Often I talk to a business or webmaster and they tout their high website visit counts as a reason to celebrate, or at least feel confident in what they’re doing with their web marketing. And for some of them, they’re absolutely right – they’ve done a great job cultivating web visitors and generating business through their online efforts. But, for a good number of businesses, web traffic can be very misleading. It’s tempting to immediately look at the fact that you generated 1,000 web visits in a day, week or month (depending on your kind of small business, these numbers can greatly vary) – but there can be great opportunity found in digging deeper into the data to understand what people are visiting your site, where they’re coming from, and what they’re doing.
Breaking down web traffic
Luckily, digging deeper into your web traffic is fairly simple thanks to Google Analytics. If you’re not using it, stop right now and go install it onto your website. It’s pretty much the most essential tool you need to be using in your web marketing efforts – without it, you’re pretty much driving blind.
When you’re in Analytics, you can see your traffic, what percentage are new and returning, average pages viewed, landing page (where they first hit your site) and exit page (last page before they closed the site), traffic source… and so much more. There are people who have entire careers based on analyzing web information in Google Analytics and coming up with problems and solutions to increase leads and conversions.
What we are particularly interested in, for the sake of this post, is the “Acquisition Overview” section. This area tells you where the website traffic is coming from. Here’s the breakdown of what each category means:
- Direct – quite often the biggest source of traffic for smaller websites. This type of visit is when somebody types your web address directly into their browser bar. But wait – there’s more – due to security, website settings, and other factors – there is a lot of organic traffic mixed into the “direct” category as well.
- Referral – Basically, any time somebody on another website clicks a link that directs them to your site, it’s counted as a referral. You can use this section to see exactly which websites are the source of your visits, and it’s a great place to judge the effectiveness of, for instance, an internet ad. If that website doesn’t refer you traffic, then it’s not paying off in advertising. Or, if you see a lot of quality visits from a website, it might be worth looking into increasing your exposure on it.
- Organic Search – Pretty self-explanatory. Any time someone visits your website from a search engine (not paid ads), it’s counted here. You can break it down further to see which search engines are performing well, and which ones are performing below the general averages.
- Social – Any visits from popular social media sites are counted here. This doesn’t just include the major ones like Facebook or Twitter, but rather a wide variety of social sharing sites or tools like Yelp, Disqus, Blogger, and many others. Use this area to judge the effectiveness of your social media campaigns in driving traffic.
- Email – If you run email marketing campaigns using a tool like MailChimp (which I wrote about how much I love it here), make sure your traffic is showing up in this section. If not, you may have some settings to work with. Combining this section with your email analytics from the provider gives you a good picture of how well your email marketing is working.
- Paid Search – Pretty self-explanatory, but keep in mind that it will only automatically track traffic from Google AdWords, not Bing or others. You have to do some custom work to track those separate from organic and other traffic.
- Other – Pretty much everything else. Most websites I have seen don’t have any consequential traffic in this category – but I’ve seen a few examples, for instance, when someone uses a tool like Sniply. But, for the most part, you can ignore this section if you even have any traffic in the category.
So what actually qualifies as a lead?
Understanding where your traffic is coming from is one thing. Understanding what kind of traffic is hitting your site is completely different. Where most people stop at quantifying traffic, you need to qualify it.
First off, you need to remove robots so you can analyze only actual people who are visiting your site. I have seen cases where a majority of web traffic was actually robots like the dreaded semalt crawler. The client was disappointed when they received their first month’s traffic report after working with me, but it was band-aid that needed tearing off.
Once your site visitors are segmented to actual humans, look at where the visitors are coming from – yet again, something you can see in the “Geo” section of Analytics. You have 500 visitors daily from India? Great, except you own a plumbing company based in Folsom, California and flights are pretty expensive these days. Same goes for the language section in the “Demographics” tab – if a large portion of your visits aren’t speaking English, maybe that traffic isn’t quality.
What you’re left with is a general idea of actual people who are visiting your website that may be interested in what you have to say or sell. These people are what I would call “leads.” They’re potentially a captive audience as they visited your website from somewhere – some marketing piece or referral – so you have a shot of converting them. Which leads to…
How is your website converting?
First of all – how are you tracking conversions? Check out my post on measuring your marketing for a general idea of how to track leads and conversions. Not to add to any confusion, but in that article I speak of leads in general – but for the sake of this post, we’ll combine anybody who contacts you into the conversion group – the website converted that lead – whether or not your sales staff does is a different issue.
Taking the number of purchases, phone calls, web contact form submissions – whichever kind of call-to-action you’re targeting – and dividing it by your real number of website leads will give you a general idea of your conversion rate. While you’ll often hear that 2-4% is considered an average conversion rate, that number can vary wildly depending on the kind of business you have. There’s no set rule on what a good conversion rate is – just shoot for working to increase it.
Taking a look at your website’s statistics can tell a compelling story as to what your website is succeeding and failing at. If you have a very high bounce rate and low average session duration it typically means that the people who visit your site aren’t seeing what they were looking for, or were turned off for some reason or another. But wait, what if you’re giving them exactly what they are looking for and they leave your site immediately or don’t need to visit other pages? This is why you need to adjust your site to track “adjusted bounce rate” – if people are on your site more than, say, 10 seconds or are scrolling through the page, we don’t want to consider them as a bounce as they’re clearly engaged.
Don’t forget to take a look at your percentage of new visitors, landing pages, exit pages, site behavior and more. All of these things can tell a compelling story as to why or why not your site is performing well. Perhaps people get to a certain page and leave that page more than others – if it’s the contact form then it’s not a bad thing – but if it’s an important landing page, you may need to address it. You’ll also get an idea as to whether or not your site is difficult to navigate, if people are compelled to return, and other important ideas.
Don’t get caught up in just traffic.
Your website is an important tool in marketing your business, but it’s also one of the most intimidating tools to stay on top of and properly assess. It’s tempting to look at traffic numbers and feel satisfied (or overwhelmed if they’re far too low), but digging deeper can reveal a ton of opportunity for growth and improvement. There are plenty of guides available online to help you out, and of course, you can always contact us for assistance in evaluating your website and identifying issues and opportunities.