Understanding your Website's Performance: The analysis of your main page

One of the most under-rated aspects of any Website business is in its statistical data, or more accurately, it's owner's ability to interpret that data.

Among the myriad of information that your web host (or stats manager) can provide you with, none of it actually provides real value at all given times.

Let me explain...

Here is a real life example of one local accommodation website and their statistics as of the time of writing this article. It's a relatively new website, and has had some modifications progressively done to it over the past few months.

First up, the one piece of data that almost everyone knows about is Page Views.

Page Views provide you with a quick picture of your overall traffic. When you compare this information with previous weeks or months it's a good snapshot - nothing more. However, Unique Visitors are more important because they represent the actual number of different people who have viewed your site's pages, rather than repeat visitors, within the same day, same week, and with disregard to how many pages any Unique Visitor visits on your site.

In practical terms, the Demo Site that I am using here has had 2610 Page Views so far this month, but only 1171 Unique Visitors - which means that each visitors has viewed an average of 2 - 3 pages each.

What does that mean?

This Website only has five pages, so based on these numbers we can ascertain that only its visitors view half of those pages. With this information at hand, before we do any work on the site, we need to first see which pages are being viewed.

Using the Entry Pages report we are able to see that 85% of all visitors this month so far arrived on the main page. This alone is an interesting fact as it tells us that the site is receiving search engine traffic to the other pages because there is simply no other way to find them otherwise. It also tells us that the content of the main
page may need to be modified if people are not going deeper into the site.

So how do we find that out? We go into the Exit Pages report. Here (in our demo site) we find that 73% of visitors are leaving from the main page. First up, that does not look too good. Could it be that once people arrive on this site that they don't like it at all?

Finally, to determine this, we need to view the Single Access Pages report - and it this case - yes, it is bad news. 68% of all visitors to this site are arriving on the main page and then leaving again.

Here is the question that we need to ask: What is it about the main page that people don't like? (And the question I ask to you - Do you even know how many people arrive on your main page and then leave again?)

The next tactical piece of information I would want to know here is, what is bring them to the site. Are they qualified customers, or are they kids looking for games to play?

Checking the Search Engine Keywords report, we were able to
ascertain that just over 25% of all their traffic this month had come from 15 different search engines, through a combination of over 100 different keyword search phrases.
That alone is not enough to determine the problem here. All of these people were targeted customers. However, also using the Referring Website Domains report we could see that a whopping 68% of all visitors came from a recent email marketing campaign advertisement.

Ah Ha! Now, we are getting to the meat of it. Speaking with the owner I was able to determine that in the previous week they had placed an ad about a few limited available rooms they still had available for let January, at the end of the School Holidays. The ad had gone out to almost 1200 people (opt in subscribers of a local tourism Website) and 673 of those people had clicked on their URL (a massive 56% response), wanting to look over their available holiday dates.

And guess what was on the main page? Yep - the details of a
limited offer 7-night package.

So right now we've gone a complete circle. We knew that there must have been something wrong with the main page (in fact we actually knew exactly what it was in advance), but the exercise had allowed me to explain to you in finer details just how you should be looking to evaluate and interpret your own Website statistics.

What if you were not running a targeted campaign for a special offer? How about if these were the results on any normal given week? Then what?

As a closing thought - the first thing I'd want to know is this: Time Spent on Site.

Before making major changes to your website content, you need to determine if people are reading / viewing it or not. Using the above example, 51% of visitors to this site in the past two weeks have stayed between 1 - 5 minutes.
Good or bad?

A bit of both.

We'd like people to stay onsite for more than five minutes, but with only five pages, that's not going to happen unless you have a very long sales letter up front. So that's the good part. The bad part is only 38% of these visitors invested the time to actually read the home page sales information. The rest just left.

If this were your website, you'd now have to decide how best to service those 38%. Do that, and you'll strike gold.

So back to the title: How well do you understand your
Websites performance?
(c) Paul Barrs 2003 http://www.paulbarrs.com