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The Beginner’s Guide to Website Analytics

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

What would your business be like if you knew how old your customers are, where they’re from, what they are searching for, and why they are leaving your website? While this sounds like every marketer’s dream, you can have all this information and a lot more in the palm of your hands. You don’t even need to be a statistician to make sense of the most crucial data impacting your business. A single dashboard will reveal all this information in easily digestible charts and graphs. This is the power of web analytics.

Why Website Analytics Are So Important

If you’re just implementing website analytics, making sense of the technical jargon and mounds of data can seem unnecessary. On the contrary, understanding website analytics isn’t that hard (with the proper guidance), and your efforts will undoubtedly pay off.

The primary reason to implement website analytics is to tell whether your marketing efforts are paying off. You are likely putting in a lot of time and money on marketing. Without a clear ROI, it’s hard to justify your team’s efforts. If nothing else, website analytics help you to definitively decide if your marketing strategy is working or if you need to review it.

Also, website analytics help you to create a positive user experience (UX) on your website. These analytics identify your primary visitors’ various traits, including where they are from, the devices they use, and their preferred browser. You can use this information to tailor a better visitor experience. For example, if your site visitors predominantly use hand-held devices, it may be time to consider a mobile-first approach to your web presence.

Website analytics also help you to identify performing and non-performing content. The analytics track how much time visitors are spending on each page, including the actions they perform. This valuable insight can help you identify pages that need updating or revamping. Similarly, you can create more of the content that your visitors are engaging with.

Lastly, website analytics lets you compare what your target audience is looking for versus what you are offering. This clarity helps you create targeted content that engages your audience. Such a strategy also helps with search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and makes your site more attractive to search engine algorithms.

A case for using website analytics

Consider the case study of Panasonic, the world-renowned Japanese multinational electronics company. Panasonic initially took a product-centric approach to business, with each product having its own advertising campaign. This strategy yielded $69 billion in yearly sales in 2015, but its Consumer Marketing Japan Division decided to take a different approach.

In conjunction with NRI Netcom (a Google Marketing Platform Partner), Panasonic Japan saw the need for a single interface to analyze and report performance metrics across agencies, platforms, and campaigns. The tool of choice was Google Analytics 360.

The results of the analytics offered two critical insights:

  • Customers are likely to buy certain items together.
  • Panasonic product purchases coincide with significant life events such as having a baby or moving.

These insights (among others) prompted Panasonic to switch to a customer-centric approach. This involved segmenting audiences by engagement with their products and placing ads based on products that their audience had researched.

By shifting to audience-centric digital campaigns, Panasonic boosted its return on advertising spend (ROAS) by 30%. Additionally, this strategy lowered the website bounce rate by 50%.

If appropriately used, website analytics can help you formulate data-backed campaigns and adjust your business strategy to improve your results dramatically.

Quick Tips to Improve Your Web Performance with Website Analytics Today

You’ll undoubtedly need a web analytics tool, and we cannot think of a better recommendation than Google Analytics. More than 50 million websites already use Google Analytics, and the best part is it’s free.

To start with, Google Analytics (GA) lets you see how many people are visiting your website. This is an especially useful metric for a new website still drumming up engagement. You can also see where this traffic is coming from, where you rank in search engines, and the keywords driving your website’s traffic.

Aside from those passive metrics, Google Analytics also lets you compare your business with competitors, set goals, and segment your audience. GA also gives you intimate knowledge of your target audience, including where they live, what they are searching for, what they are doing on your website, how much time they spend there, their interests, and so much more. 

Once you have the right analytics tool, here are a few things you can do in the short-term to improve your web performance.

Understand Web Analytics Metrics

Before diving deep into the practical aspects of using web analytics, there are some terms you’ll need to be familiar with. We recommend Google Analytics, but these terms carry over to other analytics tools and are not necessarily exclusive to GA.  

