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Posted on August 14, 2014 | Philosophy Communication
It’s 2001 and your company has decided to launch its very first website. Congratulations! You are entering an era of the World Wide Web and it is an exhilarating and frightening experience. Who will look at your website? When will you start to see the benefits? What does this mean for the future of your business?
The first question when building a website, whether it is 2001 or 2014, remains “what do you want your website to do for you?”
A well-built website rarely looks good for the sake of looking good. In fact, the best websites are designed following intense examination of brand and business objectives to truly define the goals of the website.
A popular item on websites from yesteryear was the “hit counter” – a small box at the bottom of a website that tallied the number of times a page was viewed. Some companies may still put value in quantity of website visitors, setting an arbitrary goal to acquire a specific number, but attracting quality visitors and understanding their engagement with your company in an online setting is a far more valuable.
If you think of your website as a tactic to accomplish your most fundamental business objective, you will always be able to define and identify the success of your website. Are you showcasing a product, providing information about a service or delivering a fast and efficient way to schedule an appointment?
One big advantage of modern websites today is the tools available for you to peek behind the curtain and analyze your site’s visitors. Every website visitor should be seen as an opportunity to speak to your current and potential customers, so understanding how they interact with your website is essential.
Google Analytics is a free tool that gives you an opportunity to analyze what is working and what isn’t. Some of the most valuable information you should look at through Google Analytics includes:
- Time on site/page and bounce rate: Bounce rate identifies visitors that land on your website and leave right away. If a page on your site has a high bounce rate, this is a sign that you should reevaluate the content of that page.
- Landing pages/exit pages: Evaluating on what pages visitors enter your website and how they engage before they leave is a great way to discover gaps in content and opportunities for conversions.
- Conversions/goals: In Google Analytics, you can set your own goals based on visitor engagement, whether it is URL destination, visit duration or action completed by the visitor. This allows you to group visitors and break down their movements that lead them to convert.
- Direct traffic: Direct traffic consists of visitors who typed your URL directly into the browser bar. This is one of the more difficult pieces of data to track and analyze (unless you have a unique URL associated to a direct mailer or similar campaign), but these visitors are actively seeking you out – their visit can tell you a lot about how someone who is already interested in your services may engage with your website.
- Referral traffic: This traffic represents clicks from external websites such as social media, review sites, articles/blogs and business listings. This is very telling for how successful a social media campaign may be or if you expected an external site to generate more clicks than it actually has.
- Search traffic: Search traffic is the obvious source of all traffic from search engines. A fluctuation in search traffic can help you identify your websites visibility in search results. Google Webmaster Tools (also free) is a great companion for analyzing search result impressions and clicks to give you a better idea of how your customers are finding you online.
- Geographic location: Is your audience local or national? If you are obtaining a large number of visitors outside of your service area, analyze the source that is bringing them there. What is the value of out-of-area website visitors if they are never going to become a customer?
- Mobile: Understanding what percentage of your audience is using a mobile or tablet device can help you decide if you need to update your site so it is mobile-responsive and you won’t miss out on potential customers because of poor mobile functionality (although we highly suggest that your site is responsive no matter how many visitors are using a mobile device!)
- User Flow: User flow lets you follow the main path your users are taking from one page to the next. Is this the path you hoped they would take, or is there an alternate route that gives them more valuable information and encourages a higher conversion?
All of this data is available for any website! Not all website visitors are created equal, and once you discover what the “right” website visitor looks like, your website will become more valuable to you. Bottom line? Stop counting and start analyzing because the quality of website visitors is far superior to the quantity.
- Philosophy Communication