[blockquote]To be successful, find something your good at, and repeat it.[/blockquote]

Today, we’re digging into the ideas that Jenn shared several days about how to increase website engagement. She hit the high notes and talked a little about 5 guiding principles for your site design. Read her post here.

To better understand how to get people to stay on the site once they’ve landed there, we need to first agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for website interactions or conversions. There are concepts, principles you can follow and apply to your business to help bring the picture into focus, but you would be right to remain highly skeptical of any skeleton key that promises to unlock all of your online potential no matter what kind of business you have.

Because every website is different, the second thing we need to establish is why you care about keeping people on your website in the first place. In other words, what’s the end game here? What objectives are you trying to reach when people view your site? While these objectives are different for everyone, some common ones include:

  • E-commerce – moving people to take action by buying something
  • Data collection – moving people to take action by submitting their info to you (email addresses, names, phone numbers, etc)
  • Subscribers – moving people to take action by having them subscribe to your website, allowing you to monetize the site itself through advertising, etc.
  • Direct contact – moving people to action by calling you, emailing you, or visiting your location for additional information

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it covers the most common goals we encounter for website owners. All of these objectives require an action by the website visitor, an action that we can track as a goal and call a conversion. A conversion simply being any website visitor who is converted to a buyer, subscriber, user, direct lead, etc. through interacting with your website. Conversions are obviously very important to your site’s success and a good indicator to increase website engagement. Conversions are tracked in Google Analytics when you setup goals.

MeetingSetup a goal by enabling Webmaster Tools in Reporting. Then go to your Admin > Profile page and select Goals. Add a goal based on your objective. For example, if you sell something on your website, a good goal to set here would be the destination URL for the receipt page after some has checked out. This goal means that you can quickly see conversions for that action – how many people who visited the site bought something.

Keep in mind that if you have e-commerce turned on in Google Analytics that you don’t want to assign a value to your goal for any e-commerce activity. Also keep in mind that one conversion could be multiple sales. In other words, that one person who saw the destination URL for their receipt could have bought five things, but they’ll still be counted as one conversion.

For information on how to use Google Analytics to understand conversion rates, read this article from About.com.

Google Analytics can be extremely helpful in understanding what is keeping people’s attention and what is not. For example, if you have a call to action like, “Click Here for More Information” on your site, you can track how many people click that link. When you compare those clicks against views from unique visitors, you start to get a clearer picture of how often people are moved to action by that web page.

If you also track how people got to that web page, you can design the page based on your audience’s demographic makeup. Define a Funnel to drill down on which pages need to be re-designed because people are leaving the site, not completing the conversion path. A Funnel is a series of steps people will take before reaching conversion status. It can be invaluable in understanding why you’re having a hard time trying to increase website engagement.

Now that you’ve established your objectives and understand the importance of tracking conversions, let’s see how Google Analytics can be optimized to help turn one success into a repeatable event. One thing you can do early on is to track your links – outbound links, referral links, link building campaigns, social media – to get a handle on the behavior of your audience. Click here for a nice guide.

Another thing you can do is track the behavior of individuals within your site. If they start on the homepage, what page do they visit next? To get snapshot of this info, go to Reports > Content > