Web Analytics Basics: What Do You Need to Know?

A website can make for an effective business marketing tool. But really understanding web analytics basics — who visits your site, and what they click on — is critical for small businesses looking to convert website visitors into loyal supporters. This is where web analytics — data that measures different activities on your site, including which pages people visit, the time of day they visit them, and the number of views — comes in.

Launching a site is one thing, but mastering the basics of web analytics is what makes your site truly effective, both in how it speaks to your audience and how it can help drive your business.

Discover the basics

Thanks to platforms like WordPress.com, starting a website no longer requires a web development background. But there’s more

View of the Insights section of the Stats page.

to a site than simply getting it onto the web, as any successful site involves ongoing effort. After you’ve launched your website, you’ll want to check out the Stats feature. The Insights page includes various measurements and statistics you can use to improve your site. Learning more about how people interact with your site allows you to tighten your focus on what works, and adjust your strategy as you go. Here are some of the stats worth becoming familiar with, starting with the stats that show up immediately on the Insights screen (a version of which is shown on the left).

  • All-time posts, views, and visitors: how many posts, views, and visitors your site has accrued since launch, as well as what day you had the all-time most views.
  • Latest post summary: information on the number of comments, likes, and views for your most recent post.
  • Posting activity: a chart that shows when and how often you post.
  • Most popular day and hour: the time of day and day of the week your site gets the highest views.

The following stats, while important, don’t immediately show up in Insights — you have to select Days/Weeks/Months/Years in order to view them.

  • Referrers: information on which blogs, websites, and search engines drive visitors to your site.
  • Today’s stats: the number of comments, likes, views, and visitors your sites gets on a given day.
  • Tags and categories: information on the number of views your most popular tags and categories (i.e., keywords denoting the content of the post) received the previous week.
  • Search engine terms: the terms, words, and phrases people use on Google, Yahoo, or Bing to find your site.
  • Views by country: the number of views your site gets per country by day, week, month, and year.

Numbers that matter

Ideally, knowing whether your site attracts visitors allows you to tweak that site in order to attract more people to your business. Anyone in business will argue you need to know your audience to be successful. Learning web analytics basics helps you achieve this by answering key questions: What pages do people view on my site? What content is the most popular? How often do site visitors come back?

For example, if the happy hour and weekend specials page on your restaurant’s website is the most popular, it might spur you to introduce new specials throughout the week to drive more foot traffic during slower periods, or it may encourage you to get more creative in order to set yourself apart from other restaurants (Mojito Mondays or Wing Wednesdays, anyone?).

The same thing goes for an interior design firm that notices before-and-after home renovation photos receive the most views on its site. The firm might consider doing more of this content as a way to creatively showcase its portfolio and pull in more business for similar projects.

Additionally, understanding where your traffic is coming from is a great way to find out if your social media strategy is working. You can check to see if your Facebook post has sent people your way, and might learn that Twitter is a more impactful platform for your business.

Want more?

If you’ve already mastered web analytics basics or want deeper-level data, consider using Google Analytics. The application has advanced features that complement the site stats already built into WordPress.com. If you have a wedding boutique website, for example, the Google Analytics reports would detail how visitors navigate from the homepage to the wedding dresses page to the reservation page, where they can book an appointment to try on a dress. Google Analytics will also tell you how often visitors view one page and then leave. You can even use it to set goals for your site (such as the number of views per post) and track how close you are to hitting these goals. All this data can help you fine-tune the content and messaging on your site.

Google Analytics is available with a WordPress.com Business plan, which comes with a custom domain name (cortadocoffeesf.com, for example), unlimited Premium themes, advanced SEO tools, and the ability to monetize your site, among other features. All you need to get started is to set up a Google Analytics account and follow the instructions to add a tracking ID to your site that connects it to Google Analytics.

Web analytics are a powerful tool, but even an understanding of the basics can go a long way. Companies large and small use analytics every day to drive sales and deepen engagement with their supporters — one university increased its website visits by 89 percent when it focused on analytics, consulting company LunaMetrics showed, and a large footwear company noticed the number of active users on its site increased by more than 200 percent when it made a similar effort, according to Biznology.

Any small business with a website can do the same. Use analytics to understand who your fans are and what they like. It’ll make your website a bigger draw — and your business too.


Satta Sarmah Hightower

Satta Sarmah is a writer, editor and content marketing manager who launched her first personal website a decade ago — on WordPress, of course.

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