Once you’ve got your website up and running you’ll want to know how many people are looking at it. Google’s got you covered here – thanks to its free Google Analytics tool. It’s really easy to set up and you should install it on your site as soon as you’re ready to launch it.
The amount of graphs and metrics you are presented with can be a bit overwhelming, but here are some of the key ones.
This is what most people mean when they say ‘hits’. It measures the number of visits to your site. If the same person visits twice then it will count as two visits, but one visitor. If you only monitor one statistic then the Monthly Unique Visitors is probably the best benchmark to measure how popular your site is.
This shows the percentage of visits to your site that only looked at the page they landed on, and then left to go to another website. If it’s over 70% then that can indicate that your site is a bit boring or hard to read/navigate. You can look at the Bounce Rate for individual pages and it’s worth looking at your home page separately.
Time on Site/Pages per Visit:
Does what it says on the tin – it measures the average amount of time that a visitor spends on your website, and the average number of pages they look at. Anything under 30 seconds per visit and less than 1.5 pages per visit can indicate problems.
This is one of the most useful metrics. It shows you where your visitors came from. This is usually a mixture of:
- Direct Traffic – can be people who type your url straight into their browser’s address bar, or people clicking on a link in an email, Word document or PDF.
- Search (Organic) – people who’ve clicked on one of the organic results in Google (or Bing, Yahoo). Best of all – in here you can find out which keywords they searched for that brought them here – priceless information!
- Search (Paid) – People who clicked on an advert in the search results page – most likely a Google Adword via your Google grant. Again – in here you can see what search terms people typed into Google that took them to that search results page and onto your site.
- Referral Traffic – This tells you the sites that your visitors were on prior to yours – they will have clicked on a link in that site and come through to yours. There’s always some good nuggets of useful info in here. You might well be surprised at which sites are sending you the most traffic.
- Facebook/Twitter – Here you’ll see how many people are coming to your site from social networking sites. You can customise it to better track how well your own Facebook and Twitter efforts are doing at sending people to your site.
In the ‘Visitors’ section you can also get a snapshot of how many of your site visitors are using mobile phones or tablets. This number only likely to go up rather than down, and if it accounts for than 10% of the total then I’d recommend that you really should have a ‘responsive’ site.
These Analytics stats are useful tools but don’t focus too much on the numbers in isolation. A high bounce rate, low time on site/pagers per visit combination can suggest that your site isn’t very engaging. On the other hand though, it could mean that your user has found exactly what they’re looking for (a phone number, a link to the council website etc).
If people spend a long time on your site and visit a lot of pages per visit, it could be that your site is really fascinating and useful, or it could be that your navigation isn’t very good and your users are frustratedly playing hide-and-seek with some of your content that they’re looking for.
How to set it up:
You don’t need a Google email address to sign up for Analytics, just head to the website and setup an account. Once you’ve done that it will guide you through adding your first site. You just need to input your site’s url and it will give you your unique tracking code that looks something like UA-10999-1.
If you’re using a Content Management System then there are WordPress, Drupal or Joomla modules/plugins that enable you to easily add the Google Analytics tracking code to your site. Just add the module and open the configuration screen and paste in your tracking code.
Google also has another free tool called Google Webmasters Tools – which you should also sign up for. You’ll need to ‘verify’ your site by uploading a unique piece of code to it to prove you own and control it – this is pretty easy though. Webmasters tools does an important job in highlighting any adverse issues it finds on your site – such as malware (a type of virus) or if the Google spiders can’t read all the content on your site properly.
It’s also good for keeping track on your site’s speed (increasingly important for your Google ranking) and gives you some extra keyword info not included in your Analytics report. In time I expect that Google will merge its Analytics and Webmasters tools into one, but in the meantime add a Webmasters Tools visit to your monthly to-do list.