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Researching User Behavior on Websites

Posted by Brad Shorr

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Dec 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Website.jpgIf marketers take a close look at their company website data, they will gain valuable insights to make those websites generate more sales leads and e-commerce revenue. In addition, the same data can improve lead and revenue production beyond the website — provided the data is shared throughout the organization, rather than confined to the website development team and Internet marketing analysts, as it often is. In this article, we’ll look at:

  • Important data to review
  • Important data gaps that must be filled
  • How to use the data to improve lead and revenue production

Important Data to Review

Google Analytics (and other analytics platforms) generate an enormous amount of detailed information about website traffic and user behavior on the company website. For marketers, the challenge is usually not having enough information, but rather, too much. While all of Google Analytics data has value, several data points are particularly useful for optimizing the website’s conversion funnel. Items to focus on include:

  • Page views — Which pages are getting the most views? The least?
  • Time on page — Which pages are visitors staying on for a long time and/or a little time?
  • Bounce rate — Which pages are visitors entering and then leaving?
  • Entry pages — Which pages are visitors entering the website on?
  • Exit pages — Which pages are visitors leaving the website on?
  • Traffic sources — How much traffic is coming from organic searches? Referrals from other websites?
  • Form tracking — How many forms are being completed?
  • E-commerce tracking — What is the conversion rate? The revenue generated? How many transactions were not completed?

For details on setting up conversion goals and reports in Google Analytics, review this article from Google. Beyond Google Analytics, other highly useful tools for researching user behavior include:

  • Heat mapping tools — These online tools enable marketers to visualize what elements of a page visitors are clicking on — and not clicking on. Scores of online tools are available, with various price ranges and capabilities.
  • Readability tests — Online tools can gauge the difficulty of on-site content. The Flesch-Kincaid Scale is one of the most widely used and reliable, but there are others.
  • Speed testing tools — Page loading speed is an important determiner of website user experience; slow loading leads to low conversion rates.
  • Split testing and multivariate testing — Online tools and services, some of which are highly sophisticated, allow marketers to test one or more variables on the website to continuously improve conversion rates with precision.
  • User testing and review tools — These services let genuine users review their website experiences.

Important Data Gaps to Fill

Bad data leads to bad conclusions. There are common data gaps that marketers must fill to gather the right information, such as:

  • Form tracking — Google Analytics has limited ability to track forms back to their marketing source, and to differentiate actual sales leads from other types of submissions. Special tracking functionality must be built into the website to fill these gaps.
  • Phone tracking — Google Analytics has no ability to track phone leads, which are often the highest quality leads. Phone lead tracking must be incorporated into the website to capture this data; without it, results could be seriously under reported.
  • Lead validation — A critical mistake is to confuse conversions with validated leads. Google Analytics and other analytics packages call any form submission (or phone call) a conversion; however, many conversions are spam, personal phone calls, sales solicitations, and other non-lead actions. If marketers interpret conversions as leads, they will grossly overestimate results. For a visual representation of this lead validation issue, refer to this infographic.

Using the Data to Improve Lead and Revenue Generation

Page-level analytics data, such as page view time and exit pages, helps the Web development team understand what content is and is not effective. Thus, if a page has a very short view time, it could mean the page has too much content, not enough content, or lacks visual interest. While the page view data does not provide an answer, it creates an issue to be tested, which will likely lead to improvement.

Similarly, heat map data and split/multivariate testing data may reveal problems not with on-page content, but rather with the positioning of on-page content. For instance, a page with a high bounce rate may have marketers scratching their heads, since the offer on that page is exceedingly strong. Relying on analytics alone, the temptation is strong to change the offer. However, if heat mapping indicates users are not seeing the offer, the real solution could be to put that content in a more prominent part of the page. Using research tools in combination, rather than relying on just one or two, provides a more complete picture of what is occurring.

Finally, researchers should communicate findings beyond the Web development and marketing teams — don’t forget the sales department! Insights about which offers work effectively, which don’t, which pages capture the attention of website users, and many other data points, help sales to craft more effective pitches and develop more persuasive closing techniques.

Interested to learn more about improving your company's website? Check out MarketResearch.com's free eBook The Ultimate Guide to Market Research and SEO.

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Editor's Note

This blog post was written by Brad Shorr, who brings more than 25 years of marketing, sales, and management experience to the Straight North team as the Director of Content Strategy.

About the Author

sn-brad-shorr-3.jpegWith a lifelong passion for reading and writing, Brad has been an active and respected blogger since 2005. His firm, Word Sell, Inc. — acquired by Straight North in 2010 — was among the first to bring social media marketing concepts and strategies to the business community. A graduate of Northwestern University, Brad is a skilled SEO copywriter, social media marketer, and content strategist.

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