You want to improve your website results. Maybe it’s more traffic, maybe it’s more signups.

Maybe you don’t even know what you want to improve, but you feel the urge anyhow.

Without a baseline it’s very hard to tell what is or isn’t working. It’s hard to say what effect your marketing is having.

Tracking some essential web stats can help small business owners figure out where to put their money and effort, and identify a quality provider from a scammer.

If we get down to the bare essence of the matter, your revenue after marketing should be greater than what you paid for the marketing.

That is the ultimate stat.

But you may be on a long sales timeline. You may need several interactions with a prospect before they become a client.

In the meantime, there are other numbers to look at to see where your process could use some improvement.

Good thing then, that the internet makes everything trackable and measurable.

For a small business owner, installing Google Analytics on their website is going to give them most of the answers to their questions.

But then they run into the problem of having too much information, and the pain of learning yet another new web tool.

You can avoid all this by focusing on a few key metrics. Just understand what they mean, and you will see how they inform your future business decisions.

So what would it help to know?

USERS

These are the different people who used your site.

It doesn’t matter if they’ve come to the website once or one hundred times, they only count as one user.

Now you know how many actual people have been using the website for any period of time.

Lot of stats focus on “page views” or “unique page views”. For a small business these are vanity numbers, as a page can be viewed by the same user many times.

Looking at unique page views is helpful if you are adding a lot of content (like blog posts). Then you can see which pages are most popular. But otherwise, your bottom line is going to be more affected by users rather than views.

Users can be further broken down into “new” and “returning” visitors.

Imagine you paid someone to do marketing that drove traffic to your website. You are looking for an increase in your new visitor numbers.

These numbers can be confusing, since you may think total users are just the sum of new and returning visitors.

But I can see your website for the first time on Monday (new visitor), then check it again on Tuesday (return visitor).

So that would count as 1 user, 1 new visitor, and 1 return visitor.

BOUNCE RATE

After someone visits a page on your website, they either go on to read more pages or they leave the site altogether.

When they leave the site after one page, it is called a “bounce”.

Ideally, you want a very low bounce rate. This means that users find the website relevant and helpful enough to keep browsing.

Think of how you would look through a website:

You come to the Home page, and it looks professional. Then you go check what services are offered, to make sure they can help you. Finally, you head to the Contact page to take the next step.

There is no bounce counted, because you went through more than one page.

However, some companies don’t mind a high bounce rate because they are driving phone calls and the phone number may be on the top of every page.

If my toilet is backing up and I pull up an emergency plumber, chances are I’m not going to read through their website. If it looks like a trustworthy company, I’m grabbing the phone number immediately.

In this case the stats would show a bounce, but the plumber now has a chance to get my business.

PAGE

This metric shows what pages of your website were visited.

They display by “URI”, which is the part of a page address that comes after your domain name. So on this blog page the address is www.websites.ca/essential-web-stats. The URI would be “/essential-web-stats”.

Usually the most popular page on your website will show up as “/” (just a forward slash) in Google Analytics. That means it is the Home page.

On nearly every website the Home page is the most visited, and has the most page views.

So unless you are like the emergency plumber in my example above, you are going to want to look for two main things on your page data.

The first is a low(ish) bounce rate on your Home page. Because you don’t want users to leave after seeing that page; you want them to click and read other pages.

The second thing is to be aware of the other popular pages on your site.

You can sort page data by “unique page views” just to get an idea of the general activity on the page (remember, this is not telling you the amount of people who looked at it, but rather how many times it was looked at by everyone).

As a rule of thumb, you want visitors to take whatever action ends in the best result for your business. Usually it is contacting you or placing an order.

So you want to see that the Contact page (eg. “/contact”, or “/contact-us”, etc) has a decent amount of traffic.

SOURCE

Where are all these website users coming from?

Source will tell you.

“Direct” means a user typed in your domain (web address) directly into their browser. They did not use a search engine (like Google) or follow a link from another website.

Having a lot of direct traffic is great if you use the website as a follow up to your sales process (you call/visit a prospect, then they visit your website after).

Direct traffic could also be high if you use the site to service existing clients.

But if the website is meant to bring in completely new leads, then direct traffic is not as helpful. This is because a user coming in directly already knows who you are (and your goal would be to reach new people).

Some other types of sources are Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites that might be linking to yours.

Having a lot of traffic from Google is great, because it means you are getting organic results. In this case organic means regular (not paid) search results.

As is the common theme here, you can use the source metric to see if your various marketing efforts are paying off.

Imagine you paid someone to promote your business on Facebook. If you look at your source traffic over a few months, and it didn’t go up in a major way, then chances are it’s not working out for you.

Some marketers might say they are “building your brand” rather than generating sales immediately. But you are not Nike or Coke; you need to see some kind of tangible result to justify your limited ad budget.

If you can agree on a reasonable goal to increase your traffic from a certain source, then it is easy to measure.