In short, analytics is a process which consists of collecting, processing, and analyzing data from your website. The purpose of this is to ensure your website is performing at its best and that you’re getting the best possible ROI on all your marketing strategies.

Understanding the data you get from your website, customers, and even competitors is key to a successful business. This is where web analytics comes in with reports on your website’s visitors, who they are, where they’re from, how they found you, what they might be interested in, and way, way more useful information.

Without tracking your performance, there simply is no way of knowing what’s working and what isn’t. While some business owners go by their “gut feeling,” that isn’t always a good idea and you shouldn’t rely on just your intuition. Numbers, on the other hand, can’t be argued with. Metrics are unbiased and are arguably the best way to know which direction to take your business and your marketing efforts in.

Not all metrics are equal, however. Some of them may trick you into thinking your business is booming when in fact they have nothing to do with your bottom line. They are usually easy to measure and are unfortunately used as a means to boast by people or companies who don’t know any better or simply want to assert themselves. Metrics that don’t say anything about how your revenue is impacted include blog post views, video view counts, social media likes, or email open rates.

Let’s take a look at some of the way analytics can help your business grow, the type of data you can get from such tools, and how to make the most out of that data.

1. Know your audience

When making business decision, it’s important to know your audience so that you can make informed decisions that will not hurt their experience. When you know how old they are, their gender, geographic locations, interests, and technology used to interact with your business, you can take the appropriate steps to enhance their engagement experience with your brand.

For example:

  • devices used – if you see that most of your website traffic is coming from mobile devices (which it likely is) you can ensure that your website is mobile-friendly (which you should do anyway without even looking at analytics) and designed in a way that makes using it on mobile devices easy and intuitive
  • language and location – if your business is international and you see you have a significant number of customers from a specific country, it may be worth translating your website into their language so that those people have an easier time using your website
  • ages and interests – identifying your audience’s age and interest group allows you to customize your website in a way that is most useful to them instead of catering to potentially uninterested users

If your business is new and don’t yet know who your ideal customer is, web analytics are great at showing you the type of people that visit your website, thus helping you home in on your target audience.

Even if you’re an established brand and already know who your ideal customer is, it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on your website visitors. This will ensure that who you think you are attracting really is who you’re actually attracting to your website.

2. Know how your visitors find you

Besides search engines, your visitors can come from a myriad of other sources. For example, if someone writes an article about your company and the products or services you provide, linking to your site, their readers may click on the link and land on your site. If you’re active on social media, you can have a lot of visits from your followers or from friends of your followers who see their friends interact with your brand or share your content. For more information on how to choose an appropriate social media channel for your business, check out Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business.

It’s important to know how all the different channels contribute to your website’s traffic, as this allows you to focus your efforts on what works best and improve your marketing strategy.

3. Know visitors’ paths and understand how they interact with your site

After you’ve identified your audience and know how they’re reaching your site, the next step would be learning how they are interacting with it.

You can see what pages they’re landing on, the paths they’re taking when navigating your site, what they’re searching for, how much time they’re spending on each page, and what they’re clicking on.

For example, if you’re an SaaS business and you see that your pricing page is generally the first one visitors go to after landing on your site, it may mean that your audience is price-sensitive. In this case, you may want to consider offering free trials so they can test your offerings before deciding on whether they commit to your services of nor.

4. Know which content performs best and double down your efforts

Using website analytics tools, you can learn which pages get the most visits, the average duration of these visits, and the bounce rates. Besides learning what type of content works best, this allows you to analyze and optimize it for even better engagement.

If you have a very well performing blog post, you’ll want to make sure there’s at least one CTA on the page, as well as purchase links if applicable and links to other content on your site. Keyword research will also help you understand what topics to write about and which keywords to include in your posts.

5. Improve your SEO

Search engine optimization is crucial to growing your business and these days, that’s unlikely to be news to you.

By using analytics to better know your audience and their interests, you can create targeted content that appeals to them, getting better visibility on search engines for those topics. You can track search queries on Google to see how searchers are reaching your site and you can also track searches on your own site to see what visitors are looking for and whether you’re meeting their needs or not.

