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The ultimate guide to web analytics

At a time when the management of personal data is a real issue for most companies with an online activity, the implementation of analytics tools is essential to the success of a digital marketing strategy.

Therefore, it is necessary to differentiate private data (address, name, first name, email) from user interactions (clicks, pages visited, frequency of visits, etc.).

Web analytics should only be used to collect and analyse user interaction data. This is to optimize sites or applications that will have a positive impact on the user experience.

Here is everything you need to know about digital analytics and its real added value in your digital marketing strategy.

Introduction and definition of web analytics

Web analytics, also called digital analytics, is part of the digital marketing strategy. It consists of four main pillars.

  • Collecting data
  • Measuring interactions
  • Analysing performance
  • Visualizing and interpreting results
Cycle Web analytics

1. Collecting data

Generally, to collect data, you set up a tracker in the form of a tag embedded in the code of a website or application.

To make it easier to add this script, tools have been developed to integrate the tags in a standard way. 

Tag Manager integration on a website

For example, Google Tag Manager, one of the most popular tag management systems, offers the possibility to easily integrate and modify the tags used for tracking. 

2. Measuring interactions

Thanks to these tracking tags, you can measure the different interactions on a site or an application. Clicks and page views are tracked anonymously to understand in detail how the site is used. 

This tracking allows you to find the pages or articles that generate the most interest from visitors or also helps to identify the images or menu links that get the most clicks.

3. Analyse performance (Google Analytics)

Once the tracking is in place, you can analyse the first measurements. On a regular basis, tools such as Google Analytics or Adobe web Analytics allow you to identify trends (whether positive or negative). 

Thus, user paths, traffic sources (where visitors come from), time spent on pages or number of visitors gives valuable information on the overall performance of the site.

Setting up regular comparisons with previous months, weeks, and days is also a very good way to monitor the evolution of traffic and identify the impact of advertising campaigns or external factors (weather, news, public holidays, etc.)

Through these analysis tools, you can create customized reports and access very precise data to meet the specific needs of a department or manager. 

However, setting up dashboards is still quite complex and access to data for members of a company who are not directly involved in digital marketing is limited. 

4. Visualising & interpreting data

For this reason, new tools have been developed to allow the creation of interactive Dasbhoards (dashboards) to facilitate access and understanding of tracked data.

An important point here is that a dashboard tool should not be confused with an analysis tool. 

  • A dashboard tool provides an overview of performance and gives a quick overview of trends.
  • An analysis tool, as the name suggests, is designed to analyse data and interpret the results to make decisions. 

Often, in many companies, dashboards are created to be used as an analysis tool when the primary function is “to draw a trend”. 

Dashboard web analytics with Google Analytics

Dashboard tools have been developed to allow different sources of data to be combined to visualize performance in a simplified way.

Google’s Data Studio is a popular visualization tool. First, it allows you to connect data from Google Analytics as well as other data such as the number of sales of a company, signed contracts or CRM data in a rather simple way.

With these dashboards, you can visualize and interpret the data quickly. You can then decide on the next steps to be taken to improve and maximize performance:

  • More detailed analyses using a dedicated tool
  • Optimization of advertising campaigns
  • Modification of the content of your website
  • Development of new graphic elements
  • etc.

This is a “Data Driven” strategy, which means using tracking data to decide on future actions.

Finally, when the results and analyses are not precise enough to make clear decisions, you can set up A/B tests.

These offer the possibility to test different versions of a site element and find the one that works best with your visitors.

Why is web analytics important?

Web analytics is mainly used to identify and improve customer journeys or to know the best sources of traffic (organic, paid, etc.). 

With web analytics, you can also measure and optimize the performance of campaigns and the user experience of your website. 

This is to limit the bounce rate and increase the conversion rate.

A. The customer journey

One of the main reasons for implementing web analytics is to understand the customer journey.

With standard tracking, you can simply identify which channels are most successful with your users, and then adapt your communication or advertising campaigns accordingly

QUOTE “You aren’t your client or your prospect”

Even if the structure of your site seems simple and understandable, this is not necessarily the case for visitors who are new to your site.

Moreover, there is no single typical customer journey, each visitor can “enter” your site at different points. 

Very often and wrongly, people focus on the home page of a site, thinking that it is the window of a shop or a company.

In our experience, category pages and even articles are generally more relevant in terms of entry points than a home page.

For this reason, it is important to take into account the different customer journeys that may simply start with a visit to a product page, your contact page or even a blog post.

It is therefore recommended to track the different data points and analyse the customers in your sales tunnel, from the first point of contact to the potential conversion. This allows you to understand with the help of the data and to modify the structure or the pages of your site in relation to the performance.

For example, if you identify a high rate of bounces during the different stages of the check-out process and the whole process is correctly tracked, you will be able to find the source of the problem quite easily:

  • Too complicated payment method
  • Website not adapted for a tablet or smartphone format
  • “Unconvincing call to action” (CTA)
  • Too many input fields in a form
  • And so on.

