One of the things that we’ve worked with our clients on lately is the idea of understanding web traffic. So often we’re asked to build a new site where the client has no idea how effective their current site actually is. Now in most cases, it’s pretty easy to identify a site that NEEDS an update. Maybe it’s not responsive (and yes, there are still sites that aren’t mobile friendly, much to our chagrin/surprise/delight). Maybe the layout is objectively bad. Maybe the content is outdated. But some sites ARE mobile friendly. And their layout is fine. And their content is fine. And the site still sucks. The how and why of that is what makes up a traffic audit.

We have a lot of clients that use analytics of some sort. Sometimes it’s Google. Sometimes it’s Jetpack. In any case, having analytics in place is a really good start. But it’s a lot like running a race. Lining up for the race doesn’t mean much if you don’t start running when the gun goes off. And that’s where a lot of businesses are. They’re milling about the starting line of a race that’s already been run, over and over again.

You see, too many businesses think that there’s this thing and you do that thing and then you’re done with that thing. They think that a social media presence is about setting up a Facebook page. They think that they’re Kevin Costner, building a baseball field out of a field of corn. They think that “if you build it, they will come” and they might… and they might not. But if you don’t have a system in place t figure out where people are coming from, where they’re going, and what they do when they get there, you may as well be watching ghosts play baseball in a cornfield. (PS if you haven’t seen Field of Dreams, none of this makes sense and you should go watch it immediately. Do that, then come back).

When we’re working with a client, we typically ask them if they’re currently using any analytics software. If they are, we typically ask them for access so that we can try to figure out what’s going on. Analytics can be a little confusing at first but once you’ve got the hang of it, things get a little easier. Here’s what you want to know about your traffic.

Hello…Is Anybody Out There

The first thing we try to identify is whether or not people are coming to the site or not. It seems like a pretty simple idea but you’d be amazed at the number of people who have no idea how many people (if any) are coming to their site. And why is that important?

Some people think that it’s all about traffic. More traffic means more sales. Sometimes that’s true. Obviously, in the greater sense of things, more traffic DOES mean more sales. But that’s not all of it. A lot of people focus on the idea that more is better. But understanding that traffic makes all the difference. For example, if you’re getting a lot of sales from your site, but you’re not getting a lot of traffic, then more traffic would likely mean more sales, right? But if you’re getting lots of traffic and you’re NOT getting many sales, more traffic probably isn’t going to help. Something is broken and you need to fix it.

Where Did You Come From

Understanding where your traffic came from is beyond important. It’s everything. From a marketing perspective, understanding where your traffic comes from is the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s the double rainbow of the internet. For example, if you’re running advertising campaigns across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, it’s important to know which one of those is working. If you’re spending $100 on each of those platforms and every single piece of traffic is coming from your Twitter ads, then you’re wasting your money on those other platforms.

Understanding where your traffic comes from means you can make informed decisions about what to do next. It tells you where you should focus your attention and what hands you should probably walk away from. When it comes to marketing your site, understanding where your traffic comes from is your everything.

Stay a While…Take a Look Around

So you know whether or not people are coming to your site and you know where the people who come are coming from. Great. But what do they do when they get there? Do people show up on your site and then immediately leave? Do they check out more pages or is it a one and done situation? Are they going where you want them to go? If they come to a page that offers them a chance to purchase your product or at least get more information, do they follow it?

Understanding the behavior of your visitors will help you make decisions about your offerings and how you can position them. If people are staying on your site, moving about, it means that you’ve got an engaging site that people want to navigate. Think of your website like a physical storefront. Do people walk down the aisles and take a look at what’s on the shelves? Or do they look at the front window and walk away? Knowing the answer to this question will tell you a lot about the scale of the work you have before you? This metric will let you know if you need to tweak or overhaul?

Analytics should be your everything. Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Make sweet love to them. Take them out to dinner. Buy them Christmas presents. Buy them a dog. Love them. Unconditionally.

If you’re thinking that at some point you’re going to want to have a site rebuild done and you DON’T have analytics in place, start there. Installing analytics is not that hard and once you’ve got a couple of months of data, you can pass that data along to whoever is building your site so that they can use it to put a plan in place.