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7 Key Website Analytics And What They Can Teach You About Your Marketing

By March 9, 2012July 8th, 2014Website Design & Marketing
7 Key Website Analytics And What They Can Teach You About Your Marketing

The mere thought of analytics makes so many people break into a sweat that I debated the title of this article simply because I was afraid everyone would avoid it like the proverbial plague. And yet here we are.

If you’re not a numbers person, I can’t promise that one day you’ll wake up and realize analytics can be fun. But I can promise that if you pay attention to them and use them as a guide, you will be able to vastly improve your marketing and get closer to reaching your goals.

Before we get into the good stuff, I feel compelled to risk getting beaten with the Obvious Stick by asking: Do you have analytics for your site? Moreover, do you know how to access them? Too many people either don’t have analytics or don’t know whether they have analytics, and wouldn’t know how to access them if they did.

Even if you’re not looking at your analytics you should still have them. It’s always possible to go back to analyze data but never possible to invent data that wasn’t collected in the first place. Ok, so once you’re sitting in front of all that data, what should you be looking for?


What this statistic means

There are two kinds of visitor statistics. Total visits and Unique visits. These numbers will be different. Each unique visitor is one individual person who visited your site. But some of these people may have visited more than once, which contributes to the total.

What it can teach you

Ideally you’d like a good percentage of visitors to be unique. Having people return is great, but growth is better. The more unique visitors you can attract, the more opportunities for sales, leads and branding. But be careful if the number swings too far in the other direction. If you have a tiny percentage of returning visitors it means you’re not building loyalty.

You should also look at trends. Compare the number of visitors to your site today with the number from yesterday and the day before and last week and last month and last year. Is it trending up, down or staying flat?

This should give you a pretty good idea of whether you’re doing something right, wrong or possibly ineffective.

You want your overall numbers to be going up over time. If that’s not the case, you may need to sit down and reevaluate your marketing. Perhaps you’re not driving people to your site often enough or offering enough incentive for people to go there. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at your search listings.

Remember, just because you have a website, you can’t assume people will go there. You’ve got to remind them and prompt them and give them a reason to visit. Simply printing it on a business card is not enough. A website is part of your marketing but you’ve got to market it, too.

Bounce Rate

What this statistic means

The Bounce Rate is the percentage of people who came to your site, landed on a page and then “bounced” off again without clicking to another page. For a blog this may be expected. Many people who visit to read an article of interest may then leave once they’re done with the article. For your company website it probably means you didn’t give the visitor enough reason to click anywhere else.

What it can teach you

If you have a high Bounce Rate on your blog, it might be time to improve your content, spice up your headlines or make it easy for people to find and click on something new.

It’s possible that people have just come to read something specific but it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at what you can do to make it more likely that someone will stick around. You should compare this to your subscription rate, too. If people are bouncing off, but subscribing before they do, that’s not a bad thing.

If you have a high Bounce Rate on your company website then you will probably need to take a look at some additional statistics (which I will tell you about in a minute). But on your primary website a high Bounce Rate usually means something is wrong. Time to start asking some questions.

Is your site user-friendly? Is it clear what a person should do next? Do you have a call to action and a clear navigational structure to guide people? Is your copy interesting and customer-centered or do you launch immediately into how great your company is? Does your site look professional or might a new visitor be turned off or concerned about continuing?

Keep this important tip in mind: people may not enter your website on the home page. We tend to be very linear about things in our heads, assuming people will start on the Home page, progress to the About page, move on to Services, then Contact.

But a website is not a book. There is no beginning and end and a person may pop in on your Contact page first or any other subpage. Think about this as you look for ways to improve and make sure that each page is clear, professional, direct and compelling.

Each page may be your first and last chance to get someone’s attention.

Time On Site

What this statistic means

This one is just what it sounds like. It’s the amount of time someone spent on your site. It’s impossible to tell how much time a person should spend on a site. That will depend entirely on the goals of your site, a person’s needs and how quickly visitors can find what they need.

What it can teach you

If you look at trends over time, you can see whether people are spending more time (great for a blog), less time (not great for any site) or if it stays about the same (Hm. Maybe your marketing needs a kick).

If your Time on Site seems low (A few seconds? One minute?) it means people are either not interested or not finding what they want. This is a good indication that you should be looking more closely at your copy and whether it addresses the needs of your audience.

Here’s where combinations of statistics can come in handy. Look at this statistic together with your Bounce Rate. A high Bounce Rate and low Time on Site means someone landed on your site and barely bothered to stick around.

There are still more statistics that you can look at here, but just these two bits alone are enough to let you know that something isn’t right. Why would a person get to your site then leave quickly? Is it “unfriendly”? Do you have a mess of gadgets and gizmos, sidebars and ads, shouting headlines and scrolling images? Maybe your site is too busy and overwhelming. Or maybe it doesn’t say much of anything and never catches someone’s interest. Take a look to see how you can improve.

