Web Analytics 101: The Foundation for Success Online

Web Analytics 101: The Foundation for Success Online


It’s a question that all small business owners should themselves: “How can I make my website better?”

Regardless of what ‘better’ might infer for you, whether it’s acquiring more visitors or gaining more transactions, it all begins with your web analytics data. Or more specifically: making sure, irrespective of which analytics package is in use, that it’s configured correctly to give you the right kind of data to make the best possible decisions.

All too often this is something that webmasters and website owners overlook when it comes to their website, which is surprising considering that web analytics is one of the foundational elements of being able to run not just a good website, but a great website!

Often the perception is that simply tagging your pages with the analytics tracking code provided by your chosen vendor is ‘good enough’, and of course that might be the case, if you as a business owner are happy with being ‘just average’.

But with the growing influence of the online world, can you afford to be merely run of the mill?

I certainly hope not!

Here are four tips to help you and your organisation begin moving away from being just middle of the road, and more towards a data driven culture to make smarter web decisions.

1. Setup a goal or a conversion point

If there is only one thing that you take away from this piece it’s to set up a conversion point on your site. If you are not sure what a conversion point is, it’s basically something that you want a user to do on your site.

Typical examples of conversion points are:

  • Signing up to an email newsletter
  • Registering on a site
  • Downloading something
  • Purchasing something

I’m sure you can think of many such examples that are similar on your own site.

What’s really great about setting up a conversion point is that you can immediately start seeing what types of traffic are bringing you the best results, and conversely what tactics or strategies aren’t working well and might require you to tweak the approach or ditch them entirely.

This is also true for sites that are only on the web to deliver information. One can make use of behavioural metrics, and once a threshold is reached it’s marked as a conversion.

The other benefit of having a conversion point is that it solidifies what is the reason for you actually having a website in the first place! Although this might seem to be common sense, the amount of web analytics accounts I’ve audited tend to tell a different story.

2. Sanitise your data and make use of filters

In Google Analytics the ability to filter data is a great feature and one that tends to be under-utilised in my experience.

One such filter, and is in fact always the first one I deploy, is to exclude your own traffic.

In other words the traffic that is being reported upon when you visit your own site! The obvious reason you want to exclude your own visits is so that you do not over inflate any particular data set as this could skew how you read your data and by extension your ability to make decisions.

3. Roll-up reporting in conjunction with multiple profiles.

So let’s assume you’ve deployed a filter that excludes traffic originating from your IP address – but you still want a profile that catches all the data that your site is generating as a redundancy measure, as well as other profiles that might be set up to capture specific data.

Enter the concept of ‘roll up reporting’.

The idea behind roll up reporting is that you essentially have one account per site and make use of multiple profiles that all use the same tracking ID. You then extract the data as is needed via filters into specific profiles.

Here is a quick example: the ability to extract the ranking position of a click from Google’s Ajax powered search engine results page and have it directly reported in analytics, that way you can see what position is bringing you the best conversions.

Another example is if you have multiple sites running off sub domains, you might want to have a profile that captures all the data across those sub domains, and then have that information displayed in your web analytics, but separates the data according to the URL that is displayed in the user’s browser.

4. Custom reporting

Giving you the power to mix and match information and metrics as you need them is truly a beautiful thing. Creating custom reports, gives you the ability to extract and compile specific metrics that are important to you. Although most standard reports that come with an analytics package accomplish a great deal, they generally don’t give you all the data you need – or in some cases give you too much!

A great example of this would be where you can create a report to look at how efficient your site is converting users according to how they reached your site, or put another way: a site’s conversion efficiency by traffic medium.

Bonus Tip: Don’t have time for creating custom reports?

No problemo! Create a dashboard. Google Analytics lets you create dashboards and is fantastic for looking at key metrics at a glance, such as your newly created conversion point.

Hopefully the examples listed above will get you excited about the types of data you can begin to extract from your web analytics package (regardless of which flavour you like) and help you and your business start to make better decisions for growth.

Michael Wissekerke
Michael Wissekerke runs a results orientated search marketing company, Conversionomics.net, where he tries to make “the web a better place” through better user experiences and a more holistic approach to search and conversion rate optimisation. Having cut his teeth as an SEO and online marketer in the hyper competitive industry of online gaming, Michael (a self-confessed web geek) recently returned from Australia where he was the in-house search and analytics manager for multinational pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.