Web analytics is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data. The focus is on identifying measures based on your organizational and user goals and using the website data to determine the success or failure of those goals and to drive strategy and improve the user’s experience. Web analytics applications can help companies measure the results of traditional print or broadcast campaigns. It helps to estimate how traffic to a website changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign. They provide information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views. It helps note traffic and popularity trends which is useful for market research.
Four essential Steps of Web Analytics Process:
- Collection of data: This stage is the collection of the basic, elementary data. Usually, these data are counts of things. The objective of this stage is to gather the data.
- Processing of data into information: This stage usually takes counts and make them ratios, although there still may be some counts. The objective of this stage is to take the data and conform it into information, specifically metrics.
- Developing KPI: This stage focuses on using the ratios (and counts) and infusing them with business strategies, referred to as key performance indicators (KPI). Many times, KPIs deal with conversion aspects, but not always. It depends on the organization.
- Formulating online strategy: This stage is concerned with the online goals, objectives, and standards for the organization or business. These strategies are usually related to making money, saving money, or increasing marketshare.
Each stage impacts or can impact (i.e., drives) the stage preceding or following it. So, sometimes the data that is available for collection impacts the online strategy. Other times, the online strategy affects the data collected.
There are at least two categories of web analytics;
Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website’s potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and comments that is happening on the Internet as a whole.
On-site web analytics, the most common, measure a visitor’s behavior once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, the degree to which different landing pages are associated with online purchases. These measure the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against KPI’s for performance, and used to improve a website or marketing campaign’s audience response. Google analytics and Adobe analytics are the most widely used on-site web analytics service.
There are two main technical ways of collecting the data:
The first and traditional method, server log file analysis which reads the log files in which the server records file requests by browsers.
Some useful terms in web analytics:
- Hit - A request for a file from the web server. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically overestimates popularity. A single web-page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the website’s actual popularity. The total number of visits or page views provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of popularity.
- Page view - A request for a file, or sometimes an event such as a mouse click, that is defined as a page in the setup of the web analytics tool. An occurrence of the script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from the web server.
- Visit / Session - A visit or session is defined as a series of page requests or, in the case of tags, image requests from the same uniquely identified client. A unique client is commonly identified by an IP address or a unique ID that is placed in the browser cookie. A visit is considered ended when no requests have been recorded in some number of elapsed minutes.
- Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User - The uniquely identified client that is generating page views or hits within a defined time period (e.g. day, week or month). A uniquely identified client is usually a combination of a machine (one’s desktop computer at work for example) and a browser (Firefox on that machine).
- Bounce Rate - The percentage of visits that are single page visits.
- Click path - the chronological sequence of page views within a visit or session.
Web analytics is useful to any business for determining market interest, segmentation of market, target market, analyze market trends and determine the behavior of website visitors. It is also useful tool to understand visitor’s interest and preferences.
- Measure Web Traffic
Web analytics helps to measure how many viewers are visiting the website and from where they are coming and which keywords the visitors are using to search products and services. Web Analytics shows the number of visitors arriving at site via the different sources like search engines, through emails, social media and display ads. In addition to this it also shows the number of conversions through each of these. This information is important for any business and helps them decide in which channel should they focus and invest.
- Visitors Count
Visitor is the number of individual people that visited the site and a visit is number of times a visitor goes to a site. Visitors show the traffic website is getting. This tool also determines how many times a visitor returned to a website and which pages were given preference by visitors. It also tells about visitor’s country (pinpoint the city of origin) and language.
Web analytics even gives reports about how much time visitors spend on any web page which helps to identify how engaging or effective a web page is. Such reports help to improve pages and decrease their bounce rate (low engagement). It also indicates pages high engagement time and clicks and tells in which product or service visitor might be interested.
- Track Bounce Rate
A bounce is when a visitor visits a page on the website and then leaves the same page without taking any action or clicking on any links on that page. And bounce rate is total bounces divided by total visits on the web site. A high bounce rate could mean visitors are not finding what they were looking for and they left the site. To improve visitor website journey experience, marketer should keep track of bounce rate for each page and the page with high bounce rate should be improved. This is one of the most noteworthy advantages of web analytics.
- Identify Exit Pages:
Bounce and exit are different metrics for any business to measure and should not be confused to be same. Unlike a “bounce”, when a visitor visits a page on website and leaves the same page, an “exit” is when a visitor visits multiple pages on website and then leaves the site. Some pages on a site may have a high exit rate, like the thank you page on an ecommerce site after the purchase is done successfully. But if other pages have high exit rate indicates those pages have some problem and need to be looked into immediately. Analysis of those pages needs to be done to understand if visitors are not getting the information they are looking for.
- Optimize Marketing Campaigns:
Google provides a tool called URL builder to create a custom tracking code (URL) for any link to website. This enables marketers to measure the campaigns performance and which campaigns drive the best visitors. This helps the marketers to align their resources in the right campaign or channel. Resources when properly aligned would results high ROI (return on investment). By gaining an understanding of what’s working and what’s not marketer can invest time on optimizing the right strategies, and drop the strategies that aren’t working.
