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Web Analytics Basics

Web analytics is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data.  The focus is on identifying measures based on your organizational and user goals and using the website data to determine the success or failure of those goals and to drive strategy and improve the user’s experience.

Measuring Content

Critical to developing relevant and effective web analysis is creating objectives and calls-to-action from your organizational and site visitors goals, and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success or failures for those objectives and calls-to-action.  Here are some examples for building a measurement framework for an informational website:

Framework Item What is it? Examples
Goals Your site’s major goals should essentially outline why you have a website.
  • To educate the public about safe handling of food.
Objectives Objectives help outline what it takes to achieve your goals.
  • To reach as many online users looking for information on food safety and convert them into site visitors.
Calls-to-Action Calls-to-action are tasks that site visitors must complete as part of your sites’ goals and objectives.
  • Online users come to the website because it was listed on search engines as a credible source for food safety content.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Key performance indicators are metrics in which we can measure each CTA.
  • Website’s search clickthrough rate for keywords related to food safety
  • Search visits to the website for keywords related to food safety
Targets Targets are thresholds that determine whether
  • Search clickthrough rate in queries for food safety should be no less than 10%.
  • Search visits show an increasing trend.

Actionable Insights from Using Multiple Tools

As you can see from the table above, measuring success comes in many KPIs and will require multiple tools.  While the thought of managing more than one web analytics tool can be daunting, know that by simplifying and focusing on the KPIs that you need to measure your organizational and user goals, you can weed out other data to get to the right insights.

Data Source Types of Tools
  • Web analytics tools
  • Clickthrough, scroll-tracking, heatmaps
Experimentation & Testing
  • A/B, multivariate testing
  • User testing
Voice of Customer
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Page-level surveys
Competitive Intelligence & Market Research
  • Keyword research tools
  • Competitive analysis tools

Web Analytics Best Practices

Web analytics can strongly support the qualitative research and testing finding.  Some best practices to keep in mind related to this field are:

  • Encourage a data-driven environment for decision making.  After collecting the relevant data to answer whether you have met (or fail to meet) your goals, find out what you can do to improve your KPIs. Are there high-value content (based on user feedback to the website) that is not getting any traffic? Find out why through user path analysis or engagement analysis of top sources for that page. Leverage the experimentation & testing tools to try out different solutions and find the best placement that generates the most engagement for that page.  
  • Avoid only providing traffic reports.  Reporting about visits, pageviews, top sources, or top pages only skims the surface.  Large numbers can be misleading; just because there is more traffic or time spent on site doesn’t mean that there is success.  Reporting these numbers is largely tactical; after all, what do 7 million visits have to do with the success of your program? 
  • Always provide insights with the data. Reporting metrics to your stakeholders with no insights or tie-ins to your business or user goals misses the point.  Make the data relevant and meaningful by demonstrating how the website data shows areas of success and of improvement on your site.
  • Avoid being snapshot-focused in reporting.  Focusing on visits or looking only within a specific time period doesn’t capture the richer and more complex web experiences that are happening online now.  Pan-session metrics, such as visitors, user-lifetime value, and other values that provide longer-term understanding of people and users, allow you to evaluate how your website has been doing as it matures and as it interacts with visitors, especially the returning ones.
  • Communicate clearly with stakeholders.  Be consistent in the information you provide, know your audience, and know the weaknesses of your system and disclose them to your stakeholders.