Understanding your website traffic is the first step in driving more traffic to your website. And analytics are the name of the game in 2012 social media. Gone are the days when social media marketing success can just happen without this kind of understanding.
I use Google Analytics, as it’s free and produces a variety of numbers related to visitors to your site. Interpreting metrics from Google Analytics takes a little finesse, so let’s see what some of the numbers mean.
Google Analytics Dashboard
I use the new version of Google Analytics, so this discussion is geared to that version. I set up a custom dashboard detailing the number of visitors, by day, over a date range — the default is 1 month. Also, figures for visits, pageviews, bounce rates (% of folks who only viewed 1 page on their visit), average time on site, and % of new visitors are part of my custom dashboard. I usually look at the number of visitors first and several insights come from this:
- Look at the general pattern of the graph. Ultimately, the graph should have a general upward slope:
- The graph tells you whether your site is attracting more traffic or less. Likely you’ll find the daily plot is a little jagged — because visits are influenced by a variety of events and a little cyclical. For instance, as a business site, I don’t draw as much traffic on weekends (including Friday) and Mondays are usually a little heavier as folks try to catch up on the things they missed. Wednesday seems to be my most active day for website visitors. The point is trying to separate natural fluctuations from fluctuations based on your actions. That way you learn what actions will grow your traffic.
- Lessons from my graph
- The graph often spikes when I add new content that resonates with my target audience. This tells me I should focus on this type of content.
- The graph often spikes on days I post comments to certain blogs. I can confirm this by going to the report on traffic sources, which lists where visitors were immediately before coming to my site. Looking at this report, I can see what social networking sites are working for me, guiding me toward more productive sites or suggesting I need to do something to engage folks on networking sites that aren’t performing well.
- What some of the other metrics mean
- Pageviews, especially the average pageviews tells you whether visitors are finding the content they want on your site. If they don’t see something they like within a few seconds, they won’t stay. If they find some interesting content, they’re likely to stay and read a few different posts.
- The average time on site is another indicator that visitors are finding the kinds of things they want. Dramatic changes in these numbers are a sign that your content is no longer seen as valuable or more valuable to readers.
- % of new visitors tells you how you’re doing in terms of creating a community. Some sites may be more interested in gaining a large number of unique visitors, I’m more interested in building a community, see why here. The percentage of new visitors can help you. If most of the traffic is from repeat visitors it’s a good sign you’re building a community.
Beyond the dashboard, there are reports you should read. These are listed in the left sidebar.
- Visitors – this gives you some information about your visitors, such as what country they’re from, what language they speak, and technical aspects such as what browser they’re using, whether they have flash, etc. While not as valuable as market research might be at giving you insights into your visitors, there’s useful information in these metrics. For instance, if visitors are coming from overseas, you might want to install a translator plug-in to help them get more from your site, although increasingly, internet users are facile in English. If most don’t have Flash, you’ll want to keep its usage to a minimum. Data in terms of visitor loyalty, frequency, and recency of visits is also available to help you determine whether visitors are finding valuable content. Dropdown menus allow you to do cross-tabulations of visitors which really helps you understand your visitors better.
- Traffic sources – these metrics tell you where visitors come from. This allows you to focus your promotional efforts on sources likely to bring you the most traffic. Metrics also show you keywords that brought visitors to your site. You want to focus on those keywords that are working for you.
- Content – this metric tells you what visitors are reading. It helps you evaluate what content is popular with visitors, it also helps you determine if your promotional efforts are driving visitors to portions of the website where you’re offering products or have other elements focused on conversion.