Measuring Website Success
Measuring Website Success is about helping you get the desired results from your website. You know what you want, now’s time to get it.
Granted. Analytics sounds scary to many people. If you’re one of them we certainly don’t blame you. From the outside, it can feel like it’s designed to bamboozle you. Lots of acronyms, graphs and data that’s hard to wrap your head around.
This article is about de-bamboozling Analytics for you.
To make it as simple as possible, we’re going to focus on Google Analytics and the basics of how you can use it to benefit your website. Google Analytics is extremely popular and free so we recommend it to anyone ‘dipping their toes in’ to the world of website analytics. At the end of the day Google Analytics is there to help you measure website success.
There is a paid version of Google Analytics called “Analytics 360” but we think the majority of businesses have all they need in the free package.
Measuring your website’s success
The first step is simple. You just need to know two things:
- What you want to achieve
- What you’re currently achieving
Knowing these will give you much needed focus when using analytics. It’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole in analytics tools. It’s the most common issue we see. To prevent this, use these two points to guide you to the measurements that are most relevant to improving your site. The focus makes it far easier to put information into context and invest time in what’s measuring your website’s success at a certain point in time.
Some inspiration can help so here are some examples based on common goals:
- Reach 15,000 unique visits per month.
- Generate 50 inquiries per month.
- Generate £12,000 per month from website inquiries.
- Make £35,000 profit from my online shop this year.
- Sell 80 products through my online store per month.
Similarly, this article isn’t trying to cover everything. We want to focus on a hand full of the most important pieces we believe will let you improve and get value immediately. Measuring website success should include both short term and longer terms targets and results. Let’s hit the ground running.
If you haven’t checked out our blog on “3 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Website“, we recommend you do this now. It will help set you on the right track and maximise the value you can get out of this article.
The home area gives you a big picture look at some key insights about your website. It can also be daunting – so remember to stay focused on your goal.
It’s fundamental. Seen prominently in the Home section (and throughout Google Analytics) is the traffic overview. This line graph is core to measuring website success as it shows you how many people have visited your website. You can adapt the time period you’re looking at, the increments (by hour, day, week, etc.) and even compare it to other points in time. This is a solid “go to” bit of intelligence for you no matter what your goal is.
While the “Home” section is well organised it’s easy to feel out of your depth. Distraction is easy here so avoid getting stuck focusing on a piece of information that shouldn’t necessarily be your priority. Our recommendation is to focus on the Audience, Acquisition and Behavior sections initially. Each of these sections can be seen on the left-hand side of your Analytics within the “Reports” section. Let’s take a look at these first.
Another great tool within the home section is the ability to filter the data you’re seeing by segments. For instance, you can refine the line graph to only show you new visitors. Even select multiple segments to compare to give you a better view of who’s using your website.
How are people finding your website?
You need to know. This helps you direct your efforts and further understand how you can grow and improve your website’s volume of visitors. There are three core types of acquisition initially. It’s worth pointing out there are actually ten in reality but these three are tailored to focus on the most relevant to you. No one is better than the others. When you measure website success you need to find the right balance for your business and goals.
A good initial rule of thumb for analytics in general is to focus your attention on improving the most popular elements first. Improving the things most people are seeing will almost always make the most impact to your website’s performance.
Organic Search is people finding you naturally (not including paid ads) on search engines. A high number of organic search visitors is usually a sign of good search engine optimisation (SEO). This means your website is well tuned to appear within search results. Providing you have a low bounce rate, this also means your website is appearing within the relevant search results. This is a really good sign as it means people are finding you without you needing to go looking for them.
Social refers to people finding you through Social Media. This is useful as it allows you to assess at a basic level how many visitors you are getting from your efforts on social media. If you’re spending a lot of time trying to draw people to your website from social media, this is where you will see how well it is working. If you’re not on social media but are still getting good results through social acquisition it’s a great sign. It suggests your website has positive word of mouth.
Direct means the visitor is being directed straight to your site. This could be through an email or text message link or by directly typing your website address into their internet browser. Keep your eye on these to understand how people are getting to your website. The sources of your visitors. Ideally, would want them all to improve to a number of visitors (new and/or returning) that’s ideal for you. This is also useful for helping establish your return on investment involved with online marketing (social media, SEO, etc.).
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of people who land on your website then leave without interacting any further.
Are the right people finding your website?
This is all about understanding your audience. You’ll see how many people are visiting your website, how often they visit as well as practical insights such as their location and what device(s) they’re using. Each of these pieces of information can help you understand your audience and tailor your website accordingly. Everything here is valuable but initially you need to check the basics.
