Make (educated) guesses.
You can guess how your site is performing, or you can use web analytics to analyze and measure progress. Once you do that, you can take action to make adjustments as necessary.
Website statistics software is frequently set up but is either seldom referenced or seldom understood. It’s one thing to have the tool, but it’s another thing entirely to know how to use it.
Google Analytics is one of the most popular choices for web stats, and with good reason. It’s free, detailed, and powerful. But whether you use Google Analytics, AWStats, or another stats package, the concepts you learn using one can apply to the others.
Basics of web analytics include knowing the difference between a visit, a visitor, and a pageview; knowing what a bounce rate is and why it matters; and knowing what keywords are bringing visitors to your site.
You have a web analytics package set up for your site and you know what to look for. Double rainbow all the way. Now what? That depends on the questions you want to answer.
You can learn just about anything you want to about your site visitors except for who, specifically, is visiting your site. How are visitors finding your site? How long are they spending on the site when they find it via certain keywords? Do they view more than one page or leave shortly after entering the site? Does the site encourage return visitors or new ones? What is the most popular content on the site? The least popular? And so on.
It’s good to have goals. In the context of web analytics, goals tell you how effective campaigns are. Is a call-to-action button on the homepage as effective as a link in the navigation menu? Are people more likely to contact you from the form on the contact page or the form on your biography page? Are relevant keywords that you’re not yet directly targeting bringing in traffic?
The more you know about your campaigns, the more you can improve them. Web analytics allow you to quantify success rather than just guess, and that’s valuable.
It’s not enough to look at statistics and to come to conclusions. Action is necessary. Without action, a site stagnates, and the effort spent looking at the web analytics is wasted.
The site adjustment(s) that happens next is up to what the statistics reveal and your own priorities, time, and budget. But it should always happen, even if the adjustments are minor. Change keeps a site fresh, and the benefit of a higher quality site can only help the end goal of the site, no matter what that may be.