A Simple Guide to Website Traffic Analytics

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This article will give you all the knowledge you need about web traffic and tools to analyze it, using Google Analytics and OWOX BI as examples.

Table of content

What is website traffic?

To measure the performance of a website, analysts and marketers look at website traffic: the total number of website visitors along with information on where they came from and how they got from there to the site.

Understanding the nature of traffic, how to increase the number of visitors, how to convert traffic into customers, and why traffic is lower on Saturday evenings is the key to your online prosperity.

These are the key terms in web traffic analytics:

Hits — visitors’ interactions on the website

Sessions — collections of hits grouped by time and interaction logic

Users — collections of sessions grouped on the basis of similarities in device, browser, system, and other parameters

Metric — a measurable index of an event

Parameter — a setting or criteria for analysis

Dimension — an attribute of your data

Below, we’ll describe these key terms and others you might not know.

How to analyze website traffic

Your toolbox for traffic analysis will contain a number of tools to explore your site metrics. These services are programmed to examine your website from the inside out and give you a report based on this examination.

Simple tools for website-only analysis

The most popular (and free) tool for website analysis is Google Analytics. It’s perfect for beginners and has an advanced paid version — Google Analytics 360 — for websites with lots of traffic. 

Google Analytics shows data about website traffic and data on user behavior in the form of hits and sessions. Actions on the website are registered as hits, and hits are merged into sessions according to Google Analytics logic. 

What you must know about your web traffic are its sources, channels, and metrics. They help you answer the most important questions as a website owner:

  • Where do my visitors come from?
  • How do they get to my site and become customers?

You can find answers to these questions by looking at sources and channels in reports and dashboards. 

Google Analytics is really powerful for analyzing websites, but it has its limitations which are not so comfortable for marketers and business owners:

  • It doesn’t account for CRM data
  • It doesn’t take product refunds into consideration
  • It doesn’t consider cost data for non-Google campaigns
  • Its attribution models are inflexible, standard, and limited
  • LTV and cohort reports are still in the beta stage, and you can’t get ROPO reports for lack of necessary data

If you’ve already encountered these limitations and tried to avoid them with the help of Google Analytics 360, you’ll know that sometimes even Google Analytics 360 isn’t enough. Luckily, for businesses that dream big, there are special tools for end-to-end analytics.

Specialized tools for end-to-end analytics

As a website is part of the overall business strategy, it’s essential to analyze it in the overall context: connected with advertising channels, your CRM system, and other data flows. To establish end-to-end analytics, start by merging data flows.

OWOX BI collects data in BigQuery

We would like to introduce you to OWOX BI — a product developed specifically to avoid the limitations of Google Analytics and be a powerful AI-pumped personal marketing analyst-adviser for marketers. OWOX BI helps you merge data from more than 15 sources, including:

  • Behavioral data from your website​
  • Ad cost data
  • Offline sales data 
  • CRM data
  • Call tracking data

OWOX BI collects all of this data automatically without sampling so you can create a phenomenal database for all kinds of reports: LTV, ROPO, historical analysis, forecasted marketing plan performance. Have you ever dreamed about a tool that would give you a ROPO report in one click?

ROPO report in OWOX BI Smart Data
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Common functionality of analytics systems

Collect hit data

Any web traffic analytics system collects information about actions on the website, registering clicks, scrolling, form submissions, etc. All of these events are gathered by the analytics system and marked with a timestamp and other parameters from the data trace of each website visitor. This is the hit data, which is essential for web analytics.

To track this data, start by adding a tracking code to your website pages.

Process hit data and form sessions

We can’t be sure that all of these hits can be used for analysis without processing them at the session level. Each analytics system has its own logic for forming sessions. If we had just a list of all actions taken on the website without any knowledge of who did them or for how long or how often, we wouldn’t be able to do anything with that data.

Sessions are essential for web traffic analysis. The number of sessions is an interesting metric to work with, as it’s the first ready-to-use data you can find in reports.

Reporting

Reporting is how an analytics system informs you about the things happening on your website. You can use predefined reports (such as a social media traffic report) or build your own reports by combining metrics, parameters, and dimensions. The best reports are made with raw unsampled data (Google Analytics applies sampling when the volume of data exceeds its limits). The completeness of input data defines the quality of the report.

