Does anyone know what Chandler (from TV's Friends) does for a job? A running joke in the series was that no one actually knew for sure. For the record he was an IT Procurement Manager that specialized in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration - basically he was a reports guy. He hated his job because it seemed so pointless.
Where am I going with this?
Like Chandler, a lot of people see reports as a horrible waste of time, a pointless exercise in number crunching that ultimately achieves nothing. That may be true in some cases, particularly when those reports are routinely ignored. But today, I want to talk about how you can get some real value out of your analytics reports. They might seem like a lot of meaningless numbers at first, so let's pull out a few examples that show how you can get some practical benefit.
We're assuming for the purpose of this discussion that your site is already setup with Google Analytics. If it isn't, head over to the official Google Analytics site to find out how to add it. Once done, give it about a day to kick in, and then you can start reviewing your website reports. Granted, when you first get started with a new website, traffic will most likely be at the lower end of the scale, but for the purpose of understanding how the reports can help you create a site action plan, they'll work just fine.
1. Improve high bounce-rate pages
What it is: Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits, or in other words, visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality. A high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren't relevant to your visitors.
Bounce rate might be compared to someone walking into a shop and walking straight out again. Obviously this isn't ideal if you're in the business of selling stuff.
While a high bounce rate is traditionally not good, if the page your visitor lands on is a product page, and the next link they click is one that takes them to the merchant's site, then there's no problem with that. In these situations, however, it's preferable you create a redirect page for your affiliate links to avoid this situation skewing your data. A bounce rate of less than 60% is really good. Any higher than 80% and you may want to check that you have enough quality content on the page and that it is visually interesting and informative.
Another thing you can do to reduce your bounce rate is provide readers with a clear path to more content. One way to do this would be by adding links to other, related pages at the bottom of the article.
Action point: List all pages with a bounce rate higher 80% and check the pages have compelling content that is relevant to visitors and the keywords they used to get to that page (Google Analytics also gives you entrance keyword information).
2. Low number of visitors
What it is: The number of unique visitors to your site. Determining exactly what a ‘low number of visitors’ is will vary from site to site, but you can use comparison figures to see if visits have reduced significantly, or try to obtain data from similar sites to see how yours compares.
To correct this situation, you need to think about ways to attract new visitors or have visitors return more often.
Two good ways to attract new visitors are PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising and social bookmarking, where you get articles on your site tagged by sites such as Digg and Delicious.
Another way to get more traffic is through offline campaigns, where you advertise your site in the local area, using things such as car magnets, fliers or lawn signs. This is particularly helpful when you are targeting local people.
To get visitors to return to your site, consider ways to draw them back, including offering RSS feeds, email subscription or regular competitions. Also think about adding a ‘what’s coming’ tease to your articles to encourage them to bookmark the site and return later.
Action point: First determine if there are pages that have low visitors, then think of ways to attract new visitors and encourage current visitors to come back.
3. Top content monetization
What it is: Top content is normally determined by pages with the highest number of views. In addition to number of views, look for a low bounce rate and high number of referrals from other sites. Monetizing these pages involves thinking about ways to get the highest dollar return from visitors.
Far too often, high-traffic web pages go un-monetized. It might be a viral video on YouTube or some exclusive Miley Cyrus snaps, and all of a sudden it’s getting a huge number of hits. But there’s no advertising or sales messages on the page and you realize the webmaster either doesn’t know how to monetize a page or wasn’t expecting a sudden rush of traffic.
Monetizing your top pages will require some forethought. What sort of visitors are you getting to this page? What are their interests? What product or service are they best suited to? By considering these questions you'll be in a better position to match the right sales message to your audience and improve your conversion ratio.
What sort of sales messages might you display? An easy option is AdSense. It can be added to a page in two minutes flat, but it might not be the best way to monetize the page. Think of suitable ClickBank products you could advertise, or even products or review pages, which often have a higher return.
Action point: Identify your top content pages by page views and consider how you could convert visitors into dollars, or monetize using advertising or affiliate links.
These are just three areas that reviewing your site analytics can help you with, by providing meaningful feedback. Don’t become another Chandler, processing meaningless reports! Instead, make a habit of converting them into actionable to-do lists!
Do you use your analytics reports to make changes to your site? What statistics do you find revealing and useful?