Website Tracking Is More Important Than You Think
You’ve created a kick-ass website for your business, you have worked in a great workflow of a sales funnel, and you are getting people to fill out an information request form about your services. Awesome! You’re doing something right. But what are you doing right? Sometimes it’s hard to make heads or tails on what is drawing people into your website and deciding to provide you some information to act on. But with the right tools and metrics, you can gain great insight into the mystery of website dwellers. Now some people will recoil on the idea of website tracking, point to those evil cookies, but this is the reality of things. Putting up content blindly serves no one good and as long as you follow proper practices on data usage (or pick companies that are performing good practices) then examining that data and making more informed business decisions become that much easier.
The Right Tools For The Right Job
There is a litany of services and applications out there that claim to have that special voodoo that they do. But, there are some free tools that with a little elbow grease will do that job just beautifully. I am going to focus on a few of these tools; Google Analytics, Google Search Console, HubSpot Free Marketing, and the Facebook Pixel. Each tool focuses on a different aspect of your website and combining them represents the trinity of free marketing information.
It’s very likely you have heard of Google Analytics. One of the most popular website tracking tools out there, it provides a global look into all your content on your site, the paths that people take, where people come in, exit, and everything in between. If you haven’t set up your Google Analytics account you should head over to this tutorial, sign up right away, and install the code on your WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or other websites.
Once you have the code properly installed, and there is at least a week or two of data to analyze you can start to get a sense of what your content is doing. Naturally, the more data you have, the more insight you will have. The data points I look for most in Google Analytics are:
- Behavior > Site content. A breakdown of specific pages, where you can see how many people are hitting it, how much time they are spending on a page, see the bounce rate (people that spend no time or interactivity on a page) and how many people simply exit or maybe carry over to another page. Acquisition > Source/Medium gives you an even more detailed look.
- Behavior > Behavior Flow. You can see visually the pages that are getting hit the most, and see where people are going from there. Do they just drop off, or do they continue to another page? It can give you a general sense of the people that are hitting your content with what they do after? Are they just popping in to see the one article? Are they clicking on a category and seeing your other offerings? This becomes very useful to monitor the performance of content that you expect people to read and continue on with the site.
- Acquisition > Overview. A good metric to see how people are coming in. Are they typing in your page, are they searching, coming in via a social link, or coming in via a referral link (a link on a web page)
- Audience > Mobile > Overview. While not an overly critical metric, it’s nice to see the breakdown of desktop v. mobile v. tablet and serves as a reminder of how important your mobile presence is critical. Looking at the past year of metrics in my Google Analytics, I have 48.89% Desktop, 48.06% Mobile, and 3.05% tablet which means more than 50% of my visitors do not visit my site via desktop. Food for thought.
There are of course lots of other immensely useful data to be found in Google Analytics. If you also ever use Google AdWords or an email campaign that will tie into the Acquisition > Campaigns panel which gives you some good insight on those campaigns. You can see average site speed results (pages will hopefully land in the 2-second range), you can see what browsers people are using, what resolution their screens are set at, and so much more. If you are a data junkie like me you can spend way too much time analyzing.
Google Search Console
There is a bit of a blind spot in Google Analytics in the way of tracking search terms. When Google began to secure its search site, metrics companies, even it’s own Google Analytics could no longer see what organic search terms were being used. In Google Analytics would likely see (other) be listed, or on other 3rd party applications, you may see something similar to Google Search for Unknown Keywords (SSL). Not knowing what people are typing into the Google Search Bar is a big deficiency for one trying to analyze the success or failure of your website. But there is a solution to this, and it lies in the Google Search Console.
First, you would need to setup your web property(s) over on the Search Console, which this article from Cognique is a nice simplified rundown on how to do it. From there, after some data has been accumulated, there are some very useful metrics to examine.
- The Dashboard gives you a quick insight into click analytics, if you have any crawl errors, and the like. Very useful.
- Search Traffic > Search Analytics (Queries). This is the power view into organic searches to your site. You can enable position as a metric to view and see just how well you are performing against search terms and see how many people are clicking on those results.