Key entities involved in reporting web traffic analytics

Source

The source is the URL from which a user clicks a link to enter your website (in JavaScript, this is the «document.referrer» string). If the source page is a page on your own site, it’s just called the previous page.

Thus, the source of your traffic may be presented as a link to a web address from which each particular visitor came.

Your sources might be:

  • yourbestfriendwebsite.com
  • youtube.com
  • thebestbusinessesreview.us
  • google.com
  • facebook.com, etc.

The point is that people can visit your website from different types of links and through different channels.

Channels (presented as a medium in UTM)

The channel refers to the way in which a visitor navigates to your site. For example, these are some of the channels in Google Analytics:

  • direct​
  • organic search
  • paid search
  • referral
  • display
  • social
  • email
  • unknown
  • pre-configured custom utm-marks

You can read more about UTM tagging and use it in your own web traffic analysis. It’s handy to create custom segments on the basis of channels and analyze targeted traffic apart from all other traffic.

Channels with description in Google Analytics

The Google Analytics help center lays out each channel and the mediums (the general categories) to which it belongs. The medium description is essential to identify channels and define their type.

Keyword

keyword is a word or phrase that people type into a search engine. Keywords are connected tightly with how a search engine understands the intention of a person who’s looking for something and how it lists websites and resources in the results.

You need to analyze keywords to understand which drive good traffic and what your customers search for when they’re trying to find your website, service, or goods. It’s in your interest to produce content that’s tightly connected to your customers’ intentions.

The keywords people enter in the search bar are recognized by an analytics tool as «keyword referral data.» As you might have guessed, there are two kinds of keyword referral data:

  • organic​
  • paid

Data on organic keywords is hidden due to Google’s policies, while data on paid keywords is visible. That’s the reason some reports will show a «not provided» value. You can also get «not provided» values from a paid channel if your campaigns aren’t set correctly. If you’re interested in the potential of investigating keywords, read our Hoff success story.

Now that you’re acquainted with sources, mediums, channels, and keywords, we can proceed to channel grouping.

Channel grouping — default and manual

A channel grouping is a level of classifying web traffic. The default channel grouping in Google Analytics matches the lineup of channels described in the screenshot above. It’s handy to use in a general way, but as you know, these groups are aggregated, so they can hide some useful insights.

If you know where to look, you can create a custom channel grouping for your convenience. For example, if you want to analyze traffic from your outreach campaign, you should create a custom channel on the basis of a referral channel, separating traffic with the help of UTM marks.

Other tips and tricks on web traffic analysis are described below.

How to analyze website traffic

Main dimensions

Dimensions are attributes of your data. Adding dimensions is the most popular and simplest approach to analysis. Here’s an example of a one-dimensional report:

report with one dimension

And here’s what we can get by adding one more dimension:

report with two dimensions

By adding this additional dimension, we can see something that was previously hidden: the fact that the browser influences the pages/session metric quite a lot even for people in the same city.

Choosing the right dimension-metric combination, you can find a lot of useful insights for your website development. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could recall all the dimension-metric combinations for you? OWOX BI Smart Data knows popular dimension-metric combinations to build any kind of report in a couple of clicks, without hours of thinking over the report structure.

Segmentation

Segments offer a great possibility for analysts to compare part of the traffic with the whole picture. Comparing segments to other segments or to total data, you can conduct simple analysis that might be useful for beginners.

Here are some important tips on segments in GA:

  • You can only show four segments in one report.
  • AdWords cost data won’t be displayed with segments (it will give you a 0 value).
  • Conversion segments must be used for multi-channel funnel reports.

Segments are important based on the understanding that aggregate data can’t help you a lot («All data in aggregate is crap,» according to Avinash Kaushik, who knows what he’s talking about). But if you slice and dice your data the right way, you’ll see many interesting insights.

In Google Analytics, you can create a segment in any kind of report.

adding segment in Google Analytics

Here are some examples of segments for you to try out:

segmentation hints

The other way to use segments is to create them for better performance of remarketing, trigger emails, and special offer campaigns. You can read about how to create a special audience segment and optimize your marketing campaign with OWOX BI in our Butik case study.

