Web Metrics Made Easy, We Breakdown The In’s and Outs.
This is part 7 of our 7 part series on Website Design Optimization. We hope you’ve found it valuable and have achieved greater results!
Optimizing your website is more of a continuous process than a one time deal. You should always do this one thing: make decisions based on data from the website metrics you are tracking. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how to interpret web metrics correctly, you may be at a disadvantage.
In our last article, we covered What The Most Important Web Metrics Are & Which Should You Be Tracking.
The good news is that the strategy for interpreting web metrics is extremely simple. Every step in the optimizing process should look like this:
1. Analyze what’s working
2. Analyze what’s not working
3. Make changes/adjustments
Do more of what’s working, and do less of what’s not working (or make serious adjustments to eliminate errors and missteps). It could mean blogging more, or blogging less. Or creating new landing pages, or changing the ones that are there.
Web metrics tell us almost everything we need to know about what’s working and not working. That’s why measuring and tracking behavior and data is so important. It’s also why learning how to interpret web metrics is a necessary step in website optimization.
You might also discover that you should ramp up your social media activity because the little bit you’re doing is working. Or, perhaps the tons of time you’re spending on social media isn’t amounting to anything at all.
Here’s the point: you won’t know what to do next unless you know the numbers – and what they mean. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the following:
1. A quick recap of which metrics you should be looking at
2. How to interpret those metrics
3. Avoid misinterpreting the data or making bad assumptions
4. How to make adjustments based on the data
OPTIMIZING YOUR WEBSITE FOR RESULTS
Quick Recap: Which Metrics Matter Most?
Many business owners get as far as implementing a tracking system like Google Analytics (GA) to track their website metrics. But that’s usually where the work ends. Once the system is implemented, far too many people fail to go back and look at the data and really interpret it.
But I can see why that happens. There’s so much information available in a tool like GA that a lot of people don’t even know where to start – or where to find the data they’re looking for.
The best way to make it simple is to come back to focusing only on the metrics that matter most, which we recently talked about in Part 6 of the 7 part series on website optimization.
To recap, you should be tracking the following metrics for SEO:
- Referral Sources (Where the traffic is coming from? How much is coming from search engines?)
- Referral Share (Which search engines are sending the most traffic?)
- Top Queries (Which keywords are sending the most traffic?)
- Popular Pages (Which pages are getting the most search engine traffic?)
You should also be tracking these things for conversion performance:
- Exit Pages (Where are people leaving your site most often?)
- Landing Pages (Which pages are the ones people get to first? – It’s not always the home page)
- Loading Time (How long does it take your website or pages to load?)
- Session Duration (How long are people sticking around? Be careful about this one, though.)
Truthfully, you should track even more metrics than these, but these are most important.
How To Interpret The Metrics For Optimizing Your Website
First, interpret each metric by comparing the data against your goals. For example, if most of your traffic comes from social and not search, but you set out to have mostly search engine traffic, something’s off. Or, if in January, you only had 12% traffic from search engines but you wanted to increase that to 40% by May, and it’s June now and you’re still teetering at 12%, something’s off.
Then, decide what needs an adjustment so that you can reach your goals.
In a nutshell, that’s how you interpret metrics for optimizing your website. Interpretation just means asking yourself what the data means, and how you should react to it.
Use your data as a compass to tell you where to go next. But before you do, make sure you understand what it’s saying.
Don’t Misinterpret The Data Or Make Poor Assumptions
Learning about how to interpret web metrics includes how NOT to interpret them. Misinterpreting the data could lead to huge problems if you take action based on a misunderstanding. Take session duration (time on site/page), for example.
Session Duration is a confusing metric people don’t really understand. It starts when someone opens the first page on your site and ends when they open the last page on your site. That means that it doesn’t include the amount of time spent on the last page of your site. (See this helpful article on Session Duration misunderstandings).
Is it likely or unlikely that someone spent awhile on the last page of your site before leaving? The answer depends on what the last page was, if they took any action on it, and what other data tells you!
Time On Page is also somewhat flawed, because the time on page for the last page someone views is always going to be “0” with Google Analytics.
The point is to not look at each metric in isolation, but to use the data to create a picture that answers your broader questions. Are your larger goals being reached or not?
Optimizing Your Website By Making Adjustments Based On Data
As stated earlier, consider the data from your analytics tool a compass that helps you choose which changes to make, if any. When optimizing your website based on actual data you can see and interpret, you make better decisions.
For example, you can dramatically improve conversions by making a design change to a very popular blog post that is now becoming a landing page for you. At the top of that page, you could add a call to action, or add helpful video (a very effective conversion tool).
If you know which pages are most popular – and the keywords that are driving them there – you can test the loading time, revise the copy for impact, and pay a lot more attention to that page going forward.
Typical adjustments include:
- Improving loading time: This is critical for your top landing pages.
- Revising or adding CTA’s: If a page is getting a lot of traction, make sure you really put some effort into the right call to action.
- Redesigning landing pages: Improve conversions by redesigning or using an A/B test on a popular landing page. This is one way of optimizing your website for conversions that is foolproof. Take a page that’s popular and design at least two different versions of it. Then using an A/B test, decide which design does a better of converting traffic.
- Adding more content: If you discover that most users bounce around all the pages of your site, you might want to add more content. It could be that they leave because there’s nothing else to see or your content didn’t give them any reason to stay.
- Rethinking your PPC or social media strategy: While we’ve focused primarily on search traffic in this article, analytics also tells you how effective your PPC or social media strategies are.
When you think about optimizing and re-optimizing your website for maximum traffic and conversions, always come back to the analytics. Not only does the data tell you what to do next, based on your goals, but continuously looking back at the data helps you figure out if you’re even tracking all that you need to track.
On the flip side, not factoring in the metrics from your analytics tools always has consequences. You could potentially waste money doing things that are unnecessary. Or worse, you could cut off a source of quality traffic without realizing it. It’s certainly possible to accidentally break a funnel that was working just fine if you don’t use data as your starting point. Don’t be that guy! Make it a habit to look at your data first and use it as your guide.