How to Use Analytics to Gain and Retain the Right Users
Thanks to the emergence of big data, page tags, and analytics tools, brands and online publishers really have a lot of things going for them in data department. It’s never been this easy to gather visitor intelligence, and website owners nowadays recognize the value of analytics so they’re more than happy to track their site metrics, test components, and generate reports.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that while site owners are certainly looking at their analytics, they’re not always paying attention to the right numbers. The fact is not all metrics are created equal. While it may be easier to look at the numbers on the surface (i.e. page views, total number of users, etc.), these aren't necessarily the data points that would give you the pulse of your website or company. These aren't the numbers that will tell you how your users are doing and what action steps you need to take to keep them happy.
Tracking surface metrics alone is like opening a book and looking at its pictures without reading the text. You won’t understand the entire story and you won’t get the deeper and more valuable takeaways of the book.
What to track + what to do
Stick with metrics that you can actually deduce action steps from. Go beyond the “good to know” numbers and find the ones that you can really do something about.
Such metrics include:
1. Most popular content on your site - Don’t be one of those sites that produce a killer blog post one day, only to publish a lackluster one the next. That’s no way to make it in the online world. You need to sustain your website’s traffic and engagement.
One way of doing this is by tracking the performance of your content to see which ones resonated the most with your audience. Take a look at the content that you already have and rank posts according to their popularity.
Then ask yourself, what do the ones on top have in common? Is there a specific theme or topic that’s present in all of them? Maybe it’s a matter of the TYPE of content on your site (i.e. text posts, images, videos, etc). Be sure to determine the common denominator among your high performance posts so you can plan your editorial calendar accordingly.
The most popular piece of content on your site could be that controversial blog post you published last week, the infographic you created, or even the photo of your cat that you turned into a meme. Whatever it is, be sure to make more of it.
2. Browsing patterns – Instead of just focusing on the number of site visitors that you have, also pay attention to HOW those users behave.
Looking at how users interact with your site can give you a great deal of information about what’s working and what isn’t. What links did users click on? Which pages did they spend the most or least amount of time on?
The answers to the above questions can give insights about your website’s design, copy, and functionality–all of which are crucial to getting people to convert. They tell you which components need tweaking or further optimization so you can give users a better browsing experience.
3. Timing – Timing can make or break the launch of product, the performance of an email, or even the engagement level of a single tweet, so don’t overlook it.
Don’t forget to ask the important “when” or “what time” questions. When do your users usually visit your website? What time do they open your emails? Take note of these things then take action.
You can start by testing which days of the week are optimal for publishing new content. Also be sure to look at the optimal time of day to send email. A/B test messages sent in the morning, afternoon, and evening for different types of audiences and see if you can spot significant changes. Doing so will enable you to determine the best day and time to publish blog posts or send out newsletters.
4. Your best customers – Want more loyal customers, fans, or brand evangelists? Then get to know your best visitors so you can find more people similar to them. Who are they? What types of content do they like? More importantly, where did they come from and how did they find you?
All the tips mentioned earlier in this article are best applied to users who bring in the most engagement and revenue. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you really don’t have to analyze the behavior of every single user that clicks through your site. (Not all sites have the time and resources to do so anyway.) Do yourself—and your best users a favor and only focus on the how’s and why’s of your most loyal patrons and double down on those users so you can acquire (and retain) more people like them.
5. Past purchases (for E-commerce sites) – It’s hard to see where you’re going if you don’t look at where you’ve been. Aside from determining which products did well (and why), the previous purchases of your customers can also indicate what they’re going to buy next. From there you’ll be able infer what deals to offer or what items to put on sale. Popular retailer Target executed this quite well when it figured out that a girl was pregnant simply by looking at her purchase history.
Examine consumers’ past purchases to spot patterns in their buying behavior then use those trends to determine what deals to send. Be thorough and look at each of your customer’s purchase histories at an individual level so you can send tailored deals and coupons.
Remember that people have varying tastes and preferences so providing a “one size fits all” type of deal to your entire customer base just won’t cut it anymore. Getting personal and letting consumers establish a connection with your brand can only be done by really getting to know them and providing tailored experiences. Looking at past purchases is one of the best and easiest ways to obtain the knowledge needed to do that.
What are the most important metrics for your website? Share your insights in the comments below!
Image credit: Search Engine People Blog on Flickr