At the risk of sounding like the world’s biggest hypocrite, I’ve come to love collecting and analyzing data on how site visitors consume my site.
Like you, I don’t love the fact that sites – large and small – measure everything I do. Giving up a bit (or more) of my privacy is the price I pay for free digital services I have come to depend upon.
But, when it comes to site ownership, I’ve reluctantly come to the complete understanding that the only way you can build a successful site is to measure everything.
So I do. I have become a Measurement Monster. I use as many tools and techniques as I can to gain insight into what my users are doing and why they are likely to be doing it.
Here Are The Tools I Recommend
1. Google Analytics
With good reason, Google Analytics is the gold standard for collecting user data.
Get rid of all those junky plugins that do something like Google Analytics but not nearly as well. I’m talking about
- Jetpack site stats
- Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights
- Analytify (which I once touted)
- Google Analytics Dashboard Widget by Analytify
and similar plugins that dummy down what Google Analytics does which is exactly what you don’t want.
You will need to learn GA. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s not impossible. Trust me, it will come.
It took me a while to get over the fear that I’ll never learn GA, but that training really helped me. I started by just focusing on one part of it and over time I got outside my comfort zone to use more of its treasures.
Remember, you need to have your web site recognized (hooked up to) GA so it can do its thing and track user data. While there are plugins like Yoast SEO that make it easy to do this, in reality a plugin is not needed to connect your site to GA.
If I don’t have to use a plugin, I won’t.
Small Glimpse Of What GA Does
Here are 2 screenshots that’ll give you an idea of what Google Analytics can tell you.
And here’s a top level report of the activity on this site from July 14 to July 21.
You can see there were 1,131 visits plus other vital data. GA makes it fairly logical to drill down for more details.
I did a lot better at the end of that week.
2. Behavioral Intelligence
While GA provides reams of quantitative data, you’re not going to get the complete picture of how your site is being used.
You’re still going to need information that can only be gleaned from tools that measure user behavior.
Want to know exactly what users are looking at and for how long? What navigation patterns they follow? How long they are on a page? How are they acting with interactive content such as videos and all sorts of UI (such as popups, forms, accordions and tabs)?
This is what behavioral intelligence is about.
We now have great tools that do the work that, until now, only the big companies with the big bucks could do.
Take Inspectlet (which I have just started using) which has a free version of their service. Here is a sample of two recorded user sessions with my site.
Amazing, right? Yes, and a little creepy, but it is anonymous. It gives me insights on exactly how the pages on my site are being used which Google Analytics can’t do.
Inspectlet also has a heatmap feature which lets you see what users are seeing and doing on any page.
Here’s one example of a page where the dots are instances where a mouse stopped moving. This is eye tracking – or at least a very good idea of what users are focusing on.
If you are just starting out with behavioral intelligence, you might also want to check out these other tools:
Look for plugins that provide analytics.
For example, I use User Insights so I can easily see the activity of my logged in users (people who have access to all free WordPress training videos on my site). It stands to reason that a plugin like this will provide some analytics.
But what of other plugins that feature some kind of user engagement or interaction with an element of my site? Take Accordion Pro which is in action on my Take A Private Online WordPress Class page. It does not measure which tabs have been tapped and how many times that happened. That would be very useful information.
When choosing a plugin that involves user interaction, always make sure that analytics are part of the plugin. This is usually – but not always – a premium feature of many plugins so you can expect to pay for this important function.
But it’ll be worth it.
With all the data you can gather with these and other tools, you will be in a position to make smart decisions about improving the user experience and increasing your conversion rates. Without getting feedback, you’ll be making a lot of bad guesses that are likely to yield bad results.