Tag Archives: web analytics

Website Analytics: Turn Flabby Numbers Into Customers

The hungry marketer Many years ago, a client called me at 7:30 a.m. “Your f…..g ads don’t work, you f……g a……..e.” In retrospect this is hilarious because his store wasn’t even open yet. Some people make the same snap judgments about websites based on top line data only. This information (see below) may flag a problem on the site, but it’s not the diagnosis. Now what? Say your car doesn’t start. The problem could be everything from a faulty ignition switch to a potato lodged in your tail pipe. We need to get under the hood and get dirty.

Typical dispaly of top line website data
These are topline numbers on your Google Analytics (GA) account’s home page. If you don’t drill down to understand what’s really going on, they can bite you in your rear part.

Top line numbers fluctuate due to many factors beyond your control, seasonality, popular soccer match, day of the week, or job postings on your website. The numbers go up, and they come down. And they will not tell you important dimensions about the size of your core audience, or the surge in traffic driven by social media.

So slap on a pair of coveralls, grab a wrench, and let’s do a deep dive on your website until we reach the core. As for the hard charging, results driven, monkey on your back, you’ll have a few more bananas to pitch at him.

Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?
Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?

Last October, Ideopia redesigned a website. Traffic growth was almost immediate. Eventually the growth slowed, but growth in visits continued to increase. Then boom! Traffic spiked over 300%. Champagne corks popped like gunfire at Ideopia. And yes, we were quick to point out this accomplishment to our client.

We poked underneath the traffic to find the mystery traffic.  And the bump wasn’t do to earned traffic at all.  By checking traffic sources, we found the culprit, an Adwords account that was running amok. While it’s nice to take the credit, our job here was to shut down the rogue Adwords account. And we did.

One reason website analytics get wonky is because they’re based on averages. For example: web traffic might go up, but pages per visit go down. Has your content broken down? That’s possible, but it also might be a slow download speed for your site.

Other and possibly deceitful metrics – time per visit, and pages per visit – are based on averages of all your site’s data, too. Now hear this:  There is no average visitor. One visitor might hit one page on your site. Another may visit a hundred making the average number of pages per visit 500. Again, we love to report the good news. But it’s not helpful for decision making. So lets take an example using Pareto’s 80/20 distribution. For the sake of this example, our website pulls in a whopping 100 visitors per month.

Traffic Segment A 

  • Web Traffic = 20
  • Average page views per visitor = 10
  • Total Pageviews = 200
  • Time per visit = 5 minutes

Example Segment B

  • Total  traffic = 80
  • Average page views per visitor = 1
  • Total Pageviews = 80
  • Average time per visit = 1 minute

Averaging A & B segments together yields the top line data you would see on your dashboard.

  • Total traffic = 100
  • Total  page views= 280
  • Average page views = 190
  • Average time per visit = 3 minutes

The point here is to show how averages misrepresent the values in both A & B segments. Knowing that we have 2.8 page views is useless. What’s interesting is that 20% of our traffic views 10 pages, and 80% account for 80 page views. See how unhelpful averages are? Depending on your objectives, you might be more concerned with core visitors, or overall traffic. If only you could determine what’s sticky for the core group, and what’s turning off the fringe visitors.

Well, you can with custom segments from Google Analytics. It’s a power tool for defining your key audience segments, and a component of decision making about content, user experience, and SEO.  The answers aren’t on top. Drill down, and start finding customers.

Find Customers in the Core

Use Google’s custom segments to define your target audience. Describe it by demographics (18-24), keywords from search, affinity categories like sports and gardening, and traffic sources, like social media or Adwords. The core is the group of visitors you want to tantalize with your content, capture their email addresses, and eventually contact them personally. This report shows engagement by comparing numbers of users in different time segments.

Rules of Engagement

A metric like engagement should make you swoon. On Google Analytics, it’s called “Engagement,” located under Behavior on the left-hand navigation. Let’s take the table below as an example, and say that we consider anyone who has made a visit of 180 seconds, or 3 minutes, to define a core visitor.

Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?
Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?

380 or 21% of visitors accounted for 6,116 or 56%, of page views lasting more than 3 minutes. According to our definition, this is the core audience. To refine further, choose from a slew of pre-configured reports to import into your accounts. Custom segment in hand, you’ll want to apply it to other reports in GA. Find out how much of your core audience visits from social media, and what platform. What pages are most appealing to this group? Who is performing what actions on your site.