Some of the terms your likely to run into include:

Traffic – refers to the number of internet users visiting your site. The actual number of visitors may be less significant than the general trend. Ideally, you want to see your traffic increase consistently over time. The opposite trend may indicate a problem with your marketing campaign or SEO.

Sessions – is also known as “visits.” This metric lets you know how much time visitors are actively engaging with your site.

Page Views – is slightly different than Sessions. This metric counts the repeated views on a single page while Sessions tracks the total time spent on the website.

Pages per Visit – is the average number of pages that your visitors view per session.

Bounce Rate – this is where your visitors only view one page before leaving your website. A high bounce rate may indicate a poor user experience or that your content isn’t relevant to what your audience is searching for. Most website owners target a bounce rate of between 40 and 55%.

Interactions per Visit – tracks specific activity your visitors perform on your website. You get a detailed report of which parts of your website have the highest and least engagement (comments, subscribe, likes, etc.).

Top Traffic Source – monitors precisely where your website traffic is coming from. This may include social media, ad campaigns, or referrals.

SERP Ranking – stands for Search Engine Results Page and shows where your website ranks when users search related keywords. You can improve your ranking by investing in SEO.

Set Up Analytics For Your Website

We already touched on Google Analytics, but it is far from the only analytics tool on the market. You may want to consider your options before you move forward. Some good alternatives to GA include:

Piwik PRO Analytics Suite (PPAS) is built around data privacy and protection. It is an excellent option for sensitive industries such as healthcare, finance, and government. PPAS monitors user activity across the entire customer journey.

Leadfeeder is a powerful analytics tool specifically targeting marketers and sales teams. Leadfeeder lets you see exactly who is visiting your website even if they don’t engage with it (such as filling out a contact form). This tool can find contact information for the people visiting your site. It syncs with most customer relationship management systems and even connects to Google Analytics.

Serpstat focuses more on SEO analytics rather than site traffic and behavior. It’s a great tool if your top priority is search engine ranking. Serpstat offers an in-depth analysis of keywords, organic searches, backlinks, and other SEO-related metrics.

Either way, most other specialized analytics tools easily integrate with Google Analytics. Our top pick is still a great starting point whichever way you look at it.

Setting up Google Analytics involves creating your GA account, generating a tracking code, and pasting it to your website.

Please check out our Beginners Guide to Google Analytics, which contains step-by-step instructions for setting up Google Analytics for your website.

Define Your Website Funnel

Your website funnel is the sales funnel version for your website. These are the actions or pages that your visitors have to go through to complete your desired goal. The top of the funnel is the total web traffic, while the bottom of the funnel is the specific action you want your visitors to take, such as making a purchase or subscribing to your newsletter.

Take the example of an ecommerce website. The top of the funnel may be the category view (Awareness). The next step in the funnel might be viewing a specific product (Consideration), followed by adding the product to the cart, then checkout (Decision), and finally purchase (Action).

By defining your website funnel clearly, you can monitor each stage of the funnel to figure out where you are losing engagement. This is also a practical strategy for setting the analytics goals we talk about in the next section.

Set Your Analytics Goals

Website analytics tools output a lot of data about your website. However, this data is only as valuable as what you can do with it. Not all data will be relevant to your business or your stage of growth. This is where your goals come in. You can choose to track only the metrics that are relevant to your business.  In any case, website analytics tools offer a limited number of goals that you can track at a time, so choose wisely.

For example, your overarching business goal is to increase profits. However, the micro goal that will get you there at this stage of your business development is to build an email database. You’ll want to track your newsletter sign-ups. This metric will let you know which efforts lead to the most sign-ups and which ones need improving.

Go through your entire customer journey and figure out which actions you want to focus on. This strategy will reveal the most important goals to set in your analytics tool. 

