Web analytics is the process of analyzing and understanding how people interact with webpages, websites, and other web-based resources. It is the practice of making sense of all the data that is collected on any online asset, and then using that data to make decisions and optimize the performance of a website.
By tracking and analyzing visitor behaviour, marketers and webmasters can gain valuable insights on how to improve the website’s user experience, better understand their users, and make informed decisions to increase conversions, engagement and sales.
In a nutshell, web analytics works by capturing data from visitors and then analyzing it to uncover patterns, trends, and insight into user behaviour. This data can then be used to adjust and optimize your website accordingly.
The very first step in web analytics is to collect data. This involves using a tracking code on your website, also known as a web analytics tracking code. This code can collect page views, clicks, conversions, user interactions, and more.
Once gathered, the data is then aggregated, organized, and stored on a web analytics platform. This platform should provide key performance and engagement metrics, traffic sources, and segmentation across the various content and areas of the website. This data is then presented in visually friendly dashboards.
It’s important to note that not all data is created equal. Different web analytics platforms support different measurements and calculations, so it’s important to research and select the right platform for your website.
The type of data collected, and the metrics collected, should logically match user behaviour and goals. For example, you should aim to measure and track the pages where users are entering and exiting your website, the paths that they’re taking while they’re on the site, what kind of content they’re engaging with, where and when people are abandoning pages, and the types of devices and browsers that are being used.
The data must also be traceable to a particular page, session and user for better analysis. Setting up custom measure events to track user engagement such as clicks, scrolls, and time spent on page is important for better understanding of the data.
Another key factor to consider is data privacy. Markets and webmasters must consider data protection, compliance, and applicable privacy laws when analyzing visitor data. Data should be tracked anonymously and stored securely.
Finally it’s important to review the data and translate the numbers into useful insights and actionable recommendations. This helps make data-driven decisions on web design, website optimization, marketing strategy, and more. It’s important to review how people are interacting with the website and how they’re responding to its content, design, and tone.
Above all else, web analytics must produce actionable results. When you’re analysing the data, think of the 3 key metrics: What? So What? and Now What?
What: What metrics are generating the most interesting results?
So What: Why is this metric interesting and actionable?
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Now What: What can be done to using the acquired data to optimize the website?
The answer to each of these questions should be the foundation to the website’s improvement.
Web analytics is a continuously evolving process and there is no one-size-fits-all approach; it requires experimentation, constant analysis and adaptation.
To maximize the value of web analytics and make the most of your user data, it’s important to build a comprehensive and sustainable process. There is a lot that goes into web analytics — lots of data, lots of questions and lots of expectations.
By taking a systematic approach, webmasters and site owners can take the guesswork out of the process and consistently strive for the biggest wins.
To ensure an efficient and effective web analytics process, marketers and webmasters can adhere to the following general guidelines and best practices:
Know your goals and objectives: To ensure the data is being analysed correctly, it's important have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to measure, it's purpose, and the desired outcome.
Make sure you have the right data and the right tools: There are a lot of web analytics tools to choose from, so make sure you're choosing the right one and you have the right data set up that accurately reflects user behaviour.
Integrate reporting and data cleaning: Different systems are going to be generating different data —it’s important to integrate existing data points and clean the data to reduce any discrepancies.
Focus on actions, not data: It’s often easy to get lost in the data overload and forget the actionable insights. Focus on what you can do to drive improvement, not on the data alone.
Track the right metrics: Don’t track metrics that don’t matter, or ones you don’t understand. Focus on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are going to help your website reach its goals and objectives.
Be consistent and persistent: Web analytics takes time and effort, and it's important to be consistent and persistent with your data collection and analysis.