-and-mortar stores by allowing them to assemble a “shopping list” for the next time they visit a store.
Think about your own brand and how you can translate your core mission to an online experience. This will help you define your ambitions in tangible ways.
Defining your website goals in measurable ways
The Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool to help you measure the traffic to your website and help better understand your visitors. It can help you determine how visitors use your site, and can provide clues to help you determine if your site is meeting its goals.
Google Analytics is able to track your website’s performance based on various criteria. Its data can give you an idea of how visitors use your site such as whether stay on your site (bounce rates and time on site), where visitors enter and leave (entry and exit pages), and if you’re attracting new visitors or the same core users (first time versus repeat visitors). Based on your website goals, you have to determine the most important metrics for your company’s site.
Google Analytics can also identify the physical location of visitors. This can be helpful to examine what regions are popular among site visitors to better target your content to that area, and for when using locally focused online advertising and more traditional venues such as billboards and newspapers.
It can also provide information on what external websites and search terms brought visitors to your website. By knowing what sites led visitors to your site, you have a greater sense of the impact of affiliates, external online advertising, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Knowing what search results lead visitors to your site’s landing pages can help you optimize those landing pages to suit what visitors want from those pages.
Tracking your key metrics
Tracking your key metrics will give your website and your business an important edge, because it will give you data from which to understand how your website is either succeeding or failing.
Google Analytics can track a simple goal for your website to increase all traffic by 15 per cent over the next month. It can also incorporate several elements for more complex goals, such as increasing traffic from a geographic location such as a country or a US state. This can be helpful in gauging the success of local keyword search campaigns, and with more conventional advertising such as newspapers and billboards.
You can sign into the Google Analytics dashboard to access your current website statistics. It’s tempting to become engrossed by the wealth of raw data for the current period, but that can come at the expense of identifying longer-term trends. The changing relationships between metrics over time can often say more about your website’s performance than any static metric, so it’s often useful to compare traffic based on the time of day, time of year, past performance, and in relation to trending news.
Once you know your most critical statistics, you can setup automated email reports to regularly notify you, as well as email alerts that notify you of key changes in a particular metric. Analytics can automatically email reports to you and anyone else you specify on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You can even enter a mobile phone number, and configure the system to send a text message when an alert is generated. Automated email alerts let you track the metrics most important to you without having to sign into the Google Analytics dashboard.
How to setup goal tracking and funnels
You can use Google Analytics to track specific goals based on the number of times visitors land on a URL, the time they spend on site, or the number of pages they visit. The goals you decide on setting depend on what activities are most important to the success of your website, and can track statistics such as a user registrations or member sign-ups, downloads, time spent on key pages, and the completion of purchases.
Analytics’ goal tracking also allows you to see various steps of the visitor’s progress towards conversions in detail with what are known as “funnels”. “Marketing funnel” and “conversion funnel” are terms used to describe a process in which interested parties move through a series of steps before they become customers. This concept can be easily applied to a website and its visitors, where the steps can be traced as URLs.
An e-commerce site, for instance, could map its checkout process as a funnel, where putting items in a virtual shopping basket is one step, going to the checkout another step, and finally making the purchase the final goal. Based on the data gathered, you can identify the steps where users abandon the purchase process, perhaps triggered after seeing a higher-than-expected shipping fee. If you suspect that this is what turns your visitors away from completing their purchases, you could add an option on the checkout page that would reduce the shipping price if you add items to your shopping basket to total a certain amount.
The goals of funnels does not have to be a sale, even if you have an e-commerce site. The final step in a funnel could be signing up for an email newsletter, requesting a price quote, downloading a free ebook, or any other action that you may want visitors to take.
If you decide to add setup a funnel to your goal, you have to determine a series of steps or webpages that a visitor will go through before they reach a desired outcome. You can specify as many as ten pages that will serve to map where visitors drop off on their way to completing a goal.
Google Analytics also allows you to assign a monetary value to each goal, which can be used to calculate ROI, average score, and other metrics. One way to determine the value of a goal is to evaluate how often the visitors who reach the goal become customers. For instance, say your sales team can convert about 10 per cent of visitors who request to be contacted into paying customers. If your average transaction value is $400. You might assign a value of $40 (10 per cent of $400) to your “Contact Us” goal.
If properly setup, these goal reports can help you determine if your website is meeting your conversion expectations.
How to use gauge the success of your website
When it comes to gauging your website’s traffic success, it’s really not just about attracting the most visitors, but rather to have visitors that are within your target market. Once you have these visitors, you want to give them the experience that they are seeking and, if possible, convince them to take a desired action.
When determining what statistics are important to your site, it’s important to decide on goals that align with your company’s goals, which are unique to every business and can only be known though understanding your business and its customers.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it is no magic bullet. Using analytics can help you qualify changes to your website, and enable you to measure how those changes alter its performance and user engagement. But having a core understanding your customers and their needs will help you interpret the site reports to help you make more informed decisions on what areas of the website are performing to your expectations, and which are in need of improvement.