Website Analytics

This question is catapulted from a comment DLH made about optimizing file sizes.

This comment made me think about website analytics. I can understand how a slow loading page will dissuade potential viewers. What I am interested in now is what makes a customer pick a certain page to navigate to and what makes them decide to leave the website.

My current site is hosted through Network Solutions. Included in that package is some analytics that show how much traffic there is, how long people stay on the site, how many pages they view etc.

How is this information accessed in RapidWeaver? Is this something the web host provides or is it available intrinsically from within RW? Is what google analytics does?

I am interested if learning which of my pages generates the most amount of interest. I guess there would be a correlation between the name of the page (click bait) and the number of times it was opened. There would also be a correlation between how long the page was viewed and what kind of content was on the page.

Where would I go to get this kind of information?

If your host provides an analytics package then you’ll access it through whatever software/SAS they use. If you’re unsure, drop them an email.

Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics or something like Matomo which is self-hosted.

The only ‘baked-in’ RW visitor stats I know of is Doobox’ Stats stack.

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As Rob says, Google Analytics or Matomo are two popular ones. Your own host will likely be a bit more limited on what they report.

There’s lots to unpack here and there’s an entire industry based on it - both “on-site” optimizations (how people behave on your site) as well as ‘off-site’ / search engine optimizations (how people get to your site). Some of the metrics can be misleading though. ‘Time on site’ for example - are they spending a lot of time because they’re engaged, or because they need to dig through a lot to find what they’re looking for. If you want to dig deep into this stuff, then Google Analytics or something similar is likely a better bet than what comes with your hosting package (setup is usually fairly easy as well). Interpretation of all that info is another thing, though…

Keep in mind that you’ll need to spend the time to analyze the data that these packages produce. Then once you go through the massive amounts of information they provide you then need to put in the effort to make changes and then measure the results. It’s an endless cycle.

Most small business owners I know barely have enough time in a day to keep the business running. Large-cap companies have teams of analysis to go through reports and make recommendations.

There are also customer privacy concerns. When you start ”tracking” what an individual customer does (even by IP address), or even worse let Google track that data then depending on your location, and the customer’s location you may need to disclose and or allow them to opt out.

IMO, better use of time would be spent studying what other people done in making a successful site. Learn how to write good web copy, and what makes a site easy to use and navigate.

Extensively small businesses are local businesses. They have a limited geographic area they operate in. So spend the time getting the business listed consistently across local business directories and indexes.

If you do decide to spend the time analyzing, don’t forget the most important statistics to track aren’t hits, click-throughs, time spent, etc, etc but conversions. Ever page you produce should have a single primary conversion goal.

I know that analytics can be very valuable, particular if you are looking to answer a particular problem. And I like the idea that you should study what other people have done in making a successful site. The same person also correctly noted that it’s important to write good web copy, and make a site easy to use and navigate.
My own past experience (and I’m going back more than 25 years) is that often people don’t spend enough time trying to understand why someone visits their website in the first place. The key is to understand if the website meets the visitors expectations. This may sound so basic and stupid in our advance world, but I regularly visit websites that are poorly designed and badly maintained. It is mad that sometimes you need to scroll through pages and jump through several links just to find a simple bit of information like opening hours or a contact phone number. And above all, I want to quickly find out if the website is what I expected it to be. I want to very quickly find out I’ve made a mistake, and need to go back. I could go on, and on, but I will stop here.

Thanks for this insight Doug.

I hadn’t really considered the granular effects of tracking analytics, particularly with respect to how they impact individual customer privacy. I was more interested in global information such as where do the people who visit my website come from. This is, of course, IP Address related.

I used to periodically look at the analytics page to see how many people were visiting the site and how many pages were being turned. If somebody turned a lot of pages I would do a location search to see if they were local. I did see an anecdotal correlation between lots of page turns and lots of phone calls.

I was also interested in comparing December of this year with December of a previous year.

From a pragmatic perspective the most useful section of these analytics was a part called “Links from an external page (other websites except search engines)”. There are a lot of website organizations today that compile reviews and recommendations for people to work on your house. They have become the new watering hole for customers who are planning a remodel.

I participate for free on some of these sites. The links from an external page statistic is useful to show how much traffic emanates from those sites.

I am also interested in overall traffic. The number of visitors has gone down significantly in the last few months. I am not sure what to attribute this to. Part of me thinks it might have to do with the fact that I don’t have a secure certificate (SSL?) I don’t know if that would be customers backing out when they see the “not secure” logo or whether browsers are avoiding my site because of this. I am hoping that when my site becomes “responsive” and "secure " that this index will go back up again.

You are quite right that compelling content is king. That is my primary focus. The analytics is just icing.

If I have to ask permission to to analyze a customer I would rather not analyze the customer.

Thanks again Doug. Is eye opening.


I agree with you about studying what other people have done.
I look at websites all the time to see what I like (and don’t like).

Sometimes I like the colors. Sometimes I like how they format lists.
Sometimes I like the combination of fonts.

The websites I watch the most are training ones.
When I find one that is very well done or very poorly done I bookmark it and we discuss it at my shop.

A great example is this company that sells extremely high quality camera tripod gear. They have amazing technology for leveling camera bodies and doing panorama photography. Their training is simply terrible.

This gear is expensive. And useful. But the guy being filmed showing you how to use it will periodically block your view of the gizmo with his shoulder. Is like they have never heard of a focus group. If I hadn’t have been so motivated to buy their product I am sure i would have gone with a competitor or gone without.

Ultimately, users visit your website for its content. Everything else is just the backdrop.
Jakob Nielsen

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