5 Ways Analytics Can Help You Understand Your Customers (Even If You Aren’t Tech-Savvy)
As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard about analytics’ potential. Maybe you’ve even installed an analytics tool, like Google Analytics, onto your website.
But when you log in that first time, the experience can be a bit daunting. Customer data that used to be so hard to come by is available in spades. Now, there’s so much available the challenge is focusing on the key metrics that will help reach your business goals. You don’t have time to put your business on pause or start a statistics degree. You simply need practical solutions to tap into analytics’ potential without getting overwhelmed.
Key Analytics Metrics
Here’s how to start honing in on the meaningful numbers and understanding them. Focus on these five key metrics for actionable insights to improve your business:
1. Page Views
Almost every single business owner cares about page views. This metric tracks the total web pages viewed over a certain time period. Analytics software allows you to review this data by day, week, month, or other custom time frames.
It’s important to note that page views reflect total views, not the number of visitors. So, if I visit your website ten times today and Aunt Erma only visits once, your total page views for the day would be 11.
Ideally, you want to see page views increase over time. But a lot depends on your specific business. If you sell expensive consulting packages, you need a lot fewer customers (and therefore fewer page views) than a company selling cheap t-shirts. The same goes for businesses that rely heavily on repeat business or foot traffic; those don’t need as many new visitors to sustain themselves.
If you’re unhappy with your page views, it’s time to consider different ways to get the word out. Are you doing something consistently to market your business online? Many small business owners dabble with blogging, social media, and dozens of other things. But because their time is so limited, they spread themselves too thin and never reach critical mass with any marketing effort.
Try picking just one or two marketing strategies – things you do well – and developing a consistent system to raise awareness. Understanding your current traffic sources (more on those in just a second) will help you decide.
2. Unique Visitors
Unique visitors (also called “users”) gives more context to evaluate and better understand your page views. The metric is simple: the total number of people who visit your website during a given time period. To continue with my earlier example, I would only count once even though I visited ten times this month – the same as Aunt Erma’s single visit.
Page views will be at least as high as the unique visitors. While most businesses will want unique visitors to increase over time, again you must consider what you sell and what your overall business goals are. Do you want to sell high-ticket items to an exclusive group? If so, our priority on unique visitors will be much lower than an e-commerce store selling inexpensive jewelry.
Comparing the ratio between page views and unique visitors is always a good idea. The higher the ratio, the more of the same people are coming back. If your page views is only slightly higher than unique visitors, something is driving them away from your website after a single visit. Maybe it’s outdated content, slow loading times, or a lack of a mobile-responsive design.
Unless you’re selling inexpensive impulse buys, most visitors won’t be ready to buy right away. New blog posts, eBooks, or videos will entice them to check in frequently and will serve to strengthen relationships.
3. Traffic Sources
Ever feel like you’re trying a dozen different marketing tactics online, but it’s impossible to tell which ones are working?
This metric will help. Traffic sources offer a breakdown of where people who land on your website come from.
Traffic sources usually break down into the following categories:
- Organic. Organic traffic comes from search engines. If someone types in a keyword and navigates to your website as a result, your organic traffic increases. This happens often with company blog articles.
- Direct. Direct traffic tracks whenever someone types in the URL for your website. Depending on the analytics platform, website visits from links found in emails and PDF documents also count.
- Social media. This traffic tracks visits from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other popular platforms, as well as social bookmarking sites like Reddit.
- Referral. Referral traffic tracks visits from people who came via links from other websites.
This information is priceless because it helps you determine which marketing tactics are already working. Instead of throwing a bunch of things against the wall to see what sticks, you can allocate your limited time and resources to the winners.
Without this metric, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing valuable marketing when the results don’t justify the effort. If you spend hours a day on social media, it’s easy to look at surface-level metrics, like followers and likes, and consider it a massive success. But how many of those people actually come to your website from those platforms? Traffic sources will keep you on track.
4. Bounce Rates
A visitor “bounces” whenever they land on one of your web pages and leave your website without visiting any others. Bounce rate is simply the percentage of your overall visitors who bounce.
Studying your bounce rate helps you spot problem areas. If people are landing on a specific page but the bounce rate is extremely high, it might be time to rework the layout or content.
If your bounce rate is high across the board, it might be indicative of a slow-loading website, poorly-written or confusing copy, or a design issue.
One common mistake is failing to display links to other portions of your website. Even if someone loves your content, they might leave because they feel they’re out of options. The most effective websites have straightforward navigation menus so people can understand: 1) exactly where they are on a website, and 2) where to go next.
Another way to reduce bounce rates is to simply ask visitors to act. Adding a “call to action” at the bottom of a low-performing page or blog article gives interested visitors a simple step to continue the relationship. Because they don’t have to figure out what to do all on their own, many of them will take that next step?
5. Landing Pages
Page views give you a general sense of your website’s popularity. Landing page metrics dive into the details. They pinpoint which particular pages are generating the most traffic.
This is fascinating and catches many entrepreneurs by surprise. Pages they think would be popular get little interest, while others account for the lion’s share of their traffic. It’s common to see the 80/20 Pareto principle at play. In most cases, a few pages drive most of the traffic.
This is a common situation in which to find yourself, but it can also be a dangerous one. If most of your traffic comes from search engines driving people to a few blog posts, what happens when Google or Yahoo change their algorithms and lower your search rankings? Your traffic plummets.
But there’s also great opportunity for improvement. Once you understand which pages are working well, you can analyze them and find out why. Then you can replicate the common elements on other web pages, increasing overall traffic.
If you have a company blog and notice a post about productivity brings in big numbers, you could publish other productivity-themed posts. Studying which content resonates will help you give visitors exactly what they want.
Here are a few other things to think about:
- Content (is it all text, or are you also using images and/or videos?)
- Layout (how the content is presented)
- Title and headline
Make Data-Driven Decisions to Grow Your Business:
Analytics tools are extremely powerful, but the sheer wealth of information can be daunting for many small business owners.
You can go a long way by focusing on the five key metrics reviewed today. As you familiarize yourself with them and start to assess each metric within the context of the others, you’ll diagnose problems and come up with creative ways to solve them.
In a world full of uncertainty, hard data is priceless. It’s time to make the most of it!
Have analytics ever intimidated you? If you’re using them now, how did you get past that initial hesitation and start applying them in your business? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Corey Pemberton for MasterCard Biz.