Website Metrics & What They Can Tell You About Your Website
Many people find it hard to analyse the effectiveness of their website. Many businesses aren’t collecting any analytics data at all, and others have simply set up some form tracking software, such as Google Analytics, and left it to run without analysing it. There are a number of reasons for this - a lack of time to do the analysis, as well as limited knowledge on what the data actually means and represents.
Today, I’m going to run through a selection of website metrics from Google Analytics, defining them and suggesting how they could be interpreted, as well as pointing out some common misconceptions you can arrive at.
Google Analytics is my analytics tool of choice, as it is free, easy to use, and has a wealth of information available about it, which makes it the ideal analytics solution for most businesses.
To make this simpler, we’ll break the metrics down into the groups they are in in Google Analytics, Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions. These are the groups that Google has chosen to split metrics down into, based on the function of each.
Audience metrics cover those metrics related to the number of visitors to your website, how long they browse, where in the world they come from, the devices and operating systems they use, and information about their interests and demographics (if you have this enabled, of course).
The Users metric shows the number of users that visited the site in the date range you’ve selected. Google Analytics tracks users by assigning a cookie, so that if they visit from the the same device again they will still only be counted as one user.
This metric is useful for seeing how many people have visited your website, and is useful for evaluating how many people are finding your web presence.
The New Users metric shows the number of first time users in the date range you selected. This can be useful for seeing how many new people are finding your website.
The Sessions metric measures the number of periods when a user is engaged with your website over the date range you’ve selected.
The number of sessions is useful, together with the ‘Number of Sessions per User’ metric to determine how many of your users are returning to your website multiple times. This can be useful to see if users are returning for several visits, or if the majority simple visit once and do not return.
Page Views counts the total number of pages viewed on your website. It can be useful for seeing just how many pages users are visiting on your site - in general you’d like them to be visiting as many as possible.
Pages Per Session
The metric looks at the average number of pages viewed in a session. This is useful for seeing how engaging your website is to the people who are visiting it. Engaged users are likely to visit more website pages, increasing this number.
Average Session Duration
This metric shows the average length of a session on your website. This can be useful for seeing how long users are spending on your website each time they visit.
Bounce Rate counts the percentage of sessions that visited a page and then left without taking any action. Bounce rate is a harder metric to evaluate, as a ‘bounce’ may be a satisfied user who read the information they were after and left, or one who didn’t find what they needed.
Acquisition metrics show you where your website visitors have come from, as well as giving you more information about marketing campaigns you have run. Many of the metrics used in the audience section are used again here, but split into different reports.
All Traffic Report
The all traffic reports break down the traffic your website has gained, and allows you to see where this traffic has come from.
The channels section of the report examines where the traffic that has come to your website, splitting down by the different channels. These are the following:
- Organic Search
- Paid Search
For more information about what these channels include, check out this great article by Optimize Smart.
You’ll want to use the channels report together with Audience metrics is to tell you where your traffic came from, allowing you to analyse how effective your methods to bring in traffic have been. The metrics you’ll be looking to measure this by are User numbers, Page Views, Average Session Duration and possibly Bounce Rate. These let you see how many people are coming from each channel, how many pages they are viewing, how long they are viewing your site for and how engaged they are. You’ll also want to look at conversion metrics, such as goal completions or e-commerce revenue to get a true impression of how each channel is faring.
The behaviour section of the reports breaks down the audience metrics to a page by page level, as well as providing other reports that use different metrics.
This report breaks the traffic your site is getting down page by page, allowing you to better understand how individual pages on your website are performing. Again, the report uses the metrics covered in the audience section, such as Page Views, Users, Sessions, Average Session Duration, Bounce Rate etc. Again, you can use these metrics in this report similarly to the same metrics in the channels report, to get a better understanding of how many users are visiting a page, and how they are interacting with it.
Where this report shines is in checking that your key website pages are seeing as much traffic as you’d like. For example, if you have a new service that you’ve created a web page for, you’ll want to keep track of the number of page views it has to ensure people are finding the page and engaging with the content.
The last tab in analytics is the Conversions tab, which deals with actions users that that are of value to you as a business. This covers both regular goals, such as form submissions, as well as e-commerce metrics.
Regular goal conversions are the first type of metric within the conversions section. These are set by the user within Google Analytics, and so can vary based on business goals. However, there are two common ones that almost all websites will use.
Tracking form submissions is important for almost all businesses, as it’s rare to find a business without some form of online contact form on their website. Tracking the number of people who have successful submitted a form gives you a much better understanding of how many enquiries are coming in, and also, together with other reports, allows you to get a much better impression of how certain marketing channels or pages are performing.
There are two ways of doing this, firstly, sending users to a thank you page, where you can count every hit to the thank you page as a conversion, while the other is to fire off an event to Google Analytics saying the form has been successfully submitted.
Many websites also provide content for users to download, whether it is eBooks, media kits, resources or something else. Tracking the number of times these are downloaded lets you see if users are finding these resources, and if they think they are worth downloading or not, allowing you to refine your customer offering.
Ecommerce is the other area where there are important website metrics to consider. These metrics are relevant when your company website has an ecommerce functionality, and you need to track the effectiveness of your website in making online sales.
Revenue is the most important ecommerce metric - it shows how many money your website has made! You can use this to see just how profitable your website is, and to see how much the average user spends on your website.
The number of transactions is a useful metric, as it tells you how many purchases were made in total - this metric is most useful when combined with the revenue and average order value metrics, so that you can see if you are selling large numbers of low-value items or lesser numbers of high-value ones.
Average Order Value
The average order value is exactly that, the average value of an order placed on your website. This is useful to see if customers are making small purchases or large ones - and can inform you if you need to consider promoting product add-ones to increase the value of the average sale.
These metrics can help you to understand how your website is performing a little better - but you need to combine them to truly get a full picture of what is going on in your website. Reports like the channels and pages reports can give you a much better impression of how your site is performing, and how your promotional efforts are going.