- Identify Target Market:
It is important for marketer to understand their visitors and address to the needs of different clients differently for conversion optimization. The findings of analytics services reveal the current market demands and the market demand varies with geographic location. Once it is known what the visitors from particular location is looking for, marketer can accordingly make their offerings. Using web analytics marketer can track volume of visitors and performance of business related to visitors interests and demographics data. The demographic details include age, gender and interests of the visitors visiting the website. The web analytics can even identify how long visitors spend time on website. Such data will help the business to identify their target market.
Pro’s and Con’s of web analytics:
Web analytics can provide an insight into the performance of a website. Many Web hosting packages include Web analytics tools. Free services such as Google Analytics, which can be used in any site, are also popular. Companies use Web analytics to find out information about their visitors, including how they interact with the pages in a site. The information gleaned from analytics can help to inform future decisions regarding the content and marketing of Internet and other company services.
The primary purpose of a Web analytics system to measure the performance of a site. Within a Web analytics interface, such as the Google Analytics service, company managers can see data about how many visits a site has had, how many visits the individual pages have had and additional information about these visits including how long users spent on each page. Analytics also indicates traffic sources, so you can see at a glance how users are reaching your site. In most cases, people visit websites not by typing the Web address into their browser but by following a link. Such links can be on other websites or on search engine results pages. By seeing where site users are coming from, company staff can gain a sense of how best to focus marketing efforts.
Many companies with products or services that are available over the Internet use online marketing. This includes adverts from companies such as Google through the AdWords and AdSense programs. If a company is investing part of their marketing budget in online ads, they will typically want to calculate the return on this investment. By using systems such as Google Analytics, you can see which of your online advertising efforts are successfully sending traffic to your sites as well as whether these users are then going on to make purchases in the case of e-commerce sites. This data can then be fed into future decisions about online marketing.
Company Web properties such as sites and blogs can serve multiple purposes. Some pages on a site may be designed to process transactions, while others may have an informative aim. With analytics, you can see how well a page is performing in relation to its purpose. For example, if you have an informational blog but your visitors are not spending long enough on the pages to be reading the content fully, you may need to look at the quality of this content and consider improving it.
The pros of analytics tools
Of course, using web analytics tools such as Google Analytics or CANDDi, means that businesses can save many hours on any mistakes they might make without the insights. What’s more they are very easy to install and it can be applied to any website. You can also set up customised data collection and reporting, adding further time-saving advantages for businesses who may use other methods of analysing data by, for example, manually searching the web or scrolling through excel spreadsheets.
Web analytics tools can also be utilised across all digital marketing channels to work to your benefit. For example, if you are using Google Adwords, you can analyse results much more efficiently through Google Analytics and CANDDi and really dig in to what works and what doesn’t. Even if your website isn’t ecommerce based, the chances are you will invest in online advertising or email sign-ups at some point and these can be tracked in web analytics tools as well. So, in general, web analytics tools are a very flexible, easy to use platform – supporting a solid return on investment at the harvest end.
Cons of analytics tools
Generally, there are very few cons to using web analytics tools, and, what’s more, when something is so cost-effective, it’s not something to grumble about. However, there are a couple of things to mention. In the instance of Google Analytics, yes it is one of many free web analytics tools, but on occasions that works against itself. Of course, Google is going to encourage you to spend money on a ludicrously expensive upgrade, so why would they give you the whole package for free?
Also, the ‘price’ you pay for this ‘free’ tool, is giving up information about you, your company and your visitors, which don’t remain confidential to you. However, if you don’t mind this, and as long as you aren’t working on something sensitive or top secret, this may be something you can swallow.
Website Performance Indicators You Should Monitor
Uptime is without doubt the single most important performance indicator of your website.
Most business models rely heavily on their website. When your site is down for more than a few minutes, you may experience a decline in sales. Moreover, an unavailable website can lead to disturbed workflows in your whole company. The longer the downtime is and the more often it happens, the more it jeopardizes the reputation of your business.
Time to first byte (TTFB)
Most internet users are impatient: 40 % abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to laod.
If your page does not load quickly enough, they bounce before being drawn-in by your great content. By sending requests from different locations, you can check how fast your webserver responds. A common metric for determining the responsiveness of a web server is Time to first byte (TTFB). The TTFB is affected by the duration of 3 actions:
- Sending a request to the server
- Processing and generating the response
- Sending the response back to the client
It is important to have a diverse number of sources for incoming traffic. The three primary source categories are:
- direct visitors – the ones that visit your site by directly typing your url in their browser address bar,
- search visitors – the ones that visit your site based on a search query, and
- referral visitors – the ones that visit your site because it was mentioned on another blog or site.
All three sources are important but have varying levels of conversion, so you should calculate how much each traffic source is converting and deal with them individually.
