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How to (Finally) Make Web Analytics Work for You

Have you ever been completely confused and overwhelmed by all the data and reports available in your web analytics tool?

Have you ever wished you knew how to use that data so you could actually make changes to your website that gave you real and profitable results?

Web analytics will only work for you when you learn how to use the reports that are important to you and your business. Here’s how to find those reports.

Identify Business Objectives

business objectives

If you want web analytics to actually make a profitable impact on your business, you need to start from the beginning with business objectives.

Business objectives are a way for a company to define its goals and direction. Good objectives will tell a company how to allocate its resources based on its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities at every level, including the website.

You can’t really start using web analytics until you’ve determined business objectives. Otherwise you are just shooting in the dark.

And this decision about business objectives comes from the top, the leadership. The same goes for business objectives for your website. What is the business purpose of the website? It could be to generate leads or build awareness.

When it comes to creating objectives, make sure they are D.U.M.B.. Here’s what I mean:

  • Doable – You and your team need to be able to attain these goals. Don’t be afraid to stretch a team with a goal. That is desirable. Doable objectives answer the question, “How will this objective be accomplished?”
  • Understandable – Second, your objectives need to be understood by everyone. If you can’t explain clearly, then go back to the drawing board. An understandable objective answers the “5 Ws”: What do I want to accomplish? Why? Who is involved? Where will this happen? Which requirements and constraints do I need to think about?
  • Manageable – Next, your objectives have to be measurable, allowing your team to know if they are making progress. Your objectives should answer simple questions like…How much? How many? And how will I know when I am successful?
  • Beneficial – Finally, an objective must benefit your company and be something that you want to work toward. In other words, does this objective seem worthwhile? Moreover, are they objectives that will inspire or bore you and your team?

In order to create objectives that meet the D.U.M.B. criteria, you need to think really hard about what you are doing and why. And like I said, web analytics will not work for you until you have those objectives.

Specify Website Goals

website business goals

Goals are a way to measure your business objectives for your website. They are specific strategies you’ll use to meet your objectives. Your objectives will be broader (“bring awareness to our annual events” or “sell more books”). Your goals will help you drill down to a specific action. This could be “get hits to a landing page” or “download a PDF.”

Just like the business objectives, you and the leadership will need to decide what these goals are. They should correspond with your objectives, so if you want to create more awareness for your events, then a likely goal is to get more people to sign up for updates.

You can also use the D.U.M.B. criteria when setting up goals. And just like with business objectives, you will not be able to use your web analytics in a meaningful way until you specify goals.

Distinguish Website KPIs

Website KPI Key Performance Indicators

Your next step is to figure out how you are going to track the progress of your goals. That’s where KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) come in, and where we can actually start talking about web analytics.

Let’s say that one of your goals is to have visitors go through a 3-step marketing funnel…open an email, click a link to a landing page and subscribe to updates.

Well, each time a person performs one of those actions, a goal is met. If a person makes it through all three steps, then three goals have been met. That means your web analytics tool will allow you to view the success or failure of certain KPIs.

But not all KPIs are the same. Here are the five that I think you should focus on the most.

  • Visitor Loyalty – This metric shows you how many people are actually returning to your site. For example, you might have values like “1 Times” and “1,398 Visits” in your first row. In the second row the values are “2 Times” and “333 Visits.” In other words, you know that 333 second visits were made by people who were already at your site. Lifting this number means you increase your loyalty, which is a meaningful goal!
  • Visitor Recency – The frequency with which visitors return to your site can indicate their level of engagement with your brand and their readiness to do some kind of transaction with you. Increasing frequency focuses your efforts on the visitor, the most important component to success when it comes to the web.
  • Conversation Rate – Instead of measuring followers, likes and posts, you should be measuring the rate of conversation. Like visitor recency, conversation rate will indicate your audience’s level of engagement. What exactly should you measure? Try this:
    • Blogs – The number of comments per post.
    • Twitter – The number of replies and retweets sent per day.
    • Facebook – How many likes and comments, broken down against number of postings.
  • Task Completion Rate – This KPI measures how many people actually performed successfully the action they set out to perform. It’s important that you combine this data with another set of data, namely why people came to your website. (You can collect that data with a simple survey using Qualaroo.)
  • Economic Value – Finally, you need to put a dollar sign on the visitors who come to your website. In other words, you need to explain what they are worth, which answers another important question: How much are you willing to spend to get a customer? As Avinish Kaushik points out you’ll be able to articulate the following once you’ve identified the economic value:
    • All the jobs your website is doing.
    • The true and complete value of those jobs.
    • The total value of your web marketing campaigns.
    • Where you are succeeding and where you are failing.

Discover Your Segments

Discover Your Segments

At this point you’ve got your business objectives, website goals and KPIs. The last step in making your web analytics work for you is developing segments.

See, it’s very important that you segment data before you report on a metric. Otherwise you will not get the deep insights that will actually make web analytics work for you.

What is a segment? It is a group that is identified by where they came from, what they did on your website and what tasks they accomplished. Think about it in these categories: acquisition, behavior and outcome. Let’s look at each:

  • Acquisition – Includes everything you do to attract people to your website, like SEO, email, banner ads and PPC marketing.
  • Behavior – Includes all the activities people perform at your website, like clicking through pages, subscribing to your blog or leaving.
  • Outcomes – Includes all the activities that are valuable to you and your business, like a purchase or a sign up for your email newsletter.

For example, when you view your “sell more books” business objective, “drive more people to the book’s landing page” goal and your “visitor loyalty” KPI through the lens of the outcome category, then you will know exactly which reports to look at it.

In this case, you’ll want to break down the category of loyal visitors (how many times they’ve been to the site) and how many times each segment visited the landing page before they bought. You are looking for relationships between loyalty and the landing page effectiveness.

Why are segments important? You want to be able to see data that will actually help your business. In the example above you’ll have a very narrow silo of data based on loyalty, page visits, recency and purchases that can give you the focus you need to make a decision that will make that funnel more profitable.


Of course going through the above steps is not easy. It will take time! Be patient…because it will be worth the effort when you are no longer confused and overwhelmed by all the data available to you, but actually making decisions that matter and truly change the course of your website’s profitability.

How do you use web analytics to make impactful and profitable decisions?

Learn more about Kissmetrics Web Analytics Software

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

  1. If you have a financial web and a conversion rate is how many people acquire a product, then wouldn’t be the same conversion rate and task conversion rate?
    Thanks for your help

  2. Thanks for this post. This was a nice step-by-step list. I work as a Concept Designer and need web analytics daily. One small but effective thing to do is naming the goals well. It makes monitoring faster and reports look better (and easy to read) :)

    “Your goals will help you drill down to a specific action. This could be “get hits to a landing page” or “download a PDF.””

  3. Hey, great piece laying out some groundwork for getting started establishing goals, KPIs and economic value…..though I do prefer S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objectives (sounds better to a client), it’s the same concept. As for the web analytics portion of this post – i thought a visual aid might provide some support to what you’ve already said, check out this infographic we put together to get people started off on the right foot when first diving into the abyss that is analytics:

  4. Nice write-up.

    Just want to say that it is more than a tool and just like your best friend. This means you will need to take the time to get to know it better, understand how it works, and read into the story to give it meaning. Reading into the story also takes patience and persistence. Hence, web analytics is a invaluable investment.

    Thanks for such a useful piece of content.


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