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Is Your Site Telling You Something? Start Listening to the Analytics

A website may not to tell you what ails it, but analytics data can tell a pretty detailed story. Web managers don’t always have the time or resources to regularly monitor analytics with much depth, but the start of a redesign or update is a perfect opportunity to dive into the data and see what is really going on.

listenTo start, it’s important to review a wide range of data and report types to get a sense of how the overall site is performing. I’m often asked, “What’s the most important report?” but each data-point is almost useless when considered individually. Only when we relate it back to the site and its goals can we figure out what is important and what is going on. I begin this process asking questions around visitor engagement and flow of visitors across the site.

Below are a few questions you can start out with.

  1. Are visitors exploring content within multiple topic areas, or sticking to the one issue they came to the site for?
  2. If the site is siloed by institutional structure, are visitors crossing barriers to discover content related to them?
  3. How are visitors discovering the site? Through search? Other (referral) sites? Emails? Social Media? Advertisements?
  4. Is there a specific traffic source that is sending “higher-value” traffic than others? Are there any sources that are really under performing? Why?
  5. What content is the “best” at drawing visitors in and engaging them?
  6. What content is currently receiving a lot of traffic but fails to keep visitors’ interests?
  7. What percentage of content is visited on a regular basis? Are there pages that receive little or no traffic? Is it because they are  poorly linked to? Out-of-date? Irrelevant? Boring?
  8. If goals are already set up, what percentage of visitors are completing them? Do these visitors have anything in common that differs them from other others?
  9. What pathways, or reverse funnels, are visitors using to access key content or complete core interactions?
  10. How long are visitors staying in key content areas? Is this enough time to digest the content? Or are they leaving prematurely?

The next step is to specifically look into different audience segments to see how their interactions differ from each other, and from the average visitor. These segments may not map one-to-one to your target audiences (unless you have a sign-in component being monitored through analytics), but will give you a more in-depth understanding of user types. You can do your best to map content and known attributes of target audiences to create segments, or you could try comparing:

  • First-time vs. returning visitors,
  • Visit frequency (daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly),
  • Types of content visited (summary content/in-depth content/interactives/resource libraries)
  • Timing of visits (visitors who stay a short vs. long time),
  • Navigation types used (uses primarily in-page links and feature links vs. primary navigation)

These should give you a solid start in conducting a pre-redesign analytics review, but I encourage you to start asking questions of your own. Only when we challenge our own assumptions can we really figure out what is working and what isn’t. Best of luck with using analytics data to get an unbiased account of what’s happening and getting started on improving your website!

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