Is your website doing its job? And, more importantly, how do you know?
There are approximately 110 million websites. But how many are actually providing real value to their owners? Many businesses only operate a website because they know they have too. It’s usually a ‘quick launch’ lacking a specific purpose, KPIs and no real way of measuring whether the website actually impacts their bottom line.
All businesses spend a lot of time discussing different ways of
managing customer relationships, because we know that measurement and evaluation are critical to success. This also applies to your website. So how do you gauge its effectiveness? Further, how do you measure its effectiveness in a way that will provide you with an ongoing record of historical and unbiased data?
The easy way to measure the response to your website is to have your sales team and service staff ask every contact how they heard about your business. But that’s a chore, and you can’t rely on them to record this information for every single customer contact, particularly repeat customers. To really understand how well your website is performing and generating leads, use some form of web analytics tool.
Your website service provider most likely offers some sort of analytics program as part of your basic website package. The exact information offered varies from one provider to the next, and may or may not provide the specific answers you’re looking for. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of third-party web analytics programs available.
One of the simplest to use – and most cost-effective, since it’s free – is Google Analytics. Anyone with a Google Gmail account can create a Google Analytics account. Once you register, Google generates a piece of electronic code that you copy and paste to the different pages on your website. Setting it up takes less than five minutes. Within 24 to 48 hours, you start receiving some really interesting data.
So, what will an analytics program tell you? And more importantly how can you make use of the information?
To begin with, you will know how many Visitors come to your website, and you’ll be able to break it down by time periods. If you have a lot of people coming to browse your inventory in the evenings or on weekends that suggests it might make sense to have someone on your sales staff monitoring those inquiries. They can then respond immediately making a favourable impression with the customer – and perhaps close the sale.
More importantly, you’ll be able to see how much time people actually spend looking at your website, which is referenced as Time on Site. Do they arrive and promptly leave, thinking that what they wanted is simply not there? These visitors that come and go in a flash are said to ‘bounce,’ and a high bounce rate usually indicates that the user didn’t see your website as meeting their needs. You could be spending a lot of money and effort to attract people to your website, but if they’re not finding what they want, the site isn’t doing its job and you need to find out why.
Of those visitors who come to your site, how many are unique? A unique visitor is a new customer, as opposed to a repeat visitor, someone has been there before. The number of unique visitors says a lot about how much new traffic your website is generating. Unique visitors are defined over the course of a specified time period, so you can determine how much traffic you generate during a particular month, or measure the number of visitors during a specific online sales program.
And how are people arriving to your site in the first place? Are they coming by directly typing in the URL; by bookmarking it in their web browser, or are they being referred by another website? If there is another website that’s directing a lot of traffic your way, perhaps you should consider doing more business with them.
If visitors are coming to your site through a search engine like Google or Yahoo!, then your analytics program should be able to provide you with the individual keywords that visitors use to do their web search right before they arrive at your site. That’s powerful info – those keywords not only suggest what visitors are looking for, but where they are in their purchasing decision. This kind of information allows you to tweak the call-to-action on your website.
Keywords can also help identify problems with your website. In one classic example, an air conditioning company was very careful to ensure that they attracted visitors to their website by using the right keywords, including ‘air conditioners for sale.’ However, on their website’s home page they decided to list their air conditioners by model number. When prospective customers arrived at the website, they couldn’t see the words ‘air conditioner’ anywhere – just a series of model numbers – so they promptly hit the ‘back’ button and left.
Although the company had a huge number of people coming to their website, sales were poor. By looking at their bounce rate, and the specific keywords used by people navigating to their site, the company was able to identify the problem and redesign the home page to something far more effective. Sales promptly increased, courtesy of some simple analytics.
Web analytics is not going to tell you how to run your online business, or determine your online business objectives. But it can provide you with real-time data with which you can make informed decisions including how to re-design your website, if that’s your next step.
All aspects of your business need to be monitored and evaluated, including your online storefront. Measure your website activity. Evaluate those measurements. And watch your online business grow.