What should you track on a website?

If you've got a website, but you're not tracking your visitors with even basic analytics, or you say "I had my web guy set up Google Analytics once but I've never looked at it", you're missing out on a HUGE learning opportunity about the effectiveness of your site. This starter's guide to analytics and what's important to track will give you the first few steps to understanding visitor behaviours.

Imagine you're setting up for a party at your house and deciding how to set up a buffet for people to serve themselves. You organise three big long tables (this is a decent buffet!) and then run into a question... Do you put the knives and forks at the start of the process or the end?

Is it worse for people to be annoyed having to carry their cutlery the whole time, or get confused by separating out where you get a plate from where you get your cutlery?

It's a seemingly banal thing to fuss about, but the point is this: You're not going to know what the most  efficient way to do this is, until you have people stand in a line watch for either one problem or the other.

Now imagine you run a catering company. Imagine if you never took the time to tell what the most effective way to run a buffet was. Now you're potentially pissing off patrons day after day when you could have just watched to see what happens with the first group, fix it up and move on to making it an even better experience. 

The same goes for website analytics. They're coming to your digital buffet. Are you pissing them off?

I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty of how to set up the Google Analytics (GA) scripts, etc. You can google that in 20 seconds and find 1000 articles on how to do it. I'm more interested in what to track and break down what that means for you and your business.

So let's go.

Track live data during a launch to see where people go

Let me start with the very website you're on as an example.​ The day I launched Roarify and told family and friends it was live, I watched analytics in real-time as they went through it. GA allows you to see 'real-time' data, meaning you can stalk people as they jump from page to page (you can see the data later anyway, but it's fun watching it live).

On day one, I noticed that despite all my efforts to make a clean home page design, 40% of people had gone to my privacy policy page - a link in the footer of the site. Confused, I took a look at my home page and sure enough, there was no call to action at the bottom. The page just ended and so, naturally, people were left wondering where to click, and got stuck into the footer menu as the next logical place to navigate towards. Great... not.

I changed the bottom of my home page so it had a new custom menu before people got to the footer, and I've pretty much never had a visitor to the privacy policy as a first action coming from the home page since.

Homepage custom menu change

The lesson: You might think your design is flawless, but data tells a clearer (and more truthful) story.

Imagine I didn't make the change and I kept getting people do the same thing. For the sake of the illustration, let's go more conservative and say that 10% of visitors end up on that privacy policy page.

Now imagine paying for FB ads and 10% of them go to the privacy policy page. Is it cost effective to throw away 10% to a legal jargon page? No way! Do you know what people do on your site?

Do the buttons on your site get any love?

People seem to have this fascination with filling their website with paragraphs of text about everything they do and 15 call to action buttons for every service or product they've ever offered.

But is that effective? You wouldn't know if you're not tracking it.

Buy button example

In fact, research shows that landing pages with just a single call to action are much more effective.

While you're at it, here's a good article just on buttons.

Try adding custom links to track your buttons so you can isolate them in analytics. A good way to do this is to create UTM links.

UTM's are basically a way of telling analytics the source of the link they are referring​ (in this case) around your site. That means that if you have someone clicking on a button from the homepage, you can isolate that in your analytics account from the visitors who navigate to that page using the menu bar for example. This shows up in the Acquisition > Source/Medium section of your analytics account.

Using a UTM link won't affect the user experience for your site visitor, the link will still go through to the same destination, it's just that in your analytics you can see that they clicked that particular button.​

It probably sounds hard, but UTMs are super easy to create. You can create UTM's for free here, and they take you step by step through it:

Campaign URL Builder

You simply fill in your UTM parameters:

Example of UTM parameters

And it'll spit out a custom link to use:​

Example of a UTM link

What is your primary call to action?

To put that another way, what's the one action that, if they did nothing else and then left, you'd want your visitor to take? This might be:

  • Download your lead magnet to join your mailing list
  • Opt-in to hear more about your product
  • Fill in a contact form
  • Read your blog
  • Find out where your store is

Whatever the action is, make it suuuuper obvious. Then track it in analytics and see how many people are actually doing it. Got a slide-in or pop-up that people are just ignoring or closing straight away, tweak, test and try to improve it. A 1% improvement today means minimising your losses tomorrow and the next day and so on forever.

What do people do after the homepage?

This is something that often gets overlooked. It's called the second interaction. You can see this graphically, by clicking on Behaviour > Behaviour flow in your analytics account.

As a standard, your home page should have the most views as most organic and direct traffic will go to your home page, unless of course you're running a campaign to a specific page on your site. 

The most important questions to ask about the second interaction page (the most common page that people click through to from the homepage) is:

  • Is this where I want people to go? If not, why are they going there? 
  • What does this page say? 
  • When did I last update the page? Does it show your business in the best light, or is it an out-dated, robotic-sounding 'About Us' page?
  • Where are my visitors going from there? (if they are leaving, fix the page, test to see if you can get a better click through rate to where you want site visitors to go).

What devices do your visitors use?

You can find this information in Google Analytics in your main dashboard's Sessions by Browser​. This information is critical to the design of your site.

If 95% of your audience are coming from mobile devices because you drive traffic from Instagram for example, you need to make sure that the mobile experience on your site is absolutely schmick! Anything clunky in design, and people will click off your site. See ya later.

SIDE NOTE: At Roarify, all our sites are 100% mobile responsive so that you get a consistent look and feel across desktop and mobile devices. We do customise for mobile too though if something on desktop doesn't translate well on mobile.

On top of that, you want to see what operating system and browser they're on, then get a preview for the most common. As a minimum, if you have a good looking layout for iOS (iPhone) and Android for your site, you should be fine - that'll cover most people viewing on mobile.

As a minimum, I'd add iPad to that list, because a tablet layout of your site (being about half way between desktop and mobile in size), can re-stack pretty weirdly sometimes.

You can check your layout by screen size using this free online tool:

​AM I RESPONSIVE

Simply pop in your web address and click go and it'll show you each one:


This is a quick guide for people tracking NOTHING at the moment (or tracking but not looking at it). As you can see, looking at behaviours can show you what to tweak.

In some cases, like my homepage design oversight, this can have a lasting impact that you otherwise won't even know about.

What is it that you don't know you're missing?

What do you track on your site? I'd love to hear what you recognised by look at analytics and what difference it made. 

Eric

Eric is a self-described 'cool geek'. When he's not skating on his pink Penny, running or riding with his son in tow in "the chariot", Eric loves to get stuck into the nitty gritty data and learn the latest info and techniques about digital marketing and website design.