Getting Started with Website Analytics
Website owners know they should be monitoring how many people are coming to their site and what they’re doing when they’re there. Indeed, there are free and readily available tools, such as Google analytics, that will help website owners understand almost every nuance of visitor behaviour and even to attach monetary value to that behaviour. But web analytics can be challenging to implement and even more challenging to understand.
In a series of four posts on the subject, I will show you how to implement analytics on a website, how to analyse visitor behaviour, how to set measurable goals, and then how to measure your entire marketing stack of activities.
Why should you use web analytics?
Unlike almost anything else you do in marketing, your website lends itself to continuous and instantaneous feedback. Analytics confirm that visitors are coming to your site and give you real insight on what they are doing once they arrive. If you set goals for what you want visitors to do, something I’ll address in one of my next posts in this series, analytics will tell you how well you are achieving those goals; in effect, allowing you to calculate your website’s ROI. Even if you don’t sell products online or have monetary goals for your website, analytics will tell you which parts of your website are working well and which parts need to be changed or improved.
Setting up Google analytics on your site
It’s not difficult to set up Google analytics on a website but if you’re not at least somewhat familiar with how websites are built, you might want to get some help with this. Here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Set up your own free Google analytics account:
● Click on the “Access Analytics” blue button in the upper right corner of the page.
● Click on the “Add a new account” button in the upper right corner.
● Find and click the “Sign Up” button on the lower left corner.
● Fill out the information required on the following page; click “Continue.”
● Read the terms and conditions and check that you agree with them.
● Finish your registration by clicking on “Create New Account.”
Wait at least a day after installing the code before going to your Google account to see your site data.
Understanding the basics
Below is a screenshot of the Audience Overview of a typical Google analytics dashboard. I’m going to use it to illustrate the basic elements of Google analytics.
Date range: You can select the period you want to analyse by setting the date range at the top right. Just below it, you can choose to see the results displayed by the hour, day, week or month.
Visits and Unique Visitors: These are the most basic and important measurements of how well your site is doing. It’s literally a count of how many people have come to your site, no matter which page or pages they viewed. Unique Visitors are exactly that, while Visits captures those who have visited more than once during the period.
Pageviews and Pages/Visit: Pageviews tells you how many pages were viewed by all your visitors during the period while Pages/Visit is an average of how many were viewed during each visit. Remember that this is an average — some visitors will have viewed only one page while others may have viewed many pages.
Avg. Visit Duration: This is the average length of time each visitor spent on your site. Again, some visitors will have spent less time than this while others will have spent more.
Bounce Rate: This is the number of visitors who viewed only a single page before leaving your site.
% New Visits: These are people who have never been to your site before.
The bottom line
You need to know how many people are coming to your website and what they’re doing once they get there. Even the most basic understanding of visitor behaviour will make your website better. Google analytics are a powerful (and free) way to do just that.
How have web analytics given you unique insight into how your website was performing? Was there something you changed because of analytics that then made a big difference? Share your experiences with us in the comments, below.
By Francis Moran
The Bell Blog Team