On the other hand, a high Bounce Rate and high Time on Site is not necessarily a bad thing. It means someone visited and didn’t bother clicking around, but did spend time reading whatever page he landed on. The good news is that you got his attention. Now you can go back and think about what you can do to keep it. Perhaps a strategically placed call-to-action might have prompted better results.

This happens sometimes with blogs. A person may read a single article (contributing to high Bounce Rate) but spend a long time reading it, which means your content was interesting enough to keep him there. That’s great, but there is still an opportunity to improve headlines and find better ways to funnel that person to the next article.

Search Terms

What this statistic means

This statistic will tell you what keywords people used in search engines that led them to your site. You should be aware that Google now excludes keyword data from its analytics for anyone who searches while logged in to their secure Google account. This will show up in your Google reports (assuming this is what you’re using) as “not provided”.

What it can teach you

This statistic together with Bounce Rate and Time on Site forms a bit of a holy trinity. Take a look to see what terms people are using, how long they stayed and whether or not they continued on. This can give you some good insight into how effectively you’re targeting your audience.

I’ve been looking at analytics for many years, even in pre-Google-analytics days (imagine such a thing) and I can always be surprised by the keywords people use. Sometimes they have nothing to do with my content, but I happened to use a particular turn of phrase that my site got picked up for.

When that happens, I expect a high Bounce Rate and probably zero Time on Site. Not much to do about that. If it happens to you, shrug and let it go.

But if someone is finding your site for keywords you want them to be finding it for – and leaving quickly without bothering to click around – that is most certainly a red flag.

It could mean you’re not providing the type of content that is to be expected when searching for your terms. It’s your job to figure out where the disconnect is. Look at your copy. Think about what you can do to make it more about the subject it should be about (and hence the keywords) so people who find your site for a certain keyword will stick around to learn more.

Figure out how you can make it more interesting. Try to think like your visitor and come up with questions he or she might have when visiting your site based on a certain keyword.

If your copy is flawless it could be more about the execution. Take a look at the layout. Is it too blocky and text heavy or are you making it easy for the visitor to read by providing headings, short paragraphs and breaks in the text? Readability is just as important as quality of content.

Finally, if you’re looking at your Search Terms and wondering why all your important keywords are missing from the list, this could be a sign of poor optimization.

If people are not finding your site for the keywords you want to be found for, then it’s time to reevaluate your use of those keywords in the copy, and the overall search-friendliness of your site.


What this statistic means

This statistic tells you where your traffic came from. A referrer is any site that leads people to yours. It could be another website, your Facebook page, a Google search or LinkedIn. A “Direct” referral means that someone typed your web address directly into the browser to get to your site.

What it can teach you

This can give you a really good idea of where your marketing is winning and where it’s at its weakest. If most of your referrals come from your Facebook page, you’re probably doing a good job on your Facebook marketing. But if only a few trickle in from LinkedIn, you know that this is a place to turn some of your attention.

You can also get an idea of what other sites are linking to yours. You might be surprised to see a referral from a site you never heard of, but pleasantly so when you realize someone thought your site was good enough to link to.

I was recently surprised to see traffic coming to this site through the site of a local networking group that I joined. That told me that a one paragraph bio I thought was somewhere obscure and unnoticed was actually driving traffic. It gave me a reason to revisit that bio and punch it up because now I know people are reading it and taking an interest.

Imagine how much stronger my marketing on that site could be if I tried! I bet if you look at your referrers you’ll find a few places you can improve and a few unexpected ways to capitalize.

You can also start to see patterns if you compare your marketing efforts to your Referrals. If you run a huge Facebook campaign, you should be able to see your referrals from Facebook go up. If not, you can learn something about the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the campaign.

If you start to slide on your LinkedIn marketing, you’ll probably notice that not only do your total visits go down, but you’ll see LinkedIn as a referrer pushed down on the list.

Landing Pages

What this statistic means

Remember how I told you that people may or may not enter your site via your home page? This is the statistic that will tell you where they came in. Conversely, Exit Pages will tell you which page they left from.

See, I just gave you two statistics in one and it wasn’t even scary.

What it can teach you

This is where you go for a little reality check. So many of us obsess over our home page and making it look pretty that we forget someone may never even see it. Once you can see this actually happening based on the numbers right in front of you, you can start thinking about ways to improve each and every one of your pages.

See what pages people are landing on most (other than your home page) and turn your attention to improving the content, making the call-to-action clear and providing a hook to get people reading more (or contacting you!)

If you’re using Google analytics, you can also see the Time on Site and Bounce Rate for each page. Remember those? Put them together and you’ve got a whole arsenal of information.

You can learn which pages people are hitting the most, how long they stay and whether or not they dig deeper or shove off. It’s not about the numbers at this point. It’s about doing a little bit of sleuthing to figure out where your site’s weaknesses are and how you can improve.


