6 Web Analytics Best Practices

Information is what drives the world today. Without data, we just cannot do what we do every day. We often look at the demographics of people who will come to a website, but the web analytics behind that data is rarely examined. Why is that? Real-time data that shows the insights to the quality of a user experience can help people and businesses respond proactively to changing conditions. This allows specific targeting and better results.

To get those results, these web analytics best practices should be implemented as soon as possible.

1. It’s Not a Poker Game

Many treat web analytics as an all-in scenario. They push all of their chips into the middle and then hope the play turns out in their favor. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can use web analytics in specific circumstances to determine specific results. A troubleshooting report, for example, can help you find site outages or a break in other data that is being collected. Running this report 2x per week can help you spot problems before you run your monthly health report.

As an added benefit, many web analytics can be designed to send out custom alerts when specific criteria have been met. This means you don’t have to be constantly studying all of the metrics every day to catch that one error. You can let the system do it for you.

2. Yawns Are Contagious

The problem that most web analytics best practices have is that they wind up being meaningless. Sure – they might be designed to stand up and deliver strong results, but results can only be achieved when clear definitions have been put into place first. Once you get those definitions in place, then the cascade of data becomes something that is truly useful.

Don’t settle for the idea that your data has to provide you with some tidbit of benefit. Most data will simply guide a business toward specific goals that are in place. As long as the expectations are clear, then the data that is collected will become like a contagious yawn that spreads throughout your entire system. You’ll be able to access and compare that data to your metrics whenever you want.

3. Put On Your Diving Gear

Many of the metrics that are used in web analytics today aren’t very well understood. It’s just fact. Take the time on site data that is the backbone of many analytic processes. If you’ve got an average of 6 minutes per page and your site, then you’ve got a pretty good system in place, right?

Not necessarily. The data is often skewed in web analytics and people don’t realize it. If you’re focusing on time metrics, then you’ve also got to to focus on your bounce rate. If you’ve only got a 5% retention rate, then having 6 minutes per page view is pretty worthless because you’re losing 95% of the people who have visited your site.

It’s important to dive deeper into the analytics to pull out the key data points that will improve your processes. If that doesn’t happen, it is easy enough to fool yourself into believing that something good is going on when it really isn’t beneficial at all.

4. Take Two and Call In the Morning

How your web analytics are setup can make a big difference in determining your success or your failure. Much of this depends on what you have defined as a call to your tracking systems. Check out the two sets of behaviors below that are common on the internet today.

1. A visitor hits a landing page. They click on the menu options, don’t find what they are looking for after a few seconds, and decide to go somewhere else.

2. A visitor hits a landing page. They click on the menu option and this event is counted as an action, generating a second call to the web analytics. They leave after a few seconds without finding what they want as well.

The behaviors here are the same. The visitor clicks on the menu from the landing page, doesn’t discover anything of value to them, and then leaves. In Option #1, the event is considered a bounce because only one analytics call has been made – the landing.

In Option #2, the menu click counts as a second action. The visitor doesn’t contribute to the bounce rate now, even though the behavior is the same. Their time on the site counts. This effects the data dramatically and it is based on internal implementation. It’s easy to see good and bad here, but you must define specific, meaningful metrics around these two actions so that when you see the data the next morning, it is useful instead of useless.

5. Be Active Instead of Passive

As described in #4, ultimately the problem with web analytics for most sites is that they are designed to collect passive instead of active information. Passive information has its uses, of course, but it shouldn’t be the only data relied upon. Active measurements will track engagement. Passive measurements tend to track design.

What are some of the best options for tracking active data through web analytics? Consider using some of these tracking tools.

Ad revenue per visitor.
This lets you see which pages are getting a lot of clicks and which ones could be removed and not be missed. Page views are nice to see, but not every page view is worth the same amount. This tool gives a more accurate measurement of usefulness.

Share rates.
Engagement can sometimes be difficult to measure, which is why tracking the pages that are shared can be useful data to have.

Downloads.
If you’ve offered something for visitors to download, the daily download rates will see success or failure in a glance.

Active data leads you toward your goals. Passive data leads you toward positive user experiences that will generate active data. Both should be used to track results. Just relying on traffic reports or basic passive information is a fast way to fool yourself.

6. Bet Long

Web analytics track short-term and long-term successes and failures. Unfortunately most of the data points that get tracked are about short-term success. Things like user lifetime value and other pan session measurements are often ignored. This means many sites don’t have a long-term understanding of visitor behavior and the end result is often a lack of results. As websites mature, they need to bet more on the long-term results than the short-term gains.

These web analytics best practices will help you to gain more insights into what each visitor is doing when they come your site. Use this data to help tweak your site so that all of your goals can be achieved.

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