What is Web Analytics? Definition, Examples, & Tools

Darshil Gandhi

Senior Solutions Consultant

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8 -minute Read,

Posted on March 31, 2022

Learn more about web analytics and how it can help you improve your website experience.

Website analytics in Amplitude

Web analytics is the gathering, synthesizing, and analysis of website data with the goal of improving the website user experience. It’s a practice that’s useful for managing and optimizing websites, web applications, or other web products. It’s highly data-driven and assists in making high-quality website decisions. You might also get ideas on how to improve your product and drive business growth from web analytics.

Product managers, data scientists, UX designers and others can use web analytics if they’re looking to enhance their website or product experience to meet customer needs. They need to know which website metrics to track while also being mindful of the shortcomings of web analytics.

Key takeaways

  • Web analytics refers to the process of collecting website data and then processing, reporting, and analyzing it to create an online strategy for improving the website experience.
  • Web analytics is important to help you:
    • Refine your marketing campaigns
    • Understand your website visitors
    • Analyze website conversions
    • Improve the website user experience
    • Boost your search engine ranking
    • Understand and optimize referral sources
    • Boost online sales
  • Use a web analytics tool to automatically track key site performance metrics, like bounce rate, conversion rate, monthly unique visitors, and more.
  • Some common issues with web analytics are that it can be overwhelming to keep track of so many metrics, data is not always accurate, and data privacy could be at risk. Find an analytics tool that addresses these concerns effectively.

What is web analytics used for?

Website analytics: Amplitude pathfinder
Web analytics features like Amplitude’s Pathfinder show how users interact with your site.

Web analytics is helpful for understanding which channels users come through to your website. You can also identify popular site content by calculating the average length of stay on your web pages and how users interact with them—including which pages prompt users to leave.

The process of web analytics involves:

  • Setting business goals: Defining the key metrics that will determine the success of your business and website
  • Collecting data: Gathering information, statistics, and data on website visitors using analytics tools
  • Processing data: Converting the raw data you’ve gathered into meaningful ratios, KPIs, and other information that tell a story
  • Reporting data: Displaying the processed data in an easy-to-read format
  • Developing an online strategy: Creating a plan to optimize the website experience to meet business goals
  • Experimenting: Doing A/B tests to determine the best way to optimize website performance

You can use this information to optimize underperforming pages and further promote higher-performing ones across your website. For example, French news publisher Le Monde used analytics to inform a website redesign that increased subscriber conversions by 46 percent and grew digital subscriptions by over 20 percent. Le Monde was able to identify which paid content users engaged with the most, then use that information to highlight top-performing content on the homepage.

The importance of web analytics

Your company’s website is probably the first place your users end up on to learn more about your product. In fact, your website is also a product. That’s why the data you collect on your website visitors can tell you a lot about them and their website and product expectations.

Here are a few reasons why web analytics are important:

Understand your website visitors

Web analytics tools reveal key details about your site visitors—including their average time spent on page and whether they’re a new or returning user—and which content draws in the most traffic. With this information, you’ll learn more about what parts of your website and product interest users and potential customers the most.

For instance, an analytics tool might show you that a majority of your website visitors are landing on your German site. You could use this information to ensure you have a German version of your product that’s well translated to meet the needs of these users.

Analyze website conversions

Conversions could mean real purchases, signing up for your newsletter, or filling out a contact form on your website. Web analytics can give you information about the total number of these conversions, how much you earned from the conversions, the percentage of conversions (number of conversions divided by the number of website sessions), and the abandonment rate. You can also see the “conversion path,” which shows you how your users moved through your site before they converted.

By looking at the above data, you can do conversion rate optimization (CRO). CRO will help you design your website to achieve the optimum quantity and quality of conversions.

Web analytics tools can also show you important metrics that help you boost purchases on your site. Some tools offer an enhanced ecommerce tracking feature to help you figure out which are the top-selling products on your website. Once you know this, you can refine your focus on your top-sellers and boost your product sales.

Boost your search engine optimization (SEO)

By connecting your web analytics tool with Google Search Console, it’s possible to track which search queries are generating the most traffic for your site. With this data, you’ll know what type of content to create to answer those queries and boost your site’s search rankings.

It’s also possible to set up onsite search tracking to know what users are searching for on your site. This search data can further help you generate content ideas for your site, especially if you have a blog.

Understand top performing content

Web analytics tools will also help you learn which content is performing the best on your site, so you can focus on the types of content that work and also use that information to make product improvements. For instance, you may notice blog articles that talk about design are the most popular on your website. This might signal that your users care about the design feature of your product (if you offer design as a product feature), so you can invest more resources into the design feature. The popular content pieces on your website could spark ideas for new product features, too.

Understand and optimize referral sources

Web analytics will tell you who your top referral sources are, so you know which channels to focus on. If you’re getting 80% of your traffic from Instagram, your company’s marketers will know that they should invest in ads on that platform.

