Most small business owners invest a considerable amount of money in their websites. They pay for domain registration and hosting. They hire a website designer and a copywriter. They may even have a website manager on payroll. Some go even further, hiring graphic artists, social media consultants, and SEO specialists.
And after all that, a shocking number of small business owners don’t bother to check their website performance reports to make sure their investment is paying off. I’ve worked with clients who have installed a tracking system on their websites but never checked the reports; I’ve even had a few clients who never installed these systems. They have no way of knowing how their website is performing.
These small business owners may have paid thousands of dollars over time for their websites, but they have no idea whether their sites are getting any visitors, which means those dollars might be going to waste.
The problems don’t stop there. Some small business owners do check their website performance reports, but they don’t truly assess the reports to see how their sites are actually performing. It’s not enough to glance at how many visitors are passing through. We need to understand who’s coming to the site and why, what they’re doing there and whether the site is successfully converting those visitors to customers.
Some Traffic Statistics Are Misleading
It’s easy to check your website performance reports and come away with the sense that your site is performing well, even when it’s not. Some of the data on such a report is easily misread, and often, reports are not checked thoroughly or properly analyzed. Here are a few common mistakes that people make when assessing their websites’ performance:
- Visits: Do you log in to your reporting tool, check the number of hits your site has received, and then move on? Did you know some of the visits that are registered don’t really count? For example, search engine spiders crawl your site regularly to index it in the search engine result pages. These aren’t real people. Also, one visitor can come to your site a hundred times in a single week. Your reports might show a hundred visits, but your site only hosted a single visitor. Make sure you check and compare both the number of visits and the number of visitors.
- Not all visitors are customers. Some of the people who visit your site will be your competitors. Some will be people who landed there on accident. Some will be your friends and family. The number of visitors does not translate directly to the number of customers or even potential customers.
- Don’t get too excited if it looks like your visitors are spending a lot of time on your site. I often keep several tabs open in my browser. I might walk away from my computer while a website is open. These and other behaviors can make it look like people are spending more time on your site than they actually are.
- Bounce rate: It might look like people are landing on your site and quickly clicking away if you have a high bounce rate. But it’s possible some visitors popped in to grab your phone number or check your hours of operation. A quick visit isn’t necessarily a bad one.
- Search engine traffic: You might get excited when you see that thousands of visitors found your site on a search engine. But it’s important to dig deeper and see which keywords actually brought them to your site. Random phrases from the text on your site can draw a lot of search engine traffic that may not be a match for your business.
In-Depth Analysis and Determining ROI
At-a-glance analytics will give you a good overview of how your site is performing, despite the fact that some of the data may be slightly inaccurate. Depending on how big your website is and how often you update it, you can get enough information by checking the basic statistics once a week or once a month. However, it’s a good idea to do an in-depth analysis on a regular basis. For most sites, quarterly or annually should suffice.
Here are a few tips for conducting a deeper analysis of your website performance reports:
- Check heat maps: Heat maps show which areas of your site users viewed and clicked. These maps can tell you which links and buttons are getting the most action. Are users clicking on banners? Are they following your call to action? Are they clicking your buy-now buttons? If these elements are not getting clicks, you might want to rethink your presentation.
- Align your website performance statistics with your site’s revenue. Chart the number of unique visitors alongside the revenue the site earned during the same time period and track those numbers over time to see how they correlate.
- Check keywords that drew traffic. This is especially necessary if you’re using SEO on your website. However, even if your site is not optimized, it’s a good idea to examine the keywords that drew traffic, since this might give you insight to what visitors were originally looking for when they found your site. You can then determine whether they were looking for whatever you offer.
- Demographics: If you run a local business, you’ll want to check your visitors’ demographics. A business that serves clients in a particular geographic region won’t benefit from website visitors that live outside that region.
- Technology: Reports can tell you whether visitors viewed your site from a computer or a mobile device. They can tell you which platform (Mac or PC) and browser (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer) your visitors were using. While this data is not relevant to all businesses, it could provide insight. For example, Macs are more expensive than PCs. Internet Explorer is not favored by tech professionals. And if many visitors are using mobile devices, you’ll want to make sure your site is responsive, which means it displays well on such devices.
Do You Truly Understand Your Website Performance Reports?
Even if you frequently check your website’s statistics, make sure you regularly run detailed reports and give them an in-depth analysis. Put this task on your calendar and when it rolls around, don’t put it off.
Melissa Donovan is a website consultant and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward and the author of over seven books.