The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your company’s successes and areas for improvement from 2013. One of the big challenges can be in determining what those areas are. A free tool that is widely used and can help with this is Google Analytics. This tool enables you to evaluate your website traffic, where they arrived from and what they did while visiting.
Regardless of the analytics program you use (Google Analytics is just the one being referred to in this post), it is important to understand what you are looking at. Misinterpreting the data you see and making decisions is as dangerous as making ‘gut decisions’.
When you are reviewing 2013 data and looking for areas of success or areas for improvement remember these five points:
1. Focus on general trends, not exact numbers. A 5% growth in overall traffic may in actuality only be 10 visits and that might have been you or your webmaster making updates. (TIP: Filter out your own activity.)
If you see a 5% growth every month for 6 months then you are probably onto something and should keep it up. Conversely an ongoing decrease should also raise a red flag. Be sure to make your decisions based on an adequate amount of data.
2. Total number of visits is exactly that, the total number. Did they arrive on your site through the search engines? Did they arrive through a referring site that you purchased ad space on? Did they arrive directly because maybe you ran a 15 second ad on local television? It is important to know which data sources are growing and which are not.
Online stability is achieved by having multiple streams of visitors. If you have all of your eggs in one basket, you may find yourself suddenly without traffic if something happens to that source.
3. Great, your website visits are up in 2013. Did your sales reflect that growth? Getting more visitors to your website is terrific if they are qualified. Tire kickers, or worse unqualified traffic from a link farm, can make your overall year to year growth look great but they have no contribution to your bottom line.
Dissect your total traffic into their respective sources and look at them individually. Get to know which sources provide the most volume, which sources provide the most engaged users and which sources are the hottest leads. (TIP: The next post goes more into this.)
4. Set up reports so that you can easily and efficiently follow your website performance. Let’s face it, your website is likely your largest marketing tool. Regardless of other advertising that you do, it is likely that most people are going to eventually visit your website. Making sure that it is providing the optimal level of usability and service to your target market is a priority.
5. Act. This can’t be overstated. Quite simply, data is worth nothing if you don’t do anything with it. Once you have spent some time reviewing your analytics, you will learn to recognize activity that you either need to stop or have more of. Make the changes you think are necessary and then watch the results. Analytics is only a tool. The ultimate success of your website will be determined by the way you use it.
Next post: Follow The Money – Identifying key success metrics on your website and tracking them using Google Analytics.