6. Track bounce rate

A visitor is said to “bounce” if he visits a website and leaves without interacting with it, which is not something you want. High bounce rates may mean that visitors were expecting something else instead of the content they landed on, or that the user experience overall was lacking.

It’s hard to expect a website to convert when it has a high bounce rate. This information should help you look closely at what content people are expecting when they reach your site and how their experience on is once they reach it.

7. Tracking and optimizing marketing campaigns

Since you have unique links for your marketing campaigns, you can track these individual links to see how each campaign is performing. This will allow you to tweak your campaigns and cancel those that are poor performers while investing more in those that have high returns.

8. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

The goal of CRO is essentially getting users to do what you want them to do. Conversion rate is calculated by dividing conversions by the number of users.

There are many conversions websites can measure and it’s important to measure those that are relevant to your business. Typical conversions include:

  • each step of your sales funnel (product views, adding to cart, purchasing, etc.)
  • newsletter sign-ups
  • registrations
  • brochure downloads
  • social media shares
  • contact form submissions
  • link clicks

9. Track business goals

Any thriving business has to have a clear set of goals that it’s trying to achieve. By using analytics, you can create goals and easily track them and measure your performance.

While goals are important, it’s also important to know what goals to set and track, because you run the risk of tracking too many goals. You should always be tracking goals that measure the weaknesses, effectiveness, and overall profitability of certain events.

10. Use your top outbound links to form partnerships

Website analytics not only inform you about referrals, but also about your outbound links. This gives you the opportunity to see who you are sending the most visitors to and reach out to the website owners with a partnership offer.

Businesses often approach other related businesses to collaborate and facilitate mutual growth through cross-promotions or recommendations. Without insights into websites that you’re already sending visitors to, this might not be as easy.

Before partnering up, you’ll need to have some sense of how this partnership could work and what each of you stand to gain from it. Analyzing the data you have will show you what’s been working so far and it will allow you to plan for a fruitful partnership.

11. Data reporting

Before you can make use of the data you have, you must first refine it and optimize it. This includes making a visual representation of it so that it can be easily explained and understood.

For example, Google Analytics allows you to view your data in several ways:

  • data view – a tabular representation of the data
  • percentage view – a pie graph representation
  • performance view – a bar graph representation
  • comparison view – allows you to see how each metric is performing compared to the average
  • pivot view – creates a pivot table

So which analytics tool should I use?

Now that you’ve learned what web analytics has to offer and how it can benefit your business, you’re probably asking yourself which tool to use. There are a ton of options out there, but Google’s own Google Analytics is by far the most widely used and generally considered the most comprehensive – after all, their own search engine is also by far the most widely used, it would be weird if their analytics tool didn’t complement it the best out of all the offerings.

That’s not to say there aren’t alternatives that may offer certain things that Google Analytics doesn’t, but overall, Google’s tool is the safest bet.

Another very popular alternative that I want to mention is StatCounter. While not quite as advanced as Google Analytics, it is a bit easier to use and if you’re new to all this, it may be a good place to start. And who’s to say you can’t use both at the same time? I certainly have.

Web analytics best practices

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your web analytics tools:

  • establish goals and objectives – the first thing you want to do is set up some concrete goals for your website. After you do this, you can set up your analytics tool so it captures the data you’re interested in. If you’re a B2B company, for example, and you are mainly looking to generate leads through your website, simply tracking the number of visitors it gets won’t be enough. You will likely want to also track the number of form submissions you get.
  • create custom dashboards – this will help you focus relevant data in one place
  • use filters – for example, you’ll want to filter out any visits coming from within your own company, so make sure to filter those out from your data sets. Otherwise, your data won’t be reliable and the strategies you employ may not work out for you that well.

Final thoughts

While these analytics tools can have a significant impact on your business’s success, you will still need to know what data to look for, how to read it, how to interpret it, and how to use it. On a very basic level this is fairly accessible even to newbies, but to really take advantage of all that data, you do need an expert.

As such, instead of attempting to run your business as well as learning analytics at the same time, you might benefit the most from focusing on the business side of things and hiring someone else for the rest.