Wondering what is web analytics? Web analytics is a way of collecting and analyzing what’s happening on your website, covering everything from what your visitors are doing, where they come from, what content they like, and a whole lot more.
By using a web analytics tool to collect data, you’ll be able to know what is and isn’t working, and then steer your website in the right direction.
What is web analytics? Plus why analytics matter
There is a lot of data you can collect about the way people interact with your website. For example, you can track overall visits, the pages users spend the most time on, which sites led them to your site, and more.
If you’re new to web analytics, the sheer amount of information you get access to can be overwhelming, as is figuring out what to do with it. However, making sense of this data is essential, because it will enable you to keep a finger on your site’s pulse.
Let’s take ‘time on site’, for example. This metric measures how long users spend on your site on average, and on each of your pages individually. Generally speaking, if visitors are only spending a few seconds on your website before leaving, this means there’s something wrong with it.
If you’re wondering, users spend around three minutes on most websites on average.
In the next section, we’re going to introduce you to some more key metrics you need to keep an eye on and why they’re important.
Five key web analytics you should be tracking
There are a lot of metrics you can track using analytics tools. However, these five are a great place to start. Let’s begin with your general visitor numbers.
1. Overall traffic
When we talk about web traffic, we refer to the number of visits your site gets over a specific period of time. This number is significant, because it tells you if your website is getting the attention it deserves.
Let’s say you’re getting about 50 visitors per day. That’s a low number if your website has been around for a year. However, it’s decent if you set up shop a month ago. In other words, not only is it important to keep an eye on your traffic, but also the way it evolves.
Ideally, your numbers will go up as your website grows older. If your traffic stagnates or diminishes over time, it’s a marker you’re not doing something right. In most cases, it might be due to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) issues, so that’s always a good place to start.
2. Bounce rate
When someone visits your site and leaves without viewing a second page, we call that a ‘bounce’. The percentage of those visits you get measured against your overall traffic makes up your bounce rate.
This metric is important because it tells you if there are any outstanding usability issues with your website. Some of the most common causes for a high bounce rate include:
The average bounce rate for most websites is anywhere between 20 and 70% (lower is better). However, as a rule of thumb, if your bounce rate is higher than 30%, you’ll want to take a close look at the possible causes we mentioned above.
However, bounce rate is highly dependent on what content your site provides and what searchers are looking for, so it’s not always a bad thing if you’re above that number.
3. Traffic sources
In most cases, first-time visitors will find your website via links instead of typing in your URL. The pages that link to your site are your traffic sources, and we can usually break them down into four categories:
- Search engines
- Links from other sites
- Visits from email campaigns
- Links from social media
Generally speaking, you want to build up all four sources of traffic. However, your primary focus will usually be search engines, because they have the potential to bring in massive traffic. More importantly, if your website ranks consistently high in search results, it tends to be easier to get links from other sites, because they’ll consider you a reputable source.
With web analytics tools, you can easily monitor your traffic sources and adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, if you don’t see much traffic from search engines, you know you have to revise your keyword strategy.
4. Desktop vs. mobile visits
It might not come as a surprise to learn that mobile traffic is now fully adopted by many web users. In fact, it overtook regular desktop traffic a while ago, which means it’s essential for your website to offer a strong mobile experience.
With analytics tools, you can track what percentage of users are visiting your site through desktop or mobile browsers. It’s a simple enough metric to interpret, and it tells you where to focus your efforts.
Even if your website is getting more desktop than mobile traffic, we still recommend that you focus on optimizing its mobile experience. Adopting a mobile-first approach to web design will pay off over the long run.
5. New and returning visitors
Ideally, you want people to keep coming back to your website over and over again. We call those users ‘return visitors’ (and they’re the best!), but you can also think of them as your core audience.
A lot of people have different ideas about what constitutes a decent returning user rate. In our experience, if your recurring traffic is anywhere around 30% of your total, you’re doing pretty well.
However, if it’s below 20%, this means your website isn’t as engaging as it could be. This might be due to usability issues – such as those affecting your bounce rate – or your content strategy. In any case, it’s grounds for taking a close look at your site and figuring out how you can improve it.
How to start collecting web analytics
The most popular web analytics tool is Google Analytics. This official tool is 100% free and gives you access to all the metrics we covered above, plus a whole lot more.
Once you have Google Analytics working on your site, you can read our beginner’s guide to the Google Analytics interface to get your bearings. And once you’ve got the basics down, you might want to look into creating your own custom dashboards to quickly access important analytics data.
A lot of people run their websites without keeping an eye on their metrics. That might work, but you have so many great analytics tools at your disposal, it’s a waste if you don’t use them. For example, just keeping an eye on your traffic alone can tell you if your content strategy is paying off (or if you need to try something new).
There are a lot of numbers you need to pay attention to when it comes to web analytics. However, here are five of the most important metrics for you to keep an eye on:
- Overall traffic
- Bounce rate
- Traffic sources
- Desktop vs. mobile visits
- New and returning visitors
Do you have any questions about what is web analytics? Ask away in the comments section below!