Eliminate guesswork and measure success – that is what analysing your website visitors’ behaviour [or web analytics] is all about. Understanding where they came from, where they land and what people are doing on your site.
Virtually all web-hosting services provide rudimentary analytics that can help you begin to understand what users are doing on your site. But most hosting services just don’t provide more sophisticated tools. Tools such as funnel reports, which show how visitors are progressing through the various stages or levels of your site – hopefully to become a lead / conversion / sale or navigation reports which give you visitor activity such as entry points; where they clicked; where they came from; where they went; how much time they spent on a page and their exit points. Then there are tools such as segmentation reports which track the behaviour of specific groups of visitors such as purchasers, those who came from Google etc. and robot reports which monitor when search engine spiders index your site
There are free packages you can use from ClickTracks or Google but you must apply to Google and it can take weeks for them to set you up whereas ClickTracks Appetizer is free, immediate and includes several of ClickTracks’ most popular features like overlay view, path view, page analysis and basic visitor labeling.
But once you have a web analytics tool what do you do with it? To many people statistics can be daunting and interpreting what they mean can be painful; but hey, no pain, no gain.
The first thing you need to understand is some basic terms:
Hit: a request for a file from your web server noted in the log.
Page view: a request for a file whose type is defined as a page in log analysis or an occurrence of the page tagging script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from your web server.
Visitor session: a series of requests from the same unique visitor with in a single visit. A visit is expected to contain multiple hits (in log analysis) and page views.
Unique visitor: the uniquely identified client generating requests on your web server (log analysis) or viewing pages (page tagging). A unique visitor can, of course, make many visits.
Repeat visitor: a visitor that has made at least one previous visit.
New visitor: a visitor that has not made any previous visits.
Referring search terms: the search phrases people are using to find your site.
Referring URLs: tell you which web sites are sending you traffic.
Content popularity: the list of most popular pages on your site.
Site overlay: displays your actual pages with a click level indicator next to each link showing the number of people who click on each link.
Bounce rate: reveals the number of visitors who left the site from a particular page.
OK most of those are obvious but they are still worth laying out. In future articles I’ll expand on some of these terms and on the whole subject.