by Melissa J Luther
You are collecting analytics data on your Web site, but there’s just so much of it, and you have so little time to analyze it. Understanding your analytics data can help you grow your business, so make the most of your limited time by focusing on those reports that provide you with the most actionable data. You want to know how visitors are finding you and what they are doing once they do.
Unless yours is a strictly informational site, conversion will be a major goal. What constitutes a good conversion rate will vary by type of conversion and your industry, but in general, a rate between 1% and 3% is acceptable. If yours is below that, or starts falling, evaluate your site or advertising message to figure out why.
If you’ve done your SEO and link-building right, most people will be arriving at your site via pages other than the home page or ad-specific landing pages. If a large number of visitors are entering at unexpected pages, reevaluate those pages to ensure they are delivering an appropriate message, and not inadvertently turning away visitors, which leads to the next metric.
Exit Pages and Bounces
A “bounce” occurs when your visitor leaves without viewing any additional pages. If a large percentage of visitors are bouncing, determine which pages they are bouncing from, and if a few pages are generating most of the bounces, redesign them to be more appealing.
Exit pages are less important, since people will eventually leave your site, but if they all leave from a particular page without converting, try to figure out why.
Visitors may not use the keywords you expect to find your site. Insight into the words people are actually using can help you design your next ad campaign or develop new content around keywords that you had not thought of.
While not critical, it can be useful to know where your visitors come from. If some sites are sending a lot of traffic, it may be worth trying to get additional backlinks from them. In addition, if you have paid directory listings, you want to know if they are sending you any worthwhile traffic. If not, they may not be worth their cost.
Unique and Returning Visitors
These are not the most important numbers, but if you have time, they are a good way to quickly evaluate trends. You need both new traffic and repeat customers, so look at these numbers to see how they trend. If they go down, you’ll want to evaluate why.
If you are using Google Analytics, there is one potential snag in your analytics intelligence. Google has just launched a browser plugin to allow users to block Google from tracking them, which could reduce the accuracy of your data. On the other hand, most people probably won’t bother to use it, and as long as you focus on trends, rather than absolute numbers, you will still gain valuable insight about your Web site’s performance.