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A beginner guide to web analytics

To get a full picture of how well your website’s working, it’s vital to get a firm grip on the tools that analyze how each part of it functions. But it’s easy to get intimidated by the full assortment of statistics and information that comprises a web analytical interface.

Fortunately, a beginner doesn’t have to jump headlong into the entire scope of analysis to get started. Learning a few basic pieces of available data can help them grasp the fundamentals of website analysis. After spending a little time with these five aspects of web analysis, it becomes easier to get acclimated to the more advanced, complex figures down the road. Here are five data points to begin with.

Overall site traffic

Perhaps the easiest analytical concept that everyone can understand is how many visits the website gets over a given amount of time. This figure relates to how much attention your site’s getting, and you should check it as often as you can.

Site traffic evolves over time. In the vast majority of cases, a new site isn’t going to get overwhelming amounts of traffic, so it’s important to temper expectations. However, if a site has been around for a while and is still generating the same amount of traffic it got during its first month, something needs to be adjusted. The main takeaway is to monitor site traffic as frequently and consistently as possible to see its growth and find opportunities for improvement.

Bounce rate

This figure represents the number of visitors who view your homepage but leave before hitting another page on the domain. It’s measured as a percentage of how many visits you get compared to your overall traffic rate. The bounce rate for a typical web page usually lands somewhere between 20% and 70%. Lower bounce rates are better.

Higher bounce rates could be the result of several issues both practical and content-related. Pages may be taking too long to load, visitors may find navigation too difficult, or the content or design elements simply aren’t strong enough to compel people to stay. A good rule of thumb is to revisit your website’s elements if its bounce rate exceeds 30%.

Sources of traffic

Most new visitors get to your website through some sort of referral, whether it’s a Google search results page, links from marketing emails, or links from social media or external websites. Generally only repeated and frequent visitors access your website via the URL in their browsers. If they’re new to your site, they almost definitely got there from somewhere else.

Traffic source reports show where your new visitors are coming from. Although all external links are valuable, search engine referrals are the sources that require your most focus. If your search engine traffic is low, you may have to work on keyword and search string game plans.

Mobile and desktop visits

This data point is simple enough: It describes the devices people use to access your site. Given the huge expansion and ubiquity of smartphones, many webmasters use a “mobile-first” approach when it comes to web design—it’s becoming most users’ web device of choice, so it’s important to get your mobile presence right to attract more volume. If your mobile visits are sharply lower than desktop or laptop visits, you’ll want to take a closer look at your web design strategy.

New and recurrent visitors

Attracting new visitors to your site is always a primary goal. Growing your visitor base is key to expansion. But maintaining interest to frequent, repeated visitors to your site is important as well. They represent your “core” target audience, and just like any other business you want to ensure people are satisfied enough with your product to keep coming back.

If repeat visits comprise at least 30% of overall visits, you’re doing pretty well. If they fall below 20%, it may be time to produce new content or find other ways to make your website more alluring to your core audience.

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