Personally, I don’t like the idea of meat-scented soap.
On every logical front, it’s pretty gross. Except people don’t want logic, they want—
Yep, bacon soap.
There’s already a ton of it on the market, but there isn’t any that looks like mine. Mine actually looks just like bacon. I carve it to look like a slab of bacon. I marble it to look like bacon. It smells just like bacon. For most intents and purposes—unless your intent is to eat the bacon—my soap is bacon.
When I look at the numbers, I find that people come to the site because of bacon soap, but then go on to look at other pages and, often, buy other things.
So even though bacon soap is a very bad idea in terms of effort-to-sales ratio for that one product, we’re going to keep making bacon soaps because people like seeing bacon soaps.
(And I do enjoy that carving bacon soap is part of my job.)
If you have a website and you’re not analyzing traffic, you’re missing out.
Analytics do more than just tell you the number of pages people have seen on any given day; they can tell you a lot about what people are trying to do when they go to your site such as:
- Where people enter your site and how they found out about it. Not everyone will be using the home page to get to your site. If someone comes in through Google (a search) or clicks on a link in Facebook (social sharing), you know where your site is doing well and where it could use improvement. If all your traffic is coming through Google, but not social networks, we can conclude that search engines love your site, but people aren’t sharing what they see. If everyone is coming through Facebook, but no one from Google, people share your stuff a lot, but search engines aren’t making sense of your content.
- Where people leave your site. Where the customer decided they either hadn’t found what they were looking for or otherwise lost interest.
- How many pages a person looks at between the time they come to your site and the time they leave. How engaged the customer was when they were on your site.
- How much time the average user spends on each page. Did they read the page or just click through to the next one?
- How many people enter your site and then ultimately make a purchase. If your conversion rate (how many people are converted to customers) is 7%, you might not have a very compelling sales funnel (the process the customer goes through to buy your product).
Google Analytics is what I use for traffic analysis on Outlaw Soaps. There are other services (Adobe’s Omniture, for example), but Google Analytics is free and, though very basic, tells me what I need to know.
I can’t go into how to set up Google Analytics in this blog, but it’s not terribly hard. If you get a good analytics person, he or she can set up the analytics on your site and then send regular reports to you about the metrics that are important to you (useless acronym: KPI = Key Performance Indicator … if it’s ever in Trivial Pursuit or anything).
Oh, and these are automatic reports so if your analytics person says he needs six hours to compile them every week, he’s full of shit.
You can also work with your analytics person to get information about the meaning behind the data. In addition to the automatic reports, your analytics person might compile summaries and recommendations (which may well take six hours every week). I personally think this is overkill, unless you are redesigning your site.
If you don’t plan on making any changes, the only reason to dive deep into the “life’s meaning” questions is idle curiosity. Analytics people are curious by nature. It’s worth getting a thorough evaluation every month or every quarter, just to figure out if you need to change stuff on your site.
I gave a little outline above, but here’s a handy grid of some useful metrics:
|What It’s Called||What It Means||What It Measures|
|Pageviews||How many pages are viewed on your site over a certain period||The overall traffic health of your site. If pageviews double month-over-month, your site is doing better. If pageviews drop month-over-month, your site is doing worse.|
|Visits||The number of times people come to your site||How attractive the concept of your site is to the outside world. In other words, without knowing anything at all about your site except for how they got there, do people want to come and see what you have on the site?|
|Pages-per-visit||How many pages every visitor looks at on average||How engaging your content is and how easy your site is to navigate. If your pages-per-visit is high, people are coming to your site and clicking around. They are engaged and are willing to invest more time in your site. If your ppv is low, people are not finding what they want and are tired of looking for it, or they have otherwise reached their goal (if you have a three-page sales process and your PPV is three, you might be doing really well for your business goals).|
|Bounce rate||How many people come to a page and leave without looking at any other page||Whether people think they’ll find what they want based on the first impression. For example, I had a very high bounce rate off my home page, so I knew people were either getting intimidated or confused, and then leaving the site. I redesigned my home page to show more products closer to the top, and my bounce rate dropped from 40% to 8%. Bingo.|
|Referrals / Referrers||Where the customer came from||How many people want to share your content? A high referral rate from Facebook or Twitter means that people are sharing your content and their friends are clicking on those links (they’re enticed to click). A high referral rate from Google means that people are searching for your products or keywords and Google thinks your content is relevant enough to send them to your site.|
|Region||What country, state, or city your visitors came from||Literally where people are when they visit your site. For example, when I noticed people in Germany coming to my site, I knew there must have been some blog or something that referred to our site. Sure enough, there was.|
|New vs. Returning Visitor||Whether the visitors have been to your site before or not||Whether people feel like coming back to the site after they have left. Do they feel like they might find new content? Did they make a mental note that, next paycheck, they wanted to come back for your product?|
|Technology (operating system, browser, platform)||What operating systems your site visitors use||If you’re trying to keep your site compatible with IE6, but most of your visitors are coming to your site on a mobile device, you need to stop worrying about IE6, and start getting a mobile site together.|
There are dozens more ways to look at data (you can even measure the average value of a social referral in terms of how much the visitor bought, which can guide your decisions about how effective your social marketing campaigns are), but those are a few good ones. Use your imagination and think about what causes any of those metrics to go up or down.
The most important advice I can give you here is consistency.
If you aren’t consistently tracking your data, you won’t be able to identify trends. This doesn’t mean you need someone looking at it all the time, but it does mean you should not move around the code on your page or switch tracking providers. Pick a method and stay with it.
And that’s the story of why bacon soap is deliciously great for our site. What’s your “bacon”? Tell me in the comments!
*Actually, we tried making soap out of bacon fat and it turned out great, but we decided to sell only vegan soaps and so ixnay on the acon-bay at-fay.