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A Beginners Guide to Website Analytics – 2023 Edition

Table of Contents

An Introduction to Website Analytics

There are two types of people who interact with analytical data:

Business owners are almost exclusively Casual Observers. That’s not a dig either, you simply like to see in a nutshell how your website is tracking, with most of your attention going on page views by the month.

What we want to introduce you to is the Data Scientist approach. In our Blue September case study, we show how using the charity’s analytical data, we could explain why their previous campaign failed, and implement changes that resulted in a record $1.2 million raised.

It doesn’t matter what your industry is, making decisions derived from facts is always going to triumph a best guess.

In the development world we have a known-effect called the ‘closed vacuum environment’. When creating something for an audience, the worst thing you could do is keep that project behind closed doors longer than required. Time and time again, you see teams adding features they think will be useful, with no certainty that they will be successful. This is the closed vacuum environment, and everyone is guilty of operating inside it at one point or another.

The scarier, less exciting, but infinitely wiser course of action is to develop your minimal viable product (MVP), and launch, in order to gather real-time feedback. This is using data.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. I’m reminded of this each time I see business owners watching over their monthly page hits, without reacting to them but simply observing.

So, hopefully I’ve persuaded you enough to give thought into going a step further with your analytical data. I’ll show you how to extract that data next.

Google Analytics

This was always going to be an obvious one. By far the best solution given its extensive features, ease of use and zero fees.

Traffic information

Audience > Overview

Set to the last 30 days, we can immediately identify which days are our most popular, how many new visitors we’ve had, as well as a brief summary about their engagement. It’s a top-level review that allows us to track changes we’ve implemented, as well as review the impact of any campaigns we run.

Audience > Technology

Here we can identify the browsers that are being used to visit our website. With Chrome being our core focus, it tells us to test our site carefully using iOS as well. We will typically do a brief test using some of the other browsers as even if it’s only 1.81% of our traffic, we wouldn’t want 46 people per month unable to contact us because of a Firefox-specific issue that could have been easily fixed.

In fact we will test all browsers in that list, with the exception of Internet Explorer (it’s time to let go Jack. If Microsoft can say goodbye, so can you).

Audience > Mobile

For the same reason we test different browsers, we can clearly see that the mobile-trend continues to grow in popularity. This means putting the majority of our efforts into ensuring dominant compatibility with any device type/size, including tablet, even though it’s only 2.2%.

This is us reacting to the data rather than making our own assumptions that would likely be wrong.

Audience > Demographics | Interests

By default, these data sets are not enabled. You need to browse to one of them and manually enable the collection of that data. Fast-forward at least 24 hours and you will begin to collect information retaining to your audience.

Acquisition > Overview

Here we can see the sources of traffic coming to our website. This is really valuable if you’re wanting to track things like SEO or an ad campaign.

Behaviour > Overview

Finally, and arguably one of the most important areas of Google Analytics is the behavioural area. Here we can see which of our content is the most popular, as well as browsing patterns by our users.

If we’ve designed a campaign that starts with a landing page and ends in a Call To Action, we can track users’ behaviour via the Behaviour Flow tab, to see just how successful that interaction was.

We’ve not even scratched the surface of what Google Analytics can do, but if you’re new to it all, these main areas are a great way to start observing how the world is interacting with your website.

Hopefully you can see how even simple metrics can help drive better decision-making.

Worthy Mention

Whilst this is a beginners guide and we don’t want to overwhelm you with advanced tracking or statistics in this article, we do want to give a shout out from time to time to other useful tools/sources that you can use to build a more complete picture about interactions with your website and how to use that data to improve it.

Virtually all website owners are guilty of neglecting their website once it’s launched. Often only focusing on new products/services, and never stopping to think about how their existing content could be improved.

For this article, we want to introduce you to Microsoft Clarity:

There are a lot of heat map tools available but you can’t beat Microsoft’s free tool, Clarity. The key part here; being free. Easy to set up, Clarity tracks exactly which areas on your website’s pages that users are interacting with. This is an amazing tool to A/B test your site’s content & layout in order to continue improving it.

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