Using analytics to create a better website
Analytics are a vital tool in delivering a hard-working quality website, as they enable you to determine if your website is:
- Achieving your communications objectives
- Meeting the needs of your audience
- Delivering the desired experience
Analytics can give you a complete picture of your website and how it is being used, from the audience you are reaching (through source, SEO terms and geography); the level of engagement and interactions with the content (with page views, time on site, video plays, downloads and so on); to the experience being delivered (by assessing user journeys, browser and device views).
So how do you make the best use of analytics?
Choose the right analytical tool
There are a multitude of different tools in the market, but broadly I would summarise these into 3 categories:
- Free - the main one being Google Analytics
- Specialist - for example those that focus on a particular aspect of analytics such as heatmaps
- Paid for - such as Adobe Analytics which give you a complete picture of analytics down to an individual user.
For most corporate websites Google Analytics will meet nearly all your needs, as generally individual tracking or linkages to profiles is not required.
- It's free!
- Easy to install and use
- Delivers all the core analytics features you will need
- Integrates with other Google products such as Adwords
- Provides customised reports (although there are limitations)
- Free online training - you can even get Analytics certified online!
- Constantly evolving and improving
The downsides are:
- Google analytics uses sample data after certain volumes (although this usually won't affect most analysis)
- Doesn't capture data back to the original user
- User journeys can be difficult to explore and interpret
- There are a limited number of goals that can be set
- Integration across other channels is not as seamless or integrated as the paid for analytics tools
Recommendations when setting analytics up
Analytics can give you all of the insights you need, however, there are some top tips to get the best out of the system when setting it up:
Check the analytics are pulling through once the site is live - a mistake could have been made in setting it up and you don't want to find out once you start to run the first review!
Include in-page analytics tracking (i.e. for PDF downloads and video plays) so you can see engagement with content
Don't forget to exclude certain IP addresses - for example your agency's or content management team's so you don't get false readings
Set goals - such as signing up to alerts or registering for content as this helps tracking later
Create a dashboard - so you can see in one view all of your key statistics
Think about your segments and set up your reports so analysis later is easier
Link with AdWords - if you use this, as it gives a good line of sight once those clicking on an AdWord have reached your site
Include in-site search terms - this enables you to see what people are searching for within the website and may give clues on what content is not visible enough to users
Analysing the results
The tool is very easy to use when looking at the results, however here are a few things to remember when looking at the results:
Look for the underlying cause - so for example page views and time on site are very good indicators of engagement with the site. However it is important to remember to look at underlying reasons for any changes. If you improve your navigation for example then you may find page views and time on site go down. So even when looking at simple metrics always ask yourself why.
Factor in desktop v mobile - these are very likely to have different profiles of usage. Mobile will be quick access to content such as share price, news, contact details and so on. Desktop will be more focused on narrative content. This means page views per vist and time on site will be higher on desktop. So if you mobile traffic goes up, these metrics may well go down.
Look at user journeys - as this helps you see how people are using the site, and also gives good indications by different audience types. This is particularly helpful in determining related content and improving the site structure.
Look at source of traffic - as again the origins of the visitor will affect the site stats. Grow the traffic from social media and again page views will drop (as people tend to look at one page and then leave).
Examine content pages - too often the most visited pages are highlighted, but of course this will be the homepage and section pages. this is of interest, but what is more interesting is the actual content pages. Which are looked at? Which have high dwell time? Which content could be better promoted? use analytics to improve content visibility and user access.
What type of content appeals? - different content may help improve engagement. An example is video. Some videos are highly engaging and therefore drive good engagement.Others just don't. Remember to look at th evideo stats to help improve your moving image content.
Remember analytics is just part of the story
Using analytics to help develop and sustain a great quality website is just part of the mix. We would recommend that this is done in conjunction with other important aspects including:
- 6 monthly reviews looking at user flows, key stats, content access and so on. This also irons out any seasonal fluctuations.
- Best practice reviews and benchmarking so you can see what others are doing and ensure you are keeping up with best practice
- Examine emerging trends - especially in the consumer world - as corporate websites tend to follow these with a 6 month lag
- Conduct user research so you can hear what people using your site think first hand. Remember to make sure you have a representative sample of different audience groups
- Test and learn! Try out new ideas and see what happens. As long as you track the effect through analytics you will find out what works and what doesn't
If you would like to talk about how you can better use your analytics to improve your website, please get in touch with Faezeh Chizari on firstname.lastname@example.org