There are now free web analytics tools that are simple enough for any business owner to use
These tools can provide clues about website designs that can boost sales and the ROI on campaigns
WITH customers more reluctant to part with their money and you as a business owner reluctant to part with more of yours, it's really important to make the most of the traffic you're getting to your business website.
Wouldn't it be great to know more about the visitors that you're getting, what they think of your site, and why they're leaving before they do or buy anything? This is now possible with a variety of free web analytics tools that are simple enough for any business owner to use.
In the past, website design often felt a lot like guesswork, but now you can access basic data about your web traffic that gives you clues about the designs that will increase your sales and the ROI (return on investment) on your website and marketing campaigns.
"Bounce rate" is a very useful metric for understanding whether or not you're giving your visitors what they want. It measures the number of people who came to your site and left without a single click.
You can review the percentage of visitors who see just one page on your site, or the percentage who stay on the site for just a small amount of time (usually five seconds or less). While this data might be hard to swallow, it's also hard to misinterpret it.
Here are some tips on how to examine your bounce rate:
Tip #1: Find out where your visitors are coming from and which of these sites sends visitors with the highest bounce rate. By identifying the sites that are sending you visitors with high bounce rates, you can investigate the reasons why -- e.g. the campaigns, the context in which your link is placed, the ads -- and make changes to ensure that visitors find what they're looking for.
Tip #2: Take a closer look at the pages visitors land on. Remember, YOU don't choose the landing page of your website. When people search, the engine finds the most relevant page on your site and THAT's the homepage. If you have 5,000 pages on your website, you have 5,000 homepages. You can see in analytics reports where people are landing the most and which pages might be letting you down by not engaging your visitors enough to get even one click. You can also see your most-viewed pages. Maybe you're getting more hits to your reviews pages than to product pages, or only two of your 10 products are getting hits.
Tip #3: Examine the quality of traffic coming from search engines. Search engines are probably sending a large chunk of traffic to your site. You can see which ones deliver the best traffic, and you can see which phrases and keywords work best. This can also give you insight into the mindset of your customers.
Analytics experts usually say that it is hard to get a bounce rate under 20% -- that is, having fewer than 20% of people leave without doing anything. They also say that figures over 35% are a cause for concern and anything above 50% is worrying.
Of course, this will vary depending on your business and your customers.
Now that you've determined which pages need fixing ... what do you do next? How do you know what to fix?
Well, there are some common mistakes that website owners make. Here are some tips for avoiding them:
Tip #1: Pass the 8-second test. At first glance, a visitor should understand the purpose of your website within a few seconds. People are busy and have limited attention spans — make sure it's clear what you want them to do or where to click.
Tip #2: Tell them what's in it for them. Create clear and tangible benefits (e.g., "Save more! Make extra money! Look better with our product!").
Tip #3: Use compelling images. Try product images instead of generic stock photos, icons with blocks of text, and buttons instead of links. Keep in mind that a low-quality, irrelevant image can kill your site's credibility.
Tip #4: Keep it simple. Gratuitous images or too much text can distract your visitors. Watch out for design elements that are more annoying than cool -- have you ever had a floating window float over the part of the page that you're trying to read? Don't provide too many clickable links; focus your visitors' clicks and route them from there.
Tip #5: Close the sale. Help your visitors take the next step. Make sure there's a clear call to action; don't make them hunt for what to do next. Action words like "buy now" may work better than "add to cart," for instance.
Tip #6: Don't demand too much information. Ask only for what's absolutely necessary to complete a transaction. Avoid long forms that ask for things the customer may not have easily at hand.
Tip #7: Deliver what you promised. If you're drawing visitors to your site with ads, make ad-related content such as special offers or in-depth information easy to find. Don't bait and switch -- give people what they're looking for, not just what you want them to see.
Once you brainstorm on some variations of your website -- even simple changes like new headlines or images -- you can run a test on these variations and let your visitors decide the best version.
This is a nice change from the good old days, when people would do design based on a hunch and some opinions from friends or colleagues.
Free tools like Google Analytics Content Experiments enable you to test your changes by automatically showing different visitors different versions of your site.
From there, it will tell you which version your visitors liked the most by tracking which website variation was the most successful in reaching your goal.
You can set your goal to be a sale, someone submitting a form or clicking a link, or any number of other interactions with your site. It's like running a simple experiment — and there's no complicated data analysis required.
Sajith Sivanandan is the country manager of Google Malaysia