Guest Blog | November 22, 2019 at 9:00 am
So you’ve built a website, set up your Google Analytics account, and left it alone for a couple of years. Whether your marketing strategy has changed, your design is outdated, or it’s just not generating results, industry experts tend to agree that websites should be redesigned every few years to make sure you aren’t left in the dust.
One of the biggest mistakes you could make during the redesign process is not relying on data to help drive some of your decisions along the way. That can be a daunting task, so I’ve highlighted a few easy ways to use your Google Analytics data to help bring out the best in your design.
“No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” – Paula Coelho
Before you begin, it’s important to understand some key information about your traffic. Take a minute to review the Channel Grouping report in Google Analytics to understand if your visitors found you organically (they searched for you or a keyword that had your website in the results set), came directly to your site, or arrived via paid ads, emails, social posts, or something else. Understanding your most common channels will help you focus your efforts accordingly.
For example, if most of your users are coming directly to your website, you can focus on just enhancing their experience. That might mean minor changes to update the look, cleaning up any known usability challenges, maintaining up-to-date content, and ensuring your site is mobile friendly.
Alternatively, if your users are finding you organically and that aligns with your marketing strategy, then you may want to focus more on your content strategy to bring more organic traffic.
Understand your most common landing pages.
This is a simple metric that can be easily overlooked. Landing pages can tell you a lot about how users interact with your site. Most websites are designed using a top-down approach, with the assumption a user follows a specific path through your website. When your most common landing page is something other than the homepage, you need to consider what path they actually take from there.
Let’s say you have an interior design company, and it’s time to update your website. An easy assumption is that most of your visitors arrive to your site via the homepage. But once you dig into your landing pages, you see your content-rich strategy has been working and you are getting a ton of organic traffic directly to your kitchen reno page. Now, look at that page as a new visitor. Do you get all the critical information on that page? Will visitors know you specialize in bathrooms, or that you do more than kitchens? Is it obvious which regions you serve? Can they easily find how to contact you for an estimate? Answering these questions from their point of view can easily highlight opportunities to structure your most common landing pages differently.
How well do you really know your users?
Another easy assumption to make is that because you built your site with a certain target audience in mind (or worse, you opted to design for the general population!), those are your users. The good news is you can easily validate that assumption by using the Google Analytics demographics report. An even better approach is to create a new segment with the details of your target audience, and then review key pages or events with that segment selected. This will help you identify if you are hitting the right audience where it matters most to your business.
For example, you may find that your target audience conversion is quite strong when they come to your site through social media. Reviewing which posts drive the most traffic for your target audience may give you a good idea of what type of content and interaction you should focus on within the site.
But what if your target audience only makes up a small portion of your overall users? In this case, I would suggest finding some people in your target audience and completing some user interviews to better understand how they would want to interact with your website and what kind of journey they would take as they complete some typical user scenarios.
“What you stay focused on will grow.” – Roy T. Bennett
Every website has a purpose – what’s yours? For some, having a digital presence is just table stakes. For others, visitors to the site can directly translate to dollars in your pocket. Or perhaps you simply need to create more awareness for your brand.
No matter the goal of your site, you should know which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you need to focus on. While this seems like an obvious suggestion, it’s often harder than expected to narrow down all the data you get to only a couple measures that will have a direct impact on your business objectives.
Let’s say you have a landscaping company and rely heavily on your website to receive requests for estimates. Because you have a strong reliance on traffic, you may choose sessions and conversions on your contact form as two KPIs. Make sure to benchmark those metrics before your redesign starts and focus on what will drive those numbers up. That might mean making sure the form is accessible from any page or reducing the number of fields required to complete the form. It might mean creating a FAQ for your visitors, to answer any questions they might have which could deter them from completing the form. By knowing what matters most to you, it will become clearer what changes you need to make to drive certain behaviour.
What comes next?
Having just recently completed a website and app redesign for Mysask411, I fully appreciate the effort that goes into it. And with so much information available right at your fingertips and so many ways to analyze and interpret it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Now that you have benchmarks established, you can (and should) track progress towards your goals so you can make necessary changes. Want to learn more on this topic? Check out these additional resources:
- A past Directwest blog on how to simplify your analysis
- Great articles written by our friends at zu communications, on topics related to user experience, design thinking, and design
- Analytics Academy to help you dig deep into understanding Google Analytics
- The free domain SEO metric tool by Moz to learn tons of interesting SEO metric information about your site, to help you improve your organic traffic.
Pam Marriott is the Marketing Manager of Digital Platforms for Directwest. Directwest has been helping Saskatchewan businesses connect with customers for over a century. They’re a digital marketing services company providing local businesses with website designs, social media marketing, online listings, digital advertising and reputation management. Oh, and they also do the phone book!