Increasing Website ROI

While it’s fun to gloat over top line numbers, it can lead to rash decisions based on them, like trashing your existing site, revamping the home page, or stuffing copy for SEO. Keep in mind that your site still needs  to cater to the other 80%. They will become the new core, and fodder for content marketing programs. What are your top analytic tricks? Please add them to the comments.

Bill Abramovitz is CEO and Creative Director at Ideopia, a Massively Integrated Idea Company.

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Home Page Redesign of B2B Website

Our home page redesign project for HamiltonCaster.com was, in may ways, more challenging than revamping an entire site.

While the old site looks dated, it ranked exceptionally well on major search engines. To avoid mucking this up, we analyzed the site structure, website analytics and researched competitive sites.

Hamilton Caster is an international manufacturer of casters, wheels and trucks with customers ranging from Mercedes Benz to the NFL.
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Web strategyHome Page as Marketing Weapon
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Web visitors take about 3 seconds to decide if they’ll remain at your site. Impact, speed and a meaningful message are critical. With Hamilton, we wanted visitors to rethink the importance of caster selection by showing the heavy duty customers that specified them.
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Expandable Sites Stretch Your Investment

The web design of the new home page features 5 target industries. The setup expands to add new industries or swap out additional executions. Aspects of the design have already been applied to the interior of the site, which is now ready for additional development.

Design informed by Web Analytics

Our team used web analytics information to identify popular pages on the site, important landing pages other then the home page, navigation paths and search engine performance.

Testing Design for Roadworthiness

While aspects of design are subjective, usability is not. With Hamilton Caster, we tested our work from paper prototypes through final design and programming to ensure users could find critical navigation to find their way through a large site. Testing at each step saves time and money on rework at later stages.

Dig Into Interactive at Ideopia

Ideopia not only designs, builds and maintains websites, we create the fabric of digital and off-line marketing that keeps them healthy: fresh content, tech checks, SEO, blogs, social media,
and email marketing.

To see work Ideopia has created for manufacturers and other B2B categories, please visit our B2B case studies.

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More Ways to Measure Your Site’s Productivity

5Many of us need and want to measure the output of our web sites in sales. This is particularly important with long sales cycles and cases where the sale isn’t completed online. By defining intermediate measurements, you can identify trouble points, enhance information offered, or remove steps from the process. Analytics need to be customized for each site, but here are a few tracking ideas we use:

  1. Purchase – Yes, the sale!
  2. Specific action – The visitor downloads content, engages an interactive application, visits a key page.
  3. Registration – Whether this is a lead form or an email signup, this is an important indication of engagement.
  4. Call for more information – A prospect calls to make purchase or get more information.
  5. Extended visit – Flag visits that exceed the average visit length. Investment of time can indicate serious interest.
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Naked HTML: Do your web visitors give a hoot?

Sheer volume of web traffic, as we pointed out in our article on Bounce Rate, doesn’t tell you whether visitors had a good time at your site, learned anything, or absorbed key messages about your brand. Although there are some exciting new analytics tools that monitor the quality of engagement, you can get started by investigating the average time visitors spend on your site and per page. The underlying assumption is simple. If people like your page, they’ll spend time with it. If they’re bored silly, they’ll move on. Here’s what to look for:

  1. What’s the Average Time Spent on the site as a whole?
  2. Compare directories on the site, e.g. your about section vs. products. Where are visitors spending the bulk of their time on your site? Does that match your web strategy?
  3. Are your visitors spending time on critical pages, e.g. product overview, pages that differentiate you from your competitors, etc?
  4. Sort pages from highest to lowest Avg. Time Spent on Page. What’s performing well, what’s not?
  5. Are there pages that drive a high percentage of viewing that don’t directly advance your business, e.g. the photo gallery with everyone popping brewskies at the office tailgate party? These pages are valuable, but keep in mind that they could be distorting your view of your site’s overall performance.

Use this information to build on content that already engages your visitors, and improve or eliminate pages that don’t.

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The most important website metric isn’t traffic.

