Data and more data? How to make sense of Website Analytics?

Posted on December 29th, by Jay Murphy in Analytics, Digital Marketing, Digital Tactics, Online Strategy. No Comments

You have a website.  Next question: “How many hits has our website gotten?”

Well with today’s analytics tools you can we look a lot smarter than just answering: “how many hits?”.  You can also answer these questions:

  • How many visitors are coming to  our site?  Are they new or returning visitors?
  • Where do our site visitors come from?
  • What are they viewing on our site?
  • Are they contacting us for more information?
  • Are they buying our product?  Our services?
  • What browser are do our visitors use?
  • Where are our visitors located?

Hint: Asking some of these questions instead of “How many hits?”, will show you really get analytics.

Of course with all this new found data from the website – comes the additional responsibility of determining what the data really means and what you can do to improve your website.  This blog entry will step through how to think about metrics, choose the right metrics for your site and then determine what your next steps should be for your website.  (If you want help you can always speak with a professional website analyst – use our contact form at Trionia for more information.)

Align Metrics to Website Goals

So you know you can measure a lot about your website, the follow-up question is what should I look at first?  To do this start by considering the goals of your website?  Is your website ecommerce transaction based?  Then sales is your primary goal.  Is your site a media outlet?  Then your goal is consistent readership – possibly in a target geography or interest group.  Each company is different and the goals will be different – but your website should have a clear goals.  Once these goals are determined you can start to determine the metrics that are of most value to you.

At Trionia we think of a website goal in terms of a structured framework, this helps align the metrics with your website’s goals.  This framework considers four different categories of metrics:

  • Reach – The ability to distribute your message broadly to potential website visitors;
  • Engagement – The ability to persuade the user to visit your site and engage in your content;
  • Conversion – The ability to sell a product or have a customer contact you for more information; and
  • Retention – The ability to entice visitors to return to your site frequently.

Now lets step through each category and some example metrics for each.


This is the category concerned with how many people are viewing your site and where they are finding out about your site.   Of course not all people viewing your site are created equal – do you want a steady stream of new visitors?  Or are you looking for a consistent growing audience of repeat visitors?  Or is a more regular dedicated following more important? Or some combination of both of these goals?

The metrics you will want to view to gauge Reach are:

  • Total Visitors
  • New Visitors
  • % of new Visitors
  • Keywords
  • Referring Sites – and visitors from each site
  • Visitor Geographic Location

If you are running some online marketing campaigns then you will also want to look at the effectiveness of these campaigns in terms of click through rate and impressions.  Tying these impressions to brand metrics such as recall or sales metrics is the natural next step.  However, these approaches are for another blog discussion.

Use reach metrics to determine where your current audience is finding you and then build on this success.  Say you are reaching for a college age audience and you see significant traffic from Facebook look at the referring Facebook pages and optimize to reach a even broader audience.  The same is true of keywords – look at new keywords used to find your website – are there new keywords or new combinations of keywords?  Then optimize site content or specific landing pages for these new keywords.

Essentially reach metrics tell you how many people are coming to your site.  The next step is to determine where they are coming from and how to find more of the same type of visitor!


These metrics show if visitors are finding the content they seek when they come to your website.  For media sites this data is critical – it will show sponsors that you are doing more than delivering impressions, you are delivering a regular interested audience.  Metrics that help illustrate user engagement are:

  • Visits per Month (or week, or day)
  • Time per Visit
  • Pages per Visit
  • Downloads per Visit
  • Video or Audio per Visit – other metrics for video and audio are also useful, to be discussed in future posts

One important note: do not misconstrue engagement metrics.  On a transactional website – engagement metrics can be misleading – for example a high time per visit is not an encouraging metric if it means you users are spending a lot of time trying to accomplish a task!


Conversion metrics are some of the most powerful metrics available.  They correspond directly to a user action and so leave no doubt as to the effectiveness of the product, service or information being offered.

For example a hypothetical sales funnel for a business services website could incorporate a series of measurable steps – obtain an email in exchange for a down loadable white paper, sign up for a webinar, request a demonstration and then purchase services.  Each step of the way can be clearly measured and optimized to improve overall website effectiveness and business performance.

  • % of Visitors who Download an Article
  • % of Visitors who Signup for a Webinar
  • % of Visitors on each step of a Sales Funnel
  • Cost per Lead
  • % of Visitors who Purchase Product or Services
  • Average Sale

In an eCommerce setting these measures can provide the evidence to clearly optimize and improve overall marketing.  Determining the source of leads and the % of purchases by source can help to determine high performing and lower performing campaigns.  Using this information allows a marketer to better understand what drives purchases and use this information to reach the primary market with the ideal message.


These metrics are used to determine the number of times a single visitor returns to your website.  Online newspaper sites are a clear example of a site built around retention – visitors typically visit the site one or more times per day.

Some good metrics for retention include:

  • Returning Visitors
  • % of Returning Visitors
  • Visits per Month (or week, or day)
  • Monthly Sales per Visitor
  • Recurring Sales or Subscriptions

A social media network, local media netorks or ecommerce companies will be interested in tracking two metrics – new visitors and returning visitors.  These measures combined with conversion rate can predict revenue.  Reliable returning visitors also show marketers the value of advertising on your property.

Putting Analytics into Action!

So we have discussed briefly discussed website goals and a structure for selecting website metrics.  The next step is to put this into action – for each metric an analysis should be determined – why has this metric improved?  declined? stayed the same?  And what can we do to improve this metric.

Each metric has some standard approaches.  For example, conversion rate is a very critical metric in ecommerce websites.  If the conversion rate is lower than expected, what steps can be taken to make an improvement.  The list is long but possibilities include:

  • A/B Testing of Landing Pages
  • Review of the Complete Sales Funnel
  • Conversion Rate by Traffic Source

Each of these will tell your critical information about what your site vistors are interested in and how to improve your site.  The next step is to test this knowledge – create new versions of your landing pages, new services, new pricing all in an effort to continue to better understand your customers, because in the end what analytics really does is help you understand your customers better.

Please feel free to share what you have tried with your website and what metrics work for your specific situation.

Have fun learning and experimenting. 


Further Reading 

Avinash Kaushik, Eight Rules for Choosing Web Analytics Key Performance Indicators,

Web Analytics Demystified, The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators,

Web Analytics as a Means to an End, By Jason Burby, ClickZ,

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