'Hello.... is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me, is there anyone home?' sang a certain band on a certain brilliant song (.......ok, its Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb if you haven't guessed it already). How do you know if you have visitors? Is there a way to find out at what time visitors tend to come to your website and which way they tend to come in? How valuable would this information be in terms of how to manage and target the information that is on your website.....
Well, yes there is a way to monitor your hits (!) along with other key information about your visitors - Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is a widely used platform that can be used to monitor traffic coming to your website, and at the same time provides a whole host of information which you can use to develop your website (especially in ways to increase traffic and keep visitors coming back to you). When developing your website its pretty much a work in progress and during the course of developing your website its important to know whats working....and what isn't. You may wish to draw a focus to a certain area of your website (in the case of an online store obvious strong target points would be your merchandise and developing a checkout that's as easy to use as possible). There are several parameters used by Google Analytics to measure data flow: -
- Total No of people - This parameter measures the total number of hits on your website in a given time period (this parameter measures both live data and can be used to look back at past data), I felt it necessary to mention this one first as on the surface it may seem the most valuable.........when you delve a little deeper it really doesn't tell you a great deal. Say you have 100 visitors, what are they viewing? What time of day are they likely to visit your website? Do they navigate to other pages on your website during their visit? This parameter doesn't give you much reliable information on its own and must be used alongside other data measures.
- Flow - This parameter corresponds to the flow of traffic moving through your website, I would say that this is a much more valuable data source than the total mentioned above as it points more to the behaviour of each visitor. The track of movement through your website can highlight which parts of your website work well and which parts experience 'drop offs' (people leaving your website). When first viewed this report can seem a little daunting as it contains quite a lot of visual information, this information is displayed as a flow chart showing where your visitors travel to during their viewing session.
- Discovery of site (Acquisition) - This data shows how your visitors are discovering your website, this is very important information as it can be used to measure the success of a campaign (social media tactics, marketing etc). The rate of acquisition positively correlates with the visibility of your website online. This information
- Bounce Rate - As I mentioned earlier (Total No of people) another important measure is whether visitors to your website navigate to other pages once they have arrived onto your website. Ideally you want visitors to your website to move around as many areas as possible during the course of their visit. This is especially important if your website is an online store or creates revenue through sales - obviously its bad news if a visitor 'drops off' your website (leaves without navigating further) and doesn't actually get to the part where you may entice them with your product. Bounce Rate is measured historically and is shown as a percentage (20-30% Bounce Rate is considered a fairly good rate, roughly a quarter of your visitors are moving to other pages from your homepage).
- Location - This parameter informs you where in the world your visitors are coming from (both in real time and can be viewed historically). This data can aid you if you are intending to target a particular market or demographic, if you are trying to target a particular country (e.g. the US) you may wish to produce content and launch it later in the day (if you are based in the UK). This would ensure it has the best chance of being viewed by a US audience and may lead to more sales of a particular product. Another valuable piece of information that can be gained from the location parameter is how your website functions for each visitor depending on their location at the time of their visit. If you find that your website is loading slowly in a particular area you may choose to use a content delivery network (e.g Cloudflare) to move your content closer to your viewers.
- Device - Shows the device used by each visitor to gain access to the internet (and visit your website). If a large number of visitors are using a mobile phone to view your website its important that your website is user friendly in that particular format (is your website easily navigable on all platforms?). As well as showing the device that is used by the visitor you can also see the browser which was used by each visitor. There are many internet browsers available which work in different ways - does your website work smoothly on each browser? If it does then you have a much greater chance of attracting more visitors to your website as the potential avenue of access is greater! The device parameter reports data both in real time and can be used to look over historic data.
The list above is made up of some of what I feel to be the most important parameters within Google Analytics, when you have a look for yourself you will realise that there's much more information that you can glean from the service (oh just in case I didn't mention it earlier - Google Analytics is absolutely free!). On their own these parameters only really give so much of the overall picture, the best way to use them is to combine each to give a more overall view of how your website is performing. For example, coupling the information about your Bounce Rate alongside the information from your Acquisition parameter is extremely useful (if a visitor arrives on your website from a Google search do they then travel around your website reading other articles?). As I always mention this article is just a quick nod towards Google Analytics and how it can work for you and your website. If you would like any other information regarding this topic or would just like to have a good ol' chat please launch a ticket (open a ticket) with our hosting department. We will try to get back to you as soon as possible.