Creating a website is a great first step in developing your online presence. What’s next though? How do you ensure that you’re achieving your goals? Web analytics is a vital tool for any website owner to gauge website performance. There are various tools that you can use, but the purpose is the same. You want to know if your website is actually achieving your goals. There is an initial cost of developing your website, and there are costs associated with maintaining and updating it. Web analytics is one way of monitoring your investment in your online identity.
Key performance indicators
Before you can effectively analyse your website’s performance, you have to decide on what your goals are. By defining key performance indicators (KPIs), you are setting a baseline for evaluating your success. Do you want to have a certain number of visitors per month? Are you trying to get a certain number of visitors to fill out a specific form? Maybe you are trying to sell a certain number of your brand’s leading product. Having specific goals will help you to better understand what data you need to look at. This narrows your focus and allows you to choose the metrics that are relevant to you for a deeper dive and further analysis.
Choosing the right web analytics software
Most web hosts offer some basic form of website statistics. This measures website traffic to your website based on your web host’s logs. While this is useful, it may not drill down into enough detail to help you in decision-making. For more in-depth data, you will need specific website analytics software. Fortunately, you can find free proprietary and open source solutions to this problem.
One of the most popular web analytics software is Google Analytics. Google Analytics integrates into other Google products such as AdSense, Google Tag Manage, Google Search Console, and Looker Studio. It provides a plethora of useful data about your visitors. This data, will however, be processed by Google based on the company’s policies and some people are not okay with that. If you choose to use Google Analytics, you need to pay careful attention to what data is collected, who it is shared with, and how you are required to disclose this information on your own website.
The amount of data that can be garnered from Google Analytics can sometimes be overwhelming. Looker Studio is a very useful tool for creating reports from Google Analytics data in a visually appealing way. You can select specific metrics to highlight for a specific period of time. You can also set up the reports to be emailed to a specific email address at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly or custom date).
Matomo (formerly Piwik)
A popular open source web analytics solution is Matomo (formerly Piwik) which allows you to install analytics software on your own server. Unlike Google Analytics, you can install Matomo on your own server for free, or pay for a cloud hosted solution. The self-hosted solution has to be connected to a database and there are a few configuration steps required. However, once configured, the data collected is stored on your web host’s servers which you have access to. You are responsible for securing this data and limiting access to it, but it also reduces the access that third-parties have to this data.
Like with Looker Studio, you can also schedule daily, weekly or monthly email reports in Matomo. These metrics may not be as visually customizable as in Looker Studio, but it is still useful.
Integrating web analytics into your website
Web developers like SeizerStyle Designs usually handle the process of integrating web analytics into a website. After you have selected the web analytics software you would like to use, you have to configure it for your website. To verify that you own the website that you want to be tracked, you will need access to the website’s files. You can then insert tracking code provided by the web analytics software into the webpages that you want to be tracked. Understandably, you may not be comfortable doing this yourself. A web developer can insert the relevant code in your website and ensure that it is working correctly.
Whenever you collect data about your website visitors, you have to consider the privacy implications. Laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulate what data can be stored and how it can be stored for citizens within the European Union. Even if this is not your primary target market, you should cater for these visitors if you intend on having a truly global website. It is also just a good practice to make your visitors aware of what personally identifiable information is being collected and stored by your website.
Also note that some browsers may indicate when a site is using tracking by displaying an icon indicating this. Some browsers also provide tracking protection that can block tracking of individuals that may block analytics software.
Should you use web analytics?