How to Make Sense of Website Analytics

thumbnail how to understand Google AnalyticsNew webmasters, and even their more seasoned counterparts, often struggle to make sense of the numbers that analytics tools return. What is the significance of a hit? What should you do to increase the average time spent? And how do you increase the number of referrals that come from certain segments of the market?

It would take a lifetime to learn, let alone explain, everything there is to know about metrics. However, the basics are fairly straightforward to understand and today we’re going to go over what each of them mean.

Average Time Spent

This one is fairly self-explanatory. ATS simply refers to the amount of time each visitor who stumbles across your site hangs around for. While it’s a basic statistic, it can also provide immense depth in terms of analytics. For instance, if the ATS is short it could actually mean that people have found what they were looking for without trouble. However, short visits could also mean trouble in the form of slow load time or even unattractive design.

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Entrance Pages

Knowing which page most of your visitors are being presented with when they first enter your site can be incredibly useful. If you’re interested in boosting your numbers, then thinking about why this page is so popular and how you can replicate the same kind of success with others can provide a huge advantage in terms of how you manage your site’s analytics. Ensure that this page is updated semi-regularly, and try to think outside of the box when it comes to grabbing the attention of visitors.

Exit Pages

Like the entrance page, the exit page is similarly useful for knowing why people are leaving your blog or website. Have your visitors found what they came for? Or are they frustrated with convoluted content and an awkward design? The fact of the matter is, every site needs to have an exit page (otherwise things would be a bit strange). All you need to ask yourself is: does it look like your site is driving people away, or do their browsing habits look normal enough to you?

Hits

Hits don’t mean squat. Seriously! If your images are viewed via Google Searches, then you’ve got a hit. If Google’s spiders crawl your website to check for an update, then you’ve got a hit. Hits don’t necessarily mean that a real person is visiting your website. If you’re looking for a metric that indicates real human beings who happen to discover your beautiful corner of the internet, then look no further than…

Page Views

That’sGoogle Analytics website metrics right, page views. Just hearing the word brings a blissful smile to my face. One ‘page view’ basically means that a page has been fully loaded. Its relevance has been somewhat diminished in recent years thanks to the growing popularity of ajax websites and embedded video content. This means that page views aren’t as accurate as they once were. Nevertheless, they’re still a great indicator of how popular your website actually is and roughly how many people are looking at it.

Referrals

Of course, no one would be able to look at your website if they didn’t know where it was. Expect a significant portion of your hits to come from Google. This will also give you the added benefit of knowing which keywords your website is ranking well for.

Beyond that, though, you’ll also get to see other places around the web that have linked to your content. Examining your referrals is often a surprising, and even humbling, experience that can really shape how you go ahead with your approach to analytics.

Top Operating System/Top Web Browser

These are fairly arbitrary statistics that aren’t going to provide much assistance to the vast majority of website owners or bloggers (or webmasters, if you’re truly old school). If you’re involved in the creation of OS or browser-specific tools and content, pay attention. Otherwise, you don’t really need to bother.

It’s worth noting, though, whether or not a sizeable portion of your audience is using a mobile browser. If so, try to ensure that you’re accommodating for their needs in terms of a fluid layout and easy navigation system.

Top Search EnginesHow to measure traffic with Google Analytics

Most people use Google. If your top referring search engines are Yahoo! and Bing, then first of all well done. However, you should always try to ensure that you have a strong presence with the most popular search engine on the market.

Ideally, you’d have a balanced SEO strategy that would allow you to be visible on any search engine. If this isn’t happening for you, then you might want to think about how important the smaller engines are to you, as they can generally still direct decent traffic to you.

Unique Visitors

The grand-daddy of all web metrics. Show me an internet marketer who doesn’t want the largest amount of unique visitors possible looking at his or her website, and I’ll show you the meaning of life. Seriously, though, this is one number that, ideally, is going to be rising constantly.

It goes without saying that the more people who stumble upon your website, the higher your visibility and (potentially) rate of conversions. If you find that your uniques are in a slump, it’s probably a good time to start thinking about what you could be doing better.

Repeat Visitors

Your number of repeats should also be considered extremely important. This is a great indicator of how appealing your site is to users, and how they view it compared to your competitors. Again, if it’s not showing you the numbers you want, you need to rethink your SEO and content creation strategies.

So, Do You Understand Web Metrics Now?

Hopefully this has served as an enlightening introduction to analytic metrics and how to look at them. Remember, the concepts here are very simple, but mastering them will take time.

If you’re still trying to figure out how to improve your websites performance, the good news is that you have a lot of options. Everything from creating better content to streamlining your design can impact a visitor’s experience, and thus, your site’s success.

1Brian Burt is an SEO, digital marketing and web design pro out of Chicago. His company WebRev Marketing & Design is a boutique firm that specializes in digital marketing, web design, social media & SEO. When he’s not hard at work for his clients, Brian also does private consulting to assist individuals in building online revenue.

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