You can adapt these elements of your website to optimize the different customer paths.

B. Traffic sources

The traffic source can be defined by the origin from which a visitor (website visitors) found your website.

When a user visits your website, web analytics – thanks to tracking tags – can identify the source from which the user visited the page.

Understanding and analysing traffic sources allows you to identify which ones bring in the most traffic.

There are four categories of traffic sources:

  • Direct
  • Organic
  • Paid
  • Referral

Direct traffic is defined as visitors who have accessed your site directly without going through another platform. That is to say, that they “directly” typed in the name of your site in their browser.

Main sources of traffic

It can increase thanks to the different “brand awareness” actions you put in place. Also called “Brand awareness”, these actions allow your products, your website, or your brand as its name indicates to be known and recognized by consumers

This is not to be confused with the traffic coming from the Google or Bing search bar which is very often integrated by default on most browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. 

These visits that come from search engines are called organic traffic

Organic traffic can be improved by using SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategies, i.e. improving a website for search engines.

By optimizing your website (Technical SEO), content (On-site SEO) and your reputation via other platforms (Off-site SEO), your website is positioned on a specific keyword. The latter are directly related to your activity and generate traffic on the different pages. 

However, some keywords can be very competitive and require a lot of time and investment in terms of content to have the chance to rank in the top positions of search engine results.

To overcome this difficulty, you can set up paid campaigns that are characterized by the purchase of specific keywords.

In this way, you have the possibility of being the first site to be displayed, and you can generate traffic on specific pages of your site.

Finally, referral traffic results from activities on third party platforms. Social networks, partnerships, or websites that link to your pages in their content generate referral traffic.

As a marketer, it is essential to monitor traffic sources on a regular basis. 

Mainly to highlight potential problems with your paid advertising campaigns, but also to be able to compare the sources with each other. 

The results of these analyses allow you to optimise your digital strategy and improve your traffic acquisition techniques.

C. Campaign performance

Web analytics allows you to set up an important granularity in terms of metrics and to measure each paid acquisition channel quite easily.

Thanks to tracking, you can identify the advertising formats (banner, text, video) that perform best. You can also modify or simply deactivate ads that generate little or no traffic.

Sometimes minor changes have a major impact on certain campaigns. Changing the text, modifying an image, or using a different banner format can significantly improve a campaign that initially generated few results.

The choice of advertising channels is also very significant. Depending on the type of campaign (awareness, lead generation, revenue generation, etc.), each channel has a specific function. 

A very good practice is to track and analyse your campaigns as soon as they are launched. This way, you can optimise each element of your campaign on a recurring basis and generate more leads or revenue while reducing costs.

D. User experience  

Often confused with customer journeys, user experience, also called UX (User experience) is characterized by the different interactions that users make when they visit your site. 

For example, you can evaluate your UX with the degree of difficulty of using the different elements of the site structure (button or design).

The best sites in terms of UX are sites with a clear path, optimised for smartphone screens, where the customer journey is clearly identifiable.

Web analytics tools can be used to evaluate and improve the user experience and thus increase the number of conversions or revenues generated.

The priority in terms of user experience is to identify pages that have limited performance and to review their design. 

For example, a page with a very high bounce rate should be analysed to determine if there is a UX problem:

  • The visitor has found the information he was looking for and does not need to interact
  • The structure of the page is not clear, or the actions are not understandable. The visitor leaves the page very quickly. 
Creating user experience trough paper and drawing

Setting up tracking tags in the form of a heatmap makes it possible to identify very quickly whether buttons, images or the navigation menu are being clicked on the different screen formats.

Most websites are developed primarily for the computer screen. This is a mistake, because nowadays almost 60% of traffic is generated on a smartphone or tablet screen.

While the visuals and navigation work perfectly on the big screen, there can be significant differences with mobile versions. 

Web analytics using heat maps (crazy egg is a very good tool) can reveal gaps that are not visible at first glance.

What are the benefits of a web analytics tool?

1. Understand traffic drops

Setting up a web analytics tracking process for your website as soon as possible is a guarantee to be informed quickly when traffic drops. Most of the time, traffic changes require accurate analysis to identify the causes and adjust your strategy.

Thanks to tracking, we can easily identify and rule out the most common causes of traffic drops. 

The reasons can be external or internal:

  • A change in the tracking tag (it was simply deleted from the code).
  • The arrival of a competitor who is gaining visibility on search engines
  • An update of the site not adapted to the smartphone screen size.
  • A page on the site that was generating traffic was deleted
  • A redirect that was well positioned in the search engines no longer works
  • A problem with the servers hosting the site
  • Seasonality such as a special event, the weather, or school holidays.

Therefore, it is essential to have a follow-up in place and to analyse regularly through reports and dashboards the abnormal traffic changes. 

