Some of you might feel that data is a four-letter word because, for you, the mere idea of being subjected to columns and rows of numbers is about as appealing as a week in the torture chamber. Then there are those of you, who instantly feel giddy about the notion of being surrounded with undeniable facts and figures at the mention of data.
I have found over the years that data and analytics conjure up one of two extreme reactions. But love data or hate data, we need to acknowledge that information is power. Data is nothing more than information. If you can measure it, you can manage it. Anything else is guesswork.
Analytics from your website are undeniably the best way to understand how your website is or isn't working for you. And don’t let the word analytics scare you, either. It is simply a fancy way of saying that you need to examine that investment called your website and take a look at how it’s performing. Is it bringing in business or driving it away? Is it providing the right answers and the right solutions, or is it turning your potential clients into a bunch of tire kickers who wander off to the next print provider? The answers to these and many more questions can be found in website analytics.
Whoever hosts your website should include an analytics tool as part of the service. If you haven’t seen any analytics, your first step, of course, is to ask for them. For those of you who are being provided with basic analytics, you might want to take a look at adding analytics software that offers more advanced information. Google Analytics is a good option that drills into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. There are dozens of others out there as well, so you may want to shop around a little if you feel that you don’t have access to the information you need.
Regardless of what analytics tool you use, let's break down the data and dig into the areas that you want to look at and what to do with that information.
Traffic and Time
What it is: If you are new to website analytics, you may be amazed at the depth of data, yet the information that may seem overwhelming at first glance is probably very basic when compared to what’s being measured online. The basics include total number of visitors, actions that individuals have taken, time visitors spend on the site—from total time for all visits to average time per visit. These numbers represent your starting point for analysis.
The bottom line: Are you getting the bang for your buck? If not, then you might bump up your efforts to get people to your website. Look at the technical side (search engine optimization and keyword usage) and the non-technical aspects of marketing and promotion. If you are getting the traffic, but have a very low time per visit, start looking at ways to compel your Web visitors to stay longer. Web design, content, relevance, and ease of use are all fair game.
What it is: Bounce rate refers to the frequency with which someone exits your site from the homepage without looking at any other pages on the site. Our industry fulfills needs-based purchases, meaning that an individual isn't going to randomly decide they need a direct mail campaign on an impulse. Knowing that we are a needs-based industry, your bounce rate should be relatively low. A healthy bounce rate for an average website for a printing solutions company should be around 20 percent.
The bottom line: If your bounce rate is above 20 percent or so, examine the language your homepage uses. Chances are your site is full of printing jargon rather than the language your customers speak. For example, let's say you use the term four-color printing or offset printing on the homepage. These are words used by the industry, but not necessarily by a print buyer. If visitors cannot relate to what you are saying, they will bounce very quickly. Also, give your visitors a reason to click into other pages. They need to feel at home on your homepage, but if you throw too much at them right away, you might scare them off.
What it is: Where do your customers really come from? Your analytics will let you know the points of origin for every visitor, whether they are local, regional, statewide, or national. Yes, the data will tell you where they’re sitting while they’re clicking.
The bottom line: Based on your business objectives, you can make modifications to your marketing so your site is in line with attracting people from the right place. You might discover, for instance, that the majority of your traffic comes from outside your town or even your state, even though your business focus hones in on the local market. The important item to note here is that you can modify your content, keywords, and SEO so that you get the traffic from those who you hope to serve.
What it is: Searches will tell you what keywords individuals entered to arrive at your site. This is a goldmine. There are people who spend thousands of dollars to know what keywords print buyers use when searching for a website. If they looked at their analytics, they could save a lot of time and money. By the way, we've found in our research that the top three searches are a company's name, a variant of the company's name, and another variant of a company’s name.
The bottom line: Continue to build your brand and company name recognition so that you’re the first name a print-buyer—one you’ve never met, who is sitting at her desk wondering where to print her next big campaign—will be thinking of your company, not someone else’s. Second, maximize usage of the keywords (use your analytics to determine these keywords) that are getting people to your site. Third, consider the keywords that people are not using and minimize those words in your content. Your gut may tell you that future customers will type “digital printing” into the search field, yet if that word is not showing up in your keywords on your analytics, then you should trust that the data doesn’t lie.
What it is: Content information tells you where on your website your visitors spend the most time. You just might be surprised where visitors enjoy hanging out. Are they hanging out on your file transfer page, do they spend time perusing the listing of products and services, or are they just checking out pictures of your staff?
The bottom line: If you know where people spend the most time, you can capitalize on this by promoting other services you provide. Anticipate customers’ needs, so that the services you choose to promote go hand in hand with the services they spend the most time on. If you are using landing pages to promote certain products or to target vertical markets, you'll know the extent that they are working for you. Think of your content data as measuring the size of a captive audience standing before a huge billboard.
What it is: So where do those crazy and not so crazy customers come from? Traffic sources let you know whether a customer searched for you, entered your domain directly in the Web browser, or clicked on a link from another site. If you've put a lot into optimizing your site for search engines, the traffic source will let you know how effective your efforts have been. In short, the more you know about where your visitors are coming from the more you know about your visitors.
The bottom line: Know your audience. If you discover that you have a surprisingly large number of customers clicking through the link you put on, say, the local chamber of commerce site, then you can find ways to promote or emphasize the ties that your visitors might have to that organization. Think of search engine traffic more like walk-in traffic to your store and cater to those visitors the way you would serve someone walking into your store for the first time.
Spending quality time with website data is like curling up with a good book. The deeper you get into it, the more rewarding and—yes—enjoyable the experience becomes.
A best practice for understanding analytics is to set a monthly reminder on your calendar for a 15-minute appointment with some thought-provoking numbers. This short appointment will keep you on top of how your site is working and allow you to make adjustments as necessary. There is no need to feel as if you’d rather be in a torture chamber.
Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence (www.myprintresource.com/10007416). She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.