Interactions Per Visit
Even if your visitors don’t convert, it is important to monitor their behavior on the site. What exactly are they doing, how can you get them to do more of it, and how can you influence this behavior into conversions? For example, what are your page view rates per unique visitors, what is the time spent, comments or reviews made, and so on. Each of these interactions is important, and your goal should be not only to increase these interactions (e.g. increase time spent on the site), but also figure out how you can leverage these increased interactions into increased conversions (which might be downloads, subscriptions, purchases, etc.).
Your initial goal when trying to increase all five of the metrics above is to minimize your visitor bounce rate. The Bounce rate is the rate at which new visitors visit your site and immediately click away without doing anything (very low time spent and no interactions). A high bounce rate can mean several things, including weak or irrelevant sources of traffic and landing pages that aren’t optimized for conversion (have a poor design, low usability or high load times). Bounce rates for e-commerce sites are often called abandonment rates, i.e., the rate at which people abandon their shopping cart without making a purchase. This is usually a result of an overly complicated checkout process, expired deals, forced cart additions (e.g. to see the actual price of the product, add to your cart), and so on.
Your bounce rates aren’t entirely derived from your home page. In many cases your final call to action or conversion may be on page 2 or 3 of a process. To maximize conversions you need to dive deeper into your exits and figure out at what stage in the process your visitors are exiting the site or abandoning their shopping cart, and optimize the process accordingly.
Software & Tools
This is a list of softwares or tools used to collect and display data about visiting website users is endless. These softwares aim to prove useful to the users by dispaying data as per the user’s goals and requirements.
Webalizer is a very basic self-hosted server side analyzer that can give you a very detailed and easy to understand data in HTML format. Its main page consists of a graph summary and a monthly stats table with links to more detailed information about each category of information. Information about the browser used, referrers, pages accessed, keywords and visitor information based on hour, day, month and year is available. The information is presented in a way to make the process of integrating data onto a spreadsheet, easy.
eTracker is an analytics tool that gives you real-time data and combines qualitative and quantitative analysis so you can have all the information you need to evaluate your site’s traffic. It helps track visitors mouse movement or motion to see how your visitors view your website.
Clicky is considered to be one of the most robust web analytics tool today and it provides real time traffic information of your website. The main dashboard includes a variety of website stats that can be customized based on date. It offers a link report that shows all external websites sending traffic to you. It offers an actions metric that measures all visitor actions like video views and downloads by the user. It offers search data which provides a list of incoming search keywords that brought the users to your website and, with its Sheer SEO tool, Clicky also shows the ranking for those keywords.
Inspectlet is an analytics tools more focused on Usability testing. It has four important features, which are: eye tracking heatmaps, screen capture, customizable metrics, and real time analytics. It goes beyond just providing the basic visitor metrics.
The developers of KISSmetrics claims it is a customer web analytics tool that will help you in customer acquisition as well as customer retention by giving you information on user engagement and habits before and after, they buy from your website. So it’s somewhat one step ahead of “just visitor stats”.
Chartbeat is a tool, which I have been personally using, till some time ago. It is focused primarily on real-time data and real time analytics. In short, this is a tool, which lives in the preset. Its robust dashboard, Iphone app and email alerts notifies you immediately of any server crash, or traffic spikes. Their clientele include Billboard, Fox News, Foursquare, and Time.
Mint is a self-hosted web analysis tool that is comparable to Google Analytics in terms of the kinds of data it collects. It tracks all basic statistics like referrals, searches, popular pages and traffic trends. It displays the total page views along with unique visitors. The referrer information is divided into the most recent, the newest one and the repeat referrers. The pages section showcases the most popular and most recently browsed content. The bird feeder feature measures feed subscriptions trends and click through for each item. The User agent 007 feature tracks some nifty user information such as their browser type and flash version.
GoSquared has actionable metrics that is essential for e-commerce websites. It is a great tool that measures visitor engagement. With its real time reporting system, GoSquared notifies you of traffic spikes, social trends and much more!
Woopra is also a real-time website analysis tool that targets customer engagement. It offers top-notch analytics that allows you to seamlessly monitor more than one website simultaneously.
This web analysis tool will allow you to specifically use metrics that your business requires. It offers four key features: Funnels which help you identify the points at which users drop an action (such as a purchase) and so that you can “fix them up” for maximum profits; Profiles which automatically builds user profiles and create customer life cycle, Segments which help segregate website traffic into categories and Triggers which are actions, on the basis of which you can assign a reaction.
GoingUp provides website analytics as well as SEO tools for your site. It allows you to track visitors, sales and conversion rates while offering search strategies.
- Grape Web Statistics
Grape is a free program (open source) that gives you an accurate statistics of website referrers and number of visitors. It is made primarily for web developers. It is a fantastic option for anyone who finds Google analytics to be overwhelming. Grape is fairly simple and offers the basic metrics, although if you are a PHP developer or adept with HTML you would be able to customize this software to meet your own needs.