Some ideas for analytics goals include:

  • Downloading an ebook or brochure
  • Viewing a product page
  • Signing up for an email newsletter
  • Following on Twitter or liking on Facebook
  • Requesting a callback
  • Adding products to the cart
  • Completing a contact form
  • Completing an order

Create a Custom Dashboard

Your dashboard gives you a quick look at the most critical data. Customize the dashboard to show only your most important metrics. This shouldn’t be hard if you’ve already set your analytics goals.

Some of the statistics you may want to include in your dashboard include:

  • Bounce rate
  • Conversions
  • Sessions
  • Revenue
  • Visitor’s timeline
  • Page view timeline
  • Pageviews by landing page

You can choose the stats that make the most sense for your business. With your dashboard configured, you can see your most important data altogether without having to open different pages for each metric.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out Google Analytics Solutions Gallery. Here, you get access to dashboards that others have created, including experts in your industry. You can quickly import the dashboard you like and use it for your website.

Long-Term Strategies For Getting The Most Out Of Website Analytics 

Ideally, analyzing website analytics should be a life-long exercise. As you become more familiar with your analytics tool, you can take a more sophisticated approach to handle and analyze data. Here are some long-term strategies to ensure that you are getting the most out of your website analytics tool.

Watch the Behavior Flow

The behavior flow refers to how visitors are interacting with your site. Most analytics tools let you monitor which pages users are visiting, what they click, and how they move around your site. You can find this feature in Google Analytics under Behavior > Behavior Flow.

Seeing how people navigate your site from the homepage gives you immediate feedback on how your funnel is working. With this information, you can tweak your website as necessary to improve conversion. 

Filter Irrelevant Traffic for Accurate Analytics

In the beginning, your web analytics tool captures any and all traffic. This traffic may also include referral spam, internal traffic from employees, duplicate URLs, testing environment, and bots. Combined with organic traffic, your analytics can be skewed and give you an inaccurate picture of what’s happening on your site.

Google Analytics, for example, offers multiple filters to modify or limit the data you see. This feature lets you include only data from pre-selected directories or subdomains. Similarly, the filter feature allows you to exclude traffic from specific IP addresses (such as your employees or web host). It’s worth taking the time to learn your analytics tools’ advanced filter features to ensure that you are getting accurate data.

Segment Your Visitors

One of the most useful ways to use website analytics is to separate your web visitors by demographics. These segments may include classifying visitors by age, location, interests, devices used, or gender.

Most analytics tools (including Google Analytics) allow you to create and name custom segments. Next, you can compare the different segments to see how each group behaves compared to others.

This approach is beneficial for several reasons, including:

  • Identifying the most and least profitable customer groups
  • Helping you offer your audience the products or services they are most likely to buy
  • Letting you tweak products or services to make them more appealing to customers
  • Improving customer engagement and brand loyalty
  • Allowing you to identify potential niche markets

Consider Assigning Monetary Value to Your Goals

Once you get over the initial excitement of tracking your website performance in real-time, the data can soon become stale. Page Views and Bounce Rates become simple charts or graphs that don’t inspire much action. By assigning a monetary value to your goals, you can see how much each visitor leaving your website funnel costs you.

Google Analytics lets you do this from the Admin section of your account. It might be challenging to assign an exact value at first, so you can start with a rough estimate. Keep the number low until you can accurately determine the value of your goals.

A dollar value staring back at you might be the inspiration you need to optimize your funnel. That might mean simplifying the steps, creating better content, or removing elements that negatively impact your conversion rate.

Don’t Forget Your External Marketing Activity

While Google analytics (and most other analytics tools) may reveal where your website traffic is coming from, this data is too general to be helpful. For example, your analytics dashboard may indicate that you are getting an X amount of traffic from Facebook, but you can’t yet pin down exactly which Facebook ads or posts are driving this traffic. Things can get very vague in this regard if you are running multiple campaigns on the same platform.

Google Analytics allows you to tag your inbound links with a Campaign name. Here, you can create custom parameters for each separate advertising URL to link to each corresponding marketing channel. With this functionality, you can analyze every single banner, ad, or email, including how much traffic it is driving to your website.

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