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Website Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide

Too many businesses have a website simply because they know they should. They neglect the power of testing and optimizing, or worse, they continually make changes based on personal whims, and never measure the results to determine what is truly effective.

Collecting website data, analyzing it, and making the right decisions is, admittedly, a daunting task. Many business owners want to, but have no idea where to begin. Here are a few basic steps to getting your website analytics started.

Set up analytics

The first step is to install analytics on your website. Google Analytics is popular choice because it is a professional level analytics suite, and it’s 100% free. Your webmaster should be able to perform the installation, and just in case, Google has a thorough installation guide.

Start measuring

There are three main items to be attentive to within analytics data:

  • Visitor acquisition
  • User behavior
  • Desired outcomes

Visitor acquisition refers to where the visit came from. Was it a from a search engine, a referring website, an online ad, or did they navigate directly to your site? This information gives you an idea of your web marketing strengths and weaknesses, and may help identify opportunities to attract more traffic.

Once a visitor reaches your site, it is important to understand how they interact with your website. What are the most popular pages? How often do visitors return? How long do they spend on the site before leaving? Among other things, this data can reveal opportunities to improve your website’s ability to convert website visitors into buying customers.

Possibly the most critical piece of data to watch is your desired outcomes, or goals. Determine what activities are most important to the business, set them up as goals, and track them closely. Each site’s specific goals will vary, but some general examples include:

  • Purchase a product
  • Submit a contact form
  • Sign up for newsletter
  • Click an ad

Test, test, test

Armed with this data, a business can now make an educated guess about what might help improve the performance of the website. Test this guess (let’s call it a hypothesis) by making

controlled changes to the site. Then, measure the results. One of the strengths of a website is that if your hypothesis was wrong, it’s a fairly simple matter to put things back the way they were, and try out a new idea. By applying this test and measure approach, you can make your website into a powerful marketing tool that is accountable to real business objectives.

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