You don’t have to be James Bond to get real insight into what works and what doesn’t in your website design. Just a bit of “spying” – paying attention really – to what your visitors do, and equally important, don’t do, while on your site can provide a treasure trove of information that will help improve your design to drive more conversions.

In this three-part series we’ll show you important techniques that let you watch and learn in real time. Plus, we’ll show you how to incorporate this data into your design decisions. First up, analytics. They’re elementary my dear Watson.

Your Mission: Analytics

Your Mission: Analytics

  1. Determine your KPIs.
  2. Setup reporting to track your KPIs
  3. Establish baselines for each KPI.
  4. Analyze and optimize your site to drive improvement

The answer is out there, and it’s likely in your data. Without data and the ability to measure you’re like a sailor with no North Star, no fixed point from which to measure your progress, or lack thereof. Now, if you don’t have web analytics set up, stop reading this right now and run – no seriously, run and install Google Analytics. It’s free and powerful. You need to be able to track what’s happening on your site in order to really understand what works and doesn’t. Come back when you’re done, we’ll be waiting.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some must-track analytics, called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), that you should be watching to see how successful your efforts are. Here are a few of the usual KPI suspects and some questions to ask yourself as you look at the numbers. The KPIs that drive your business may be different. It’s up to you to know what they are.

Google Analytics

Determining Your KPIs

Where does your most valuable traffic come from? Not all Web traffic is equal. If traffic source A has an average order size 50% higher than traffic source B, what can you do to get more visitors to your site from A?

What percentage of your visitors are repeat visitors? How many visitors come back to your site on a daily or monthly basis? What’s the purchase rate for a first time visitor compared to a returning visitor? How many visits does it take before a person makes a purchase on your site? If the number is more than one, what are you doing to drive repeat visits?

What’s your bounce rate? What pages are the majority of your visitors landing on and what is the bounce rate for those pages? How can you optimize the user experience on those pages to keep people from leaving? (Psst, secret spy shortcut, we built a product to make it easier to create killer landing pages called Impress. Check it out.)

What is your conversion rate? What’s the conversion rate from a visitor to your site to a customer? Does it vary by traffic source? What’s your cost of customer acquisition (COCA)? What opportunities are there to improve?

Setup Reporting

Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but with so much data it can be tough to see the trends of the key drivers of your business over time. That’s why many people create easy-to-track dashboards using Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet programs to separate critical KPIs from the other analytics. By isolating your top KPIs you get a very clear look at how your core metrics are performing over the long haul. So start with setting up a report that you’ll use to track and analyze your KPIs.

Baseline website analytics

Your report should:

Establish Baselines

A baseline is the current performance of each metric. Onc

e you’ve setup your report you’ll want to begin collecting baseline data for each of your KPIs. For example, if the percentage of returning visitors is a critical metric, track and measure it every day for a week or two. This will give you an idea of what your baseline returning visitor rate is. In your KPI report, create an entry titled baseline and add this data in. You can repeat this for every one of your KPIs.

This number will become your point of reference. You’ll constantly be comparing it to your trend data to see if you’re headed in the right direction with your optimization plan.

One additional thought. It’s important to pay attention to aberrations that can give you a false baseline. Do you have any paid advertising in the market? Is your business impacted by seasonality? Are there other externalities that may be either positively or negatively impacting the baseline you’re tracking? If so, collect a larger sample of data over a longer period of time, or wait until those externalities are resolved so you can get an accurate sense of how your site typically performs.

Analyze your site traffic

Analyze This

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself and reviewing for opportunities for improvement.

Look for Low Hanging Fruit

Some improvements are easy – a tweak to the copy, a better call to action on a landing page, spending more money on the ads that are the top performers, etc. Some changes are hard – redesigning your product or relaunching your website, for instance. Start with the low hanging fruit while formulating a plan to address larger challenges.

For example, if one ad unit or traffic source is performing better, how can you get more out of it? Can you replace poorer performing units with that creative? If a landing page is working better than others can you drive more traffic there through improved SEO and social sharing?

By starting with the easier items you can triage poor performance and get incremental improvement right away. Of course, you can’t ignore major issues, so if you find any be sure to set a plan of action to resolve and course correct as soon as possible.

Triage your website

Always Be Testing

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement set out a course of action that includes a way to test your new changes against your current ads/pages/copy/etc. You can use a tool like Unbounce or Google’s Website Optimizer for quick A/B testing. That way you’ll be able to see which changes to your design and user experience to see which move the needle in the right direction.

A/B Testing with your website

Your testing plan should:

It may not seem sexy, but you need to know your web analytics inside and out in order to get a sense of what is truly working (or not) in your design. By capturing the KPIs that drive your business and learning how to interpret and test them, you’ll be able to make informed design decisions that will ultimately result in better performance for your website.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to get your analytics up and in order, identify and establish your KPIs, identify areas for improvement and set a course of action towards better results, so you can start getting the most out of your site. If you successfully complete that mission, you’ll be ready for two more top secret ways to improve your design. Stay tuned.

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