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Using analytics to get more customers

If you run an online store, it’s pretty likely you’ll already be using an analytics service. If not, here’s a brief rundown: ‘analytics’ is a type of software that measures the number of people coming into your site. It shows where they come from, what they’re looking for, the path they take moving around the site, and at which point they leave.

The most popular analytics service used by small business is also a free one – Google Analytics. While there are more comprehensive options available, Google’s product is reliable and accurate enough for small business purposes. You may need a web developer to install it on your site, but, once it’s live, it’s very easy to use.

Analytics is the most effective way of telling if a site is doing its job. If used correctly, it can give you an impression of which parts of the site are getting the most attention, and at which point visitors leave the site. Businesses can use this knowledge to further cater to the parts of their site that visitors like most, and work to improve the parts that cause them to leave.

In a nutshell, this is how you can use analytics to get more online customers. The more you know about how visitors react to your site, the more you can tweak it to meet their expectations and give them what they want. But before you use analytics data to make any major changes, it’s important to get a few basic things on board.

What are you already doing well?

The most immediately useful thing about analytics is that it can show which parts of your site are currently the most relevant and popular to visitors.

“Once they’re at the site, you need to then understand what parts of your site are important,” says Chris Tew, executive vice president Asia/Pacific at analytics company Alterian. “Which bits of the site are actually working, from an analytics point of view?”

It’s important for a business to play to its strengths. The wonderful thing about analytics is that it can reveal strengths that you didn’t know your business had.

While you might place emphasis on a particular product offline, analytics can often show if other, less focal parts of your business have greater appeal online. If an aspect of the business that was previously thought to be minor starts to generate traffic to your site, then that’s a reasonable indication of a potential new market. With this in mind, it’s wise to listen to what analytics tells you about your site as it stands, before you start to refine sales channels.

“Which pages do people find interesting, which are the top journeys? Which are the funnels? How does somebody that buys something from your site, which are the pages they go to, and which are the pages they go to most often,” asks Tew. “You can start to work out how somebody comes to the journey, and therefore which are the most effective roots to drive somebody for arriving at the site to closing the deal.”

Where are customers coming from?

Once you’ve identified what works on your site, it’s time to consider how it can be improved to meet visitor expectations.

The first step in improving a site is to understand where its visitors are coming from. If you know how visitors are being referred to your site, you can get a better idea of what they might want to see when they arrive.

“Are people coming from Google, are they coming from a Facebook strategy you might have? Are they coming from any other online advertising strategies that you might have to drive them to your site,” asks Tew. “If you don’t know that, or if you see them coming from simple search engine optimisation (SEO), then that’s where you should spend more time.”

For more on how SEO and how to use it, read How to get SEO right the first time.

If the majority of your traffic comes from Google, for example, analytics can show what they’re looking for by presenting the keywords they’re using to find your site.

“If people are searching for the product terms that you use, all well and good,” says Tew. “But if they’re searching for product terms that you sell but you don’t use those terms, then you need to think about [changing] that.”

Alternatively, if analytics shows that traffic is coming from another site, then the nature of that site may reveal useful, new things about this stream of visitors.

“Then you can start to really close the loop, and say ‘These people bought this. They came from such-and-such a source. They went on to be good customers,’” explains Tew.

Depending on the volume of visitors coming from any one source, it might be worth creating a specific product landing page or blog post to address a particular stream of traffic. Jon Tinberg, partner at the Digital Marketing Agency, suggests it might be worthwhile strengthening the relationship with such traffic sources by offering to write a guest blog post on a topic relevant to your shared audiences.

“Say someone’s built a site about financial planning, and there’s an article about budgeting for a family holiday, and it links through to family holiday provider,” he says. “Those referring sites are often showing you closely-aligned audiences that you can reach out to and find a blog post for, and get more traffic. Make it reciprocal, with a blog post from them on your site.”

What’s the purpose of the site?

Before you can start to refine its conversion funnels, it’s important you have the purpose of the website clearly defined.

“Be really clear about what you want the website to do. As long as you can define those goals quite clearly and you can prioritise those goals, that’s probably the best way to kick it off,” says Andrew Knibbe, marketing manager at website auction site Flippa.

