If you’ve just started a new website, you are probably already planning to track visitors, conversion rates, and more. But when you first load up your web analytics software, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available.
In this article, we’ll show you how to approach tracking, and the key metrics you should be looking at.
Getting Started: a Word About Security & Privacy
Before you start tracking website traffic, you need to prepare your site and your business processes. Tracking can generate a huge amount of personally identifiable data on your website visitors, and in fact, this is one of the reasons why it is such a powerful tool.
Because of this, though, you should also recognize that tracking can be a security risk, and so you should take steps to both secure your website against cyberattack and make sure you are complying with the relevant legislation in your country. In addition, you should make your customers aware that, by using your site, they are consenting to be tracked: today, many consumers have concerns about privacy, and many use a free virtual private network (VPN) to try and defeat your attempts to track them.
Set Your Goals
Next, you should think carefully about what the purpose of your site is, and what your business priorities are. These objectives determine the type of analysis you do, and so it is important that you are as clear as possible about them.
It might be that you are simply trying to increase traffic to your website. Or, alternatively, you could prioritize attracting customers from a particular location. Some website owners are interested in conversion rates, and nothing else. All of these approaches are fine, as long as you know what you are focused on.
What Should I Track?
With your business priorities in mind, you can use web analytics software to begin to collect data on your visitors. Quality analytics software gives you a huge range of statistics on who is using your site, and what they are doing. But here are the five most important metrics to pay attention to:
The origin point of your traffic is arguably the most important measure you have of the success of your marketing.
There are generally three kinds of origin for website traffic. Some visitors find your site via a search engine such as Google or Bing. Others are referred from a link in your social media content, your email marketing, or other promotional links. Then there are those who arrive directly, having either typed your website URL into the address bar or bookmarked your page.
The numbers related to each type of traffic tell you a lot about how your site is performing. If you are doing a lot of social media marketing, you should see referrals increasing. Alternatively, these data might show that you need to improve your site ranking for particular key search terms.
What “conversion rate” means to you depends on what your goals are. It could be that your site is primarily focused on driving sales, or it might be that you just want visitors to sign up for your email newsletter.
Whatever your aims, though, it is very important that you measure whether they are being achieved. Your conversion rate can be measured by events (like downloading a report), visits to particular pages or purchases made: just make sure that you are collecting these data.
There are plenty of tricks for marketers to learn about increasing conversion rates, from the correct time to ask for Google reviews to the intricacies of color psychology in your newsletter pitch. A thorough discussion goes beyond the constraints of this article, but keep in mind that your conversion rate should ABC (Always Be Climbing). Do what you must to make that happen.
Related to the traffic source is the location of your visitors. Many businesses specifically target areas of their own country or try to encourage traffic from abroad. Which of these you are focused on depends on your business, but producing a ‘heat map’ of geographical data is useful for any company.
There is, though, a word of warning when it comes to tracking geo-location data. Nowadays, a significant proportion of users connect via a VPN and thereby hide their true location. Surfshark, a VPN, has servers all over the world, and so you might see a strange spike in traffic coming from a particular (and unlikely) location. Whilst location data can be useful, therefore, you should always treat it as a guide rather than as 100% accurate.
Search Engine Terms
Some businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on SEO, and there is a good reason for that. Dominating a particular set of search engine keywords is a hugely effective way of driving traffic to your site.
You should, therefore, pay careful attention to the search terms that your visitors are using. Even the difference between, say, “photo-booth for hire” and “photobooth rental” can make all the difference to the amount of traffic you secure. Understand what your customers are actually looking for, and you’ll be better able to position yourself to meet their needs.
The last page that a visitor sees on your site is defined as the ‘exit page’, and it’s worth tracking which of your pages appear most often in this category. Exit pages can indicate that a visitor was interested in finding out more about a particular service or product, but left before they found the information they were looking for. Carefully designed pages encourage visitors to stick around for as long as possible.
Finally, keep a record of your most visited pages. Sometimes, the explanation for why a particular page is popular is obvious, but sometimes it is not. If a page that you don’t think is that important is getting a lot of traffic, ask yourself why: it could be that this page is particularly well written, or is attracting a target audience that you have overlooked.
Using The Data
Ultimately, the goal of tracking is not (just) to give you a sense of a job well done. These data should also be used to directly inform the ongoing development of your site. If an unexpected page is getting a lot of attention, you can replicate the style or tone of it, and then A/B test this content across the rest of your site.
In short, make sure you know how (and how well) your site is working, so you can improve it for the future.