Over the past few years, there have been great strides in software and plugins that can help website owners understand their audience. It wasn’t too long ago when the only specific ways to determine success were through A/B testing or processes that took weeks and months to set up in order to track trends and traffic with specific data.
Google Analytics was created with this goal in mind and they have continued to increase their software, reporting, and overall user interface quality and depth to help with understanding how people use websites. Most businesses understand their industry very well, but there can be some gaps in what they perceive their target audience knows or wants to know, about what’s offered for products and services.
Here are some tips and directions for using existing and new technology to help drive your site and marketing decisions.
Define the Goal of Your Site
The goal for many sites is to sell a service or specific product line, but have you considered what else your users are there for? Maybe they want ongoing news from your company, or maybe they are interested in blogs and trends in the industry.
Defining the main goal of your site is the best way to create an ongoing strategy for its performance. In my experience, business owners usually think about their services and industry from their perspective, as they live and work with it every day. They might overlook some areas of ongoing engagement by not describing or offering more direct paths to the information that might help users not only make a decision now but in the future.
It’s always great to set Quarterly or even Monthly goals for things such as traffic, search ranking, amount of emails, form submissions or phone calls, and increasing orders. Each service, industry, and product are different so doing the proper market research is key to setting realistic goals. Measuring current and past data (especially year-over-year) in relation to your goals will not only give you something specific to focus on when reviewing the data (since it can become very overwhelming), but also allows you to take more measured steps for success, rather than trying to overhaul many things at one time in hopes they work out.
Utilizing Google Analytics
As you’ve seen from many posts from myself and other Hall staff, the first step is to setup Google Analytics as soon as you’ve set up your website. It’s free and truly one of the best ways to review in-depth specific information, as well as produce reports for various aspects of your site.
Once properly configured, work with your goal list and set up the specific Goals in your Analytics account. Review specific traffic data with the main pages of your site first, which would typically be the Home page and the main service or product section of your site. Sometimes what you think will be your most popular page won’t be. By using this tool properly, you should be able to identify that relatively quickly by measuring views to the page, how long users stay, how fast they leave, etc.
Looking into your top pages by exposure as well as by views will help you understand if users are heading to the sections you are attempting to push them through via calls-to-action and other links.
There are a great many ways to review and report on information in Google Analytics, and they offer tools for training to help anyone become certified. Depending on the size or targeting of your company, you may need to work with a company or individual that not only fully understands how Google Analytics works but also helps produce the proper reporting to help guide major decisions in site or marketing direction.
Utilizing Heatmap Software
This technology has been around for a few years, but there has been a great increase of technology and software related to heat map functionality and it’s become a great tool to utilize. They are typically set up as a subscription service with a monthly fee, with the leaders at this time being Hotjar and Crazy Egg.
These software plugins work great from a UX perspective as you get to see how users are interacting with on-page areas through a visual lens. In my experience, it’s been a great tool to help with answering specific questions on why certain pages, areas, or links perform better in Analytics.
Since Analytics is data-driven, it’s sometimes hard to detect if it’s something like the placement on the page or the color of a call-to-action not being as effective as it could be. Or, maybe it’s confusing for users to use a specific drop-down menu, etc… These types of software help make design and UX decisions quickly, rather than having to rely on traditional data alone.
Don’t Be Afraid of Trying Something Different
Sometimes it can simply come down to how you present your services, products, and information. I feel like sometimes people are stuck in their same ideal of how they think a website should function rather than taking a deep view into how their audience uses the site.
Depending on your current website setup, there are multiple ways to try and differentiate yourself from the competition, especially if they haven’t recently updated their approach.
If you feel your website is increasingly getting more mobile views rather than desktop views, tailor your site design, menu, and UX approach to perform and display best on mobile devices.
If you feel video, rather than images, would be a better way to show off your products and services, start utilizing free services such as YouTube. Work with your site to not only utilize these videos but give users an easy way to view and sort them by topic or type.
Maybe you’ve had a simplified menu structure and it’s keeping your users from accessing in-depth information and contacting you easily.
There are more examples that I could continue to list, but the overall idea is that until you try to understand how your site is being used, it will be difficult to get visitors to do what they want on your site in conjunction with the goals you’ve set up for the site itself.
Using the available technology could give you a leg up on the competition and help you stay at the top of search and exposure for what you offer. This might lead you to think out of the box and try something different you didn’t think would work a year or two ago on your site or even in your industry.