As an online marketing strategist, I continually come across business owners who rave about the number of visitors coming to their website. The irony is that website traffic alone doesn't generate money.
I ask these business owners questions: Where is the website traffic coming from? What Web pages are visitors landing on the most? What percentage of visitors return to the site? How many visitors convert into customers?
Their lack of answers shows they're concentrating on volume and not on quality, and I guarantee their sales are suffering as a result. It doesn't matter how many people visit your website if those people are not the "right" people -- the type of people who will buy something from you someday.
Good website analytics take the mystery out of wondering who's visiting the company website and why. You don't need to be an online marketing strategist to use them, either. There are plenty of website analytics packages for sale on the Web, but you can get started free through Google Analytics.
The Google service provides you with a line of code to plug into each of your website pages, and you can then start tracking. You can get a breakdown not only of how many visitors came to the website, but how long they stayed, what site they previously came from, what search terms they used to reach the website, and which pages they visited the most.
Here are five points to consider as you start delving into the numbers:
1. Do your website visitors already know you? The whole point of the website is to link you with potential new customers who have never heard of your business, not people who may be merely looking up your address. A well-designed website should only have a small percentage of visitors, maybe 5 percent, who have used the company's name to find it.
2. Are you bringing in potential customers? Let's say you're a tennis gear provider. People who find your website searching for "tennis" probably aren't going to help you. They likely won't help you if they searched for "tennis racket." You want the people who searched for "Dunlop tennis rackets," or better yet "Dunlop Aerogel Titan." They know what they want, and they will buy from you if you're offering the best deal.
3. Does your social media presence work? If you spend 10 percent of your online marketing efforts on social media and 25 percent of your website visits come from Facebook or Twitter, you're in good shape. Better yet, you can set up goal scenarios through Google Analytics. A goal might be that you want people to come from Twitter to see a post on your site that links to a promotional offer. You can then tweet the promotion and see how many people follow the path.
4. Are visitors bailing from your homepage? Google Analytics tells you your homepage's bounce rate, the percentage of homepage visitors who never clicked on additional pages. If the bounce rate is more than 60 to 70 percent, you have a problem. The search terms your visitors are using to find the site tell you whether they're the people you want. If they are the right type of visitors and they aren't delving deeper into the site, then the blame goes on the homepage. It might not look professional, its content might not be compelling or the website might simply be confusing.
5. Are they looking at your product or service pages? The website is supposed to generate sales or interest in your services. If website visitors aren't looking at the pages that allow this to happen, then your homepage is not doing its job. The homepage should be divided into decision-making paths that quickly separate visitors by their interests and lead them to the information they are looking for.
Most of all, don't be intimidated by the analytics. Get your feet wet and decide what you really want. These numbers are the key to finding out whether your website is effectively generating business.
John D. Leavy is president of InPlainSite Marketing, a Divide, Colo.-based digital-marketing strategy company, and author of Outcome-Based Marketing: New Rules for Marketing on the Web (Entrepreneur Press, 2011), a finalist for Marketing & Advertising Book of 2011 by USA Book News. Connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/JohnDLeavy.