Visitor Analysis

Statistical analysis of your visitors is key to understanding what they want

There is no excuse for not having a good visitor analysis package installed on your website now. Google Analytics has been free to use for several years and can be installed easily and quickly to most websites, but like many analysis tools, the value is not in the tool itself, but in the understanding of what it is telling you. Google Analytics can draw you some very impressive graphs, and you can create some complex spreadsheets from the data, but at the end of the day you are measuring people and their actions and intents, and only once you understand what the data tells you can you gain the most from each visitor.

Getting your Google Analytics installation right is paramount, as the saying goes 'garbage in, garbage out', so if you are not collecting the right data, you're never going to get the right answers.

It's not enough to count your visitors, you must know what their intent was.

A common measure for how well a website is doing is the number of visitors a month or week, but is this really meaningful? What if most visitors failed to engage with the website due to some issue (wrong topic, inappropriate content, poor usability) and immediately left, does that visitor figure remain meaningful? What if some visitors read a couple of articles, or glanced at a product but didn't do anything about it, should the website owner still be gleefully quoting that visitor figure?

Sheer footfall is not a valid way of justifying your websites existence, in order to be successful you must have defined goals that you would like your visitors to achieve while on your website (sign up for a newsletter, complete a transaction, use the contact form). Only then can you measure the websites success at converting visitors into customers, followers or simply repeat visitors.

The Truth is out there

The good news is that all the information you need to find out what is really happening on your website is actually available to you right now. If you have installed Google Analytics correctly (there are some good ways and some bad ways to set up Google Analytics), and it's been running for long enough to get some meaningful data (usually at least a month), then you have the means to start answering questions such as:

  • "How many unique visitors do we receive a week?"
  • "How do our visitors find us, where do they come from?"
  • "What was the intention of their visit, what did they hope to achieve?"
  • "How long did they stay for, which parts of the site did they explore?"
  • "Was there something on the website which caused them to leave?"

The answers to these and other questions should be seen as the starting point of a process of improvement that allows you to refine your visitors experience over time.

Evolution not Revolution

Gaining an insight into your visitors actions and motivations and how they perceive your website (and by association your brand) is a launch pad for a process of ongoing adjustment that should allow you to optimise your marketing spend. 

Solutions can be implemented for identified problems, and if there is ambiguity about the problem or which solution would work best, then  A / B Testing (a process of showing each visitor one of several versions of the page to see how each is reacted to) can help to clarify the best approach.

Over time your visitor experience will improve, your conversion rates (the proportion of visitors who complete your goals) will increase and so your cost per acquisition will fall. All of this starts by understanding what your visitors are trying to tell you, you just have to make sure you are listening.