Understanding your audience is the key to creating a great user experience and building the reputation of your brand. A few decades ago, the only way to get more information about your customers was to conduct lengthy market research studies, involving in-depth surveys and qualitative analysis. While market research is still around, there is even deeper, more quantitative data available immediately to every website owner in the world. By using this data to better understand your site’s average user, you can perfect your user experience and improve your customer retention.
Today, I’ll take a look at six key metrics that illustrate a picture of your site’s average visitor:
Acquisition data is your key to discovering how people are finding your site. You can find this information in Google Analytics under the “Acquisition” tab—to start, check out the “Overview” section. Here, you can see a nifty pie chart that will segment your audience into the four main channels responsible for drawing traffic to your site: direct traffic, which constitutes visitors visiting your site from a typed-in URL or bookmark, organic traffic, which constitutes visitors who found your site through search, referral traffic, which constitutes visitors who found your site through external links and advertisements, and social traffic, which constitutes visitors who came to you through social media.
What to learn: Here, you’ll be able to get a relative gauge on how effective your different inbound campaigns have been. For example, if you notice your social campaign is generating 80 percent of your visitors, you can rest assured your social campaign is doing well, but your organic search campaign could use an extra boost. You can also learn the primary motivation of your average visitor: for example, you know that most direct visitors are already familiar with your brand, while organic visitors are looking for information on your site.
The bounce rate is a crucial measurement that lets you know how often someone leaves your site after viewing a specific page. For example, if you’re looking at your home page and it has a 60 percent bounce rate, that means 60 percent of your homepage visitors leave your site after viewing the page, while 40 percent delve deeper to learn more. You can view your bounce rate in several sections of Google Analytics, since it’s going to be different for each page and for each section of traffic.
What to learn: Obviously, you want all your bounce rates to be as low as possible, but comparing different bounce rates on your site can give you a good idea of which pages are the most effective, and which need some work. Check out your bounce rates under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see which of your pages specifically have the lowest bounce rate, and check them out under Acquisition > Channels to see how each segment of your inbound traffic bounces or stays.
Behavior flow is a new feature in Google Analytics that, truthfully, looks like a bit of a mess on first view. Don’t be intimidated, however. Behavior flow is an incredibly useful tool that can give you an accurate portrait of your average customer’s journey as he/she traverses your website from initial entry to eventual exit. The flow chart begins with a landing page, which is the first page your users come into contact with, and shows the most common next steps in each user’s interaction. At each step, you’ll be able to view information such as total number of sessions, and drop-off rates.
What to learn: Here is the perfect place to understand the navigability of your site. Most sites start with a captivating landing page and engaging internal content pages which all eventually lead to a conversion page, such as a contact or request-a-quote form. By looking at your behavior flow chart, you can determine what portions of that traffic direction are effective, and which ones need further work.
Your demographic information is perhaps the easiest to understand in this list, but it’s still important to get in the head of your user. Check out the Audience > Demographics > Overview section of your Google Analytics page, which will show you a report detailing the ages and genders of your average users. In this section, you can also learn the geographic location of your visitors, which can also help you get a solid image of your average site user.
What to learn: There are two ways this can go. First, if you do not have a clear understanding of who your target demographic is, you can use this information to form that knowledge. From there, you can adjust the design and writing of your site to appeal to its most popular demographics. Second, if you do have a firm idea of your target demographics, you can use this information to adjust your strategy so you maximize the percentage of site visitors who actually belong to that demographic.
Your engagement metrics will vary depending on the structure of your site, but they should at least include conversions and social signals. To track conversions, you’ll have to set up a goal in Google Analytics, which will track user information that leads to an eventual “goal completion” (e.g. filling out a contact form, clicking a specific button, etc.). On a regular basis, you can measure those engagements and get an idea of who is converting and why. Similarly, if you include social sharing options on many pages throughout your site (especially on individual blog posts), you’ll be able to gain key insights about what types of users are interested in your content, which content they’re interested, and how they’re interested in sharing it.
What to learn: With this behavioral information, you’ll be able to customize your site and your content to cater to the engagement preferences of your user base. These adjustments will lead to higher engagement rates and higher conversions.
Learning how your customers access your website is also important, especially with the rise of mobile traffic popularity. Go to Audience > Technology, and you’ll be able to see the browser preferences of your average site visitors. Check out the Mobile tab, and you’ll be able to see what percentage of your visitors are accessing your site via mobile.
What to learn: It’s always important to optimize your site for mobile, no matter what. But if you find that the majority of your site visitors are accessing your page using a mobile device, it’s critically important to make sure they have an ideal experience. Learning the browser information of your users is also important; for example, if you find that the majority of your users use Internet Explorer, you should ensure browser compatibility and optimize your site for Bing.
Once you have a solid understanding of your site’s average user, you can analyze the factors that significantly affect their experience. When you make adjustments to your site layout or your inbound strategy, you’ll be able to measure your new data and compare it, apples-to-apples, against your previous information. Gradually, you’ll refine a near-perfect platform for your target audience and grow your brand’s reputation.