This holds true both for the business and for its customers. Analytics data is only useful for getting more conversions if the basic layout of your site makes sense to visitors. It needs to show them what your site offers, and provide a simple way to navigate around it.

“We see a lot of small businesses make decisions about their website with no, or limited, information. They make design and content choices about what they like, or what they think about,” says Tinberg.

Wherever a visitor lands on a business site, they need to be greeted by two things: information that’s relevant to what led them there, and an obvious way to pursue their interest.

This idea of providing a way for visitors to further investigate what they’re looking for is often referred to as a ‘funnel’ – usually a ‘conversion funnel’ or a ‘sales funnel’. Ideally, a visitor will follow the funnel through to its logical conclusion: a conversion. Depending on the business, this might be involve buying a product, sending an email or calling for a quote.

To encourage this, your site needs to provide clear, logical steps from page to page. This way, if they are going to buy a product, they can easily follow their line of inquiry all the way to the checkout.

Also, this logic needs to be maintained on each level of the website – the visitor needs to know why they are where they are, whether that’s on the landing page or checkout page, or any page that links the two. If there aren’t coherent navigation paths in place, then it’s going to be much more difficult to tell which parts of the site are working and which are turning visitors away.

The DMA’s Tinberg also points out that each page at each stage in the funnel needs to have a URL that contains keywords relevant to that page. This helps with SEO and also makes it easier for you to track their progress in analytics.

“Without a good foundation in your website, then you’re not going to be able to implement any of the strategies you might discover in your analytics,” he says. “If you don’t have keyword-rich URLs, it’s hard to look at the analytics and go ‘oh, ok, they’ve gone from tab ID 47 to page 49′ It’s just very hard to look at it and figure out what’s going on.”

Refining funnels

By this stage, you’ve created a logical series of steps for each key product that ends at a conversion page. Now, it’s time to sit back and watch the magic happen.

“This is where you look at things like where people are clicking on the page, and you look at what pages people are going through before they convert on your website,” says Tinberg.

Provided your site is set out with logical paths from landing page to conversion page, it should be easy for you to follow the full journey of visitors from woe to go.

This is where the opportunity to fine-tune each pathway comes into play. You can see where they come from, and see how long they spend on the relevant landing page they’ve been led to. From there, you can trace their clicks through the funnel and see if they convert, or if they drop off. If your site loses a significant number of people on a particular page in the process, then that something on that page needs to change.

If a page is losing visitors, try testing different copy, a different button leading to the next step, or a new URL and title for the page.

“First of all, more visitors is one thing [that shows it's working],” says Tew. “Then, at least you know that that either the subject matter, the menu title or whatever the hyperlink button is to get to that particular page is attractive so that people want to get there. Secondly that people will stay there to read it. And thirdly, does it sit in the route to success more often?”

Tinberg also suggests setting some analytics benchmarks to have something to aim for when refining your site.

“Benchmarking gives you some ideas of what to do. If your time on site isn’t that great, then maybe you should be trying to write better articles, or longer content,” he says.

“The key benchmarks are the number of page views, the time on site and the bounce rate. The average page view is about 4.5,” he says. If you’ve got less than that, you’ve got a problem, and maybe your navigation isn’t clear, or your content isn’t well organised.  People should be spending about five minutes on your site, and they should be looking at about 4-5 pages. People spend about 60 seconds per page.”

Finally, remember that if you’re not measuring anything on your site then you have no way of telling how successful it is. It may already drive some sales and conversions, but could it be doing more?

“It may be you could be twice as successful, or it may be that you’re paying more for your website than you actually need to. Or maybe you’re developing parts of it that just aren’t used,” says Alterian’s Tew. “Unless you’re measuring what you’re doing in as close a detail as you can, what you’re not understanding is why you are or you’re not successful. Without that, then you don’t know where your spending, either on advertising or your website itself, is valuable or not.

“It’s that old adage,” he continues. “’I know half of my marketing spend is valuable, but which half?’ That’s what small businesses need to know.”

Does your site need refining? Call 1300 638 734 and find out about Netregistry’s Site Refresh.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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