Introduction

How many times a week do you check your website analytics? If your answer is less than “quite a lot” then you could be missing out on useful data to power your marketing.

In this guide, we’ll run through what website analytics is, why you should invest time setting up and optimizing, and how you can use website analytics to increase both web traffic and conversion rates. Whether you’re a content marketer, product marketer, or any type of marketer, this guide will open your eyes to the gold mine that is website analytics.

What is web analytics?

Whether you have a whole bank of content or one or two blog posts, you need to know what is and isn’t performing.

Regardless of whether your web pages are fun, SEO optimized, or whether your internal teams think they are great, you need to know they are what your audience needs and if they are best optimized for organic search.

Web analytics is a collection of metrics, reports, and insights on any website that provides you with this exact data.

For example, you publish a blog post covering the 10 Best CRM Providers in the UK. After two weeks, you haven’t seen any leads generated, and your sales team is twiddling their thumbs.

Instead of spending time writing a new blog post without direction, you can use web analytics and heat maps to find out the user behavior like how many people have read your post, the time they spent reading, and even where they clicked away (and didn’t convert to a prospect).

A creative depicting website analytics

With historic and real-time data on any of your web pages, you can make informed decisions about what is and isn’t working on your website.

Your next blog post might change from 10 Best CRM Providers in the UK for 5 Best CRM Providers in the US.

In this example, you’ve found out that your readers stopped reading before the sixth CRM provider. Further website analytics also suggest your audience is in the US rather than the UK.

How does web analytics work?

When your website gets a unique visitor, your web analytics tool starts processing data about that visit. You receive data like your visitor’s IP address and can decipher geographical and ISP information. This can prove useful for retargeting efforts or making decisions on who your buyer persona is.

Website tracking is how websites collect, store, and share information about their visitors’ activities. Websites can track data like a visitor's operating system, browser, screen resolution, device type, and many other data points that help with understanding more about your visitors. Other information comes from direct request data. This is the searching and fetching of what your user has typed to find your website.
Once you have a visitor on your site, analytics packages—like Google Analytics—start processing all on-site behavior.

Basics of web analytics

At the most basic level, you collect data like time spent on a page, which internal links visitors click, and how often your visitors leave your site without clicking through to anything else. The latter helps decide whether your web content is right for your target audience.

When your visitor’s session (this is the time spent on your site before leaving) is complete, Google Analytics processes the data and provides many reports.

Metrics to measure

Website analytics tool like Google Analytics provides easy access to basic level metrics you’ll want to measure for your traffic reports.

google analytics reporting - website analytics

For example, you can view a per page breakdown that lists:

You can find this particular report by navigating to the Reports section in Google Analytics.

Click > Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.

Or choose Content drill down to break down the pages by formats defined in your site structure. 

These could be /blog, /products, or /contact-us, for example.

Another basic but valuable report in Google Analytics shows you the channels used by visitors to your site.

When you know where your visitors come from, you can optimize your content based on intent.

For example, if most of your website visitors come from organic search, you know you’re doing a great job with search engine optimization (SEO) and can assume these are queries looking for information or an answer to a problem.

 

In the screenshot below, you can see the channel groupings of:

  • Organic search: visitors from search engines like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo.

  • Direct: visitors or typed in your URL or traffic which Google Analytics cannot group.

  • Referral: visitors who clicked a link to your site from another site like in a guest post or news coverage.

  • Social: visitors from platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

  • (Other): any custom channels you have added yourself for tracking reasons—like one-off campaigns with media outlets.

  • Email: visitors from your email campaigns or someone else’s.

  • Paid Search: visitors from a Google Ad campaign.

  • Display: visitors who clicked an advert displayed on another website like an industry publication.

 

All Pages behavior report in Google Analytics
Channel acquisition report in Google Analytics

You can further expand this report to see behavior analytics per channel and even start tracking conversions per channel. 

For example, you might want to know whether organic traffic drives more downloads of your product, or whether your social media audience stays on your site longer than a visitor who clicked from your last email newsletter.

Why do you need web analytics?

You need web analytics to understand why visitors come to your site, where they come from, and what they do when they reach it. This can be broken down into three main areas:

Ascertain web traffic

When you know where visitors come from, you can focus on dominating that channel or increasing reach to other channels. If most of the search is organic, you can try improving your page meta and snippet to ensure more people click and land on your page.

Optimize marketing campaigns

The way visitors reach you tells you a lot about a visitor’s intent—which means know why they are on your site. From here, you can tailor your CTAs and copy.

Better page quality

Once you know when and why visitors come to your site, the pages they land on can be optimized for the best quality experience possible.

