When people tell me about their struggles, one of the first questions I ask is, “What do you know about your site visitors?” And pretty much 100% of the time, they answer, “I have no idea.”
Every small business owner who depends on their website to work hard for them to attract clients should be using data to inform their marketing decisions. Anything else is stabbing in the dark — using guesswork to guide their actions, causing a lot of needless activity and effort.
And there’s really no excuse not to use data — Google Analytics is a free tool that provides a wealth of information that can help you not only get insights into how people are using your website (so you can continuously optimize it for better results), but can show you which of your traffic-generating efforts are paying off and which are a waste of your time.
Maybe “Google Analytics” seems like an unnecessary step, or it sounds hard? It’s so easy guys, and it’s such a necessary part of the equation I really can’t emphasize it enough. Unless you have a huge e-commerce website, or you’re running lots of paid traffic campaigns, you don’t need to have a master’s degree in Analytics to get information that can help you. Setting it up and checking in regularly to see how your traffic is behaving is all you need — from that information, you’ll learn things like:
Whether you have problems with your website preventing visitors from taking action
Your website might be the weakest link in your marketing chain and you don’t even realize it.
Are they bouncing off your site without spending any time on site or clicking through? Then I recommend you stop your traffic-generating efforts stat and focus on fixing the problems. This simply must be addressed if you ever want results from your website.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reviewed websites that look pretty, but they’re incredibly slow to load. What’s even more troubling are the site owners who just don’t care — “I like the way it looks, so it stays.” Without checking Google Analytics to see if their site visitors feel the same way, they’re flying blind: wish marketing.
I can promise you their site visitors aren’t as in love with their pretty website as they are… they’re busy, they’ve got better things to do than wait 30 seconds for their hero slideshow to load. When there are technical issues, site visitors just aren’t going to waste their time… you’ve got seconds. Like, 3. Research shows that 40% of your audience (that’s almost half!) will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
How much more traffic will you have to generate to make up for that 40%? How much effort (or money) does it take to get people to your website?
Earlier this year I redesigned a website that had a load time of 36+ seconds before we started the project. 100% of their site visitors left before it even loaded. I could tell you that their visitor engagement is up 4000% since the redesign, but that doesn’t mean anything because they started at the absolute rock bottom. ZERO. That cool, fancy website was doing exactly nothing for them. We fixed the technical problems and now their site loads in less than 3 seconds, and they’re enjoying massive traffic, engagement and dominating local search. It was less about how it looked (although that was important), and first and foremost about improving the user experience.
Which traffic-generating activities are working, and which you should stop wasting your time on
If you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels, you probably are. Knowing how your site visitors are behaving can tell you where to focus your marketing efforts online and how to make the best use of your time.
Google Analytics can show you where your traffic is coming from (Acquisition > All Traffic > Source Medium). And even more than that — it can tell you how engaged users are depending on where they come from.
I know things about my own site visitors like: if someone follows a link from Twitter they’re more likely to click through to more pages and spend more time on my site than somebody who followed a link from StumbledUpon. I know I get very little traction from Pinterest, especially in relation to how much effort is required to get visible there. OOOF!
I know that some people get AMAZING results from Pinterest (and yes, I’ve tried all of the things and no, I don’t need to sign up for your Pinterest course). Truth is, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy following all of the “gurus’ advice” but data is telling me it’s not getting me anywhere. I can’t know the exact reasons why, but Pinterest is changing in a way I’m not too fond of, and getting anywhere with it seems to require engaging in tactics that don’t really sit right with me. I may change my mind later, but for now I’m planning to spend a lot less time on it so I can focus my energies on getting even better results with the things that I know are already working for me.
Amplification of my best results, not spinning more wheels.
I already know I get great results from Google (where visitors are more likely to become customers for me), Twitter, Facebook and a handful of other sources — so freeing up the time I was spending on Pinterest allows me to focus more attention there.
All of these things I learned about my own efforts may be ENTIRELY different for you. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Maybe your site content is a perfect match for Pinterest, you may get insane results with it. The point is, data tells you if it’s working or not, not following advice blindly or doing what others are doing. One size does not fit all.
(BTW, even if you are getting lots of traffic from a particular source, what matters is not the traffic itself, but whether those visitors are engaging and converting. Analytics can tell you that too, and you can even set conversion goals.)
Another example. One of my clients has Twitter and Instagram accounts they use regularly but they’ve gotten pretty much zero traffic from those sources over the last year. Where my site enjoys nice engagement from Twitter traffic, their audience is not even clicking through for whatever reason. My recommendation was for them to re-think how they’re using those channels, or to stop spending so much time and energy there. On the other hand, they get big traffic and engagement from email newsletters and google search results, so my recommendation was to amplify that. “Keep writing quality content for the blog and the newsletter, that works. Focus energies there.”
Which of your assumptions about your website came true and which did not
As I say quite a lot around here, when you launch your website, it’s just an assumption. We make our best guesses for how users will respond to it, but what we THINK users will do on our sites is rarely what they actually do.
You can check to see how people are behaving on your site. (In Analytics, I always check Behavior > Behavior Flow). When they land on your home page, where do they go next? Where are they exiting your website? Are they making it to the content you REALLY want them to see? If not, you can re-think how you guide your user to take the action you want by re-evaluating those pages where visitors are dropping off.
Learning more about your site visitors can help you optimize your website and focus your energies on traffic-generating activities that’ll give you the most payoff. Adding Analytics to the mix helps you work smarter rather than harder. (And man, who doesn’t need that?!)