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February 10, 2009

How To Use Web Analytics To Grow Your Business

Got a website? If you own a business, chances are you do.  But don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly. By now it’s widely-accepted that if you have a business card you should probably have a website.  It doesn’t matter what your company is selling – a website, however modest, has become a standard.

The real question is: what is your website doing for your business?

As a web marketer I often put this question to the business owners I meet.  Not because I’m trying to lead into my sales pitch, but because I’m intrigued to hear the answer.

Most people get a certain “deer in the headlights” look in their eyes when I ask this question.  To be fair, it’s not a question we’re used to hearing.  But that’s not all that’s going on here.

Traditional advertising mediums – print, TV, radio, etc – are notoriously difficult to track.  Sure, you’ll know how often the phone is ringing or how many people come in with a coupon clipped from the Sunday paper, but what you don’t know is how many people saw/heard your ad and whether they were interested, oblivious or, worse, annoyed.

Business owners are used to this.  We all know we need to advertise – it’s a necessary cost of doing business – so we buy that half-page ad in the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper, we sponsor an event or a little league team, we have a radio commercial written (maybe even with a jingle) and we hope for the best.

This has been a given in marketing since the beginning.  But the web, and analytics, changed the game.

So how should you be using your web analytics to grow your audience, and your business, online?

Track everything

With web analytics on your site you can track:

  • Where your traffic is coming from by
    • The referring website and page
    • The search engine and keyword used
  • Your website visitors by
    • Their location
    • Their operating system, browser and monitor resolution
    • Their network
  • Visitor behavior and actions by
    • Duration of visit (time on site)
    • Pages per visit (number of pages viewed)
    • Bounce rate (percentage of users who viewed only one page before leaving)
    • Conversion rate (percentage of users who completed a preset task)

If you’re planning on doing any kind of web marketing, be it through search engines, email or advertising on other websites, information on your past and current traffic is crucial.  Not to mention you’ll want analytics in place so you can properly track the new traffic your promotions will, hopefully, bring in.

Tie your traffic sources to your users’ actions

When looking at your analytics data the behavior and action metrics mean little by themselves.  If the bounce rate of your site overall is 75%, what does that tell you?  Well, this is a pretty high bounce rate – you should at least be shooting to have a bounce rate lower than 50%.  But does this tell you exactly what is wrong?

Likewise, if you have secured advertising or a listing on another website, the number of visits coming in from that site only gives you part of the picture.

Tying your bounce rate to a specific traffic source, on the other hand, can tell you a lot.

If a given traffic source is generating a bounce rate of 85% or more, for example, this indicates that users are not being satisfied.  There are a few possibilities as to why:

  • The users may not be well-qualified – or the site where you are listed or advertising might not have the best audience for your content/offer
  • The listing/ad may promise something that the entry page does not live up to (or, at least, the promise is difficult to locate once the user arrives at your site)
  • Your site is simply not usable, is unattractive or unprofessional, causing users to leave immediately (and most don’t come back)
  • Your users are  not connecting with your content/offer.

There are other possibilities, but you’ll want to find the most likely answer here – and try to fix it.  Then, using the same metrics (traffic source + bounce rate), you can see whether things improve moving forward.

Using metrics like these you can also get a sense of which advertisements are bringing you a return on your investment and which aren’t.  With goal tracking in Google Analytics, for example, a conversion rate is added to just about every traffic metric, including referring websites.  If you’re finding that a website is sending you plenty of traffic but none of it is converting, reexamine the referring website’s audience, how your site is being presented and the user’s experience when they click through.

The Point

Your website is more than a brochure.  It’s an interactive tool for your users.  The only true way to find out how they’re using it (or not using it) is to get web analytics set up properly on your website (including setting goal points to track conversions).

And the best way to improve your website in the aim of building your business is to use the information your web analytics give you.

The age of blind advertising – of throwing money at the problem and hoping for the best – is dead.

If you aren’t tracking everything, taking time on a regular basis to understand what the data reveals about your users and adjusting your efforts based on this information you’re missing an opportunity to optimize your advertising and get a better return on your budget.

In this economy, is that something you can afford?

About the AuthorMike Tekula is the President of Unstuck Digital – a Long Island, NY web marketing company that offers proven solutions and training for growing your business online.