A beginner’s guide to website analytics
Website analytics help you better understand your audience, their activity on your site and how you can cater your future communications to their tendencies to maximize engagement. Analytics have evolved quite a bit from their early days and are now fairly standard for most sites.
Website analytics can be difficult to understand and a bit overwhelming, but you can learn the basics fairly quickly and use that data to your advantage when planning future website content and strategy.
Like any new subject matter, familiarizing yourself with the vernacular is step one. Here’s a few basic definitions to help you interpret those numbers you’re seeing in your analytics report.
Page: The specific webpage visited.
Sometimes you’ll see a page just referred to as “/”. That is your homepage and will typically be the most visited link since most users go there first and then navigate to a specific page, rather than entering a specific URL into their browser.
User: A person browsing the website who has initiated at least one website visit.
This is pretty straightforward. A related figure to look at is the number of users your website gets during a certain time period. This will tell you the amount people who visited your website and can often be customized to include or exclude repeat visitors.
Pageview: The total number of pages viewed, including repeated views of the same page.
This is your catch-all number that tracks all activity and is a good way to see how your audience is engaging with your website. Other numbers are dedicated to unique views, which don’t include repeat visits, but to get started, this is a simple number to track – and often what most will care about.
Average time on page: The average amount of time users spend viewing a page.
Again, fairly straightforward, but it’s worth looking deeper into. Don’t get discouraged on how low this number likely is, considering the 15 second rule that has emerged as a popular — and perhaps disheartening — gauge for a user’s time spent on a site. On average, most users spend less than 15 seconds on a website; a strong average time is considered 2-3 minutes.
Consider these numbers with some perspective. First and foremost, think about the evolution of the internet user. Internet access is universal across any modern device, and people are savvier when navigating through websites now than they were 15 years ago. Second, sometimes this low number can be a testament to your organization’s website and communication strategy. Your audience may not need to spend a long time browsing your website because they can easily and quickly access the information they need.
Creating a strategy
So you have an idea of what the numbers are telling you, now what? Using your website’s analytics to strategize future content is key. Simply put, look at what your audience’s tendencies are and try to do more of that. Consider the following when creating a strategy around these numbers:
Dissect the content your audience is viewing the most by looking at the type of content and the subject matter. The type of content could be text-based, such as news articles, feature stories or blog posts. It could also be more visual types of content such as photos, graphics or videos.
Next, look at the specific subject matter, such as services, products, initiatives or events provided by or put on by your organization. Once you know this, you can plan future content to cater to these tendencies by posting information more frequently.
Know your most popular pages and make sure they stay updated and are easy for users to access. Be sure to have these pages clearly visible from your homepage or as easy to reach from the main page as possible.
Static vs. dynamic pages
Static pages stay relatively the same throughout the year such as your main navigation pages, such as about, contact, services and products pages. Dynamic pages change more frequently throughout the year or have shorter life spans such as news and blog posts.
Find out if users tend to navigate towards one of these types of pages more and keep that in mind moving forward with your overall website strategy. If you find some of your most clicked links are dynamic pages, then continue to provide related content as much as you can. If your audience tends to visit static pages more, be sure to use the techniques for popular pages.
What time are you expecting visitors?
Most analytics platforms will tell you what time of day or day of the week your website gets the most visitors, so keep this in mind when you are looking to maximize content. Avoid posting during slower times as much as possible and save important content for peak times.
If you are planning an announcement or big news, take this into consideration when selecting your launch date and time. For time-sensitive material, post reminders or keep content in visible areas of the website during peak times if appropriate.
You may see larges spikes in website traffic during certain times of the year that correlate with current events going on in your organization and beyond. Make sure pages are updated with the latest information knowing people will be visiting them leading up to and during these times.
While there is a lot more you can learn about website analytics, this will at least get you started in the right direction. Most platforms also offer tutorials and FAQs with more information. Analytics are still a relatively new area of expertise so even a basic understanding can go a long way in improving how you plan content for your website.