In order to get the most out of your website, it’s important to understand exactly how people are finding and using your site. Luckily, this information is relatively easy to decipher if you know what to look for and use the right tools to track it.
I’d recommend you install Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website. Google Analytics is free and very easy to install – just cut and paste a little bit of code on to your site and you’re good to go. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed yet, here’s some basic details about how to do it.
Once you’ve installed Google Analytics on your site, you’ll need to understand what the statistics you’ll be able to access mean and which ones you should care about. Here’s the 10 key ones you’ll want to examine:
1. Absolute Unique Visitors
This is about as basic as it gets – it’s the number of individual people who have visited your website during a given time frame. You can find this number by clicking on the “Visitors” button on the menu on the left hand side of your screen.
This is the total number of times people have visited your website. When combined with your Absolute Unique Visitors number, you can figure out approximately how often the average person visits your site. For example, if you have 500 unique visitors and 1,000 visits to your site this week, then you know that the average person who comes to your site comes to it twice a week. This is important because it allows you to figure out whether people are enjoying what they find and actually returning to your site regularly or not.
3. Page Views
This is the total number of pages that were viewed on your site. It’s important for a couple different reasons – first, it will give you an idea of how much people are clicking around (or not clicking around) on your site. For example, if you had 1,000 visits to the site and 2,500 page views then you know the average person clicks through to view about 2.5 different pages on your site.
Your page views number is also important if you plan to try to monetize your site with ads. The more page views you get, the more money you’ll make because each page that loads features new ad impressions and you will get paid on those impressions. This is why you often see sites make you click through 10 different pages to see a list of 10 different photos – each time you click to load another page, they’re getting paid to load new ads.
4. Bounce Rate
The bounce rate of your site is the percentage of visitors who leave your website without visiting any other pages than the one that they first entered on. Your bounce rate is presented as a percentage and is important because it speaks to whether people find your site interesting or not.
For example, if 1,000 people visit your site and 600 of those people leave without looking at more than one page on your site, then your bounce rate will be 60%. Basically, the lower your bounce rate, the more compelling your website is. That said, it’s important to understand that your bounce rate will likely never be lower than 20% – your goal should be to try to get your bounce rate below 50% if possible. That will mean that the majority of people who visit your site are interested enough in it to click around and see what you’re up to.
5. Referring Sites
Referring Sites shows you how people found your site. Did they come from links posted on other blogs? Did they come from links posted on Facebook or Twitter? Did they come from searches in Google? Referring sites allows you to see where every single visitor to your site came from and it’s a great tool to help you understand how effective your promotion is being and to see how people are finding you and who’s linking to you.
You can also see a breakdown of how traffic from each individual source performs and you’ll find some sources send better traffic than others. For example, maybe your traffic from Facebook has a bounce rate of 40%, but your traffic from Google has a bounce rate of 60% – this tells you that people coming from Facebook are more valuable to you than people coming from Google.
6. Top Content
The Top Content section of Google Anayltics shows you a list of what pages on your site are getting viewed the most. This is obviously important because it shows you which pages on your site are the most popular and shows you which pages present the best opportunity for you to reach people. For example, you may have a particular blog post on your site that regularly receives more traffic than your home page – so make sure that page is also promoting your upcoming show or whatever it is you’re looking to get exposure for at the moment.
7. Landing Pages
Landing Pages refer to the pages that people “land” on when they enter your site. This is basically going to show you how many people entered your site on any given page. Again, if you’re regularly posting content on your site you will discover that the majority of people probably enter your site on pages other than your home page – this is how you can see exactly where they’re entering.
It’s important to know this because you want to be aware of how people are first being exposed to your site and make sure that those pages sufficiently explain who you are, what your site is, and why they should care. You shouldn’t assume that people will click to your home page to find that out.
8. Exit Pages
Exit pages are basically the opposite of Landing Pages – this shows you which pages people left your website from the most. This is important because it allows you to identify which of your pages are losing visitors – if a large number of people are leaving from a certain page then it’s likely that there’s nothing on that page encouraging them to click to another page on your site. That’s why they leave from it.
9. Map Overlay
The Map Overlay section in Google Analytics is the way you can see exactly where geographically the visitors to your website are coming from. This is important to understand because it helps you figure out if your readers are local, or national, or international. Obviously, this can have a direct impact when you try to convert these readers into attendees of live shows or tours – you need to know where you audience lives.
In order to really get value out of the nine statistics referenced above, you need to track and compare them over time. Google Analytics allows you to easily compare and time period to another time period and that comparison is where you can really gain the most valuable insights into what’s happening with your site.
Are you getting more visitors than you did last week? Are fewer people bouncing from your site? Are you getting more Facebook traffic this month than you were last month? Did fewer people exit your home page after you redesigned it?
There’s a million variables that you can check and it’s these comparisons that allow you to understand if you’re making progress and if the work you’re putting in is having an impact. Without the kind of statistics you can get from Google Analytics, you really have no clue whether your website is doing anything for you or not.