There is no substitute for hard work. If you think that creating an experience which will be universally loved is an easy feat, you are mistaken. Instead, why not focus your efforts in creating intuitive work which will appease a niche target audience? The impact of our measures can be judged using web analytics.
Think of this web analytics for beginners as the map to guide you around a strange foreign land. It will tell you with surety if you are headed in the right direction. Crucial information such as number of unique visitors and returning visitors, user behavior, etc. are all important feedback analytical parameters. You will need to measure the outcome of your efforts to know if the measure is successful. It is why UX practitioners need to collect voluminous data and analyze it. They gather both online and offline data to derive crucial information such as number of clicks, user navigation, exit points, and search patterns. All these audience measures can tell you the effectiveness of the designs and the direct impact of it on the users.
Read on as we list down the various methodologies, tasks, deliverables, etc. that combine together to form the web analytics guide.
How a user interacts on the internet has changed drastically in the past decade. There are only a handful of websites that a user nowadays recollects by its URL. Instead, they have started relying on search engines to find a website suited to our needs. A user prefers keeping multiple tabs open to leaf through their content instead of reading a single page at a stretch. This changing user pattern has made the task of analysts difficult around the world. They can no longer look at the number of hits received on a website without discounting for human behaviors.
Researchers will need to employ both qualitative and quantitative data gathering techniques for their research. Qualitative data is acquired by monitoring people in the research. It gives them the knowhow to understand and decipher the human behavior. Quantitative data on the other hand is gathered using the power of analytics. Measures like user actions on a landing or homepage are sources of accumulating such information. All the accumulated quantitative data can help researchers to make informed decisions and set a parameter for comparing the success or failure of a design. The data is used to diagnose, describe, prescribe or predict outcomes. There are various types of analytics measures such as:
Descriptive analytics: Descriptive analytics use data aggregation and data mining techniques to give you more insight about the past happenings. It essentially helps you with an answer to the question, “What has happened?” by summarizing raw data and making it understandable for anyone. Number of visits, clicks, engagement rates are a few of the various parameters used for descriptive analytics.
Diagnostic analytics: Diagnostic analytics uses the same tools as used in the descriptive analytics but for a different purpose. It aims to answer the question, “What happened and why?” A few of the common techniques used for diagnostic analytics are data mining, data discovery, correlation, drill-down, etc.
Prescriptive analytics: Prescriptive analytics is used for suggestions on possible outcomes. It prescribes numerous possible actions and how they lead towards an outcome. They show you multiple futures and possible outcomes of undertaking a certain measure. It uses numerous techniques such as business rules, different algorithms, computational modelling techniques, and machine learning. These techniques are used to process the inputs from historical or transactional data, big data, and other real-time data feeds to give you the possible outcomes.
Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics is another advanced form of advanced analytics which has been around for decades before gaining in popularity in the recent times. It uses machine learning techniques, statistical algorithms, and intelligent use of data to describe the possible future outcomes.
These analytical measures are centered on various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The KPIs are a direct indicator to the success or a failure of a company’s objectives. The KPIs lay down parameters by which a business judges the fruits of its endeavors. Ideally, a company should have various KPIs for a single business objective so that they can accurately gauge the effectiveness of its measures.
Understanding analytics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. While it may seem daunting at first, the methodologies used in this web analytics for beginners is quite simple when you gain an understanding of it. Analytics is based on three branches i.e. research, measurement, and analysis.
Research has been around for centuries. The web-based analytics however is still an evolving field. From scientists to marketing professionals, research and its various techniques have been used by various professionals and their results have influenced all walks of life. It starts with the setting the goals of the research so that they can focus their efforts in attaining the objective. It is then followed by setting a hypothesis. This hypothesis is then tested to draw conclusions. The results of the testing can help in identifying patterns and shaping the final result. Researchers use these results to draw conclusions and even draw predictive outcomes based on the patterns.
There are various metrics used by organizations to set a yardstick on how the organization is evolving. Every department, business, organization, etc. create its own method to measure the success using different metrics. Web analytics measurement uses metrics such as number of visitors, average user time spent on a page, speed of navigation, number of registrants, new sign-ups, number and amount of purchases, active user base, etc. to gauge the effectiveness of their websites.
There are pitfalls for businesses who aren’t well-versed with analytics because it involves proper research and future analysis. It is hard to fathom that a straight forward insight such as number of website visitors can be rendered meaningless if you do not understand the various factors that influence the number. Research is crucial to help you understand the minuscule details such as number of people who have visited the website in the past day, week, month, year, and how it has evolved in the past. It is why data tracking has gained prominence in the recent times. Data tracking helps in analysis by generating real-time reports to support the research.
