What is User Analytics, and why is it important?
Those who hold George Orwell in high regard might be uneasy at the thought of website owners wanting their visitors to ‘behave’ on their sites. After all, websites aren’t totalitarian states that want to control the thoughts and actions of people, right?
Well, no. Not entirely.
However, it is pretty fundamental that anyone serious about their business knows how to monitor the behaviour of their website’s visitors, particularly if your website is linked to a business of any kind. You don’t have to be a dictator to do it!
So how do you go about tracking people’s behaviour on your website?
The answer is user analytics.
It has become the primary means of drawing a number of fundamental conclusions about your website, including whether your website works as you want it to.
A concept developed in the early 2000s, there are now tons of reliable user analytics systems (we <3 Hotjar) that work both as an aid to your marketing strategy. I’ll get into what some of these are later on, but for now let’s go into the specifics of why user analytics is not just a great idea – it’s a must.
- Find out how effective your website is
Here’s the deal – you might think your website is the best around, but you could be just a tad delusional. Think of how every parent seems to think their own children are the most adorable, the most pleasant, and the most special? Yep. Don’t be like that with your website.
Your website might be pretty, but if it’s not designed to cater to standards of user behaviour, you only have yourself to blame for the website not providing a great user experience. That can compromise your entire business.
In other words, knowing how your users behave on your website is a means of discovering how to adapt your website to their behaviour, not the other way around. You can’t make users adapt to your website design.
In urban planning, these are called ‘desire lines’ or ‘desire paths. Check out 99percentinvisible’s excellent article on that.
Don’t think of this as a butting of heads, though. Patterns of behaviour are what they are, and ultimately, your end goals are not different from those of your visitors – you both want to walk away happy – and so knowing how to accommodate them to achieve the best behavioural results goes a long way.
Therefore, the path to success isn’t that hard at all. There are three main steps here:
- Make use of user analytics to discover how your visitors behave
- Use data to determine your users’ goals and interests
- Make those goals more achievable through usability testing
2. What are some common types of user behaviour?
The good thing about user analytics is that it’s been conducted before by thousands of businesses, so now we have a pretty good indication of how people could be behaving on your own website. Mind you, that doesn’t take away the need for making use of user analytics yourself. Apart from the fact that you always need to be equipped to anticipate changing behavioural trends, nothing is as assuring as your own, personal data and metrics.
Despite that, here’s a brief list of commonly tracked user behaviours that you might find beneficial, particularly if you’re still in the process of setting your website up.
One common debate is whether websites need an internal search box, considering that Google is officially a thing that exists and works. Well, it turns out that the more intricate a website is, the greater the need for a search box. Having a dense website is one thing, but people won’t engage with your website if you don’t alleviate the density by making finding what they want easier.
It’s common sense, really. Think about the way you browse on websites that sell clothes. If you want a nice flannel shirt, are you going to dig through tons of pages till you found what you need? Of course not – you have better, even more hipster things to do.
Another extremely common behavioural pattern is banner blindness. People just don’t pay enough attention to banners. The understanding behind this is that people might too quickly assume them to be some form of advertisement. There are a few ways of countering this, such as by including more text in your banners. Experts also suggest that banners should be placed in top left of your page, and should not include bright colours.
Banner blindness is usually paired with another type of behaviour, which is tunnel vision. Rather self-explanatory, tunnel vision is a phenomenon in which website users only bother to look at the centre of the screen. This is, of course something you may want to exploit, putting the most important thing on your page front and center.
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But perhaps the double piece de resistance is the conversion rate and the user funnel.
The conversion rate of a page is the percentage of users that take the desired action, let’s say, click the ‘Buy Now’ button of a given page. With heat maps and user recordings, we can determine if it is the button’s placement, for example, that creates a low conversion rate.
The user funnel is the path that users take through your site. If you want them to go homepage>product page>buy now button>sign in>confirm>checkout, and they only get as far as the confirmation page, well, perhaps something is wrong there. Analyse that page, or reconfigure the funnel, to make more sales.
While we’re at it, when you start making use of user analytics, one thing you’ll probably be surprised about is the fact that users don’t linger on your homepage all that much. Think about it – the homepage is supposed to direct you to other parts of your website, but of course most people invest so much into making the homepage look fancy that it can be a shock that people don’t hang around there.
In other words, do make sure the homepage is eye-catching and professionally done, but not to the detriment of your other pages, which will actually be given more importance by your visitors, and will likely rank better on Google.
These are just a few of the common types of behaviours that user analytics will help you counter, but it’s also important for you to…
3. What User Analytics tools should I be looking into?
If at this point in the article you find yourself somewhat panicked about your website’s security and effectiveness, don’t. It’s not too late to find user analytics solutions that work for you, but of course you ought to do that as soon as possible.
It’s easy to get lost in the many options available, but just to make your life a little easier, here are some of the top options that professional entities are making use of:
If you’ve only heard one user analytics tool in your life, this will be it, for three main reasons: 1) it’s free, 2) it’s Google, 3) it works like a charm. Easily the most popular statistics service available today, Google Analytics utilises In-page Analytics, Webmaster tools, and more to determine the effectiveness of your design and content, while tracking the potential impact of all your visitors.
MOZ is especially useful if you’re a bigger business, as it will show you how your users behave compared to the competition, equipping you with the information you need to climb to the top of the game.
A Maltese startup that we use ourselves, Hotjar.com offers essentially all the features you could need to discover how your website is being consumed by users.
This tool offers heat maps that shows its users exactly which parts of the website are being given the most attention, as well as scroll maps that show you how far down users are willing to scroll. CrazyEgg’s services come with useful SEO and user trends-related tips.
4. How can Systemato help?
This article should have equipped you with plenty of information to steer you on the right track, but let’s face it – this stuff isn’t easy. We know – we do it for a living.
It’s because we do it for a living, though, that we know how to deal with user analytics tools efficiently. If you’re a website/business owner without a proper marketing team, drop us a call or email.
We can take care of tracking your users’ behavioural patterns, and find new ways to keep them in line while we’re at it, all with the scope of keeping your business running smoothly and better than ever.
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