You’ve spent $10,000 on your new web site design. 25 hours creating all the cool social media links for people to find you. Maybe you even bought 10,000 pay-per-clicks. But if you can’t figure out what’s happening to your traffic, all that earlier time and money is wasted. So what now?
First, it’s important to remember that the number that really matters is your bottom line. Then, turn to web analytics and look for the answers.
Using Analytics to find the answers:
You need analytics to help you understand what’s happening on your site. To gain that information, you need some way to track the analytics. Since there are plenty of blogs with detailed information this is only an overview:
- Your hosting provider: Many hosting companies provide a built in traffic analysis program. Webalizer and Awstats are two excellent examples. If your provider offers one of these programs, log into your online hosting account and take advantage.
- Java script trackers: You can find free java script trackers in several places on the web, such as the one offered at www.histats.com. Paid services offer them as well, and may provide more information. To see your statistics, sign up with the site, install your java code and then log in. (search term: java script trackers)
- Access logs: Every site has access logs, but they usually look like a bunch of nonsense. However, you can use installed computer programs, such as the one at www.openwebscope.com to analyze the logs and get a visitor activity report. There are several free and paid versions available. (search term: web server log analyzer)
- Google Analytics: Google offers a free Java Script program for tracking visitors, conversions and many other metrics. Start a Google account, add the script to your website and log in to see the statistics. (This is my preference over the other systems. The why’s are the subject of another post)
Understanding Your Web Analytics
Once you decide which form of web analytics tracking program you’re going to use, there are a few things to learn:
- Hits – Forget about them. Especially on your hosting provider’s analytics program, you might see anywhere from 10 to 10,000 hits per day or more. However, “hits” simply refers to how many times someone requests a file. The problem is that each web page offers several files, such as the page itself, all the graphics, the design files, etc, so the program will register several hits just for that one page visit.
- Unique Visitors – This is a statistic you can grab on to and watch. Although it’s NOT a precise number, it offers a good estimate of how many unique visitors actually reached your site in a day. You can find your conversion rate by comparing how many visited to how many orders/ inquiries (insert your goal, i.e. what you want your visitors to do) you received.
- Referrers – Where did your visitors come from? Did they just type in your URL or did they follow a link from another website? Knowing which websites – and what type of websites – actually brought traffic can help you with your link building efforts.
- Search Terms – Search engines are also considered referring sites. However, the important information you gain from search engine tracking is the terms visitors use to get to your website. Pay close attention to the terms they use. You may be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised by what you find. If the terms have nothing to do with your site, or if your important keywords aren’t being used, you’ll need to adjust your content and keyword focus.
- Entrance/Exit Pages – Which pages do visitors land on first? Which pages do they most commonly leave from? Where do they go while they’re on your site? Good web analytics programs will give you this information, which helps you find weak spots in your content and page layout. If they aren’t following a sequence that leads to your goal page, these statistics will give you an idea of what needs to be optimized.
Web analytics tracking gives you a helpful overview of your website’s weak and strong points. The information you’ll gain shows you, not only where to make the changes, but the best way to make changes for better traffic, higher conversions and, ultimately, a stronger business.