 

When you have a wealth of information about your website visitors, you can tailor everything from your content marketing to your email signup forms.

In turn, these lead to better-quality website visitors, more MQLs, and business growth.

Why are website analytics important for business growth?

In the infographic below, Quantzig outlines three reasons why you should not ignore web analytics.

Why are website analytics important for business growth?

When you are able to do these three things, your marketing becomes strategic, and you can use it for business growth. Knowing your visitors and optimizing your content for them allows you to map their entire journey through your website.

An example of a visitor journey and the user experience before website analytics could be:

With website analytics, this visitor journey makes better reading:

     1. Visitor searches a question in Google. 
     2. They click on your blog post. 
     3. They read your content the whole way through (because you’ve optimized it based on what your analytics tell you). 
     4. Your visitor also opens more content you linked to in your blog post. 
     5. Your call-to-action gets a click.
     6. An MQL is passed to the sales team.

If you know which kind of content works for you, you can use it to drive genuine leads and grow your business. Only when you measure KPIs like conversion will you make a business case for marketing campaigns. Data and insights from website analytics must drive your marketing efforts if you want them to drive business growth.

Going above and beyond Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the bare minimum any marketer should be running to track traffic, conversions, and performance. To go above and beyond, start asking probing questions about your website analytics.

Justin Dunham, Director of Product Marketing at Github, says two of the most frequent questions he gets asked about Google Analytics are:

Google Analytics customer journey and bounce rate
How can you interpret bounce rate? 

With bounce rate, it’s a tricky one to get your head around. On the one hand, it may seem bad that your website analytics is telling you that people are leaving your page. If people don’t stay, that’s a bad thing, right?

Not always. It could be that the reader has found all the information they need.

For example, you write an informational blog post that answers the question: “What is the average word count of a blog post?” The searcher’s intent is to find out how many words are in the average blog post. So, if your content says “1500 words” and cites a credible source, the searcher has their answer.

For website content like this, having a high bounce rate isn’t a concern. Your content is designed to answer questions, and you’re building authority in your niche. But, a high bounce rate with a low on-page time could mean that people aren’t getting what they wanted from your content. 

Let’s use the same example. You write an informational blog post with the title: “What is the average word count of a blog post?” The searcher’s intent is to find out how many words are in the average blog post. But, your blog post doesn’t answer the question. Instead, you give examples of your favorite blog posts without quantifying the average word count of a blog post. In this case, the searcher will click away from your site (and likely back to the next listing in their search engine).  You’ve lost a reader, and they’ve gone to a competing web page.

When checking bounce rate, make sure you know which pages exist to capture and keep readers on your website and which pages exist to answer one-off queries. This will help you judge whether your bounce rate is alarming or just fine.

Bounce rate website analytics

How do I use Google Analytics to understand my users’ entire journey better? 

To understand your user’s entire journey, you’ll need to integrate Google Analytics with your CRM so you see what happens once they become a lead.  Before your user gets that far, it’s important to understand every part of your website your user clicks.  For this, try setting up some custom reports with the criteria you wish to track.

Custom reports

To get the most out of Google Analytics, you can set up custom reports that give you information on pre-defined goals and even a monetary value per page on your website.

When setting up any reports in Google Analytics, ensure you plan which metrics you need to measure. Some will be basic but you might tailor others for specific use cases.

For example, Greg Habermann, COO at SageRock, Inc., created a report for tracking “Long-tail converters.” Instead of tracking single keywords that drive traffic to your site, this report analyzes your three, four, five, 10, 20, and 20+ word queries.

Google Search Console

If you have already set up your analytics dashboard on Google Analytics, your next immediate step should be to set up Google Search Console. Google Search Console gives you high-level reports on the number of clicks from Google search results.

At a site level, Google Search Console displays a graphical view of how you're performing on Google.

Google Search Console total clicks and impressions

These will be important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)for marketing teams focussing on obtaining organic search traffic. Google Search Console now includes clicks from Google Discover too.

Google Search Console provides further website analytics you can't get in Google Analytics.

Google Search Console breaks down those clicks into the queries that visitors type into Google to find your content.

Below, you can see the literal query a visitor typed before clicking your link on Google.

Search queries in Google Search Console.

You can export this report to run custom queries of your own and create plans for which of your web pages you can update to gain more clicks from the available impressions. Once you’ve set up Google Search Console, you can integrate it with Google Analytics. This means you don’t need to switch between different websites to get your analytics.

This is often a major pain point for managers of more than one website who must switch between accounts and URLs to dip in and out of reports. To link Google Analytics and Google Search Console, follow the instructions provided by Andy Crestodina, CMO of Orbit Media, in this video.

