Thanks to the magic of the internet, the collection of data and analytics is far more accessible than it ever was before, resulting in very accurate information. Unlike other mediums, almost 100% of online activities get collected as data which we analyze to make decisions that are far more fruitful. Google Analytics is free and the most used tool for measuring website analytics. Another facet of online metrics is their timeliness - the numbers are almost real time, as opposed to delayed offline metrics which include direct mail envelope opens, TV commercial & radio station ratings, and billboard driver traffic counts. Most of these offline metrics use sample data that is extrapolated to give a value. The key takeaway is online metrics are accurate and fast, whereas offline mediums are using sample data that is delayed.
Online metrics can be grouped by their functionality, basic website data, acquisition data, and goals. Basic website data has three main metrics: users, visits (or sessions), and pageviews.
A user is a human being and their device (laptop, tablet or smartphone) coming to your company’s website. A user is counted only once per calendar month.
A visit (or session) is when a user is surfing through your company’s website reading menus or looking at product pictures. As long as their mouse or finger is moving the visit keeps going. When they stop for over 30 minutes, that visit is over and counted. A user can make a lot of visits to your website during the month or go on for hours (think Netflix).
Pageviews are the total count of website pages the user viewed during their session on your website. Pageviews are counted from all users even if the see the same pages again(i.e. usually your home page).
These three metrics are the infrastructure of the internet and their basic value to your website is really important. Some examples to clarify why these three are so critical. Some websites have high users and visits. Others have many sessions. Some have really high pageviews. For example, Google has a lot of users and visits/sessions, but usually only 1-page view. How often have you ever gone to page two on search results? Your local TV station has many sessions per user because people check traffic and weather every day. Amazon has a lot of pageviews because people like to look at many different items before they buy something. Depending on your business model, these three metrics can mean a lot!
The next set of metrics involves acquisition, or how to get people to your company’s website. The source metric is where the user came from: was it Google or Bing? An email? Did they click a link in a newspaper article about your company? Most analytics tools have these source types:
- Direct - the user knows the URL or brand name and typed it in the browser
- Organic - the user came from a search engine like Google or Bing
- Paid - the user clicked on an ad on the search engine results page (the 3-4 shaded listings at the top and bottom of the search engine results page)
- Display - the user clicked on a visual display ad on a website that has ads
- Email - the user clicked on a link within an email they opened
- Social - the user came from Facebook or LinkedIn
- Referral - the user clicked on a link on someone else’s website page, such as a newspaper article or blog post
Another useful metric in acquisition is the new and returning user proportions of 100% of all users. New users are people that are visiting your website for the first time that month. However they got there - email, Google, Facebook - they are checking out your website for the first time. Returning users are the people that have come to your website two times or more. Depending on your business, either of these might be important. For example, let’s say your company does outdoor landscape lighting for high-end homes. You would want a high % of new users because it is unlikely that you will get many existing clients wanting outdoor lighting installed more than once. If you are selling products online, you may want many returning users, because they are buying from you again. Repeat customers already have a user account and they came from an email newsletter or other very low-cost marketing vectors.
The third set of metrics are goals - these are what drive your company forward. Some examples of goals:
- collecting user’s emails for a monthly newsletter
- selling products online
- or watching a video before they make a donation
Goal metrics are very specific and relevant to your company's performance. Usually, goals are matched to an offline system, such as credit card processing data or the actual counts in your email list software (i.e. MailChimp or Constant Contact). These three basic website metrics types plus # emails in your list are key numbers in marketing automation.
For Vidjaa members, the Google Analytics video may be helpful. It is in the Whiteboard video section. Register here to get access to all of Vidjaa’s content. There are several analytics tools for small businesses, but we recommend Google Analytics because it is free and easy to use. Analytics from Facebook, HubSpot, and social media management tools (i.e. Hootsuite and Buffer) can be useful as well. Reviewing the analytics for your company’s website is a skill that every small business owner should know.
Having a sense of how things are going online now can determine how well your company does in the future.