Visitor Tracking and Analytics is one of the most important tools you can have running alongside your website.
Imagine running your business with the lights out - not being able to see if you have any customers or what they're doing while in your store.
Website tracking is like turning the lights on in your website. It will give you valuable information about how your website is being used and areas where you can improve. In this case, knowledge is power.
Know how many visitors are coming to your website.
The website counter is the very basic of visitor tracking. It tells you how many people came to your site. In the early days of website counters that's all they did...give you the number of visits to the page. And in a lot of cases, they showed everybody else your visitor count too. YUCK!
Fortunately counters have evolved into a much more sophisticated analytics reporting tool. Now you get the number of visitors plus so much more.
Know where your visitors are coming from.
If you are doing any type of search engine optimization or advertising you absolutely must keep your finger on the pulse of your efforts. Visitor tracking will tell you which sites, ads and keywords are sending you the majority of your traffic. You will also be able to see which efforts are falling flat and not giving you a return.
Know your conversion rate.
In the case of search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising it's imperative that you have a handle on which keywords or referrers carry the most potential and which ones are duds. Paying for dead ads or keywords will drain an advertising budget quick.
Your conversion report will tell you which visitors are converting, where they came from and which keyword they used to find you.
Know what your visitors are doing while they are at your website.
One of the most important pieces of data in your analytics reports is the bounce-rate. This is the report of visitors that came to your landing page but then left within seconds.
Unfortunately, a high bounce-rate tells the search engines that your visitors aren't finding quality content and it will have a negative impact on your search engine ranking related to that keyword. You only have a few seconds to grab them so your landing pages need to be tweaked to keep your visitors from bouncing.
You also want to keep an eye on your navigation reports. These tell you if your visitors are able to find what they are looking for and if they are taking the time to consume that information.
Know your repeat visitor rate.
Your goal is to have your website visitors return to your site time and time again. This is why brochure sites generally don't work. They see that the site never changes so you will eventually lose those repeat visitors. Repeat visitor traffic is the cheapest traffic you can achieve to your site.
There are several options when it comes to analytics. The most popular is the free version of Google Analytics. They've just recently launched Google Analytics Premium, but I don't see the need for that with most average sized sites.
Just set up a free Google account if you don't already have one, then go to Google Analytics and add your website. You will be given a snippet of code to be placed at the bottom of all of your pages. Once that is in place, Google will verify you are set up correctly and start gathering information about your site.