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the top tens

By simply measuring and monitoring the right metrics, this free analytics service provides all types, and sizes, of organizations with the metrics and insights they need to implement lasting growth strategiesANDREW KELLY/Reuters

The Internet has made researching, collecting and comparing information instantaneous. A simple Google search can give virtually anyone, any information that they desire with the click of a button – and in today's highly competitive marketplace, this is exactly why every business should carefully monitor the performance of its website.

As one of the farthest reaching communication tools available, a website is accessible to consumers 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year, or in other words – at all times. However, despite its continuous visibility, many small business executives neglect website analytics to when making strategic business decisions.

The good news is that business owners and staff can change old habits and begin to make informed decisions by incorporating website analytics into their marketing toolbox.

One of the most widely used, user-friendly and comprehensive of these tools is Google Analytics. By simply measuring and monitoring the right metrics, this free analytics service provides all types, and sizes, of organizations with the metrics and insights they need to implement lasting growth strategies. Yet, what metrics provide the most value and insights when making tactical website content and marketing decisions? Here is the answer in a nutshell.

1. Audience location. The audience location metric reveals the geographic areas that your website content is reaching. Using this metric, small businesses will have the insights they need to help make important decisions in respect to targeting both existing and new markets. For example, if results from this metric display that the majority website traffic is being generated from areas outside the primary geographic target market, this may indicate that new geo-specific marketing content needs to be created in order to more effectively engage the target audience. Or, it could reveal an emerging market and area of opportunity.

2. Audience engagement. The audience engagement metric simply shows how effectively you are capturing your audience's attention via a number of metrics, including visitor visit duration, number of page views and number of pages accessed.

The page visit duration metric monitors the time that any given visitor spends on a page, before navigating to another page. It is important to note that if only a single page is viewed, the average visit duration will display as a zero to 10 second visit. Average visit duration will vary depending on the type of page (i.e. homepage, landing page, registration page, etc.) that visitors are accessing. For example, a landing page associated with a news article is likely to have a short visit duration time. Adding content and placing calls to action will often entice visitors to remain on certain pages longer, as well as encourage them to visit more pages.

3. Mobile traffic behaviour. In today's tech-driven environment, understanding and utilizing the mobile traffic behaviour is a must. With mobile device internet searches increasing from year to year, businesses can use this metric as an indicator in regard to whether or not their site is mobile friendly.

Specifically, this metric displays mobile traffic growth behaviour. By making a year-to-year comparison of mobile traffic growth, organizations can gain insights into their overall mobile site experience. If websites are not optimized for smartphone and tablet users, then visitors using these devices will likely spend less time on the site. Therefore, in addition to measuring mobile traffic growth overtime, it is important look at metrics such as time on site and average visit duration.

4. Traffic sources. The traffic sources metric shows the means by which visitors are accessing a website. By determining the various sources of traffic, which include direct traffic, social media, referrals and organic searches, organizations can determine the strengths and specific opportunities for growth in their web marketing strategy.

It is important to understand that if website growth is desired, direct traffic should not be the leading source of incoming visitors. Instead, businesses should focus on posting the right type of content for their targeted audience and ensure that their site is optimized for search engines in an effort to increase referral and organic traffic.

5. Social media traffic. Coinciding with the mobile traffic behaviour metric, the social media traffic metric reveals how social media drives website traffic. Analyzing this metric will expose the sources of social media referrals, and more importantly, help business teams to determine where they want to focus their future marketing efforts. For a more in-depth look into social media traffic metrics, shared reports can be downloaded from Google Analytics Custom Report Sharing forum. Additionally, tools such as HootSuite and Klout offer metrics and statistics for various social media platforms.

6. Site content trends. Using the site content trends metric, the performance of individual web pages can be evaluated. A year-to-year comparison can reveal trends over certain seasons, during certain events or marketing campaigns or around specific posts and promotions, allowing you to recreate or cater marketing content around specific criteria.

7. Page bounce rates. A 'bounce' occurs when a visitor leaves a website after only visiting one page. It is important to understand that landing page bounce rates are better predictors of the success or failure of individual pages than overall site page bounce rates. By carefully monitoring individual page bounce rates, organizations can identify areas of their site and specific web pages that need improvement. Non-performing pages can be transformed with the addition of new content and calls to action that engage the intended target audience.

8. Site search behaviour. The site search behaviour metric can be used to measure the intent of website visitors. The metric encompasses three different reports, each of which provides unique information that can be used to identify missing information that the audience is seeking.

More specifically, the site search usage report displays how many website visits included search activity, the search terms report indicates what each visitor is seeking in their own words and the pages report reveals which specific pages were searched and how the visitor reacted to the search results. Statistics derived from these metrics can be used to improve search engine optimization keywords, as well as help to identify gaps in content.

9. Events. The events metric provides website owners with keen insights into user engagement by displaying a summary of the on-page activities of users. Specific reports display the activity and patterns of users scrolling through specific web pages. For example, events including when the page was loaded and scrolling activity can be determined using this metric (this feature is only possible with a custom setup within a website). This information can be used to test the best placement of calls to action on any given web page.

10. Funnel visualization. Using the funnel visualization metric, businesses can measure goals, which have been established to map out a series of desired responses that visitors have when they access their sites. The goal funnel shows the per cent of visitors that are converting to subsequent steps throughout the process, and if they don't, where they navigate to instead. Based on the percentage of visitors that convert throughout each step in the funnel, businesses can detect breaking points in the click stream and make necessary changes in content to increase conversions.

As iterated above, measuring and monitoring the website performance metrics is critical to every organization's marketing and communication strategy. Although the 10 metrics outlined above provide just a glimpse at the measurement capabilities of Google Analytics, they offer business executives and their teams a place to start measuring for success.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers.

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