Thanks to the wonder that is website analytics, we now have a wealth of data on every visitor to our websites. But with so much information at our fingertips are you seeing the wood for the trees?
It’s our experience that teams are often tasked with reporting on the performance of their website. In reality it tends to be limited to a few simple stats revolving around comparing visitor numbers month on month or the most clicked area of the homepage.
But how can you use analytics to improve your site, provide a better user experience and ultimately increase conversion? This article is based on Google Analytics, though most analytic tools offer similar functionality.
We are so wrapped up in visitor numbers we forget what the purpose of our site is - what is it we want the user to do once they are there? Even on an ecommerce site, this may not be solely about generating a sale. You may want to track how many leads you generate, how many times a document/brochure is downloaded or how many times a particular page is viewed. If you aren’t achieving your objectives, investigate why not. Goals are a great way to do this, however they aren’t always easy to set up so make sure you test thoroughly before relying on the data.
An insightful addition to Goal tracking is to set up a Funnel. All goals require the user to go through a process before arriving at the end goal i.e. for a retailer it may be Product Search / Individual Product / Basket / Personal Data / Payment / Confirmation. The user can drop out at any stage - understanding where these road blocks or large drop offs appear can help isolate where the greatest improvements can be made.
Identify Exit pages
It’s great to know how many people are arriving at your site, but what is causing them to leave? If you can identify which pages are turning the user off, making small changes to these pages can have a significant effect on conversion. Remember, there are a number of reasons why the user may be leaving - people often believe redesigning the page is the answer, but there is more to it than that. Bear in mind site architecture, content and from a retail perspective, are you simply attracting the wrong customers. If this is the case, you’ll need to review your acquisition model.
Bounce rates are slightly different from Exit rates and help identify pages where people land on your site and leave without visiting any other pages.
These can be affected by a number of factors:
- Does your site load too slowly? If people become impatient they will click away before the site has loaded.
- Is your keyword optimisation/PPC campaigns targeting the correct phrases? If people have an expectation what they are going to see, and they arrive at an unrelated page, they will just leave.
- From email campaigns, affiliate marketing - where do you direct people to on your site? Too many times we see people left on the homepage rather than directed to tailored landing pages.
Improving any of these factors will increase the user experience and help keep people on your site.
Bounce Rates are also a great example of where taking analytics too literally can cause confusion. We are often slaves to exact numbers, rather than stepping back to look at trends or interpreting what the numbers mean in reality. Blog sites often have high bounce rates - does this mean there is something wrong with their site? If you think about what they are offering, probably not. People arrive at the site, spend time reading a particular article, then leaving. They have still engaged with the site.
Enable Search tracking
One often overlooked section of Google Analytics is linked to having search functionality on your site. If users are unable to find the information they are looking for by navigating through the pages, they’ll use the site search. If the information they are looking for is too critical to spend time clicking trying to find it, this will be their first port of call. By tracking the terms people use, you gain a valuable insight into what your users are looking for and whether key information needs to be highlighted better on the site.
What technology are people using
With the rapid changes in technology, it’s vital you keep abreast of how people are viewing and using your site - in regards to both operating system and device. Microsoft no longer supports IE7 so why should you? However, if the analytics show that a large proportion of your base still uses it, maybe this is still applicable.
With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, you will also be able to see how many users are accessing your site via these devices. As this sector continues to grow, you’ll need to consider making your site mobile responsive to fully meet their needs. Check out our previous articles to learn more;
- Mobile web or Dedicated Apps? What should you use?
- Thinking about making your website mobile responsive?
One fantastic tool available via analytics is the ability to create up to 10 different variations of a page, element or content and test which performs better. The results can dramatically increase conversion - small changes can make big differences. This could simply be changing the colour of buttons or rewording the text used for headlines or call to actions. Plus these are based on live user data so there is no doubting its validity.
Here are some great examples:
Whilst analytics can provide you with a wealth of information, it isn’t the golden bullet to improve your site overnight. It’s important to remember they still only help you identify problem areas that are in need of improvement, rather than detailing the exact cause.
Reviewing your site analytics is also an ongoing process, it shouldn’t be a 'do once, never repeated' exercise. Without a continuous cycle of audit, implementation, monitoring and review your website will, at best, stay still. Though in the current economic environment, standing still will soon leave you behind everyone else.