Web analytics also shows you which outbound links on your site people are clicking on. Your company’s marketing team might discover a mutually beneficial relationship with these external websites, so you can reach out to them to explore partnership or cross-referral opportunities.

Example metrics to track with web analytics

Website performance metrics vary from company to company based on their goals for their site. Here are some example KPIs that businesses should consider tracking as a part of their web analytics practice.

Page visits / Sessions

Page visits and sessions refer to the traffic to a webpage over a specific period of time. The more visits, the more your website is getting noticed.

Keep in mind traffic is a relative success metric. If you’re seeing 200 visits a month to a blog post, that might not seem like great traffic. But if those 200 visits represent high-intent views—views from prospects considering purchasing your product—that traffic could make the blog post much more valuable than a high-volume, low-intent piece.

Source of traffic

Web analytics tools allow you to easily monitor your traffic sources and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. For example, if you’re seeing lots of traffic from email campaigns, you can send out more email campaigns to boost traffic.

Total website conversion rate

Total website conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who complete a critically important action or goal on your website. A conversion could be a purchase or when someone signs up for your email list, depending on what you define as a conversion for your website.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate refers to how many people visit just one page on your website and then leave your site.

Interpreting bounce rates is an art. A high bounce rate could be both negative and positive for your business. It’s a negative sign since it shows people are not interacting with other pages on your site, which might signal low engagement among your site visitors. On the other hand, if they spend quality time on a single page, it might indicate that users are getting all the information they need, which could be a positive sign. That’s why you need to investigate bounce rates further to understand what they might mean.

Repeat visit rate

Repeat visit rate tells you how many people are visiting your website regularly or repeatedly. This is your core audience since it consists of the website visitors you’ve managed to retain. Usually, a repeat visit rate of 30% is good. Anything below 20% shows your website is not engaging enough.

Monthly unique visitors

Monthly unique visitors refers to the number of visitors who visit your site for the first time each month.

This metric shows how effective your site is at attracting new visitors each month, which is important for your growth. Ideally, a healthy website will show a steady flow of new visitors to the site.

Unique ecommerce metrics

Along with tracking these basic metrics, an ecommerce company’s team might also track additional KPIs to understand how to boost sales:

  • Shopping cart abandonment rate shows how many people leave their shopping carts without actually making a purchase. This number should be as low as possible.
  • Other relevant ecommerce metrics include average order value and the average number of products per sale. You need to boost these metrics if you want to increase sales.

Web analytics tools

There is a whole range of tools you can use for web analytics, including tools that traditionally specialize in product analytics or experience analytics. Some of these include:

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Check out review sites like G2 for a roundup of the best web analytics tools.

Common issues with web analytics

While web analytics can be extremely useful for optimizing the website experience, there are some drawbacks to it. Some of these include:

Keeping track of too many metrics

There are so many data points available to track. It can be overwhelming to combine web analytics, product analytics, customer experience tools, heatmaps, and other business intelligence analytics to make sense of things.

As a general rule, only measure the metrics that are important to your business goals, and ignore the rest. For example, if your primary goal is to increase sales in a certain location, you don’t need metrics about anything outside of that location.

Data is not always accurate

The data collected by analytics tools is not always accurate. Many users may opt-out of analytics services, preventing web analytics tools from collecting information on them. They may also block cookies, further preventing the collection of their data and leading to a lot of missing information in the data reported by analytics tools. As we move towards a cookieless world, you’ll need to consider analytics solutions that track first-party data, rather than relying on third-party data.

Your web analytics tool may also be using incorrect data filters, which may skew the information it collects, making the data inaccurate and unreliable. And there’s not much you can do with unreliable data.

Data privacy is at risk

Untracked or overly exposed data can cause privacy or security vulnerabilities. People could reveal all sorts of personal information about themselves on your website, including credit card details and their address. Any breach to an analytics service provider that compromises your user data can be devastating for your business’ reputation. Since privacy laws have become more stringent over the last decade globally, it’s important you pay attention to cyber security.

Website data is particularly sensitive. Make sure your web analytics tools have proper monitoring procedures and security testing in place. Take steps to protect your website against any potential threats.

Data doesn’t tell the whole story

While web analytics are useful to learn how users are interacting with your website, they only scratch the surface when it comes to understanding user behavior. Web analytics can tell you what users are doing, but not why they do it. To understand behaviors, you need to go beyond web analytics and leverage a behavioral analytics solution like Amplitude Analytics. By looking at behavioral product data, you’ll see which actions drive higher engagement, retention, and lifetime value.

References

Now that you know more about web analytics, make sure you’re measuring the right metrics with our North Star Playbook. Or, see how website data looks in Amplitude.

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Darshil Gandhi

Darshil Gandhi is a senior solutions consultant at Amplitude, where he helps customer teams uncover behavioral drivers of engagement, conversion and retention in order to build better products. He has worked in product and solutions engineering roles at both large companies and startups. Darshil graduated from Dartmouth College with a Masters in Engineering Management.

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