One of the most important aspects of online marketing is analysing how well your website is performing and how visitors are interacting with it. Even if your advertising and online marketing campaigns are meticulously designed and tested, if your website is not up to scratch, you may end up losing swathes of potential customers due to the poor UX of your website.
Tracking website visitors (including what they were doing before they visited your website, and where they go when they leave) can help you to improve your website content and navigation, learn more about what website users are looking for, and move your website further up the search engine result pages. All this will eventually lead to more conversions for your business, and a better experience for the website user.
There are various tools you can use for web analytics and tracking, many of which are free to use. The services we’ve covered below provide an excellent base for any business wishing to track their website traffic.
Google Analytics is an amazingly useful tool, especially considering it’s free.
Every company from solopreneurs and lone freelancers, to enterprise level businesses should be making use of the tools provided by Google Analytics to gain valuable insights into where their website visitors are coming from, and what exactly they’re doing once they get there.
There are several analytics tools available. However, Google Analytics is one of the most useful. This is true not only because it’s free, but also because it’s powered by data from the world’s biggest search engine (Google achieved over 80% of the market share in search engine traffic in January 2017).
The benefits of Google Analytics
Being driven by Google means that Google Analytics has access to a much larger volume of data, and can provide insights into data from searches that are unavailable through other software. Unfortunately, however, Google started limiting access to some of this data via Google Analytics several years ago – notably, most of the keywords that searchers used to find your website (unless you are also an Adwords customer), but advanced insights are now available in Search Console (see below).
Google Analytics allows you to track your website’s visitors from before they have even clicked on your website. Using this tool, you can get an overview of your visitors’ demographics including location, language, browser, and operating system. You’ll also learn how they accessed your website (from searching, clicking a link, via an advertising campaign, or typing in the address manually), and which page of your website they hit once they got there.
In addition, you can see the number of visitors that are arriving at your website across a period of your choosing. You can quickly identify repeat visitors, see how often they’re visiting your website, and how they’re engaging with it.
Monitoring website traffic in this way is essential for obtaining an overall picture of how well (or not so well) your website is doing. Not only will you see how many hits your website’s getting, but also its bounce rate, as well as how long visitors are staying on it. You can also quickly discover which content is the most successful, and easily track conversions by setting up goals such as signing up to your mailing list, or visiting a particular page on your website.
As you might imagine, this all results in an incredible amount of data. You can make the raw data more useful by filtering it to exclude internal data or data to certain sub-directories, and generating graphs and charts to display any parameter you choose over a defined period of time. Indeed, by refining your data you will be able to discern a number of important facts, including how your traffic has grown over time and what patterns exist (if any) in weekly and seasonal traffic; all of which will give you a clearer picture as to how your website is performing overall.
Google Tag Manager
A tracking tag is simply a form of code that is attached to your website that is used to “track” the various activities of your website’s visitors.Many third-party systems use tags- including analytics software (e.g. Google Analytics), affiliate marketing tracking pixels, retargeting ads, conversion tracking, and social pixels – to track users’ browsing activities before, during, and after their visit on a particular website.
Social pixels are a type of tag that gather important data on website visitors, and provide access to said information to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. You may have noticed, for instance, that after visiting the website of a certain brand, you often see advertising from that same brand on Facebook. This is the Facebook pixel at work.
The tracking that these social pixels are capable of can be quite complex. For instance, if a user adds an item to a shopping cart on your website but does not checkout, you can then retarget these customers using ads on Facebook or Twitter to encourage them to complete the sale with a discount code or promotion. You can also maximise your advertising budget on these platforms by displaying ads only to users who are the most likely to convert.
Furthermore, the use of tags is essential for a website to obtain an insight into its visitors’ behaviour and demographics so as to maximise its traffic and conversions. In fact, without tracking tags, there is virtually no way to discern how users are interacting with your website, or even how many visitors your website is having on a day-to-day basis. Tracking tags, therefore, serve to fill this information gap so that you can tailor your website to better serve existing, as well as future, customers.
A typical medium-to-large website (approx. 700-5000 visitors per day) contains several tags for several different third-party services. Prior to the creation of Google Tag Manager, however, these tags were traditionally inserted individually into the source code of a website, which could often be inordinately time-consuming.
The birth of Google Tag Manager significantly reduced the amount of time that it previously took to insert multiple tags by controlling the tags that are used on a website, and replacing the various code snippets with one single container that can be edited via the Google interface. Indeed, if a tag needs to be removed or edited, or you want to add a new tag, you can simply do this in one place from Google Tag Manager. The code changes will then replicate throughout the website dynamically without the need for you to physically edit the code on the website.
Individual users and third party vendors can also be set up with different access permissions to view, edit, or publish tags, allowing tag management to be carried out remotely. Google Tag Manager also includes a built-in debugger that allows new tags to be tested and make sure they are working, before they are published to the live website. Thus, in addition to being free to download, this tool is incredibly useful for tracking visitors in a time efficient fashion. If your website uses multiple tags and you often change tags, it’s definitely worth using.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console, previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, is a free web service which allows webmasters to check the indexing status, and optimise the visibility of their websites. It also provides an important communication method with Google, so you’ll know immediately if your website has been de-indexed, has crawl errors, or is infected with malware.
Google Search Console will not only tell you what search terms people used to find your website, but also what your website’s position in the Google search results for that term is. Furthermore, it provides you with access to which websites are linking to your website, as well as what your most linked pages are.
All this information is essential for building up an overall picture of your website’s performance, and will provide you with the information that is necessary to boost your website’s traffic, maximise conversions, and minimise any problems that may affect its ranking.
Hot Jar is an analytics and tracking package that works differently than Google Analytics. It does however, have similar tools and can provide some valuable insights into web visitor behaviour.
Hot Jar works by overlaying a “heat map” onto your website. With this heat map, you can see exactly where users are clicking. You can also make a recording to see exactly how they navigate your website.
This information can help to identify usability issues, find the places where most visitors are leaving your website, and improve form completion rates by enabling you to see whether users are abandoning your forms at a certain point, as this will give you the opportunity to redesign the form to remove any stumbling blocks.
Hot Jar also allows you to deploy user surveys to gain more valuable feedback from users to improve your website’s functionality.
If you don’t track your website visitors, you are missing out on valuable information that can help you to improve the user experience on your website, and convert more website visitors into customers. Regular analysis of your website’s traffic should, therefore, form an integral part of your online marketing strategy.