Bounce rate: It’s the Biggy

Talking up your web site’s traffic has become a testosterone charged tradition wherever marketing types gather. While consistent traffic growth over time is certainly impressive, a snapshot in time of a website’s traffic is essentially meaningless. For one it’s relative to market size. A site in a super niche market, e.g. weightlifting equipment for physicists, may do quite well with a 1000 unique visitors per month, while a major consumer site like Coke could be withering on the vine with a million visits.

Traffic says nothing about what visitors do when they come to your site, whether they are likely to return, or how effective the marketing was that got them in the first place.

That’s why we like to zero in on bounce rate. Like P/E ratio, it’s a measure of efficiency. In one tidy number, bounce reveals the ability of your site’s content, marketing, usability and technical performance to suck in visitors and hold them prisoner.

The high cost of bouncing customers out of your site.

Google defines bounce rate as the number of people who leave your site after viewing a single page. High bounce will hit you in the wallet, too. Although the source may be a relatively small technical problem, it’s wiping out the marketing, content, design and programming investment made in that specific page.

In the real world, it’s like investing in an ad campaign to drive customers to a new mall store called “World of Botox.” Hundreds of coupon clutching customers show up, but 89% of them just peer in the shop window and leave.

In web terms this is an excessive and unacceptable bounce rate. Bounce rate measures the efficiency of a web page. Based on advertising, web marketing and search results, visitors approach your site with a defined set of needs and wants. When they aren’t met in a few seconds, most will leave.

High bounce rates drop web site ROI like a stone. If the bounce rate on any of the key pages of your site, especially the home page, is hovering around 50%, it time to move to Devcon 5.

How to determine your site’s bounce rate.

Any respectable web analytics package will report the bounce rate of all the pages in your site. Sort the report from highest to lowest, paying particular attention to critical pages like:

  • Your home page.
  • Any page with an important form, especially a multi-part form.
  • eCommerce pages and checkout funnels
  • Any page that you’ve targeted for a transaction, e.g. white paper download.

Keep in mind that some pages will naturally have a very high bounce rate, like “Thank you” pages and privacy pages.

The pathology of bouncing

There are a number of potential reasons for high bounce rates, and sometimes they exist in combination. Though solving a high bounce rate test may take some research and diagnostic work, spotting the issues is mainly a matter of common sense.

For example, speed. If there’s a line around the block to get into the World of Botox, only the most dire cases will wait. The same goes for your website. Except the web is more unforgiving. If your page doesn’t load in a few seconds, 70% of your visitors are already Googling or Binging the competition.

Lack of instantly recognizable relevant content will also keep your customers bouncing. What if, for example, all the wrinkly World of Botox customers show up only to find the store’s window packed with vitamins and cosmetics. When your site doesn’t deliver the goods as promised in advertising or a search description, you’ve broken a pact and possibly turned off a user forever.

At the top of our bounceability list is speed, or lack thereof. Depending on the speed your customers are connecting to the internet, most will only wait one or two seconds for a page to load. The most common problems are large graphics, animations and videos.

Visitors to your site may not understand how your page is organized, or where to find what they want. Key links may use unclear wording, e.g. “Our Happy Place” instead of “About.”; the type size is too small; the placement isn’t logical. A simple usability test will quickly uncover these issues.

One of the underlying causes of high bounce rate is a failure to match your products and services to specific landing pages within your site. Navigating a website isn’t like strolling through Walmart. Most of us expect to click and instantly arrive at the meat counter. The home page can’t do it all, especially if your offerings are diverse or have audiences with little crossover. The solution is to develop landing pages or even mini sites designed around specific customer needs.

High Bounce Rate Causes and Solutions

Slow Load Time

  • Shrink image sizes and optimize code.
  • Nuke pokey Flash apps.
  • Is your server the culprit? Run a speed test.
  • Check load time of pages with high bounce rates.

Content

  • Make sure that the content of the page is clearly summarized in instantly visible and crystal clear headlines, and subheads.
  • Add additional pages or sections to bring more focus to content structure.
  • Clean up design clutter, set copy for readability.
  • Edit copy for conciseness.

Marketing

  • Make sure the advertising or search ads match the content of the targeted page. If not, turn off the ad, or point it at a more appropriate page.
  • Develop landing pages focused on a single topic.

Learn more about web marketing on Ideopia’s eVitalize mini site.

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