To justify spending the time linking your accounts, Andy says: “It’s a valuable source of search-related insights. But the reports are a little harder to read, so it’s nice to connect the two so you can see the Google Search Console data right there in your Google Analytics.”

Get even deeper marketing analytics 

You’ve got data.  You’ve got metrics. Analytics are driving KPIs and conversions. So, what do you do next?

You can measure marketing even more efficiently with analytics and reports using Freshmarketer Marketing Analytics. You can take the data you have in Google Analytics and create custom reports that dive deeper into your user’s journey.  Templated reports help you get set up in no time at all. So, if you’re new to website analytics, you won’t need to spend all day configuring.

Marketing analytics dashboard in Freshmarketer

You can build your own dashboards to measure customer engagement, emails’ performance, conversions, and any other metrics you decide are important for business growth.

Freshmarketer's marketing analytics dashboard

You can add widgets and filters to segment data pockets, acquisition channels, or remove site content that belongs to a different team.

Web analytics best practices for increasing traffic and conversions

Now you're getting insights on what is and isn’t working, the next step is to use the information to improve your content.

How to increase website traffic 

From your channel acquisition reports, you will know where the bulk of your visitors come from. You can use this information in two ways:

     1. Focus on dominating this channel and create more content designed for these visitors.
     2. Make a conscious effort to build out your audience by identifying gaps in your channel acquisition.

Dominating a channel

The most common example of this is leveraging the domain authority of your website to rank high on search engines for most of your blog posts. When you have created enough great content for search engines to rank you high with little effort, it makes sense to keep creating content for this channel.

One example is the Mio blog which jumped from 48 visitors to 150,000 readers by going all-in on organic search content. Creating the best version of what exists online, coupled with a high authority site, is a sure-fire way of increasing website traffic. 

Expanding your audience

The alternative to going all-in on one acquisition channel is expanding into other channels to level the playing field. For example, if most of your website visitors find you via search, you might want to focus on creating more email content and optimizing your email campaigns. Email is a great example of a marketing channel that you will always own. Unlike organic search or social media traffic, you are not reliant on other companies’ algorithms.

Think about what is best for you now then revisit in three months’ time. Set yourself a calendar reminder to check if you should continue your focus on dominating a channel or expanding your audience.

 

How to increase web conversions

Once you’ve got all this new traffic, there’s the question of conversion. Is traffic a measure of a successful website? Or is it a vanity metric?

For marketing of any kind to contribute to business growth, it needs to generate revenue. This could be in the form of leads, installs, or affiliate links. To increase web conversions, add the following to your marketing strategy:

A/B test everything!

Test different call-to-action buttons on your sales pages and your blog posts. Try different power words and test using numbers and urgency in what you ask your reader to do.

Create pop-ups

And test those too! When relevant on your site, add a pop-up with an offer. Or, when a reader is about to leave your site, ask them to join your email list.

Get personal with your copy

Talk to your specific reader rather than trying to catch everybody’s attention. Use the language they use and introduce words like “you” instead of “the user.”

Try out Conversion Rate Optimization software

Get access to heatmaps, session replays, and funnel analysis to analyze your visitor’s behavior. Then use these learnings to optimize future campaigns and content.

How to choose a web analytics platform?

Finding the right web analytics platform is a personal choice. You must focus on what is most important to your business and whether the platform can provide this. Always check for the following when assessing a web analytics platform:

When you’ve ticked off these basics, ask questions that are unique to your business. For example, if your customers get referred from other websites, what tracking is available to ensure the whole journey gets analyzed? Or, for self-install products, what happens when your readers become installers? Does the analysis stop here, or can you integrate it into your onboarding system?

Remember: it’s a personal choice. Use your demo time to ask everything that’s on your mind, as well as your checklist.

Why integrating web analytics into your marketing strategy is important for your business?

You can only get to know your visitors when you have detailed web analytics on their clicks and choices. When you do get to know them, you can tailor your website and its journey for the best chance of conversion. But, this is only possible when you integrate web analytics into your marketing strategy. Rather than running website analytics and marketing in silos, the two together become a data-driven machine that constantly optimizes and generates results. When you do this, your marketing team becomes a business unit with a demonstrable return on investment. 

A desirable state to be in. Don’t you agree?

Drive business growth with website analytics!

If you’ve mastered Google Analytics or want to be prepared for all the blog views, contact form fills, and download requests you’re about to get, it pays to have the right package. Enhanced website analytics platforms like Freshmarketer (formerly Freshworks CRM) Marketing Analytics provide you with all the reports and dashboards you need. And if you don’t see what you’re after - you can make your own!