Computing technologies have become an integral part of modern business strategies, due in part to the overwhelming popularity of online communication platforms. The internet has made it easy for companies to grow their brand, connect with customers, and promote their products or services, yet standing out from the competition is harder than ever before. Luckily, web analytics have given organizations a feasible method for turning digital audiences into customers, subscribers, and advocates for positive change. But what exactly are web analytics, and how are they used?
Defining web analytics
Web analytics serve a wide range of functions for contemporary organizations, from generating online marketing insights to evaluating a website’s accessibility. While it’s true that for-profit companies often utilize web analytics more aggressively, the practice is quite valuable for anyone looking to communicate with audiences through a digital medium. Optimizely, a leading tech experimentation platform, defines web analytics as “the measurement and analysis of data to inform an understanding of user behavior across web pages.” Some common web metrics that analytics experts track include:
- Number of visitors a website receives
- Where web traffic is coming from
- Amount of time users spend on each webpage
- What links are and are not clicked on
- How well a website performs in search engine results
Many companies use these and other data points to measure their website’s performance and identify opportunities for additional optimization. For example, tracking demographic and geographical data is important for businesses looking to convert website visitors into sales leads, as it provides valuable feedback about how their target audiences engage with their content. Businesses utilize a number of unique platforms and analysis tools to aggregate valuable web-oriented data, but the most popular include Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, and Adobe Analytics. Despite the benefits these platforms offer, no web analytics tool is 100 percent accurate, which is why many companies prefer a hybrid approach.
Types of web analytics
Every organization has different operational needs and benchmarks for success, so the most effective web analytics are often those that prioritize specific goals on a case-by-case basis. The measurements an organization finds useful, therefore, largely depend on its desired outcomes — nonprofit companies are more concerned with spreading awareness than generating advertising revenue. The simplest way to understand the different types of web analytics is to sort them into broad use case categories, including:
Web analytics that consider specific information about a website’s users can help companies better understand their target audiences and develop more impactful online communications. By collecting demographic data like age, gender, geographical location, occupation, and more, organizations can determine how well they are meeting the needs of their user base. Some common metrics related to audience data analysis include:
- New visitors: The number of users who connect to a website for the first time.
- Returning visitors: The number of users who repeatedly visit a website.
- User location: Where users are located when connecting to a website.
- Device info: What devices (desktop vs. mobile) visitors are using to connect to a website.
Web analytics that evaluate how users interact with a website’s interface, navigation, and content features can help organizations streamline user experience and identify opportunities for improvement. This category of web analytics is largely concerned with a website’s volume of traffic and the quality of visitors’ browsing experience. Companies want to understand which web pages receive the most traffic and keep users invested for the longest periods of time. Some common metrics related to user behavior analysis include:
- Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing a single page.
- Conversion: How frequently a website’s calls to action generate a desired outcome.
- Clicks: What links are clicked on the most/least.
- Time on page: How long users spend on each web page.
Web analytics that track a website’s overall performance can help organizations pinpoint technical errors and remove barriers to their users’ browsing experience. Visitors are less likely to spend time on a website that is riddled with navigation and display issues, leading to missed marketing and sales opportunities. Some common metrics related to website performance analysis include:
- Load time: How long it takes for a web page to load.
- Uptime: The period of time in which a website is viewable and usable.
- Impressions: The number of times a web page or piece of content is seen by users.
- Keywords: How well the words/phrases used on a website describes its contents.
While this categorization system does make it easy to conceptualize the different types of web analytics and their uses, it’s important to note that most strategies call for the bundling of several disparate web metrics. Many popular website analysis tools allow businesses to aggregate all sorts of data across a wide range of categories. The trick is being able to discern what information is relevant to an organization’s unique needs.
What an online MS MIS can teach you about web analytics
If you’re interested in learning more about web analytics and their uses, consider an online Master of Science in Management Information Systems from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The MS MIS program offers a comprehensive curriculum that can help you develop the technical skills and situational awareness you need to excel in the fast-paced world of web analytics. Students can explore relevant topics in technology planning, business strategy, and systems analysis through a concentration in IT Management, which features a robust web analytics course. You can gain firsthand experience with the cutting-edge technologies and tools that are helping organizations design engaging and profitable websites.
Learn more about how a master’s degree in management information systems, offered through the Collat School of Business, can enhance your existing career. Reach out to an enrollment advisor today.