2. Increase the number of sales or conversions

Web analytics tools can also be used to improve and optimize the number of sales or conversions on a site.

Sometimes, on a sales tunnel, we can detect certain steps with a high abandonment rate. This means that visitors leave the site during the payment process and do not convert.

Tracking the sales tunnel allows you to identify precisely which stages are problematic and therefore optimize the pages or actions accordingly.

Most marketers focus on traffic volume to improve conversions. They increase the budget of their campaigns in order to overcome the problems related to the sales process.

Measure with web analytics the online payment with Credit card

Often, it is sufficient to set up A/B tests to experiment with several variants of a page or a button and thus effectively improve the performance of a campaign.

Therefore, thanks to web analytics tools and without additional budget, the number of conversions or revenues generated online are increased.

3. Reducing the bounce rate on different pages

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who view a page without interacting with it. If a page or website has a high bounce rate, it is generally thought that the page is not optimized. However, the type of page must be taken into account.

A homepage with a high bounce rate is a page that offers little interest to a visitor. Improving the latter should obviously be a priority. 

On the other hand, an article that answers a specific question or a page with a phone number or address can be consulted without taking any action. 

These pages may appear to perform poorly, but in the end, the visitor has found the information they were looking for. 

Finally, to improve the time spent on your website, you can add a call to action such as a “newsletter sign up” or a button to visit another section

4. Optimizing advertising campaigns

There are several reasons why the main solution to optimizing an advertising campaign is to change the channel or increase the budget. 

Sometimes, because of poor performance, the person in charge of the campaign asks that it be deactivated.

All too often, discussions with agencies are limited to optimizing the campaign by manually limiting the daily budget

In this way, the campaigns do not exceed the initial amounts. However, this manual limitation, which has long been the best way to optimize campaigns, should no longer be used. The different platforms offer optimizations based on machine learning and artificial intelligence according to the defined objective.

In our experience, a lot of agency reporting is done via internal tools. Transparency in the performance of each channel is tedious to implement. Usually due to a lack of experience of the people in charge of the campaigns. Or simply because each channel is managed by a different person internally.

Discussion about a digital campaign and the measurement of it

Finally, the frequency of reporting may not be adapted to the needs of a campaign. It can vary from a few days to a monthly delivered template.

Knowing that a campaign needs to be optimized on a fairly regular basis, it is imperative for you to have access to performance on your own.

This is why having a monitoring system in place on the client’s side (you) allows you to have access to the performances regularly and to have proactive exchanges with your agency.

5. Personalizing your content

The content of a site is very often static, i.e. pages are created over time and are then very rarely modified.

Visitors have very different customer journeys, and they consult your site for needs that are specific to them. Being able to identify these needs in advance and propose solutions as quickly as possible is essential for a good user experience.

Thus, you can personalize the content of your site thanks to analyses of your customer paths carried out with the help of web analytics tools.  

For example, if a visitor consults the same type of product several times, it will be wise to offer this product very quickly on certain pages.

Also, you can very quickly personalize the content of a site according to the type of visitor. 

If they have already converted or bought a certain product, it will be interesting to send them other offers rather than offering the same product.

Good web analytics practices to implement on a website

With so many analytics solutions and tools (web analytics tool) available on the market, it is sometimes difficult to prioritize the different steps of your web analytics process strategy.

Finding the right compromise between a business leader who needs to receive figures on a regular basis and a product manager who has specific needs in terms of analytics is not an easy task.

Measuring your website data to understand the raw data is essential.

Setting up the tracking, consolidating the figures and visualizing them in the form of a report or dashboard must be worked out in advance using a well-defined structure. 

We advise you to establish a “data driven” culture as much as possible. This means that everyone who is concerned about the performance of a page, a site, E-commerce revenues or even a product must first define KPIs.

This allows you to measure and communicate performance and above all to analyse trends more quickly.

Therefore, it is imperative to create a reporting or dashboard with an overview of the performance of the KPIs. We are not looking to replace an analysis tool like Google Analytics or Piwik, but rather to identify a trend.

In order to be proactive if the metrics tend towards negative values and thus inform the people concerned very quickly.

The decrease or increase of a KPI is not the problem in itself, but the consequence of an internal or external action to the strategy.

Not communicating these figures in the belief that they will improve is a very bad strategy.

On the other hand, providing transparency on trends is the best way to build trust across the organization and essentially establish a culture based on website data.

To conclude

The early implementation of web analytics is essential in the digital marketing strategy. Being able to measure, visualize and optimize all the digital elements of a company is often synonymous with cost reductions and a definite increase in revenue.

If you don’t have an established web analytics strategy yet, or if you are having issues with web analytics, I will be happy to discuss this with you. 

I can help you find a solution and analytics tools that best fit your needs or the needs of your company. Don’t hesitate to contact me and subscribe to my newsletter!