If you’ve had a website for longer than a few days, chances are Google Analytics (GA) are not a foreign concept to you. These reports are a great resource for gaining deeper insight into how your website is being used, but only if you know what you’re looking at.
(If you’re already lost, you may want to start with the basics and install analytics on your site– IT’S FREE!)
I’m going to breakdown a few myths for you today. It is my hope that the next time you log-in to Google Analytics (or if you’re a client of ours, the next time you receive your monthly website analytics report) you will be confident in what you’re looking at and what the numbers are telling you.
Not All Bounce Rates are Created Equally
The common understanding of a website “bounce” is that someone comes to your site, doesn’t find what they’re looking for, and “bounces” back off your site. By Google’s definition, a bounce is any web visit where the visitor doesn’t interact with the website (ie: visit other pages besides the homepage, click on internal links, etc). Therefore your bounce rate is the total percentage of visitors who only visit your homepage out of the total number of visitors to your website during any given time period.
Seems simple enough, but these numbers are easy to misinterpret if you don’t know what to look for.
Let’s say I visit a restaurant’s website and both the reservation phone number and daily specials are right on the homepage. I decide I will eat dinner there, dial the phone number, and make my reservation. Then I close my web browser. Because I never clicked beyond the first page, this web visit would be classified by GA as a bounce.
By this logic, don’t assume just because you have a 70-80% bounce rate that no one is finding your site helpful. In that same vein, if you have a 30% bounce rate it’s also possible that people are having to click through multiple pages to find what they’re looking for.
(Note: bounce rate also applies to specific landing pages)
Time On Site: Is More Better?
Another potentially deceptive number is “time on site.” It is easy to make the assumption that the more time people spend on your website, the better. But that’s not exactly the case. For example, if you have an ecommerce website (where goods or services are being purchased), a four-minute site visit is great. That is enough time for someone to browse your products, add to cart, and checkout.
On the contrary, if you are a physician and someone is spending four minutes on your website, it could mean they are having a hard time finding your office location or appointment hours. If the latter is true of your website you will want to evaluate and seek out ways to improve your website’s overall User Experience (UX)
What are Entrances and % Exit Telling Me?
These two analytics are often some of the numbers I find most useful when helping my clients see where their visitors are coming and going within their website. In GA the “entrances” are the number of visitors who enter your website through that specific page.
Using our ecommerce website example from earlier, let’s say they had 1,262 web visitors in September, and 46 “entered” the website through the products page. This could have been via Google Ad, Facebook, email direct link, etc. But the first page they landed on our website was the products page. I can also see that 14.8% of our 1,262 web visitors “exited” our website via our products page. Meaning the products page was the last page of our site they were on before closing their web browser or going to a different website.
You can also combine data information to discover even more about your web visitors. As an example, the contact page on the e-commerce site mentioned above had an exit of 68%, with an average page duration visit of 2:47 seconds. This tells us that these visitors likely spent time filling out the contact form (hence the high visit duration) and then after submitting the form closed the browser (the 68% exit percentage). By this thinking, the contact page is highly successful.
At first glance analytics might seem a bit overwhelming.
I recommend setting aside a minimum of 30 minutes each month, preferably towards the beginning of each new month, to review your analytics and get comfortable with them. As you become more familiar, you will learn immense amounts of data about your website (if I have a high site visit duration maybe things are hard to find on my website); about your website visitors themselves (if my bounce rate is high only on specific pages perhaps the call to action isn’t clear enough), and how to combine both of these to improve your user experience and overall ROI on your website. If you’re not viewing your analytics through the proper lens, it is easy to misinterpret what the numbers are telling you.