Understanding how people use your website is incredibly useful for any business to work out how to make the site better on an ongoing basis.
It’s useful to know which pages are most popular and how people find your website, so you can both keep up the good work and revise your marketing strategy where opportunities pop up.
Unfortunately it can be very intimidating to try to figure out what all the numbers mean – let alone to interpret the data into actionable improvements.
If you don’t know your acquisition from your elbow, never fear! Read on for the PJWD guide to understanding your website analytics.
Understanding page views
Page views is a key metric. It shows which parts of your website are most visited and which are not.
This number tells you how many times a single page is viewed.
- Pages with a lot of views – Prioritise the pages that get the most eyeballs on them. Ensure your content is polished. Perhaps add a call to action or links to other content, as this encourages visitors to interact with the site.
- Pages with low views – If you have important pages on your site that don’t get lots of views, you need to make links to it more prominent in your design. You can also consider promoting it more on your marketing channels. On the flip side, if a page has been promoted heavily and still didn’t get views, then maybe it’s just not popular with your audience (so make a note of this).
Tip: Note down which content resonates with your audience so you can revise your content strategy over time. For example, it’s useful to spot trends such as whether certain blog topics draw more viewers.
Unique views / Viewers
Arguably more important than standard views, unique views (AKA viewers) refer to visits from individual people. A page that has 1 unique view from 10 different people has greater reach than a page that has 10 views from 1 person.
- Pages with high unique views – Identify these pages as your key content pages. Keep them polished and include your calls to action a few times.
- Pages with low unique views but high overall views – ask yourself why people need to keep visiting the page multiple times. Can you make your site easier to navigate?
Tip: Look for spikes in your graph and identify what could have caused the increase in traffic. To do this, you can cross-reference against your acquisition data, see below.
Entries / Landing pages
Entry pages (or landing pages) are the pages where people enter your website. These are very valuable pages and should be given plenty of attention and ongoing maintenance.
- Pages with high entries – These could be performing well on search engines or from your marketing activities such as social shares or your newsletter. Check against your acquisition data to find out where the traffic comes from and make a note about what you did well!
- Pages with low entries – Don’t expect people to automatically come flocking to every page you create – they need to know it’s there! Invest in the SEO of that page or promote it via your marketing channels.
Tip: Discovering that a page unexpectedly performs well on SEO is a great opportunity to improve your website. Don’t be afraid to update old content and revise the page copy to add new, useful content, and even more keywords and variations!
Beyond measuring page views it can be useful to understand how people engage with your site when they visit. For a real-world example, it’s like noticing if a customer walked into your shop doorway and left immediately, or did they stick around and browse the shelves?
A bounce is when someone visits your website and leaves again without viewing another page. If you aim to keep people engaged in your website content, you want to keep this figure down – particularly on your landing pages.
Likewise, if you embrace low-carbon web design, you only want people to visit your site if they intend to use it with purpose.
- Pages with a high bounce rate – Ensure visitors have something to do when they visit the page. Include more prominent links to other related pages to encourage visitors to move around the site. Tighten up your meta descriptions so it’s obvious to search visitors what to expect from your site before they click on it.
- Pages with a low bounce rate – People liked what they saw and moved to another page, great stuff! Study this page and think about why it is successful and how you can apply the same to other pages too.
Note that bounce rates will differ from page to page. I’ve found that online shops (where people like to browse various products) tend to have a low bounce rate. Blogs (where people read and then leave) and content shared on social media (where people are distracted) tend to have a high bounce rate.
Time on page
Most analytics software also record the average length of time spent on individual pages. Honestly, I try not to get caught up too much on this. As a rule of thumb:
- If you want people to be engaged in your content (for example reading a blog) you want the average time to be higher.
- If it’s a page where someone is doing something (such as filling in a form or checkout) you’ll want to think of ways to have a lower average time.
Note that it’s also very easy to skew the average time, which often makes the data unreliable. For example, a bounce is a bounce whether the person leaves after a millisecond or 15 minutes.
Acquisition refers to how people get to your website. This is important to know as it helps you identify which parts of your marketing strategy are performing best and which are not.
If you have worked on your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), search traffic will make up the bulk of your acquisition data. You’ll want to look into factors such as which pages pull the largest volume of quality traffic, and how the behaviour of organic searchers differs from other visitors to your site.
If you promote your business on social media, it’s useful to know how many people click through and from which social channels. Knowing this allows you to focus on the most effective channels. Check your site usage data against your marketing activities to see what brings in traffic and what doesn’t.
If you discover you spend hours writing tweets that nobody clicks on, then it’s worth considering better ways to use your time.
Referrals are when someone clicks through to your website from another website.
Referrals are great because they come as a recommendation and also boost your SEO in the process. However, they can be very hard to come by!
In many ways, if you focus on creating an excellent website and producing good content, people will link to it (easier said than done right?!). You can also consider digital PR, writing guest posts for other websites or contributing to articles, which may gain you a link back in the process.
The ethics of analytics
When we discuss website analytics it is important to think about the ethics of tracking your website visitors.
It’s likely your motives for measuring people’s behaviour on your site are entirely well-meaning, for example so you can improve the user experience for your visitors. But often the software used to do so is much more shady.
The commonly-used Google Analytics collects a vast array of your visitors’ personal data alongside your website’s page usage data. So much so that it is increasingly being challenged for breaching European GDPR laws or being blocked outright by ad blockers and privacy-focussed browsers like Brave.
Since 2020, PJWD has used Fathom Analytics, an ethical privacy-focussed alternative to Google Analytics which tracks page views without also capturing your visitors’ personal data. It also has a simpler interface which is welcome for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the amount of data on a platform such as Google Analytics!
Fancy giving Fathom Analytics a try? Click here to save $10 from your first Fathom invoice.
A balanced approach to analytics
If you want your marketing to be effective and your site to perform well for your business, you need to pay attention to your analytics. A good approach for this is:
- Keep an eye on your analytics on a regular basis without becoming obsessed with daily fluctuations.
- Choose a few key metrics you will track, rather than feel overwhelmed by all the data.
- Consider whether Google Analytics is the best option for your business, or if an alternative might work better.
If you need help to understand your website analytics, PJWD can help! Book a web design consultancy session to arrange an analytics assessment for your website.