Dear Google Guru, I don’t understand how to read the reports which track traffic to my website. What is the purpose of these reports and what does it mean to my site?

I get these reports each month from my web team on hits & traffic to my site. I get business from my site each month but we are not taking the time to really look at these reports, and I feel we may be missing an opportunity. The problem is that no one knows how to read them and our web hosting company doesn’t really seem to know either? What is the purpose of these reports and what does it mean to my web site?

Well, the simple fact is that these reports are the lifeline to your ongoing success online. If you look deep enough in to the reports they will tell you who came to your site, how they found you, what words they typed in to search engines and what country they are from. They can also tell you where you lost the visitor and how long they stayed on your web site.

In fact there are several hundred separate analysis reports available in the top statistics programs available for your web site. I recommend Web Trends, Urchin or Google analytics for the best web analytics.

It is crucial to review these metrics on an ongoing, and ideally monthly basis if you want to learn more about your web visitor. In essence, the more that you can learn about the people that visit your site and their usage patterns and experience when they navigate your site, the better you will be able to continually improve the "customer experience" on your site so they keep coming back.

You don’t want to simply look at the hits any more, as this actually provides very little valuable insight. What you do want to look for is "user sessions". This will tell you more realistically the amount of people rather than computers who are visiting your site.

In order to track this user information, you will need to get your web development team to install code on your site that is called "UTM" code. It’s a simple code that separates the people from computers being tracked on your site. Garbage in garbage out!

Always start by getting the right data to analyze from the start. Speak to your hosting company and ask them if they support either of the two programs I mentioned above. You will find that most of the top hosting companies will supply, if not support these tools. If they don’t, they should be able to refer you to a company that can.

Once you know you have the right software tracking program installed, the key factors that you will want to concentrate on are:

  1. What pages they most visited. I usually focus on the top 3 and the worst three so I can improve the content on those pages and make it more valuable to their experience next time. It also tells you which pages / sections to expand upon in your next editing meeting;
  2. How long they stayed on your site. This tells you how much value you have created; the goal is at least 2 minutes, depending on your product or service offering;
  3. How many sales or leads that you generated from those users. You will need operations to track this and give you a summary so you can compare it to your stats program and look for the sources of weakness in your conversion ratio;
  4. What your conversion rate of those leads/sales were;
  5. What keywords they used to find you . This helps you determine how well your primary search terms are working for you through your web site’s search engine optimization and pay per click, if you are working with that strategy;
  6. What search engines they found you from. This helps you learn how well your site is optimized for each of the primary search engines like Google, Yahoo, msn, etc. It would be a fantastic start if you reviewed this information each month.

There are SEM (search engine marketing) firms that specialize in offering you consulting on these reports. The good ones will also provide you with a process to review the metrics monthly and then take it to meaningful and actionable conclusions for you in a nice executive summary. They are as valuable as good accountants and lawyers on your team and can definitely help take your business to another level online.

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