Okay, we’ve gotten through the segmentation part. That’s great! But to prepare you fully, let’s see what web traffic metrics you have to know to analyze everything correctly.

Main metrics

As Peter Drucker once said, «You can’t manage what you don’t measure.» But measuring on its own is a dead end. Explaining and interpreting — that’s how you get profit from measuring. So be careful with metrics; don’t forget about the real people standing behind them.

Here’s a list of essential metrics for an e-commerce website (and the corresponding reports in GA):

  • New visits / total traffic
Audience → Behavior → New vs Returning
new and returning visitors report

This report will help you understand if your website audience is growing. Also, pay attention to the Returning Visitor metric, as it will inform you if people like to come back (and give you a chance to encourage them to make a purchase).

  • Behavioral metrics: Bounce Rate, Average Visit Duration, Pages per Visit​
Audience → Overview
bounce rate metric

This group of metrics shows your visitors’ behavior on the website: whether they’re active and interested — Average Session Duration metric, how long they stay on the site — Page / Sessions metric, how fast they leave the site — Bounce Rate, etc. Also, in the device and platform dimensions, you can find insights about how page loading speed and website presentation on different devices influence your visitors’ behavior. Sometimes, waiting for the page to load is painful and people leave the website; the bounce rate starts growing, and you can notice this to make improvements.

  • Pages investigations: landing & exit pages​
Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages,
Behavior → Site Content → Exit Pages
landing pages and exit pages

This is another dimension to investigate. Looking at all behavioral metrics at the level of pages will help you understand the most popular and least popular pages and give a hint about what to do to improve the situation. For example, if one of your checkout pages is among the popular exit pages, it might be a sign of technical problems.

  • On-page event tracking

Behavior → Site Search

You may track a lot of events on your website, from a simple click anywhere on the page to conversion events: purchases, email subscriptions, comments and feedback, etc. Why do you have to track all of these events? If you want to grow, you should look at keywords your customers are entering in the search bar and identify the most popular and least popular buttons.

  • Multi-channel funnel investigations​
Conversions → Multi-Channel Funnel → Overview
multi-channel investigations

If you imagine a way to get from anywhere on the internet to making a purchase on your site, you can see that’s a long path. Or a funnel, as marketers call it. Website analytics tools help you understand the sequence of channels that lead a visitor to make a conversion and show the importance of each channel. 

If you see that your typical sequence has more than three channels, your search for the perfect attribution model becomes harder. Standard models won’t fit your needs, as one of the channels will be overvalued and others will be undervalued. 

Find out how to solve this attribution problem with OWOX BI.

As you see, metrics and investigations are waiting for you. You can explore more marketing metrics in this article. Remember one more thing while working with metrics and statistics: they’re always dynamic, and the change in values matters more than today’s or yesterday’s values on their own.

Also, don’t forget that statistics on website traffic aren’t the end of your e-commerce analysis. Let’s take it one level higher.​

Merge CRM and sales data

On your way to end-to-end analytics, you’ll get to the stage of merging CRM and sales data. At this stage, you’ll enrich your behavioral data from the website with information on sales and order performance. You’ll need to align the data from your CRM with sales and behavioral data and prepare it for analysis. A simple way to do that is using OWOX BI.

With sales and CRM data, you can estimate the whole sales funnel without missing any important insights.

OWOX BI Smart Data dialog

You can get answers to these questions (and more) with the help of OWOX BI:

  • What was the order completion rate by campaign?
  • What was the ROAS by gross profit by source and medium?
  • How many transactions were recorded in the CRM and how many customers were there in each store over a given period of time?
  • What’s my ROPO effect?
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Defeat the Goliath of web traffic analytics

Start with simple tools for investigating web traffic and progress to more sophisticated tools. Every business has to find the perfect set of analytic tools in order to grow. Be aware of the limitations of free versions of tools and prepare for each step on your way to end-to-end analytics. After all, web traffic analytics is only part of the picture. 

Let us know in the comments if you still have questions about web traffic analytics. Our specialists will answer as soon as they can.

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