This is part 1 of 2 (maybe more) about analytics. It's important to measure what our websites are doing in terms of traffic, bounce rates, content, and other metrics. This will serve as an intro to website analytics or website statistics.
First of all, the real beauty of the web is that nearly everything is measurable if you know what you're looking for. Back in the early days of the web, people counted “hits.” That was the very first very rudimentary statistic that webmasters tracked. As long as “hits” went up, things were peachy.
Except they weren't.
Hits are like people going to the grocery store but not buying anything. It's “nice” to be known and to know that people are being exposed to your content on your website, but it really doesn't matter–at the end of the day–how many people hit your website if they don't buy.
HIts became so followed and watched that entire companies sprouted up that did nothing other than put a banner on your website that showed the number of hits it received. Hits became a bragging tool: “My site got 2,348 hits last month.”
“Well, mine got 8,457!”
Big deal. Today, we have the capability of not only seeing the number of hits our websites receive, but so much more. More on that in part 2.
Now I mentioned that nearly everything is measurable, so long as you use a measuring device. In the old days, you had to get yourself neck-deep in “web logs.” These are logs that record a ton of stuff about your site, who visits, where they come from, where they go, what they read, for how long they read it, and a myriad of other interesting and sometimes useful stuff.
It was quite burdensome to try to review all of this data yourself. So another cottage industry sprang up: Applications that could parse the data into chunks of readable material.
Today, we don't have to mess with any of that. Thanks to the almighty google, we have google “analytics.” By simply telling google your website domain and placing a small snippet of code on every webpage you have, you can get a plethora of data, all parsed and pretty so that you can spend the next 23 1/3 hours looking at “bounce rates.”
Seriously, folks, google has made it SO EASY to analyze your web statistics that it's not funny. Here's what you need to do today:
- Go to http://google.com/analytics
- Sign up
- Get the code
- Place the code on every page you want to track (that's all of them)
Putting the code on every page can be onerous. However, it's BONUS time! If you have a WordPress blog, you don't have to put the code on every page. You merely go here:
Install that plugin, place your unique google tracking code in the appropriate field (it's all very self-explanatory), and you're off.
The plugin actually–on the fly–places the Google code in each of your pages, as they're accessed, and captures an incredible amount of data.
Here's a screen shot of the google analytics dashboard. Don't worry–there's a LOT more than this on that site. It's incredible the amount of information that is at your easy disposal.
Next up: All the data you can track, what it means, and how you can use it. Maybe this series requires at least 3 more parts!
I also want to mention that you can get caught up in all the data. Another plugin that you can use that is much more streamlined is called NewStatPress. It gives more of the nuts and bolts and less of the detailed data. It's a good snapshot of how your website is performing. But it's not nearly as powerful as google analytics.