What Is Web Analytics and How To Know If Your Website Is Bringing In Customers

How Web Analytics Helps You Know How To Bring In Customers

Web analytics, like any form of analytics, seeks to answer pressing questions. For businesses invested and reliant on online engagement and sales, web analytics seeks to answer questions like:

  • Is my website bringing in customers?
  • How is my content performing compared to the competition?
  • What pages do people visit most? Least?
  • What brought people to my site?
  • What are my target audiences’ paths to purchase, or where should I invest my dollars?

Looking at these questions, we can see that web analytics today involves more than simply data provided by your website. We want to know where our customers came from. We want to know where they went before they finally made a purchase. With the expansion of web analytics from beyond simply the data from your website demands a reconsideration of the question:

What is Web Analytics?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services usability.gov website, the answer is:


(Admit it, you didn’t know website usability fell under the purview of Health and Human Services, did you?)

It’s a good definition, except for one item: “website data.” It’s so much more than website data. 

We suggest a definition like this:

Website analytics involves data collection and analysis of user interaction, engagement, and conversion with all your online content including your website, app, paid search ads, social media sites – both paid and organic, programmatic display ads, and any other digital media and channels you use.

Your website isn't just one small part of a much larger collection of digital assets that may include a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, Google Ads, mobile apps, and more. But any business that invests in digital marketing and uses its online presence as a part of its marketing needs website analytics to bring it all together, and go further!

What Data Does Web Analytics Track?

Web analytics tools track an expansive range of data, some of which includes:

  • User visits
  • Page visits
  • Links that brought the user to your page
  • Time on a page
  • Downloads (ie., a pdf download)
  • Form submissions
  • Ad clicks
  • Post views
  • Cart abandonment
  • Social ‘likes’
  • Sign-ups

And really, this list can go on and on and on. Every user action on the web can be tracked, collected, and analyzed (being mindful of GDPR and other privacy regulations, of course). The only challenge facing any business is whether it can find the web analytics tools that best meet its needs.

Regardless of the tools employed, marketers use the data collected to inform their marketing decision making.

  • Marketers track site performance to know what resonates with their audience and what doesn’t.
  • Key performance indicators provide a measurement of improvements or declines.
  • Data collected reveals which channels an audience most engages with, helping marketers understand both the customer path to purchase and where to allocate budget for the best result.

To say web analytics is vital to every online marketing borders on understatement. After all—

  • You can’t improve what you can’t measure.
  • You can’t know your customers’ likes and dislikes – then and now – without data.
  • Website optimization is impossible without data to guide the process (you’d just be guessing about what you should change).
  • Future campaigns and marketing efforts can’t benefit from year-over-year data

In summary, web analytics tracks the data you need to further your online marketing efforts.

Now, before you go in search of a web analytics tool or tools, it helps to understand how they work and factors to consider when you are getting started with, or updating, your web analytics program.

How Web Analytics Tools Work

To collect data from a web page you need to “tag” it. A tag is a snippet of javascript code or a pixel that you paste into the code of your web page. Some tools may use cookies to track repeat visits, seeking to prevent redundant counting of page visits.

(You should be aware that with the increased attention to data security, some browsers offer cookie deletion which prevents code tracking, making full data accuracy difficult to achieve. The solution? Know your audience well enough to know if they would use a browser like this.)

These tags count and collect the data you designate during their setup: user page visits, downloads, browser used, the device used, location – any of the data they are designed to collect. The tags then forward that data to the designated analytics software. For example, Google Tag Manager forwards data collected in its tags to Google Analytics.

So, Which Web Analytics Tool is Right for You?

We talk about Google Analytics a lot and use it as an example for several reasons.

  1. It’s one of the most used analytics tools around.
  2. It’s as non-proprietary as you can get. Google encourages platforms to create integrations for their platform, hence Google Tag Managers dozens of tag tools. With Google Analytics, your data belongs to you. Want to change tools? Export your data, reload and go.
  3. It’s free.

This last point can’t be understated. For a free tool, it’s exceptionally powerful.

On its own, Google Analytics reports page views, sessions, and bounce rates. Pretty basic stuff. Tracking integrations, such as those made available through Google Tag Manager, vastly expand its data tracking, analysis, and reporting capabilities concerning your audience, customer acquisition, user behavior, and conversions.

Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are only a couple of examples of analytics tools. There are many others. Some supplement each other. Many compete with Google Analytics, with some offering enhanced features not available with Google’s free analytics tool.

For many businesses, the question comes down to cost. Can you get as much from a free version of another analytics tool as you can Google Analytics? And does Google Analytics give you the features you need? For most, the answer is yes.

How to Get Your Web Analytics Program Pouring Out Data to Drive Your Goals

Regardless of which system you are using (or even if you’re just getting started), the best way to start is with an Analytics Audit.

If you have a system going, an audit analyzes your current infrastructure and analytics setup, identifying gaps and opportunities.

For a business just getting started, it analyzes your infrastructure to recommend the best setup so you can maximize your data from day one.

Have questions about your web analytics? Let’s chat and see what’s right for you.