Website Analytics Series: Clickstream Data Analysis

clickstream data analytics image
Simply put, clickstream data is information that web analytics tools can gather about your site. The most common tool platform is Google Analytics, probably because it is accurate, thorough, free and convenient. Clickstream data can easily become the most complicated part of your website analytics, and for beginners I think there are 9 basic metrics that together give you a very good idea about the effectiveness of landing pages. Put the pages together to get the big picture for the effectiveness of your website.

1. Visits, unique visitors, returning visitors. If you continually update information on your website, have calendars and add new products often, then you want to have a relatively high number of returning visitors. Overall visits gives you an indication of your site’s popularity- it counts each time anyone visits the website (technically, a session). If you have been tracking clickstream for a while, you’ll notice patterns emerge in these metrics. For example, your site might have noticeably fewer visitors on weekends. Which means that if you are going to do some work on the site that might interrupt traffic, then it should be done on weekends.

2. Traffic Sources; Direct traffic, referring sites, search engines. This metric helps you to see how visitors are finding your site. It can indicate how well your online advertising efforts are working; the effectiveness of your SEM campaigns, which engines have sent visitors, and which sites are sending visitors to you. I think one of the most valuable parts of the metric is actually direct traffic. This segment could be measuring brand awareness if you have a good site name, or it could be measuring visitor loyalty- these fans (or possibly employees) probably have your site bookmarked. It helps to get a clearer picture of the metric if you overlay returning visitors with all visitors.

Generally, you also have access to keywords as a component of search engine sources. This can indicate what visitors are looking for when they find your site. This is a handy bit of information because it reveals how closely aligned your keywords and content are. As part of that, it shows which words are driving visitors to your site.

3. The bounce rate is one of the few direct measurements of customer behavior available. In the Google Analytics tool set, the bounce rate does not account for time spent on the page before a visitor leaves the site. Therefore, the bounce rate metric also counts single-page visits. For bloggers, this means that you will probably have relatively high bounce rates if you are using Google Analytics.

To benchmark your bounce rate, I found this helpful post at http://webanalysis.blogspot.com.


Average bounce rates

4. While on the subject of bounce rates, it helps to drill-down into content to find out more about visitors who are continuing the session past the first page (non-bounce visitors). What are they looking for and how do they go about finding the information or making a purchase? What are the most successful pages and entry paths?

5. Average time on site helps indicate either how engaged the visitor is, or how lost & determined the visitor is. This metric is most helpful in comparing different kinds of visitors. Look at the average time on site for visitors who arrive by search engine. Compare that to those who arrive by direct traffic. What is the average time on site for non-bounce users? Where should you be advertising to attract more engaged users?

6. The depth of visit metric is helpful. According to Avinash Kaushik, author of Web Analytics 2.0, “The more pages a visitor sees, the deeper their journey and the higher the degree of engagement (Kaushik, p. 57).” If you have not already set up goals and conversions on your website, the depth of visit can shed some light on the overall percentage of visitors who technically could reach a desired number of page views, for example: It may take six page views to complete an ecommerce transaction. What percentage of your overall visitors technically could complete a transaction?

7. Conversion rates: Usually you will track conversion rates for a specific page deeper in the site- the submission of a form or order. This metric reads as a percentage, usually with visitors (as opposed to unique visitors) in the denominator.

Google Analytics explains conversion rates this way: Once you have set your goals, you’ll be able to see conversion rates and the monetary value of the traffic you receive. You can also define a “funnel path” for each goal. A funnel path is the path you want visitors to take to reach a goal. Defining a funnel path allows you to monitor how frequently visitors who begin a conversion process actually complete it.

8. Exit rate. This metric tracks the leaving page for the website. This metric is helpful in indicating which kinds of information or actions were ultimately motivating visits to the website. It also shows where holes in the funnel for conversions exist. Pages with high exit rates may be getting in the way of your goals- check them for confusing links, difficult forms, or otherwise undesired content.

9. Traffic sources. Most websites can be accessed from most internet connections virtually anywhere in the world. Traffic sources maps indicate the most popular sources of ip addresses that request your website, along with the top countries of origin. Traffic sources for Google Analytics are sensitive enough to indicate locations in small cities. This information helps not only with online marketing, but it also ties-in to any direct marketing campaigns or local marketing campaigns that may be ongoing. It identifies the location of your visitors. This can also be helpful if you are conducting paid search campaigns in revealing where the best audiences are for your money.

For further reading about clickstream analytics, I recommend Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. My copy even came with a helpful CD and a $25 coupon for Google Adwords.

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