What is Web Analytics?
Web analytics can both simple and complicated. At its very base level, it is essentially the process of collecting data about the activity of website visitors who come to your website and by using that data to give you usable and relevant results that you can use to guide your business decisions online and ultimately improve your website performance.
Avinash Kaushik, the true modern godfather of Web Analytics defines the process as:
However, this simplicity belies the immense influence that a well-implemented web analytics program can have on your visitors, sales and overall online success.
Yet so many business today fail to even recognise the importance of Web Analytics as part of their overall business strategy, crazy in this digital age!
Online stores and websites pose particular challenges to businesses. People do not physically walk into your online store and browse the shelves, it can be difficult for you to understand what is working, what could be improved, and what you need to do to put your best foot forward.
Analytics can change that.
Making Informed Decisions Online
Many businesses are paying for data to be collected about their online customers, but rather than using that data to set goals and make inform business decisions, they are happy to rely on the suggestions of SEO consultants and website managers. – or worse, they just use guesses and assumptions, with no way to evaluate the results of their initiatives.
It is, of course, natural to take the advice of experts (I should know), but as the key decision-maker you should always demand that you are given full information about why something has been suggested and an independent measure by which to evaluate its success or failure.
Web Analytics Rocks!
So, what exactly is it that Web Analytics can do? It is possible for you to gather vast amounts of data on the activity of visitors who come to your site. You can record where they came from, which pages are most popular, how much time people spend on your website, how many unique visitors you have had and hundreds of other metrics.
However, as in other areas of business, raw data can only be so useful. Web analytics allows you to convert that data into conclusions and actionable insights. You can chart your progress over time and better understand the effects of new initiatives online.
For example, perhaps you have a high number of visitors, but few of those visits are converting into sales. Web analytics allow you to see which sources of traffic are most likely to provide visitors who make a purchase.
You can then implement a strategy that is designed to boost your visitor numbers from these sources. Future web analytics reports will show you if your strategy is working to attract these visitors, and if these visitors are continuing to make purchases at the same rate as before.
Perhaps your SEO manager has suggested an ambitious new strategy that requires an overhaul of your website content and, of course, a substantial fee for themselves. Rather than making your decision in the absence of any information apart from their say-so you can use Web Analytics to guide your decision.
You could make the changes on a small part of your website, compare the Web Analytics for that area before and after the change and then make your decision based on hard data (and most importantly facts!).
Don’t Miss Opportunities to Improve
Web based businesses are not alone in missing the opportunities for market insight that data such as this can provide, but the fact is that Web Analytics make it easy to understand the background of your customers and their decisions. How often does the owner of a brick and mortar store owner have the opportunity to know exactly why a customer decided to enter their shop? Many of them would kill to have such avenues for customer research, and yet so many online business owners fail to take advantage of this opportunity.
Online business is not so different to traditional brick and mortar stores – the medium and method have changed, but your ultimate goal is still the same – to grow your business and make a profit.
Actionable Insights and Intelligence
It can be tempting to assume that all you need to do is hire a website manager or SEO expert (I use the term expert lightly) and let them handle the technical details, but without Website Analytics powering your decisions you have no way to measure their performance other than by their own assessments.
You would never accept this from another employee, so why is it something you consider with your online strategy?You do not have to be a technical whizz to interpret web analytics reports. You simply need to set measurable goals, monitor your progress, and evaluate the impact of various strategies, just as you do in other areas of business. The more you learn about Web Analytics, the more opportunities for growth and innovation you will discover.
Hopefully this post has given you a greater understanding of the essential part that web analytics has to play in helping you to monitor your success and inform the marketing decisions that drive your business forward.
I’ll be continuing to blog about Web Analytics, Online Marketing, and improving your Online Business, so if you want to stay up to date with these tips and advice, sign up to my newsletter on the blog. If you need a good analyst to report on your website data then give me a call.