Whether you created your website to provide clients with your contact details and staff biographies, to express your opinions, or to announce the arrival of your new firm, you need to be aware of how effective it is. That’s because no matter how simplistic your site is, it is a reflection of your brand, as well as a continued drain on resources.
Conveniently, Google offers a free tool, Google Analytics, which provides data on your website’s usage by tracking visitor behaviour. This data can provide insights into the effectiveness of the site and identify potential areas that could be improved.
Your practice manager may already be providing regular reports on the number of hits and the source of those hits. However, in addition to knowing how many people came to your site, and how they found it, there is a plethora of useful information available if you know where to look. For example you can identify your ‘conversion’ rates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis by tracking whether visitors filled out contact forms, signed up for newsletters, downloaded white papers or just looked at the contact details page.
Armed with this information you are then better equipped to make decisions on what resources to allocate to the website. Minimal downloads of white papers or signups to newsletters over a sustained period would suggest the content is irrelevant, unoriginal or out of date. This, in turn, would indicate more resources need to be allocated to writing more insightful pieces.
It is important to realise, however, that Google Analytics is only a tool that provides trends and will never be 100% accurate, so individual reports should not be viewed in isolation but in conjunction with other indicators to verify trends.
Additionally, any conclusions should be corroborated from another source. For example, before spending additional resources on thoughtful leadership pieces, seek feedback from key influencers within your client base on the quality and topic range of your current articles.
Six useful metrics
The number of reports Google Analytics offers can be overwhelming. So we suggest you start by focusing on the following six metrics that will give you an overview of your site’s performance and relevance for your target audience. Bear in mind the numbers generated in these reports read in isolation can be misleading, so we have also pointed out a few potential pitfalls.
1. Pages per session
This provides the average number of pages viewed during a session. Two or more pages is ideal as the information a visitor seeks is not likely to be on the home page.
2. Session duration
The average amount of time a visitor spends on your site is often a good indicator of relevance. However, an inability to find what they are looking for could also result in an extended stay.
3. Bounce Rate
This provides insights into how qualified your visitors are, as it measures the percentage of visitors that only viewed the home page before leaving. A high bounce rate can be an indication that either your messaging on your home page is ineffectual or you are attracting the wrong people. But it could also mean the information they were seeking, such as the physical address, was on the home page so further searching was not required.
The channel report tracks how a visitor arrived at your site. The main channels are:
- Organic: a search engine such as Google.
- Direct: the URL was typed directly into the browser address bar.
- Referral: via a link on another website.
- Social: via a link on social media.
This information is especially useful if you are assessing your Search Engine Optimisation performance or trying to determine if your social media efforts are driving clients to the site.
Knowing whether your visitors viewed your site on a tablet, mobile or desktop gives you an insight into whether you need to optimise your website pages to match consumption patterns. For example, if the majority of your visitors use a mobile to view the site, simple page design, strong headlines and short paragraphs are required.
6. All Pages
This ranks pages from most to least viewed and therefore provides insight into which sections are of most interest to your visitors. If, over time ‘About Us’ continues to rank more highly than ‘Articles’ it could suggest either that your visitors are not interested in the topics you are writing about, or that who you are and what you do is of more importance to them.
Remember the end game
Remember your end game is maintaining an effective website for your practice. If your site is a branded digital brochure, ease of navigation and number of hits are key. If your site needs to be a powerful lead generation tool, things such as duration and bounce rate are also critical measurements of its effectiveness.
Embrace Google Analytics and start to decipher what it is telling you, as the nuggets lie in the analysis not the reports themselves.
Sarah McGregor and Anna Lundon run The Marketing Loft, a boutique marketing agency that specialises in assisting law firms with marketing requirements, including website design and Google Analytics insights.