If you're anything like me -- brand new to the business world with no experience in marketing or sales -- then the word "analytics" probably sounds pretty intimidating. However, analytics are very important for measuring the success of your online presence, so having an understanding of how it works, and what certain terms mean, is a must.
Thankfully, with Google Analytics, they make the process of finding ways to track your website traffic simple and easy. I'm not going to go into excessive detail in this blog post, because that might take a few thousand words, but we are going to go over a few of the main terms used when analyzing your data. By the end of it, you should have the same understanding as I do -- enough to get you on your way to managing a successful website.
The first thing you need to do is figure out where your site visits are coming from. This might seem like a "duh" question, but it's something that many businesses don't even think about doing.
You can find your traffic sources menu on the left side of your screen, if you're using Google Analytics. There are three main traffic sources: Direct, Referring, and Search Engine. Direct is measured by visitors who type your exact URL in their address bar. Referring is measured from clicks through other sources, such as from another website or a social media link. Search Engine is just what the name implies -- visitors who found your site by Googling, Binging, or Yahooing (or whatever the proper verb might be).
These sources are important for figuring out how most people find your site, and where you should focus your efforts in the future.
Your site visits show the most general and basic data on your analytics breakdown. This is the number of times people visit your site in a set time period. For example, you can check out how many people visit your site in a day, a week, or even a month. Think about your site visitors like you would a physical store: this is the number of people that would walk through your door each day.
You can check site visits for every page on your site, located under the Pageviews column, to get a clear understanding of which pages are bringing in the most traffic. By understanding which pages get the most visits (or the least) you can re-evaluate your marketing plan accordingly.
Another super important part of your analytics is figuring out how long people are actually staying on your site, once they visit it. This data is found under the Avg. Time On Page column. Does it really matter if you’re getting thousands of sites visits a week, if those visitors only stay on your site for an average of two seconds?
This is a lot like channel surfing: flipping through channels until something catches your eye. In other words, figure out what’s catching the eyes of your visitors, and evaluate this to get people to spend some quality time exploring and reading info on your site.
Finally, a great tool (and maybe the most important data to pay attention to on your site) is your conversion. Conversion, in its most basic sense, is analyzing whether your customers are doing what you want them to do: whether that’s buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, etc. Whatever your goal is for your website, your conversion data shows if that goal is being met. If something is working, keep pursuing it. If it’s not, it might be time to rethink your marketing strategy.
With these basic tips, you should have no problem starting to learn the ins and outs of analyzing website data. Don’t let the big numbers stress you out; it’s not as scary as you think!
Contributor Caleb Hennington is a 23-year-old writer, who manages the Atwill Media and FGmarket blogs. He graduated from Arkansas State University in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
When not writing, Caleb enjoys camping, running, collecting comic books, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.