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The basics of using website analytics to improve your business

By Brett
August 31, 2020

Are you intimidated by web analytics tools, or curious but don't know where to start? We have four simple steps that are the basics of how web analytics works. We start by getting a tool and tracking your goals. Then we move into asking questions and segmenting your data. We review real data from one of our websites. Plus, I'll show you how I investigate real questions using Google Analytics.

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I’m going to talk about the basics, the very very basics of using web analytics to improve your business, and to me there’s really only four steps you need to care about, and these go from the things you have to do the least to the things you have to do the most. So the thing you need to do the very least is first you need to choose a tool. So I’m looking at Google Analytics, this is a free tool, it’s very easy to install, you can even use a tool called Google Tag Manager to install it and make it more powerful. So Google Analytics is really great, has a lot of awesome stuff that it tracks, I use it all the time for a lot of clients, big clients, people who have hundreds of thousands of people coming to their site every single day, they’re using Google Analytics, to smaller sites like ours, then maybe only a few hundred people are visiting over the course of a week. So it’s really great, just choose that tool, pick something that fits your needs, your budget, whatever. Number two, track goals that matter. So here, I go into my goals and I have a couple goals, I actually have some goals that I’ve turned off, so I have the goals that are on, these sort of like top ones here, like are sales meetings booked, consultant submissions, like people are interested in our consulting services, are they filling out landing pages, are they going signing up for our workshop, we have a free workshop that people can register for. These things we want to know because these are important to our business. We want to track things that actually matter to our business and that will actually bring value whether it’s revenue or new customers or influence, just whatever it is, things that are super important that when people do it on the site, these actions that actually matter, so we want to improve those as much as we can. The next thing is sort of asking questions, and you want to ask questions of your data and say hey what’s going on here, how can I, do I need to optimize my site for mobile? What is my best marketing channel, what marketing channel do I need to spend less money in because I’m not getting a return? All these kind of questions you need to be asking questions and this is where analysis gets awesome, you need to do this a lot, you need to talk to other people in your company, the CEO, the marketing director, the dev team, the fulfillment team, what’s going on with them? what do they want to know that customers are doing, that customers care about? And so then you can go in and actually do the analytics and go in and actually dig in. And that takes us to number four, the most important thing and the thing you’re going to do all the time, which is segment your data. So we’re going to look over here, I know my giant head is in the way, but if we go over and kind of pull this over to the right we can kind of get rid of this, we can kind of see these different activities here which are audience things, so if we want to say hey we want to determine, you know, how many people are coming from mobile and how are they doing? So we can click on mobile, maybe. So we click on mobile here, we go to devices or better yet we can just go to overview, just at the highest level, and just look at the actual data of what types of people are coming from mobile, desktop, or tablet? How many people are we getting from these different groups? And then how well are they converting? So we can actually look, pull this over here, and actually see our conversions, we’ll just look at all the goals at once and kind of see where are people converting, so in this case, over this short time period, almost all of our traffic is coming from desktop, we’re getting a little bit of mobile and tablet, but they’re not really converting at all, they’re not doing any of the goals we care about, so it’s really good to know. So we are business to business, our company sells to other companies, we sell products to other companies, so we’re not going to get a ton of traffic because we only need a few people to come there, but when these are business to business, and you can see here that it sort of drops off in this weekly trend, over the weekends, a Saturday and Sunday we get a lot less users and it makes sense, people on their desktop, they’re at work, they’re going in there and then they’re going to act when they’re from their desktop computer. So it’s really good to know, segmenting that data and understanding, okay we need to focus on desktop, we need to make sure our desktop experience is the best it can be, because that’s the type of audience that we have. But you can do more than that of course with the segmenting, you can go over not just audience but you can go into things like acquisition and compare, and so let’s say hey you know let’s go to your channels and let’s see what channels are driving the most traffic recently, and we can say hey it’s a lot of direct, there’s also a lot of organic search, we have generic paid search as well, so paid search maybe about generic topics is driving a fair amount of traffic, and then we have email and referral and we can look at these two and go over here to the goals and kind of see who’s been driving the most goals lately, it’s kind of like the top four of direct through email, which is kind of interesting too because you can also see these goal conversion rates, where you can kind of see, hey email is a great conversion rate, less traffic, same amount of conversions as direct but because there’s less traffic it’s a higher conversion rate. Then you can do a lot of other stuff too, we can even break this down and say I want to do a secondary dimension and then we’ll bring in the device type from earlier, so device category, we go in there and now see that broken down, so we could just look at say direct, our direct traffic, and see direct comes from desktop, mobile, and tablet, in fact, almost 92 percent of our traffic in this time period is from desktop, so that’s really good to know, and then our conversion came from that particular, from those desktop users, and so very little traffic is coming from mobile, tablet when it’s direct. So you can really break these down into different things, you have the channel grouping device categories, but all these different ways you can segment and slice and dice the data, you can add in the secondary dimensions of, not just you know things like device category, but we also do time, so let’s look at time of day, or you know month, we can also even bring in our own custom data, so we could do things like you know what is the refer, and exclusions that we’ve created, and we can also do things about how they got to the site, and all these things but basically what you want to do is once you have your question you need to be able to slice and dice your data to really see what matters, and this is really easy basic statistics stuff, this is about like sums and averages, mean, things like that, so it’s not complicated, it’s not hard, it’s stuff you work with in business all the time and you’re looking at this type of data now, but just getting comfortable with all the different options over here, and using those specifically starting with the question and then making sure you’re tracking what matters. So that really in a nutshell is the basics of using web analytics to improve your business. Obviously each one of these steps can go in great detail, of how you track your site, the types of questions you ask, the way you report this data in segments, it all matters but just getting started is actually pretty easy. I remember when I first started 10-12 years ago, you know, I just got in there and I had a question, I said, hey, you know the question I had was, we’re getting a lot of 404 traffic, what’s happening, where are they coming from, where are they going, going on the site, and what’s happening there? And then we found, oh the 404 traffic was going to these pages that were being broken every day, because they, we were at a newspaper, and the pages were breaking because people would edit them the next day, and the old link had in the date and unfortunately, when somebody edited it, changed the new date, and the old link was breaking, so we learned a way to fix that. So that’s the way analytics can help immediately and fix those kind of problems that you’re having, so it’s really about asking the right questions. So thanks so much, and please subscribe.

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About the Author
Brett uses analytics to help clients put all the pieces together—from identifying KPIs to finding the right data to measure those KPIs and then collecting that data. He’s been in digital marketing for 8+ years and brings analytics leadership to the Anvil team. If he’s not drilling into data, he’s probably hanging with his kids or maybe playing some D&D.
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