It can be hard to understand why something you can’t see can be one of the most important elements of your campaign. But that’s exactly the case with analytics: They’re never visible to the user but they can have a significant impact on what a user does and how your website functions. Used properly, they give a detailed view of how your campaigns perform, where you should spend more, where you should spend less and ways you can maximise your ROI. If you already know what they are and you’ve already got them, you can skip the first four headings below and dive straight into our top tips.
What do we mean by web analytics?
Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage . It basically means including a mechanism on your site that keeps track of where visitors come from, what they do on your site, where they go to next and then analysing the information to constantly improve your site.
Why are analytics important?
Simply put, if you’re not keeping track of how people are interacting with your site, you’re not making the most of it. In other words, you’re wasting your money. With the level of information available, you can discover valuable visitor trends that can dramatically influence the design, navigation, functionality and content of your site.
How do you know if you are using web analytics?
There are many different types and providers of analytics software but the most popular has quickly become Google Analytics (GA) . It’s free so, even if you’re already using other analytics software, you should use GA too so you have access to its reporting suite.
To find out if you’re using GA, open a web page on your site and right click on an area of empty space (off to one side of the page for example). No matter which web browser you’re using, in the menu that pops up, select the ‘View page source’ or ‘View source’ option. You’ll then be presented with a new tab or window that contains the code behind the page – it’s in here we’ll find the code for GA if it exists. Press the Ctrl and F keys on your keyboard at the same time (Command + F if you’re on a Mac) to open the ‘find’ dialogue (we might be teaching you to suck eggs here) and search for ‘google-analytics.com‘. If you don’t find it, you’re not using GA so skip to the bit below that explains how to get it. The GA code has changed a lot over the years but if you do find the code, it should be contained within a line that looks like either of the lines below. If it is, you’re using GA:
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js‘;
Tip: If it looks like example 1, you’re tracking code is out of date – it’s time to update it!
How can you get web analytics?
As discussed above, Google Analytics is the most popular analytics software so we recommend you install if before any others. It’s free and easy but you’ll need to be able to edit your website templates to get it working. If you can’t, talk to your webmaster or web agency who will be able to do it for you.
To get the required code, visit http://www.google.com/analytics/ and either sign up or login using an existing Google account. Once logged in to the analytics interface, use the help centre search box and search for ‘tracking code’. Click the result for ‘Set Up the Tracking Code’ and follow the instructions. We’d explain how to do it here but the technique changes so it’s best to follow the instructions on the site.
Top Analytics Tips
The default statistics offered by Google are pretty thorough but with some small additions you can add extra valuable information to help you maximise the potential of your campaigns.
404 is the error code returned by a web server when it can’t find the page it’s been asked for. Why is this valuable? There are plenty of reasons why people might be looking for a page that doesn’t exist. It could be as simple as they typed in the address incorrectly but it could be as serious as a typo in a print ad. If you don’t know people are trying to find these pages then you can’t fix it. And Google doesn’t (can’t) report these by default. How to fix it? Get your webmaster to follow this guide:
Site Search Tracking
Most websites have a built in search function to aid user’s navigation of the site. If yours doesn’t, you should seriously consider implementing one as they’re highly valued by visitors. Search is also highly valuable to you when you know the phrases people are searching for. These key phrases can provide excellent insight into visitor needs. You’ll often discover there are recurring phrases that can, for example, demonstrate an area of the site you didn’t realise was popular with visitors and should be promoted. You may discover there is a need for information that doesn’t exist at the moment or realise people are struggling to find particular pages. Users have become so familiar with search it is often used as a first point of entry so its value should not be underestimated. Follow these instructions to get up and running:
Goal Tracking (aka conversion tracking)
This should be an obvious one but often gets overlooked. Goal (or conversion) tracking is the act of analysing the effectiveness of driving traffic to a particular action. As an example, this could be determining how often visitors arrive at a ‘thank you’ page. ‘Thank you’ pages are regularly displayed after a visitor successfully completes a form; it could be a contact form, an information request form, a registration form, etc. When the user lands on the ‘thank you’ page it means they have successfully completed a task. By setting up goal tracking, you can see an immediate snapshot of how well your campaigns are performing. You can also analyse the goal statistics further to determine how your campaigns can be improved and, if appropriate, assign a monetary value to each conversion. Learn how here:
Tracking campaigns is the most effective way of ensuring your marketing budget is being well spent. You can use specific URLs for individual campaigns and monitor traffic to those URLs to measure effectiveness or you can use tracking codes which you can then monitor in your analytics. Some systems such as Adwords and Mailchimp insert code that allows you to automatically monitor their campaign performance in Google Analytics, for other campaigns you’ll need to do it manually. To learn how to effectively track your campaigns read more here:
Your analytics data can be skewed or less valuable if you’re not filtering it. Data can be filtered in a number of ways. The primary way is using the built in filters that Google provides. You should use these to exclude traffic that you don’t want included in your reports, for example, traffic from your own offices. Most businesses have a fixed/static internet address that you can add to your filter list so company employees don’t add unnecessary data to your reports. Another useful filter type is available under the advanced link next to the search box in most Google Analytics reports. From here you can use key phrases to filter the report results. By doing so, you narrow results to more pertinent data. For example, under the Search Queries report (where you can view which terms people used in the search engines to find your site) you can filter out brand phrases to better understand which generic terms people are finding you for. Generic terms are often more valuable than brand terms but brand terms can often be so popular they obscure the generic results. Filtering fixes that.
Google are constantly improving their Analytics package with new features such as real-time tracking (see who’s live on your site and what they’re up to right now), social engagement (see where and how your site is performing on the various social sites) and flow visualisation (useful visual representations of visitor paths through your site). To keep up with what’s new and how it could be useful to you follow the Google Analytics team here:
 The Official WAA Definition of Web Analytics
 Analysis of the top 1m websites from http://trends.builtwith.com/analytics