Web analytics is the process of analyzing activity and data from the visitors of a given website (e.g., traffic sources, page views or referral links). Web analytics form the backbone of any modern digital marketing strategy — they are key to both understanding, and expanding, your current customer base.
It has been said that “Half my advertising spend is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half!” With the amount of data now available to advertisers, we have much more accurate knowledge of where our ad spending is going and what returns we’re getting on every dollar spent. Analysts can see in real-time which ads are bringing in clicks and conversions, what kind of people are looking at your product, and other information that allows you to manage and optimize your strategies.
Web analytics provide the metrics needed to promote products and services to the individuals most likely to purchase those products. The data you collect will tell you where your potential customers are coming from (social media, search, newsletters, etc.), where they go once they are on your site, and how often they convert a page visit into a purchase. You will have demographic information, geographical locations, income, and more that allows you to understand your leads and forge lasting relationships with them, or find audiences you hadn’t previously marketed to.
The first step in the web analytics process is for businesses to determine goals and the results they are trying to achieve. A “goal,” in this context, refers to a specific action that you want a user to take — visiting a certain page, clicking on a certain video, filling out a form, etc. These goals should be quantifiable and based on broader goals for the business. Good examples include reducing bounce rates, increasing the number of monthly unique visitors, or getting a higher ranking in Google search results.
Once your goals are set, data collection can begin. You should be reviewing the collected data at least once a month, or as often as once a day, depending on traffic. The raw data will need to be processed and interpreted to become actionable information — this includes comparing numbers with your target key performance indicators to determine the effectiveness of your campaigns. That information should be used in discussions with your team and stakeholders to measure success and formulate new strategies.
Web analytics makes the marketing process more scientific, both by providing concrete quantitative data and by supporting an iterative process similar to the scientific method. For example, A/B testing is a simple strategy to help learn how an audience responds to different content. The process involves creating two versions of content and then displaying it to segments of a specific audience to reveal which version of the content performs better. It’s very similar to a test you’d see in a psychology study. Sophisticated analysts will employ statistical analyses layered on top of testing to ensure proper interpretation.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics platform that tracks (among other things) page views, unique visitors, bounce rates, referrals, average time spent, page abandonment, new vs. returning visitors, and demographic data. You’ll always have the option to shop around for analytics tools if your business requires more specialized features, but Google Analytics is an excellent starting point.
What should you pay attention to? First, ensure you have Google Analytics installed on your website. Log into it, and use the data to answer the following questions:
• How many new visitors are you seeing?
• What are your most popular pages?
• Are you meeting your goals on your target key performance indicators?
Answering those questions is a great start. For deeper analyses, reach out to an expert.
David Caha, Ph.D., is the managing director of Ad Science Lab LLC, a data-driven Marketing Firm. He can be reached at email@example.com, or 720-439-9764.