Waxing ‘lytical

The not-so-secret secret to making the most of your website…
The virtues and merits of analytics are likely to be lost on most people. The methodical processing of recorded data in order to identify patterns and change future behaviours is one of the driest elements of marketing, and yet it’s among the most important. Companies like Adobe, IBM and Oracle have invested heavily in their analytics services, helping clients to fully understand their data and plan for the future accordingly.
Data analysis has been with us for almost as long as business itself, but its most recent incarnation concerns the interpretation of website statistics. That’s an important distinction, because many leading IT organisations focus more on data analytics than web analytics. The latter involves scrutinising the details of website visits and analysing visitor behaviour in an attempt to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s site. This is known as on-site analytics; there is an off-site alternative that surveys the wider Internet in terms of potential audience and popular keywords or search terms.
There are many companies providing web analytics nowadays, from Piwik’s endlessly customisable plug-in application through to StatCounter’s remarkably detailed tracking software. While industry giants like Yahoo and Bing offer their own highly-regarded analytics software, the undisputed market leader in this field is Google. In 2013, more than 59 million websites used Google Analytics. Their free analytics services are relied on by businesses around the world, providing statistics on visitor details and behaviours – everything from anomalies in traffic patterns through to the proportion of visitors using a particular web browser.
The sheer scale of Google Analytics can make it quite daunting for novice users. Site managers and hosts can check on the screen resolution of each anonymous visitor, the proportion of users with Java and/or Flash compatibility, and exactly how long people spend on each page. Google Analytics also dovetails with the company’s AdWords package, enabling people to monitor how well particular adverts are performing. It even tracks social media links, to indicate whether a particular tweet drove more traffic to the site than a Facebook post.
At this point, the real merit of web analytics software begins to emerge. It’s not so much about knowing how your existing website performs, but knowing what to change to improve its effectiveness. If half of all site traffic departs at the homepage, it suggests the homepage isn’t doing its job in terms of retaining visitor attention – or it may be downloading too slowly. If a quarter of traffic is arriving from one specific click-through advert, then it may be worth spending more on advertising with that company to generate additional visitor numbers. This data is invaluable for any company planning a new or redesigned website, to establish how the new site can perform better than the old one.
Although wading into the murky world of analytics can be daunting, it’s a valuable tool for any customer-facing website. There’s no point having a website unless it’s achieving something like its full potential, and web analytics is the tool that can make this happen.
With Midphase’s ‘business’ and ‘business unlimited’ website builder packages, analytics software is built in. Find out more about making the most of your website at Midphase.