How Do You Know if Your Website is Working?

Often when I am searching for an item to purchase from a local business I will stop and look at their website from a developer’s point of view. One of the things I will do is look at the actual code that generates the web page and check to see if the business is keeping track of how their website is performing.

Most small businesses these days know that in order to be competitive they have to have a presence on the Internet.  So, they put up a website. Then what?  That’s easy, they let it do it’s thing sitting there in the Internet and rake in the money from all those customers who found them through the website. After all, now that you have ‘the website project’ completed you have other things to worry about – like keeping your business running smoothly.

Is That Really the Smart Thing To Do?

Website Analytics
Analyzing the effectiveness of your website.

Maybe you got a deal with the website project by having your nephew or niece do the programming or you worked out a barter deal with a student at one of the local schools. You don’t have much invested in the project, but you didn’t have much to invest, so it’s no big deal if it isn’t the latest, greatest thing on the Internet. Right?  No, Wrong!

Your website is your business’ representative on the Internet. It should promote your business values as well as convey to potential customers what you have to offer them. Even if your sole purpose for having a website is an online brochure (which these days is a hugely missed opportunity), the website has to carry it’s own weight or you’re throwing money down the drain. But how do you know what the website is accomplishing?

Website Analytics is the answer

You probably heard your website designer mention the possibility of placing analytics code on your website. If they didn’t, then they weren’t doing your project justice. The most widely used source of analytics information for small businesses is the search engine giant Google. At the same time that Google’s search engine gathers information for their purposes it gathers it for yours, allowing you access to the details of what is happening on your website.

Signing up for a free Google Analytics account gives you access to a snippet of javascript code that you place on each page of your website. After Google validates the code and that you are the owner of the website they begin collecting data from visits to your site. What can the information tell you?

Analyzing Analytics is a Career Field

I am not going to try to make you an analytics expert, I won’t even try to begin the process.  There are entire firms dedicated to collecting and analyzing website data.  However, I can give you a few questions that the analytics data can help you answer:

  1. Is anyone visiting your website?
  2. How long is the average visitor staying on your site and how many different pages are they visiting?
  3. How did the visitor arrive at your site – by searching? by typing your website address directly? by clicking on a link to your site found somewhere else?
  4. What route through your website did the visitor most likely take?
  5. What links did the visitor click on a given page?

The Most Important Question

The most important question of all that analytics data can help you answer is: Did the visitor accomplish the task that brought them to your website?

If the visitor came to your site looking for a blue widget and your site sells them, did they find the blue widget information page, learn what they wanted and then buy one? If not, why didn’t they? Did they arrive at the site’s home page rather than the blue widget page and then not find the product page? Was the purchase process too convoluted to keep them on track to purchase? Did you alienate them by asking for information that wasn’t relevant to the purchase (a pet peeve of mine)? Were they looking for red widgets, which you don’t carry? Should you?

All of these are questions that website analytics data can help answer. Then, by making changes to your website you can improve the success rate of each visit, no matter how you measure success.

In her book Marketing in the Age of Google Vanessa Fox relates that by some estimates only 23% of websites have an analytics package installed. This means that just having this data about your website available, reviewing it and making adjustments puts you well ahead of most of your competition.

Having a website, no matter what type of site it is, is not a set and forget proposition – it is an iterative process and analytics can help guide you in the right direction for success.