Are your visitors from the target geography? Are they using the language you’ve used for text on your website? Beyond this, we recommend focusing on bounce rate, new and returning visitors, average pages per session. No matter your goals or intentions for your website, these play a fundamental role.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of people who land on your website then leave without interacting any further. If you have a high bounce rate (e.g. 40% or above) it usually means people aren’t seeing what they expect to when they arrive on your website. There will always be people who bounce – it’s unavoidable. What you have to do is try to set expectations for people clicking links to your site to ensure your website is relevant to them (and vice versa).
The way to do this is by evaluating the content supporting the link. For search engines, this would be things like the page type and description (meta description) that appears in search results. On social media, this would be supporting content in the post itself. A high bounce rate can make all the insights about numbers of visitors completely misleading. Say 1,000 people visit your website and 60% immediately bounce, neither you or the visitor is benefiting so for all intensive purposes your visitor count is 400 (the 40% that didn’t bounce). High bounce rate can also affect your ranking in search results.
New and returning visitors also gives you insight. Although it can be less clear cut. This is where your purpose for the website comes into play. An increasing number of new visitors shows that efforts to increase awareness are working. A high number of returning visitors can demonstrate people are finding your website useful and worthwhile. This depends on what you and your audience want from your website – focus predominantly on the type of visits that brings the best overall value. Regardless which type of visitor is your priority, ultimately you need visits to convert into some type of action (such as getting in touch or make a purchase).
Pages per session is important to understand how effectively you are leading visitors through your website. This gives you some insight into how effective your website is for visitors to navigate through. Can your visitor see what they are looking for? Can they take action? Together, your conclusions from looking at each of these metrics should give you a lot of hints about the audience you’re attracting. It also shows how they are using your website. Growing this understanding helps you tune your website as well as it’s content to match and suit your audience’s needs and expectations.
What are people doing on your website?
This is where you get valuable insight into the most popular pages on your website. The two areas to focus on initially are the “overview” and “behavior flow”.
The overview is ranking your pages based on popularity. Starting at the top you should click on each page. This will give you some basic information about the page such as the average duration people spend on the page, the bounce rate associated with that page and the percentage of people that leave your website from that page (displayed as the “Exit %”).
If you work better with visuals, the behavior flow section found on the drop-down menu to the left within behavior will show you a visual of how people are moving through your website. By default, it starts with the page they entered your website from (also known as the “landing page”). From there, you’ll see lines linking to what pages they visited next (and so on). By hovering over a page you’ll be able to see how many people progressed through to another page as well as how many people left your site (known as “drop-offs”). At this point, you know the most popular pages on your website. It’s also clear to see how many people are leaving your site from them. For those who don’t, you can see where else on your website they are going to. Now put this behavioural information together.
You have a purpose for your website – so are people doing what you want them to? What does it look like your audience want to see/do on your website? If you have a consistently high bounce rate, are you attracting the wrong people? The behavior section lets you decide the answers. Here are some targeted questions to ask yourself to help you confirm what you can do to improve: The pages people are frequently clicking through to, are they the most prominent links? Should they be more prominent? Does making them more prominent reduce the drop-offs/exit %? What do the popular pages and behavior flow tell you about your audience? What about the pages people aren’t visiting? Should they be more prominent? Should you remove them?
We’re using the american spelling of behaviour when referring to the behavior section and titles within Google to avoid any confusion.
What to do now
The more you use website analytics the better a sense you’ll get for your audience and your website. Using analytics should be able asking questions and testing things based on the data and results you can see and measure. A positive of this is it’s pragmatic. It takes a lot of the subjectivity out of improving your website without removing creativity. You identify a hurdle to reaching your goal, you think creatively to improve it then you see the results and keep going.
In early stages, this can be hard as sometime your website won’t have enough visitors to show definitive answers – at least not overnight. This is why we recommend asking your visitors for feedback. Whether it’s through your website or getting out and chatting with people. Using website analytics isn’t a cure-all but it fills a great knowledge gap and plays a big part in website success.
The aim of this article has been to provide some basic insights and direct your attention to what we feel are the most crucial elements of Google Analytics for beginners. There are a wealth of terminology guides and breakdowns out there that cover almost every aspect of Google Analytics functionality. These are valuable and we feel the best, most valuable step isn’t to do something similar. We want to provide our view on cutting through the masses of options. Hopefully by providing this to the point intro to Google Analytics you have better clarity and a few actions you can take away and benefit from. Think we’ve missed something? We’ve intentionally cut a lot from this post to keep it focused so there will be more on this in the future. Let us know what you’d like covered or any questions you have.