All that information minefield would amount to nothing if not for analysis. Analysis is the meticulous process of disintegrating information into basic constituents to derive meaningful information. It can help in various ways, for example, you can read all the insight reports on the incoming traffic to your website but further analysis will help you identify the pattern behind the incoming traffic and tell you which ad listing and search engine is ushering more visitors and to which page.
Using a powerful analytics tool such as Google Analytics can help the website admins extract more advanced information for web analytics measurement. Before you dig deep and start using these tools, you should familiarize yourself with the various features that you will constantly come across. We have listed down a few important features that will help you navigate through the analytics tool like a pro.
Site traffic: Countless people lose their sleep over this metric. It is the most important site metric. A website that draws in various visitors is a healthy website but you do not need to use this as the all-important yardstick to judge your website’s performance. The number of total visitors gives you a good indication if you website is growing or losing its fair share of visitors by the clock. It can also tell you the effectiveness of your new media programs and how it is drawing in new number of visitors.
Traffic sources are the guiding parameter which tells you where your website’s traffic sources are being directed from to your website. If you use Google Analytics, it will broadly classify it into four categories including organic i.e. search engines; referrals i.e. mentions on other websites; direct i.e. direct URL entries by users; and social media. All the information about the traffic sources will help you understand the missing opportunities for example, you may be neglecting your social media account if most of the traffic inflow is from Google and other search engines.
Even if you are running one of the most popular websites on the planet, you will notice that a vast chunk of the website traffic gets congregated at a small selection of pages. Go to the ‘Behavior’ section of the analytics tool and you will notice the total number of page views for all your website pages and percentage of website traffic it commands. This is a crucial piece of information which tells you the audience behavior on your website, the content that they like and how to use it to your advantage. If you are seeking more information, you can use the Behavior Flow Report.
You should constantly monitor your bounce rate because it will help you pay dividends in the longer run. Add some qualitative results and it will tell you more about the bounce rate of your visitors. Focusing on bounce rates will improve your user engagement, satisfaction, and overall conversion. Bounce rates are usually affected by an unresponsive design, slow load times, and bad navigational experience.
Conversion isn’t all about the money-making aspect of your website. It is not all about the number of sales you have converted. A conversion could be anything from a new subscriber gained to a brochure download, free trial user subscription, or social share. A conversion is anything that benefits your business in the longer run and is hard to achieve. It is imperative that you monitor your conversions and constantly strive to achieve it. You can start tracking the conversions by setting the goals. If you use Google Analytics, it has further simplified the entire conversion monitoring by creating goal templates that are tailor-made for various businesses. If you do not like the templates, you can create custom goals. You can then analyze the performance metrics and see if you can replicate its success across other sections of the website.
There are many crucial tasks involved in data analysis. We list down below a few important analytics-related tasks that should be undertaken by a UX specialist.
Establishing Key Performance Indicators: Every time a new product or offering is launched, the analytics expert will need to establish a few KPIs which are directly related to the overall goals of the project. It is why UX experts spend numerous hours working closely with the data analysts to understand the various performance metrics. The KPIs are set for all the various objectives that are instrumental in a project’s success.
Content optimization: Analytics reveal a lot about a website including the area of improvements in website content. The user experience is often dictated by the improvements suggested by data analysts and they will often ask you to optimize the content on the website. It may include a better understanding of how the algorithms of Google’s search engine works, editing and improving the metadata, a better assortment of keywords on the website that will cater better to a target audience, and other similar measures. It is why you will notice that an analyst will leave no stone unturned in reviewing and optimizing the website content before the page goes live.
Using analytics tools: After the KPIs have been formulated, the analyst will include codes in the website’s pages so that they can constantly monitor metrics such as visitors tracking, engagement levels, conversions, etc.
Maintenance: Analytics require constant vigilance. Depending on the nature of the projects, an analyst will create and share daily, weekly, monthly, or bi-annual reports. The frequency of reports may vary because it depends on the nature of the project. For example, a new product may need six months to start paying dividends whereas social media campaigns may require hourly or daily updates.
After reading this web analytics guide inspired from this article, you will have gained a basic understanding of how analytics work. Analytics when used correctly can lead to a better understanding of the functioning of your website and help you make better marketing decisions. While there are many more advanced features and analytical tools available in the market, this guide with its basic concepts will serve as a great launching board for you to try your hands in analytics. If you liked reading this article, do not miss out on reading ‘Complete Beginner’s Guide to Analytics’ and ‘A beginner’s guide to analytics’ for more information.