There are a million things to think about when you start a small business. Your website alone is a field of rabbit holes – content, structure, design, SEO, social media integration – down any one of which you might lose yourself for days if you don’t know what you’re doing.
One area that small business owners tend to neglect, or to consider out of their league is web traffic analytics. Yet this form of stat management is nothing less than essential if you want to make your website a worthwhile proposition.
There is a whole science behind search engine optimization (SEO) and analytics, but accessible tools exist to make it straightforward for the average small business owner to get started.
Used by 30 million websites
One key tool is Google Analytics, and it’s such an integral part of creating a successful website that it’s in use by over thirty million website owners around the world. That statistic alone should suggest that it is perfectly within your capabilities to understand and operate Google Analytics.
But why is it important? Well, it’s the best indication you’ll get of whether your website is attracting traffic, the nature of that traffic, and how you can improve flow.
Even if your site is already making you a ton of money, Google Analytics is essential to ensure things keep going that way – and indeed to capitalise on your successes and identify new markets.
More specifically, Analytics will tell you what your visitors are looking for, where on your site Google directs them to find it, and even how long they spend there – giving some indication of whether they find it useful or not.
You’ll find out how many visitors you have, what devices they’re using, and whether your social media strategy is having an impact.
In short, it’s a look under the hood of your website, but presented in such a way that you needn’t be a hotshot engineer to understand or tinker with what you find.
Getting started with Google Analytics
It all begins with a visit to analytics.google.com. Sign in with your Gmail credentials (or set up a new free Google account) and enter the details as prompted – most notably, the address of the website you want to analyse.
You will then be guided to add a line of code to your site, so copy it and return to your web management portal (WordPress, Squarespace, or whatever you use) and add it to your HTML.
This is particularly simple if you use a content management system like Yoast or Drupal. In fact, if you use WordPress you can even install a plug-in that will automate this process.
Once you’re in, take some time to look over the Analytics home page. You’ll find a number of adjustable charts and tables here from which you can get a glimpse into pretty much every aspect of your customers’ journey to your website:
- How many came,
- When they visited,
- Whether they came from, e.g. AdWords, Facebook, a search engine etc,
- What search terms led them to your business, and
- Whether or not they returned.
It’s a busy page, and it can take a while to learn what’s useful for your particular business, but it’s also interesting to see this veil lifted.
Identifying areas for improvement
Whether you built your website with a purposed, SEO-oriented structure, or you just gradually added the information that you thought you needed, it’s likely you’ll have a few pages on your site that just aren’t getting the hits.
Helpfully enough, you’ll find a table on your Google Analytics dashboard named, ‘What pages do your users visit?’
You can use this to identify pages that aren’t proving attractive to your customers and figure out the best way to deal with them. The likely alternatives are:
- Combine the information on this page with that of another.
- Optimise it, re-writing the page to make it more attractive to search engines and more useful to customers.
- Delete the page to keep your site uncluttered.
It’s important to note that just because a page has high traffic volumes, it doesn’t mean it’s a success – rather, it’s an opportunity.
Go to Content > Site Content > All Pages and check out the ‘bounce rate’ for each of your pages.
A ‘bounce’ occurs when a customer visits a page, and then clicks away without visiting any others. Usually, this means a missed opportunity.
Have a look at pages that have high visitor rates but also a high bounce percentage, and try to rework bouncy pages so that that retain their initial appeal but lead more intuitively to your other pages, or offer a more enticing call to action that engages the visitor and encourages them to act upon their initial interest.
This is also a great opportunity to check whether your social media presence is effective – or whether you’re wasting your time and need to re-think your strategy.
Click Acquisition > All traffic > Channels > Source/Medium to reveal your inbound traffic from Facebook, Twitter etc.
If you’re tweeting lots but nobody’s coming from Twitter, then you likely have one of two issues;
- Your tweets aren’t effective, or
- Your potential customers are not the type of people who use Twitter.
Assuming it’s the former, try creating briefer, more open tweets (or Facebook posts, or whatever’s under-performing) that intrigue your audience and promise solutions, rather than salesperson-like tweets that belong to a bygone age of marketing.
Taking it to the next level
These steps will help you begin to turn around your website’s fortunes, but you will need to keep monitoring and responding to on an on-going basis.
If you’d like to dig a bit deeper into your website’s visitor behaviour and start setting your own goals for improvement this simple new infographic from Headway Capital is a good place to start.
Optimizing your business website with Google Analytics is not overly-complicated, but it does require some time and effort. The great thing is that you will see the results of your toil right there on your dashboard – and, eventually, in the returns you get from your website.