- Search Traffic > Search Analytics (Pages). Search terms are nice, but it will be the literal terms of what people are searching for. You can change the view to the pages to see the aggregate page results are and see the average position of those pages.
- Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. A nice summary to see who is linking to you. It may be pretty limited compared to some of the backlink tools like SEMRush which does an outstanding view of this, but for free you can’t go wrong with the good ol’ Search Console.
This is, of course, the place where you submit your sitemaps, you can request Google crawl your site and others. This is a nice complement to the Google Analytics application, especially filling into the GA blind spots.
HubSpot Free Marketing
So you have Google Analytics that help with a more global approach to website tracking, then you have Google Analytics that helps to show your position with your overall search terms, but what about those examples when you’ve captured a lead via a form? While Google Analytics has the Reverse Goal Path, sometimes the data is a bit convoluted in the way it’s presented, and sometimes Google Analytics just outright misses the conversion for some reason. But there is a better way to analyze those leads, and it’s with the HubSpot Free Marketing toolset (formerly known as LeadIn). For WordPress, there is a simple plugin and it seems you can do this on Wix and Squarespace but I believe the code has to be seeded manually.
So what does this tool offer? Very simply, once properly installed, any form that is filled on your website, it captures, sends an email and a link to their site. Now when HubSpot bought LeadIn, there are some changes that were made, the biggest one being that it’s a limited 7-day view into the data unless you want to pay for one of their programs. I have found that the free version still gives you enough insight that it’s worth using still.
So what does it show? Well, first it will do some recon against the user’s email address. Secondly, it will show you the exact flow that the person that has filled the form has taken. Right now I am looking at a result of someone that filled out my form, and some data can be extrapolated from it:
- They initially searched via Google, but since it is an SSL search page, the keywords won’t show. It still lets me know that the search was likely an organic search term like “wedding DJs near me” or “Hudson Valley wedding DJ“.If it shows “direct” then most likely a venue or DJ gave them my info. I will still ask the couple how they found me but it’s a nice bit of knowledge to have,
- Then there is the path they take. This can reveal some very interesting info:
- I can see they hit my main page then within 1 minute went to my mixtapes page. So they are likely very focused on music.
- The spent 4 minutes on the mixtape page and went over pricing. So I know they know what my rates are. They spent 7 minutes on my pricing page. Maybe they left the browser open and talked about it.
- The filled out my contact info and submitted it. The lead is captured.
- After they filled that out, they went to the reviews page. Interestingly they submitted the form right away, although I do have a review on the main page, and one on the mixtape page, maybe that was enough and they just wanted to browse more.
- An hour after the first contact they are checking my pricing page again. Maybe they were examining a few DJs sites, and now they know they got a reply back from me they are refreshing what to expect.
Now, of course, my analysis is simple stabs in the dark, but given there is a flow here, there is some logic that can be ascertained. The point is, this tool gives you unprecedented insight into the pages that are working for people that convert.
The Facebook Pixel
If you do any kind of Facebook marketing, you have to have the pixel. It allows you to capture metrics to show how successful your Facebook ads are, retargeting, and creating custom audiences. There used to be tracking and a conversion pixel, but Facebook has made it easier than ever and combined it into a single pixel. There are easy to use plugins on WordPress, and easy ways to use it on Wix and Squarespace.
I could get into the weeds on this one, but DigitalDeepak.com really broke this down better than most, so I would advise checking that article out.
Responsible Website Tracking
Now, what do the above tools not do? Well for starters the only information that I have absolute information on are those that submitted an information request form. I do not have specifics on those that did not. However, I do have some good information via Google Analytics and Google Search Console that gives me a more broad view of my content on site. It would be irresponsible to sell this data or give it to a third party. But knowing what is working, or better yet not working, you can make some informed decisions for your site. For instance, I have 4 articles on my front page, are there any underperformers? Analysis of your data will show that. Is there an article that people are hitting and falling off? Maybe that is not a problem, or maybe you need to see if there is language in the article that is turning off potential clients.
The data can be in your grasp. It can be used for a tremendous amount of good to run your business. Now it’s time to execute it. Do or do not, there is no try.