Track Your User Behavior with Analytics
What's the goal of your website? Are you looking to increase awareness, traffic, or revenue? Do you want to educate people, lead them through your sales funnel, or both? Whatever reasons you have for owning a website, there's always one common denominator that makes or breaks a website's success— its users.
The term user experience (UX) refers to how users interact with a website: what they do based on what they see, how they feel during their interaction, and how they view the experience afterward. Is your website so easy to use that your visitors don't even think about it? Is it appealing to the eye without being over-flashy or confusing? Are your users finishing their journey through your website, or are they abandoning it too soon? And finally, how can you tell what your users think about your website?
You can find ALL of these answers by reviewing your website's analytics! Web analytics are often exclusively used to measure website traffic ("You've had _____ page views today!"), but, they have a lot more potential than that. Using a combination of web analytics tools, you can track a jaw-dropping amount of data regarding your users' experiences on your website. You can track simple details, like your users' geographic location and where they click on your website to more precise details, like what they add to their online shopping cart and at what point they abandon your online form. You can even take full recordings of your users' journeys through your website, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave.
Once you have some user statistics to work with and compare, you can use them to make informed decisions regarding what changes would help improve your website's user engagement. If a lot of your users are clicking on a spot that has no function, like a static image or an icon, then they're most likely thinking that there's some sort of a button there. So, try adding an actual button there, and see what happens. If your users aren't scrolling down far enough on your page to see an important link, try placing it farther up on the page, so they may see it more easily. If users get to your home page and leave without reading your blog, try posting engaging blog snippets for them to see when they first arrive. And, if users are abandoning their shopping carts before completing the checkout process, try to understand what's making them do so— maybe they need an extra incentive to finish their purchase. Sometimes, the smallest change has the greatest effect on your website's flow and user experience.
So, what kinds of web analytics tools can you use to make these awesome informed decisions? Today, we'll be going over four different tools: Google Analytics, visual aids like heat mapping and session recording, and Google Tag Manager.
Chances are that you've already heard of Google Analytics, which makes sense, as their tool shows you an EXTREME amount of your website's traffic data, and it's completely free. As soon as you create an account and begin tracking your website, you can see statistics reporting the following:
► How many visits you had to your website today. For most of Google Analytics' reporting, you can set a specific date range to see the data from whatever dates you choose, like this week, month, quarter, or any custom range.
► Your users' average time per visit and your average bounce rate. (Bound Rate refers to the percentage of users who visit your website and immediately leave without navigating to a second page.)
► Your users' geographic data, like what countries and cities they were in while they browsed your website, as well as what language they were viewing it in.
► The device that they were using at the time, as well as what browser they were using and what operating system.
These reports are incredible for conducting market research and understanding what type of person your website's target audience is. Based on your website traffic, Google predicts:
► Your users' ages.
► Their genders.
► Their affinities and interests (Movies, Technology, Shopping, Etc)
You can also see a ton of other helpful comparisons, like how many new visitors you had compared to returning ones, what pages were viewed most, least, and in between, and what your page's load time was for certain visits during certain times. You can also view your Google Adwords' analytics in your Google Analytics dashboard.
To find courses on using Google Analytics, visit analytics.google.com/analytics/academy/
A Note on Privacy
It may seem like Google Analytics can collect a LOT of details regarding user activity, but it can't collect everything. Data that pinpoints specific IP addresses, for instance, is prohibited from being reported, as well as other personally identifiable information. In addition, reports that catalog users' cities and countries can be helpful, but it's not always accurate— many users use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and other cloud hosting solutions, so that they appear to be in one geographic location while they're really in another.
Heat Mapping & Video Recordings
Heat maps and session recordings are strong visual aids that allow you to see the actual evidence of your users' interactions with your website.
Website heat maps look similar to weather heat maps, but, the darker colors on these maps (usually red) represent where the most clicks have occurred on a web page. By viewing heat maps on your website, you can tell if users are clicking where they're meant to be. If your users are clicking in random places without functionality attached to them, then they could be confused about your website's navigation. You could then make clarifying changes to your website and keep checking heat map reports to see if the issue is resolved through your changes. You can also use heat maps to deduct what users may not be seeing; if you have a call-to-action on your page, but no one is clicking it, then maybe it needs to be moved to a more visible spot on the page, or to a more visible page altogether.
Scroll maps are similar to heat maps, but their colors are laid out based on how far down your users are scrolling on your pages. This is also helpful for knowing where to place content on your pages, and, if you have a blog or article, you can see your readers' average stopping points.
Session Recordings are, in fact, actual recordings of your users' visits to your website, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. These recordings can be very effective resources in understanding your users' behavior, as you can see virtually everything that they do.
Session recordings aren't perfect, however; first of all, it would take a very long time to watch all of your session recordings from start to finish. Session recordings also have some interesting issues when it comes to privacy. If you're recording a user, then you can see what information they fill out on a form, for instance. An interesting blog post detailing more about session recordings and the privacy questions they present is mopinion.com's recent article, Are Session Recording Tools a Risk to Internet Privacy?
Google Tag Manager
Once you learn how to use Google Tag Manager, however, your analytics possibilities are essentially endless. You can use the tool to track any specific action that users take on your website, like how many times a link was clicked, how many times a PDF was downloaded, everything that was added to a shopping cart, and everything that was removed again. The main benefit of Google Tag Manager is detailed and customizable tracking that fits your website specifically.
The tool also integrates with Google Analytics, so you can see your tags' results organized alongside your normal Analytics results automatically. You can even integrate the Tag Manager with a large variety of third-party tools, so that all of your analytics tools are tracked through tags, and all of those tags are viewable in your Google Analytics Dashboard. So, you may be using HotJar for your heat mapping, but you can view it and control it using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.
To learn more about Google Tag Manager and try out some learning courses for it, visit Google's Tag Manager Courses.