Have you any idea who is visiting your website, and why? Understanding more about your visitors and what they're trying to do on your site will improve your chances of making a sale. Nick Leech from 123 Reg shares the best free tools to help you achieve this goal. 

So you've got your website up and running, it's starting to attract visitors and hopefully you've already made a few sales.

At this stage, it's tempting to sit back and think "job done". But if you want your business to grow, you need to do everything you can to understand the kinds of people who are visiting your website, what they do while they're there and what you can do to increase the likelihood of making a sale.

Fortunately, there are some really great tools out there to help you understand what makes your website visitors tick, and a lot of them won't cost you a penny to use. 

In this guide, we'll look at some of the best free tools for understanding your website visitors, and how you can put them to use.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is a must-have for any website. If you haven't already got it, make installing it a priority. You can read how to do that in this guide, or you can ask your web designer to do it for you.

Now, there's a huge amount of information available in GA and there's not room to talk about it all here, so we're just going to focus on the most important stuff.

Acquisition: How are people finding your site?

The Acquisition section is one of the most important in GA. That’s because it shows you exactly where your traffic is coming from. You can use this to see which of your advertising is working best, and if your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts are paying off.

Your traffic should come from a range of channels and not from a single source. Like anything else in business, you don’t want to depend on a single source of sales, because if that source fails, your sales will dry up.

For example, if you get all your traffic from organic search and Google updates their algorithm which leads to your site no longer ranking, then you won't get any traffic and no traffic means no sales.

Behaviour: What content do your visitors like most?

The Behaviour menu is an extremely important area of GA and probably the one you’ll visit most often. Content is the heart of your website so you want to find out if yours gets read and which pages or blog posts are most engaging. Go to Site Content and then choose All Pages.

Here's how to interpret the most important metrics:

Unique Pageviews refers to the number of times a unique visitor looked at the page.

Avg. Time on Page is an average measure of how long a visitor stayed on that page. If the average time on a page is a few seconds it means that visitors didn’t find what they were looking for. Now, if users spend more time it means that they found it interesting or useful.

Bounce Rate is the percentage of users who only visited one page in their session. The main thing here is that the lower the bounce rate the better you are looking after your visitors. A good target to aim for is 30%. Anything over 50% indicates a problem, and you should try to understand what it is about that page that isn’t working. That might be copy that’s hard to understand, headlines that aren’t clear, or unhelpful images.

If you have a big site with loads of pages organised in different categories you can go to Content Drilldown to see how these categories are performing. This section is particularly useful for sites with hundreds of pages such as online shops.

The Site Content area also shows you the top Landing Pages on your site, meaning the pages most visitors see first when they reach your site.

It will also show top Exit Pages, which are the pages most visitors leave. Pay attention to the exit pages as these can provide clues as to where your visitors might be getting stuck.

Conversions: How much is my site converting?

Conversions are broken down into two categories: goals and ecommerce.

To track goals, you’ll need to tell Google which actions to track and log as conversions, for example: buying a product, downloading a whitepaper, signing up for a webinar, filling out a contact form.

There are four different types of goals. Some may be pages on your site you want visitors to reach such as a thank you page after someone has registered for a webinar or placed an order. You can also set a goal for a length of time spent on your site, the number of pages per visit, or an event.

You can also set up a funnel, or a series of pages leading up to your goal page which would allow you to monitor users’ journeys. This is very useful as you get to see at what point users abandon the conversion process. So rather than wondering what went wrong, you can see exactly where the user decided to abandon the action and figure out what you can do to make sure people convert in the future.

You can learn how to set up funnels in this video from Google.

Ecommerce: Understand what visitors are buying

Google Analytics can be set up to record what people are buying on your site. You will need your web designer to do that bit, so we won’t cover it here.

The Ecommerce tab can reports that show key information such as the number of sales you have made each day, the value of each of those sales, what product has been purchased and how many of them.

One of the most important metrics to focus on here is your website’s ecommerce conversion rate. This the number of sales divided by the number of visitors. A good goal to aim for is a conversion rate of above 3%. Anything over 5% and you’re doing really well.

CrazyEgg

CrazyEgg is a heatmapping tool. There are plenty of others out there, but CrazyEgg is my favourite. It provides click tracking and scroll maps of your pages. You can install it by adding some simple javascript to your website – any web designer can help if you can’t do it yourself. The output can be a heatmap overlay of exactly where users are clicking and scrolling. 

If you see the buttons or links that your users click on, you can make them more obvious and easier to find.
You can also see if users click on pages where there are no buttons or links. Users clearly expect something to happen when they do this, so you might consider adding links to these elements.

Fivesecondtest.com

Fivesecondtest.com is a usability testing method in which the participant is shown an image of a webpage for just five seconds. Once the image is hidden, the participant is asked questions about what they remember.

Five seconds may seem like a short time, but research shows it is more than enough time for a website visitor to determine if there is enough quality in your website to make them want to stay.

You can carry out this test with some volunteers from your office. Alternatively, go to fivesecondtest.com, input your URL, and others will carry out a test on your site for free. Why not return the favour and do a few five second tests of other people's sites?

If people are struggling to understand what your webpage is about in five seconds, then that's a sign that you need to work on making the purpose of that page clearer. 

Usertesting.com

Online user testing is a crowdsourced usability testing service that provides feedback from testers as they use your site. One of the best examples is usertesting.com

This type of user testing allows you to ask the visitor to complete tasks, comment out loud on their thought process, and at the same time their screen is recorded. 

It's a cost effective way of getting some detailed information on how your visitors behave and what's going on in their head whilst actually using you website and completing tasks. You can ask the testers questions too.

You can also choose what type of user you want to take the test, so you can as closely as possible match the users to your own target market. 

If users are struggling to complete a task, then that's a sign that you may need to redesign that section of your website to make it more straightforward.

Summing up

We've only really skimmed the surface of how you can start to understand the people who visit your website and how they behave while they're their. 

Explore every possible avenue to get a better understanding of your website visitors, and then use that information to improve your website.

Whether you’re just starting out or you've been online for years, 123 Reg's free online courses will help you create your website, engage with your customers, and increase your visitors. Find out more here.

This article is part of Enterprise Nation's Grow and Grow Online campaign, helping you build a better business on the web. Access content, offers and events here.

Have your say

No-one has commented on this article yet.

Be the first to comment
Icon events

Inspiring events

Come along to one of our networking events, start-up classes or expert workshops.

Browse events

Latest articles

Browse all posts

Nine excellent home business ideas

17/11/2017

Thinking about starting a business from home? Jazz Gazhal from Direct Line for Business shares some of the best home business ideas. Working from home expansion The number of ...