Any business can get more in tune with potential customers by understanding how people use its website.

Here’s how it can help you.

So what is web analytics?

It just means finding out who uses your website, and how. You can do this by looking at surprisingly straightforward, clear data, to understand what’s working, and what’s not.

But I already know my customers, what else can you tell me?

You probably have a great feel for someone when they’re in your office, or on the end of a phone.

But people behave differently online. They’re anonymous, they have little time, and endless distractions. That’s why it’s essential to build a picture of how they behave.

Here are some of the key things you’ll learn, at a glance:

  • Your most popular pages, by how many people visit them
  • Your most appealing pages, by the length of time people spend on them
  • Your least useful pages, by how quickly people ‘bounce’ straight out of them

Bottom line: you’ll be able to see if your most important information is really informing people – then convincing them to take action.

OK, give me some examples…

On pages where you want people to complete an action (registering for email, for example, or logging into an account) you’ll find out if people can easily do it – or are dropping out in huge numbers.

And if you write a blog, analytics can help you understand the type of content that your customers find useful. From this, you’ll gain key insight into the issues they care about, how to speak to them, or how to tailor your service to them.

This could even feed into the products you offer, and how you sell them to people.

Reality check – isn’t this just for big business?

Not really.

Of course, a multinational with dozens of websites in as many languages has a lot to monitor and learn from.

But if you only have a single website, then it’s easier to focus your precious time, quickly find some big wins, then work on refining the rest.

You’re right, my time is precious. How do I spend it wisely on my website?

Remember how we talked about finding out what’s working, and what’s not? You can use this to understand how to improve your website to achieve your business goals.

  1. Understand how your website is performing. How many visitors do you get? Do they visit a single key page, or spend time jumping around different content? Where are they coming from – Google? Facebook? What device are they using? And crucially: do they do what you want them to do once they are there?
  2. Use this understanding to set some goals. These are likely to be around conversion – getting people to carry out a clear, important action. Signing up to an email list, downloading a case study which showcases your strengths; buying something. Other goals can support these.
  3. Review, monitor, and optimise. Always think about the user – your customer, or potential customer. What are they trying to do? Are you even speaking their language? By understanding the keywords people are using to research services like yours, you’ll align yourself to their struggle to solve a problem.Address these, with a clearer message and more helpful content, and you’ll be on your way to making yourself useful, credible, and the place they go next time they buy. 

I’m sold – where do I start?

There’s a world of options, but Google Analytics is the place to start. It’ll give you a wealth of data – and as much insight as you could ever need.

Want to find out about how marketing campaigns or social media contributes to your website metrics? It’s all there. Your only challenge is staying focused on what’s important to you.

It’s free, and simple to set up – here’s how to get started with Google Analytics.

Get up to speed with these need-to-know terms:

  • Bounce rate – percentage of people who leave your website after viewing just one page.
  • Conversion rate – percentage of people who complete a positive action (‘buy’, ‘download’ etc.).
  • Page views – the total number of times anyone coming to your site has seen a page.
  • Visit – any time an individual comes to your website, whether they arrive and then bounce out immediately, or stay and read ten pages in one go.
  • Unique visitors – the number of people visiting your site within a set timeframe. If an individual returns within that time, they are not counted again.

Remember, your website analytics won’t tell you all the answers, but it will clearly signpost the way ahead. Use it to find out where you can improve, then set goals, make changes and monitor them, and it’ll be an invaluable tool to help your business grow.