What is Web Analytics?

Whether you’re new to web analytics or need a refresher course, let’s get back to basics. As more and more web analytics tools are being creating and more and more updates are being made to the popular solutions like Google Analytics, it’s always a good idea to have your web analytics basics cheat sheet up to date. So if you’re ready to learn what web analytics is or want to see if you’ve missed a few important updates recently, keep reading!

What Is Web Analytics?
Web analytics is simply put as the measurement and analysis of a website based on users’ and visitors’ actions or behaviors. The analysis of a site usually is for a business to see what’s working on its site, where the site could be optimized, and how other departments’ campaigns, advertisements, content, predictions, etc. performed.

Who Uses Web Analytics?
Depending on how large or small your company is, it could be as little as one or two people who use web analytics. Larger companies, on the other hand, can have hundreds of web analytics users. Ideally, all of a company’s departments should work together with a web analytics team (or if there isn’t a web analytics team, this might convince you to have one) to use web analytics to understand the company’s position overall online as well as its independent sectors (sales, marketing, content, risk management, IT, inventory, etc.).

Where Is Web Analytics Used?
Web analytics is used on websites and can be viewed on dashboards such as Google Analytics, given that there is tracking code implemented in the site’s HTML.

So where is web analytics actually used in a business? Let’s break it down by department! Depending on the size of your company, not all of these departments may exist (or they might overlap).

  • Sales  While sales teams will love to see how many products are being sold, they won’t get any additional sales until they know where the sales came from and what was driving the sale. So knowing which pages and what traffic drives leads is key to the sales team knowing which products and pages are working. And web analytics can help the sales team know where they are doing well and where they are lacking. Implementing custom tracking code using analytics tags will allow sales teams a better indication of their performance.
  • Marketing – Like sales, the marketing team wants to see the campaign and advertisement results. Basically, the marketing team wants to know how their efforts to market and advertise to current and potential customers performed. But in addition to that, the marketing team needs to know how to optimize and refine their efforts. Knowing about channel performance inside out is one of the biggest reasons a marketing team uses web analytics (and for this reason, marketing teams could be the largest user of web analytics at any particular company). The numbers from web analytics will tell you what happened in that specific time frame and will help paint part of the picture as to why the campaigns and advertisements performed the way they did.
  • Content/Content Marketing – Using web analytics to measure content and content marketing efforts is a little tricky if you don’t know which metrics and KPIs to focus on. Yes, page views and number of visitors are nice to know, but content is a lot more complex than the generic information Google Analytics and other web analytics tools spit out at you without any additional data refining. Since content marketing web analytics is not basic web analytics, we’ll go into more detail on this topic in a later post.
  • Risk Management – Looking at past trends helps to predict the future. Your risk management team is performing analysis on what is most likely going to happen in the upcoming quarter or year. Members in these teams will look at past data from a web analytics solution to know what performed well, what didn’t perform well, what errors were made (in any department), what trends are there, what problems kept occurring when any scheduled changes to the business will be, and so on. Again, web analytics (and big data) for risk management is a complex subject, so we’ll go into more detail in a later post.
  • Information Technology – Like the Risk Management team, the IT team would also use past web analytics data for forecasting things such as page speed or site speed.
  • Business Analysts – Web analytics will most likely be what many business analysts see every day (compared to the other departments’ occasional web analytics usage). However, only about less than a quarter of a business analyst team’s time will be analyzing the web analytics data; the rest is typically used to create analytics reports. In the upcoming posts, we’ll discuss how business analyst teams can reduce time spent on creating reports (through automation) and more time analyzing which metrics that matter.

When Should Web Analytics be Used?
You can and should start using web analytics now if you haven’t already. Google Analytics is one of the best tools out there to use, and it’s free. All you have to do is log into your Google account associated with your business and start reviewing your data. If you don’t have a log in, check out Google’s Analytics site for more help. Or if you can no longer access your Google Analytics account but you are the owner of it, check out this blog post for help to get back into your Google Analytics account.

Keep in mind that even though Google Analytics and other analytics tools provide you with a plethora of information about your site, you’ll want to customize your data through personalized segments, reports, and eventually custom tags.

Why Should I Use Web Analytics?
No business would randomly market its product to anyone and everyone it finds, so why would you forgo web analytics and miss out on a better optimized site, a better user experience, and more conversions? Web analytics provides you valuable insight about your business and customer behavior that you couldn’t find even if you did a bunch of customer surveys and other non-web methods. Businesses love information about their company and want to know what is working and what is not. Web analytics is one of the easiest ways to know the who, what, when, and where. And web analytics trends can help produce a why and a how. Web analytics provides businesses a fairly complete picture, so why would you opt out and have only a small piece of it?

How Do I Use Web Analytics?
If you’re new to web analytics, first start using one of the free and more widely used tools such as Google Analytics. There are plenty of tutorials on Google Analytics and you can even become Google Analytics certified. Once you have a better understanding of which metrics are actually useful and actionable (more on this in a later post) and know what the metrics and dimensions really mean, then you can dip your toes into paid and lesser known tools such as Adobe Analytics, Piwik, Crazy Egg, Compete, Optimizely, 4Q by iPerceptions, or any of the social media analytics tools. Eventually, you might even want to add a backup analytics tool to Google Analytics.

What Are the Most Common Analytics Terms/Metrics And What Do They Mean?
Before you get started on you web analytics quest, let’s go over some of the most common web analytics terms.

  • Hits – A hit on your site means that some type of file – photo, text, etc. – was downloaded or sent from your site. Google Analytics tracks many types of hits on a webpage, including page tracking, event tracking, ecommerce tracking, and social interaction hits. With web analytics, all of these hits are tracked as long as the correct tags are in place on the website.
  • Pageviews – Each individual page on your website that a user visits will be counted as a pageview. Even if the same user goes back to a previous page that he or she viewed, another pageview will be counted.
  • Visits or sessions – A session is an interaction a user makes with a site, including pageviews (visiting a page), events (clicking a button), ecommerce (purchasing a product), and social (commenting on a blog post) interactions. An individual user can have multiple sessions, depending on how long they’re on a single page (For Google Analytics, there’s a session timeout after 30 minutes of inactivity and at midnight.) and depending on how they are referred to the page or site (For Google Analytics, a timeout will occur if you go to the same site using different referrers, AdWords campaigns, etc.).
  • Unique visitors – A unique visitor is a distinct visitor who comes to a site and visits a page(s). No matter how many pages this visitor goes to and no matter how many different campaigns and referral sources this visitor uses to get to the site, the visitor will still be recognized as the same person for a given period of time (depends on which analytics tool you use).
  • Bounce rate – The bounce rate is the percentage of users who come to your site and then leave after viewing a single page of a website.
  • Referral traffic – Referral traffic is any traffic that is not coming from Google’s search engine, a direct view to a site (see direct traffic), or social traffic (Note: Not all social traffic is recording only in Google Analytics’ social channel. You’ll still see some social traffic from sites such as LinkedIn in your referral traffic list).
  • Direct traffic – Direct traffic generally means traffic from people who typed or copy/pasted one of your URLs directly into their browser and visited the site. Do note that there are some discrepancies in Google Analytics’ direct traffic, specifically its (direct) / (none).
  • Conversion rate – The conversion rate is the number of completed (and successful) transactions, subscriptions, sign ups, or other business goals divided by the number of unique visitors to the site overall.

Hopefully this review of web analytics helped you. If you want to know more about anything web analytics related that we haven’t covered in a blog post, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @Amplytics.

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