Data Analytics for People Who Hate Data

Posted July 14, 2014

By Brian Gruber

Let's be honest. No one likes Excel spreadsheets. When it comes to tackling analytics for your small business website, staring at white tables of dry statistics can be intimidating.

Big data is the future of business, but without the context to understand the data, it's absolutely useless to the average business owner. If you're working on a limited budget and unfamiliar with analytics jargon, getting useful information about your website's visitors may seem like a pipe dream.

Luckily, the data analytics game constantly grows and evolves, which means you can find a number of cost-effective solutions that rely on visual analytics instead of just numbers. Using the right tools, small businesses can see what their visitors are doing, and the can find real solutions to improve their websites and to increase sales.

4 Basic Metrics SMB Owners Should Understand

Before we delve into the tools that can make analytics informative and painless, it's important to understand the basics of a few important metrics.

1. Unique visitors

What's more important than knowing how many people visit your website? Knowing how many new people visit your site. The number of new visitors you attract on a regular basis can affect how you tackle your SEO and marketing strategies, or it can tell you that you don't need to spend more money in those areas if you're satisfied with the numbers.

2. Conversion rate

Your website's conversion rate can tell you what's really important to any small business: how many visitors are turning into customers. Of course, you decide what constitutes a conversion: from filling out a Web form to subscribing to your email list, or an actual monetary transaction. No matter what you choose to measure, your conversion rate has a direct affects your business' financial outlook.

3. Bounce rate

Is there a particular page on your website that's causing people to leave your site in droves? Which types of visitors leave your site, and where do they coming from? Knowing what's causing visitors to leave can help you improve your website's user experience and turn those bounces into conversions.

4. Top sources

Finding out where visitors find your website in the first place can help you decide where to spend your marketing dollars. This can change on a regular basis, and staying on top of it can help you spend your money more efficiently.

3 Essential Data Visualization Tools

Getting hard numbers on your visitors' habits is only useful if you know what to do with them. Data visualization gives you context and a way to understand what your site visitors do on a practical level. The right tools can help you identify where they're drawn in, and which aspects of your site turn them away. When evaluating an analytics package, be sure it includes these types of data visualization tools.

1. Heat maps

Heat maps can show you everything from where your visitors click to where their eyes travel on the page. Heat maps let you see your website from your visitors' point of view to learn what works and what doesn't.

2. Form analytics

Web forms can be an effective way to gather information about visitors or to get them to sign up for your service. They can also bore visitors enough to make them leave your site. Form analytics can show you exactly where visitors give up. They can also help you make the forms more accessible, trim the least important fields, and make them easier for visitors to digest.

3. Event tracking

With this tool, you don't need to track how many times visitors view individual pages. Rather, event tracking lets you see which pages visitors access (and from where), as well as the actions they complete on the page. For instance, you can track which visitors from a pay-per-click ad visit your sales page and make a purchase.

Good website analytics give you more than just numbers; they provide context. Data visualization tools can help you to understand visitor behavior, even if you aren't an Excel wizard or a tech genius. After all, analytics should work for you—not the other way around.

Brian Gruber is the founder and CEO of Lucky Orange, a Web optimization company.

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