According to Wikipedia, Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. That’s nice and all, but what does it mean in day-to-day terms?

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What data?

What patterns are meaningful and what should you be paying attention to? How is this useful and not just mental masturbation and a time suck?

The data that’s relevant in terms of your site are mostly concerned with user activity. That’s a no-brainer.

Deciding which activity matters requires a bit more thought. For different sites, different data is more or less important. The image at left gives an inkling of what’s commonly considered useful.

One thing you can almost ignore is raw “hits” – that is, the number of requests for files on your server. This is the metric most commonly paid attention to and talked up by amateurs.

Sure, it’s relevant, and as a broad metric it does give you an idea of how busy your site is and when, but that data is really only useful if you can also get some idea of why. That’s where more detailed analytics can be of service.

A few general analytics touch-points you’ll want to measure, in no particular order:An example of the kind of information visualization made possible by Analytics

  • What’s popular?

    • Which posts, pages, keywords, and categories draw the most traffic?
    • Which ones do users spend the most time on?
    • Use this to find out what you’re doing right and do more of it.
  • How “sticky” is your site?

    • Do the same users generally visit more than one page and stick around awhile, or do they only hit one page?
    • Do they come back again and again or only once or twice?
      • If most of your traffic is brand new, and users don’t come back, that’s a problem.
    • If your “churn” or “bounce” rate is high, you’ll want to fix it.
  • Which pages are most likely to generate on-site clicks?

    • Again, you can use this to figure out what’s working and do more of it.
  • How effective are your “Calls To Action”?

    • Wherever there’s an opportunity to convert a browser into a member, buyer or sales lead, what percentage of users actually follow through for each action?
    • If you have multiple Calls To Action for the same conversion activity, does one or another approach work better?
      • Again, do more of what’s working.
  • Which pages generate the most user interaction?

    • Either in terms of conversion activities or comments both on and off-site, sharing on social networks, emailing to friends, etc.
  • Where is your traffic coming from?

    • Online ads?
    • Google?
    • LinkedIn?
    • Facebook?
    • Twitter?
    • Pinterest?
    • Email links?
    • Links from other sites?
    • Directly typed into a browser’s location bar?
    • Are you doing something different in the places you’re getting the most traffic from?
      • If so, do it elsewhere.
      • If not, either focus more effort on the high-return traffic source, or try to figure out what about that source you can leverage in other areas.
  • What part of the globe are you most popular in? Why?

    • A North American local business that’s getting high traffic from an Italian humor site may have a problem or an opportunity or both.
  • Which traffic source has the highest conversion rate?

    • You’ll want to focus your efforts there, and figure out what you’re doing in that area that can be used to increase conversion rates from other sources.
  • What browsers are most popular among visitors to your site?

    • This can help you target your optimization efforts, as well as give you a small amount of insight into the probable mindset of your audience.

If you’ve got an e-commerce application on your site, you’re going to want to measure what goes on in your shopping cart or payment processing area, as well as which products and product categories sell the most.

In the analytics of shopping cart/payment areas:

  • What percentage of users who add products to their cart actually buy them?

  • At what stage in the process does abandonment of the cart occur most often?

    • Why?

      Figure out what’s causing the abandonment, is it:

      • too complicated?
      • a bad/unpopular/inconvenient payment method?
      • ugly?
      • insecure?
      • amateurish?
    • Increasing shopping cart conversion is likely to have a much bigger impact on your bottom line than simply increasing traffic to a cart that no-one uses.

As you can see, each metric I’ve discussed is tied to something that impacts the real-world ROI of your site. This is all stuff that affects your bottom line, so it’s well worth paying attention to.

“That’s all well and good,” you say, “but how do I do it?”


Simple. You can hire Broad Street Network to do it for you, but I’ll also get into the details of using Google Analytics in future posts. After all, I can re-purpose those articles as client tutorials.

Some useful links:

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Google Analytics Training and Certification
  3. Analytics Academy
  4. Analytics Page On Wikipedia