There are lots of things in life that require specific knowledge to understand. Whether reading an X-ray report or taking a peek under the hood of a car, it can be difficult for the average person to comprehend what they see.
While you probably know analytics can be a useful tool for understanding how potential and existing local customers are using your website, understanding exactly what each of those metrics means is a whole other story.
With a little know-how, it’s easy to use your analytics report to understand how many people visit your website, how often, where website visitors are finding you, and more. The first step is to understand the key metrics that can tell you how your website is performing. Many businesses use Google Analytics, a free analytics tool. Yellow Pages websites and listings also include their own analytics reports, which can track additional types of interactions.
This primer explains 10 important web indicators business owners can monitor, and what each one tells you about what is happening on your website.
- Users – Sometimes called visitors, users refers to the number of people who have visited your website within a defined period of your choosing, such as a week or a month. On its own, the number of users on your website may not tell much of a story; instead, you may want to compare month-over-month or seasonal performance, or look for sudden increases or decreases in the number of visitors in relation to recent changes on your website or marketing initiatives such as launching a newsletter or a Facebook page.
- Pages per session – Pages per session is the average number of pages an individual user views during a single visit to your website. More pages per session is often a good sign that users are engaged with your content, especially if you have lots of interesting information or regularly updated blog posts.
- Session duration – Similar to pages per session, session duration is a way of tracking how engaged people are with your content. If you find people aren’t sticking around very long, you may want to entice them to spend more time by adding video content: one study found that visitors to retail websites who watch a video stick around two minutes longer and are 64 percent more likely to buy.
- Bounce rate – Your website’s bounce rate refers to the percentage of people who leave your site without taking a single action. This means they don’t click on a link or go deeper into your content. There are lots of reasons people may not stick around on your website: they may not like the visual design or may not quickly see the information they’re looking for. An easy-to-use, professional website that works well on all platforms, from desktop computers to mobile phones, is an important step that can help businesses lower their bounce rate.
- % New Sessions – In Google Analytics, this metric tells you the number of new visitors on your website vs. the number of returning visitors. What that breakdown should look like will depend on your unique business goals and the extent to which you are trying to grow brand awareness and gain new business vs. attract repeat customers. If reaching new prospective customers is a priority, you’ll want to try to grow this metric, possibly using tactics such as improving your SEO around keywords related to your business category, or through targeted search or social media ads. Businesses that rely on repeat customers can employ retargeting and other techniques to grow return visits.
- Devices – The devices section of your analytics tells you whether people are accessing your website from a personal computer, tablet, or mobile device, an indicator which can help you determine the type of content people are looking for and how effectively you are reaching people on the respective platforms. Low mobile usage rates can also be a sign that your website needs to be better optimized for people’s phones, or that you have work to do to better show up in local mobile searches.
- Referrals – Referrals tells you where people are finding out about your website. This may include Google search, social media websites, blogs which have written about your business, and other channels. Referrals can be a good metric for determining the ROI of any traffic-driving initiatives such as improving the SEO on your website or launching a new social media profile; you can use this metric to compare before and after numbers and determine if you are seeing a boost following your efforts. If your referrals from a particular channel are low, this may also be a sign you should spend a little extra effort courting traffic from that platform.
- Pages – Pages breaks down the most-accessed content on your website by page, showing the number of views to each individual page on your site. Ideally, these numbers should align to the priority of types of content you have. If important pages such as contact forms, product lists or your address and phone number aren’t getting the views you would like them to receive, you may want to think about how you can better funnel users towards those parts of your site, or find ways to include key information or calls to action on your more popular pages.
- Exit pages – Your exit page report shows the last page people look at before they leave your website. If that page displays directions to your business, this may be a good indicator. But often, high rates of exits on unexpected pages can be a sign that users aren’t finding what they need or aren’t engaging with your content. If your exit pages show that people are leaving your website too early in their journey, you may want to add calls to action on common exit pages or take a closer look at your website navigation to ensure that it’s easy for users to find what they are looking for.
- Conversion rate – Many analytics platforms allow businesses to specify goals or actions they would like users to take on their website – for example, filling out a contact form. The conversion rate then tracks how many users are completing the specified action compared to how many people visit your website. If 200 people visit your site, but only five complete your form, your conversion rate is 2.5 percent. A/B testing, where you test two different versions of the same webpage can be a great way to hone in on the tactics that drive the best conversion rates for your business.