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What Are Web Analytics? The Data You Need to Succeed

What Are Web Analytics

Guest post by Maren Williams.

You may have heard the term “web analytics” quite a lot in recent years. In fact, whole teams are now dedicated to the understanding and execution of analytics. But exactly what are website analytics and how will understanding them help your website—and your business?

We dive into the terminology and application of analytics below, so you can better harness the power of data to help your brand succeed.

What does “web analytics” mean?

In the most straightforward of terms, “web analytics” is the process of understanding website user behavior, then leveraging those insights to improve the website experience.

This consists of data derived from your website in real time, which shows you exactly how your customers are navigating and interacting with your website in graphs and charts. These are “metrics,” and they can be used to measure against your business goals (we’ll talk about that later in the post).

There are a number of websites that provide analytics, as well as business tools, but the end goal is the same: analytics provide insights about your customers, which in turn, will help you improve your brand objectives as a whole.

It’s important though when talking about website analytics to let the data speak for itself. While  there are some metrics that could look as if they’re important (social media impressions, for example), the true metric could be less exciting, but more valuable (e.g., social media engagement).

How do you use the data effectively?

Even though there is a wealth of data to choose from, too much data and not enough application are common pitfalls for brands just starting out in analytics. Knowing which data points are important, and for which outcome, can be worth their weight in gold.

For website analysts, there are a number of “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs), which are most relied on as you collect specific insights. The KPIs you choose should most accurately show whether or not a business is progressing toward its goal.

According to Shopify, KPIs are just as important to brands as strategy and goal setting. Without KPIs, it’s difficult to gauge progress over time, and brands should be wary of making decisions based on gut instinct, personal preference, or belief.

Here are some of the most important KPIs to know when tracking analytics for your website.

  1. Leads and/or Sales: The number of products you sell or new clients you sign from your website
  2. Organic Traffic: Traffic from unpaid/organic search
  3. Keyword Rankings: Your SEO performance
  4. Backlinks/Referring Domains: Websites other than your own that link back to yours, improving your SEO ranking
  5. Bounce Rate: The number of website visitors who land on your website and then leave without taking any action
  6. Pages Per Session: The number of web pages clicked while a user visits your website
  7. Average Page Load Time: The time it takes for your web pages to load
  8. Click-through Rate (CTR): The percentage of clicks to impressions your website has in Google Search. For 100 impressions and 10 clicks, your CTR is 10%

So, now that you know some of the most important KPIs, add your own custom KPIs for your specific business goals to this list. But don’t fall into that trap of choosing “vanity metrics,” or those metrics that seem weighty, but in reality don’t make much impact on your brand.

How do you use web analytics to better understand customer behavior?

Let’s say you have a corner retail store, and you’re selling shoes, but you want to increase sales online. So, you create a website, place products on the site, and start selling.

However, after a year of selling shoes on your website, sales are stagnate. You can’t understand why, because in-store sales are growing through the roof. Is there an issue then with your website?

Without website analytics, you may not see what exactly is impacting the shopping experience for your users.

But, if you take a look at the data from your site, before long you’ll pinpoint the exact issues. For example, maybe your website pages are taking too long to load (a common problem, especially when images are too high res!), or perhaps your site was not allowing customers to check out as a guest (asking customers to create an account might be a turn-off for busy shoppers).

Maybe your site was too confusing—customers  can’t find what they need with the search bar. Or maybe the SEO wasn’t bringing in enough new customers (in other words, your site didn’t attract organic search traffic).

There are many reasons why, in this hypothetical situation, a website could be under-performing—and by understanding the insights from web analytics, you can fix those performance issues.

From this same example of selling shoes, you can now understand customer behavior:

  1. Your customers don’t like to wait for pages to load. They’re in a hurry, they need convenience.
  2. Your customers want clear-cut, easy-to-follow purchase paths from the moment they click on a product to the moment they click “check out.”
  3. You have to pay attention to SEO within your website, and test different key words to attract diverse search results.

How can brands improve from understanding analytics?

Once you have all these insights, it’s important to take the next step: learning and testing the data. After all, that’s what the core goal of analytics is—improving your business through data!

For example, if your data shows that more people are buying blue shoes in summer than red shoes, test that insight by offering more blue shoe products in the fall. If this blue trend continues, you’ll know that blue is your customer’s most popular color choice, and you can likely move into creating other products in that color, too.

There are countless ways you can use your new analytics insights to help you. Here are just a few:

  • Improve the overall website user experience for your customers
  • Connect with customers in a more personalized way
  • Offer your customers additional content or insights
  • Discover new product needs for the marketplace and fill the gap
  • Create a more positive brand message online

We hope you now understand the value of website analytics, and how they can help your brand achieve success. You’re ready to discover these analytics insights for your website!

At AddThis, our analytics dashboard is completely free and not only provides basic website data, such as visits and referrals, but also offers insights based on the AddThis tools you  installed. For example, if you use the AddThis Share Buttons, you’ll see the most popular shared content and which social networks people share it to.

Last modified:  June 24th, 2018