This is an excerpt from an article by Onespacemedia in The Guardian Small Business Network.
Understanding how people find your website, how they use it and how long they stay is vital to managing your site's performance.
Analytics tools like Google Analytics give businesses detailed insights into site performance - but it's important to understand the basics.
People will arrive on your website from a range of sources, including search engines, social media and other webpages. If your visitor numbers are low, you need to improve your search engine optimisation (SEO). It is believed there are at least 200 criteria considered by Google. These include user experience, back links, signals from social media and regularly updated content.
Choosing a tool
There are a number of tools available to analyse your web traffic. Some of these are entirely free and others have advanced features that are paid for – so-called freemium models. Google Analytics' (GA) is arguably the most popular analytics tool and the free version is usually sufficient for most small businesses, but it’s easy to overlook some of its many features.
By default, the GA dashboard gives an overview of data derived from a website as well as more detailed information under five main headings: Real time, audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversions.
Acquisition and behaviour
Acquisition shows you how your site acquired visitors and breaks down both organic traffic, paid keywords and organic keywords.
Behaviour, on the other hand, shows you in detail how users navigate your site. This includes how many exit your site after viewing just one page (bounce rate), how long they spend on your site, and how many pages they view (tracked before 30 minutes of inactivity).
Find your site’s weaknesses
Under the behaviour tab is a section called behaviour flow. This shows the path visitors normally take from when they visit your site to when they exit. It can help you diagnose potential problems – you might find a lot of visitors are exiting on the same page, for example. As a result, you could shorten the page, add a call to action (such as sign up or buy now), or include more images.
Check site speed
You want your site to load as quickly as possible – a slower site means a bad user experience and higher bounce rate. Site speed also contributes to search engine rankings. You can check your average site speed via the behaviour tab.
Find out what visitors are searching for
If you’ve got a search box on your site, set up site search using the tips here. This will give you access to information such as how many times the search box has been used, what terms people searched for and how many page views were generated through searches.
As of May 2015, mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches. Your website should already be optimised for mobile but you can check if it is using Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. Just enter your URL and the test will show screenshots of how your site looks on mobile and highlight usability issues like small font sizes. Google Analytics can also tell you how many people are viewing, or trying to view, your site in mobile.