What this statistic means

This little tidbit will tell you what Browsers your visitors are using when they visit your site. I bet you’ll be surprised by this one. Most people rarely think beyond Internet Explorer and maybe Firefox and Chrome. I saved it for last because it seems small but it can pack a (knockout) punch if you’re not paying attention.

What it can teach you

First, it can teach you a little bit about your audience. People in corporate environments tend to use IE (and older versions of it, too). If you see a lot of IE users and a bunch of versions 6 and 7 pop up, you know you’re probably dealing with the corporate crowd, and quite possibly an older crowd.

“Creatives” are more likely to use Safari (think of every Mac person you know) or even Firefox or Chrome. Developers and programmers lean toward Chrome. There are whole reams of data on browser demographics; just do a quick Google search.

Knowing your audience will give you a good sense of who you’re targeting. Hopefully, your target and the implied demographic will match. If not, this is a sign you may need to reconsider something about your copy, design or marketing.

But browser statistics can also help you figure out if you’re meeting the needs of your audience. If you’ve got a corporate demographic, but your site breaks in IE, you’ve got a problem. Time to look at cross-browser compatibility.

If you know your audience is using IE 6 and yet your site is built on all the latest and greatest HTML 5 and CSS 3 technology, you will have a really hard time reaching the people who matter the most. Looking at your Browser statistics can help you determine how much backwards compatibility you need.

It can also show you where you might be wasting time. Don’t get fixated on making sure that your site is compatible with every version of every browser if 1% of your audience ever uses a version below IE 8.

Pay attention to the mobile browsers, too. A huge chunk of people will only ever see your site on a mobile device. If this applies to you, it’s time to think about a mobile version of your site, or at least making sure that your site is built to be responsive on various browsers and devices.

It seems small, but it doesn’t matter how many things you do right if a person simply cannot view your site in his browser of choice.


Are you still in one piece? Have the numbers numbed your brain? I’m pretty sure you made it through and hopefully you see that analytics are not only important and valuable, but they can also be pretty interesting, too.

Now go out there and start looking at yours. They’re dying to tell you a story about how well your marketing is performing, if only you’d take a moment to listen!

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • James Norberto says:

    Here’s an interesting angle:  what if you have TWO Websites like we do?  We have (1) corporate Website (, which serves as a sales/informational tool promoting our services, and (1) for our games site (  

    As a money maker, the games site greatly surpasses the corporate site in importance… most gamers could care less about the corporate entity, but do care about our game catalog.  We do/will have action banners on each site for intersecting traffic… but I don’t see gamers coming to our corp site.I do/will manage the corporate site, but not the game site (different team). So I while I hope (PRAY) our website analytics make me break a sweat…everyone will be focusing on the game site.

    Golly gee… I hope this post makes sense.  

    • James, you’re right that most of your gamers are probably only going to pay attention to your gaming site, but the corporate site lends the credibility and backing that makes the game site stronger. Plus keep in mind that you never know how someone will find either site – they could find one through the other, which is why the linking is so important. (And you can see via analytics how much traffic one drives to the other) 

      As for other analytics, you’re going to have a whole different set of goals and expectations for each site. And you’re going to be looking at different things. For the game site, things like browser usage and operating system are going to be so much more important so people don’t run into compatibility issues. For the corporate site, maybe start with top landing pages and most-read pages. Those are the ones you can focus your attention on so your message is strong. 

      The analytics you’ll focus on will depend on the goals of the site. So as we usually preach around here, start with goals, go from there 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG Carol Lyn, this is certainly a fabulous tutorial!  You have taken it step by step and taught us how important it is to manage our analytics.  You have also gone the extra mile to explain it all.  I was always confused about this and just blew it off because I didn’t understand it.  Now, with your wisdom, I do.  Thanks so Much!!! Donna

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Donna. I’ve never been a numbers person either so analytics always seemed a bit scary and overwhelming. Plus there is just so much data. But there are a few things that can really help you break it down and start using the information you have right at your fingertips to help you move forward and improve. After a while you start to find yourself digging a little deeper and uncovering interesting trends. 

      Then if you’re like me you find yourself one day over dinner asking your husband, “Did you see our browser stats today???” 🙂 

      Any time you have questions or want some insight, just let me know!

  • Nicky_price says:

    Well I wonder how many people will “hop off” and open a new tab to check their analytics whilst reading this post (like I did 🙂  )  Great info and I’m glad you clarified what direct referrral was as I was never sure who would type in the exact name of my website – does it exclude ourselves as a user?

    Maybe you could do an equally great post on Webmaster tools next? 😉

    Thanks Carol – really useful information !

    • That’s good news! If this inspired you to check out your analytics then I got something right 🙂

      I would be happy to do a post on Webmaster Tools.

      As to your question, Google Analytics does not exclude you by default so you are, actually, counting toward your own stats. But you can create a filter to exclude yourself by IP so you’ll get a more accurate reading.

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