You’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting your website just the way you want it. You’ve begun telling your customers about your new site and are now including your URL in your email signature and on your business cards. But as time goes by, are you monitoring the amount of site traffic you’re actually getting?
Web traffic is an important metric to measure because it lets you know whether you need to tweak certain aspects of your site, increase use of specific keywords prospective customers are using to find you, or even improve your traffic-driving mechanisms.
Many web site owners aren’t aware of a powerful free tool called Google Analytics. By setting up a Google Analytics account (which can be done through your existing Google account), you’ll receive a unique tracking code that can be installed on each page of your web site. (Usually the header is the easiest spot.) Your web developer can do this for you, or if you have a WordPress website, you can use an easy plug-in called Google Analytics that automatically installs the tracking code on each page.
As soon as the tracking code is installed, the analytics begin keeping track of who visits your site. They monitor which pages visitors go to, how long they stay on each page, and which keywords they used to find you, among many other useful pieces of information. You can learn who is viewing your site from a mobile device, as well as which type of device they are using. (You won’t be able to see the actual names of visitors, but you will be able to see which towns they are from.) If someone was referred to your site from another site (via social media, an e-newsletter, a directory, or a local search listing, for example), you can learn how they reached you.
Visual graphs also help you to spot visitor patterns. For example, a pie chart displays new users vs. returning visitors. A line graph shows on which days visitor numbers spiked…perhaps after you posted a blog link on a social media site or sent out an e-newsletter. You can also find out how many times your recurring visitors came back. In some cases you’ll be surprised just how many times they visited!
If you have been running a Google AdWords campaign, you’ll be able to spot those results in your analytics reports.
One eye-opening metric is your bounce rate, which shows how long someone stays on your site before leaving. You can discover whether you’re keeping them on for at least a couple of minutes, or if they are bouncing off after just a few seconds.
A good rule of thumb is to check your analytics at the end of each month. You can set up your dashboard to display your preferred reports upon log-in, or even set up your reports to be emailed to you on a monthly basis. Begin to compare your statistics from month to month to see if there are any consistent trends, or if one particular marketing campaign was more effective than another.
If you are new to Google Analytics or want to improve your knowledge, Google offers an Analytics IQ page complete with lessons you can take at your own pace. You’ll learn about time metrics, traffic sources, content reports, and much more.
In our next post we’ll address how you can use Google Analytics to improve your web traffic.