Google Analytics is a great tool to monitor the status of your website, get detailed statistics about its traffic and visitors and display that data with eye catching graphics. The fact that it is free, readily available to anybody with a free Google account and extremely easy to implement means there's probably millions of webmasters out there receiving extremely detailed information about what everybody is up on their website. If you are one of them you may be looking at the enormous array of data and wondering "And now… what?". Website traffic statistics are by themselves useless, unless you can draw actionable conclusions from them that will help you improve your site and your sales.
The first and most basic piece of information you can get from your web analytics software is often the number of visitors for a certain period, what is known as traffic. A popular website will by often have lots of traffic, and website traffic is generally considered a good indicator of the health of a particular website. But having lots of visitors can often be useless if they don't do what you want them to do on your website, if they don't convert. Many lists of seo tips for small business focus on how to drive traffic to your website, without taking into account its conversion rate, leading website owners to the conclusion that SEO doesn't work. Conversion means different things for different websites, from staying and reading a certain number of articles to subscribing to a newsletter or making a purchase. Before even looking at your website statistics make sure you know what does it mean for you that your visitors convert.
There's an often misunderstood visitor metric that is called bounce rate. The bounce rate of a website is the percentage of visitors who came to your website, probably from a search result or a link, and left immediately. It often means that your website wasn't what they expected, or had something that scared them into clicking the dreaded Back button on their browser. On the other hand, it may also mean that people found what they wanted and left.
For example, if you offer a service and use PPC advertising to bring targeted traffic to a page where your phone number is clearly displayed they may just close the browser and call you. If you are getting the calls, even with a high bounce rate, you shouldn't have to worry too much about it. On the other hand, if any of your goals involve people interacting with your website you may want to take a look at the possible causes for a high bounce rate, and take the appropiate measures to correct it.
Another useful metric that you can get from your web analytics software is how often your visitors come back to your website. Two metrics can tell you a lot about how loyal are your readers: The number of visitors that came directly to your site, instead of from a link, and the number of repeated visits. The number of repeated visits speaks by itself, but why looking at direct visitors?
In a world where people routinely connect to the Internet through several devices, such as their work computer, home computer, smartphone, etc… there will be some visitors that visit your website several times from a bookmark or because they know the address, but do it from different IP addresses and are then considered different visitors by the web analytics program.
How sticky is your content
There are several different metrics involving the stickiness of your content that should also have a place on your report. The number of pages per visit, and the time spent reading your content are two must have metrics that can give you a clear indication of what type of content works and what doesn't. Knowing what pages have a high rate of exiting users (those that click on a link and go away from your site) can also help you fine-tune your conversion funnel and what kind of content is best.
It may be a matter of just tweaking your calls to action, or simplifying a form that makes users bored or suspicious by demanding too much information. If you are looking at money making schemes such as affiliate marketing, you can use web analytics to figure out which products are actually getting clicks, and which ones are not worth promoting.
Understanding what each web analytics metric means for your business is key to making the most of your website and optimising your conversion rate. Bounce rate, unique visitors, pageviews and time spent on your website can help you tailor the website experience to your audience for best results, while entry and exit points can help you fine-tune both your linking and SEO strategy and your sales funnel. Keep in mind that all these metrics need to be evaluated in the context of your particular audience and website goals.