There is a general trend that seems to occur when someone adds web analytics to their site or blog. It goes a little something like this:
1. Excitedly signup for a web analytics service.
3. Repeatedly hit refresh until their first stats show up.
4. Stare at their stats in awe as they uncover referrals and numbers which fascinate them.
5. Log in the next day to see what’s changed.
6. Log in a few times the next week.
7. Log in once the week after that.
8. Log in once a month or less from then on out.
Of course there are exceptions to this, I know a lot of avid analytics users. But I think this happens enough to be considered a common trend, especially with free analytics applications since there is no monetary pain for not using the service.
Why does this occur? Basically if you’re not working on improving your site and it’s marketing using analytics, there are few interesting insights in looking at data that doesn’t really change that much as time goes on.
If this is the case, web analytics isn’t going to help your site get better or give you much more knowledge or insight into it. The key to success with analytics is to set goals for particular metrics, and improve your site to reach those goals.
Let’s take a look at an example of how to set a weekly goal at improving one specific web site metric and how it improves your site. I’ll base this example on a recent post from ProBlogger.net which talks about the average page views per visit on blogs. Darren Browse posts that the average blog in his research of top blogs gets around 1.7 page views per visitor. Let me state that in my experience working with analytics with a lot of different types of websites, that’s pretty darn bad. Ecommerce sites, community sites, and normal-structed content sites usually have a much higher page view per visit rate.
I think this is caused by three factors. First, blogs often list the full content of posts on the front page. This does not entice people to dig further creating lots of page views. However, it is also probably better for usability in some ways, although that is debateable. Second, blogs generally aren’t structured well for lots of clicking around. Categories are sometimes hard to find, related posts aren’t often there, most blog templates just aren’t built with this in mind.
So, I dig into my stats for ConversionRater.com here, and find that my average page views per visit is a whopping 1.33 views per visit. Ugh, that’s worse than the average, but to my defense I haven’t attacked this stat yet with a goal.
First, before setting up a goal for a specific metric, we have to determine if it’s something that’s helpful. Will raising this help me make more money or help my site succeed? In this case, I think the answer is yes. What this metric is telling me, is most people are reading just the front page, or just reading one post and leaving. It’d be great to have them stick around and read more of my thoughts and articles, which helps cement my site in their mind. At some point I may add advertising to the site, so in that case I’d like more page views to up the chance of making money there, and in general I hope the site helps educate people, so again more page views should equal more education.
Now that I know this is an area that needs improvement and that the improvement helps reach my full site goals, it’s time to setup my challenge. Over the next week, I plan on improving my site in ways that make my average page views per visit go up.
With my specific goal in mind, it’s time to figure out how to do it. With a little site analysis, I come up with the following things I could do to help improve this goal:
1. Add a “related posts” feature to the bottom of each post that would provide links to other related posts.
2. Add a “recent posts” module on the front page sidebar, it’s only on interior pages.
3. Add a “most popular posts” module on the front page sidebar and/or interior pages
4. Add a “recent comments” module on the front page so people may see comments that interest them and click to view.
5. Add some other types of pages beyond blog posts that may be interested to people to read and interact with.
6. Change the front page to only show a summary or excerpt of each article and make people click to read the full thing.
I think that’s a pretty good start. Items 1-4 should be pretty easy to do, #5 may take longer than a week, and I’m not sure if I want to do #6 yet because of usability. I’ll try implementing these this week, and we’ll see if it improves my average page views per visit.
Hopefully that’s a helpful example. The point is to pick a metric that means something to you that will help you achieve your site goals, and set a daily/weekly/monthly goal for reaching that goal.
UPDATE: Darren Rowse at Problogger.net has created 11 ways to increase your page views, and he’s got a few ideas there I didn’t have down, so take a look.