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Deciphering Your Website Traffic Reports: Five Tips That report contains information you can use to to get more visitors and grow your business.

By Christopher Elliott

If you're like me, you're probably fixated on just one number: site visitors. But if you asked me about the difference between page views and unique visitors, or to draw a distinction between length and depth of visit, my knowledge might get really fuzzy, really fast.

I'm not a gearhead or an expert in search engine optimization, and you probably aren't either. But there's a lot more information in a website traffic report that you can use to grow your business and increase site traffic.

"Web traffic reports offer a truckload of information about what's happening on your website," says Kevin Stirtz, a marketing consultant based in Burnsville, Minnesota "Imagine owning a store and being able to track almost everything."

For example:

  • How many different people visit your site?
  • What days and times do they visit?
  • Where do customers come from?
  • What keywords did they use to find your site?
  • What pages did they view on your site?
  • What page did they exit your site from?

So how, exactly, do you make heads or tails of the reports you get from your analytics software? Here are a few tips from experts.

  1. Figure out where visitors are coming from
    Of all the data you'll see on your site reports, there's one number worth looking at when you start your analysis, according to Mark Whitman, former vice president of digital media at Northlich, a Columbus, Ohio, brand consultancy: the sources of your traffic. That number will be in the "visitors" section of your web analytics report. Search for "traffic sources," which is a rough number for where your site visitors are coming from.

    Typically, the data is divided into categories, such as referring traffic and search engine traffic. Both are important, because they show who's linking to you and how well the search engines like your content. When you know what these numbers mean, you can adjust your site accordingly, which can help boost your conversion rates over time.
  2. Set your goals
    What do you expect from your site visitor? Experts say it's important to set your goals and compare them against traffic statistics. "Look at the navigation path from the home page," says Jesse Farley, a senior search strategist at PGM Integrated, a Denver integrated marketing company. "What information do people want to know? How did they find the information?" Based on the answers to those questions, modify your site to accommodate these visitors, so that their goals and yours are aligned.

    Also, consider what kind of results you expect from visitors. Do you need a contact, lead or sale? web statistics software can help you track each goal, and, based on how your site is performing, make improvements to your online storefront.
  3. Bar the exits
    Effective reporting software will not only show you which pages your visitors viewed, but also where they left your site. "Most websites lose their visitors at consistently the same point," says Jacques Habra, founder of FirstClickSEO, a search engine optimization company in Santa Barbara, California.

    It's important to understand why people leave by carefully examining the highest exit pages. What were they looking for that they did not find? Is there a better way to call them to action, before they leave?
  4. If you're paying for traffic, measure it
    Small businesses tend to be lax when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of online ads or campaigns they've paid for. That's a big mistake, says Micha Mikailian, CEO of eBoost Marketing, a digital marketing consultancy based in San Diego. "Make sure paid traffic is converting [taking the end actions you want] at acceptable levels," he says.

    An analytics tool such as Reports in Office Live Small Business can monitor conversions, to determine whether visitors are becoming customers. "For a small business, this conversion may also be a customer bringing a coupon into the store, it may be a form fill out, or it may be a phone call to a number associated with the paid campaign," Mikailian says. Regardless of how the business is coming in, though, it's important to keep track of it through your analytics tool.
  5. Focus on the numbers that really matter
    It's easy to get overwhelmed with data, much of which doesn't apply to your company. "Identify the top two or three statistics that actually allow you to make decisions about your site," says C. David Gammel, an online media consultant and president of High Context Consulting in Salisbury, Maryland. "Ignore all the other data."

    Why disregard this wealth of information? Because poring over all the data will create what Gammel calls "analysis paralysis." And that can detract you from your goal. His advice is to focus only on the metrics that are relevant to your business. For example, rather than obsessing over page views, look at the clicks to your online store and compare them with sales.

You can make sense of the traffic reports generated from your company's website. All you have to do is measure and monitor a few important numbers, set reasonable goals and disregard the numbers that are meaningless to your business.

© 2010 Business on Main

Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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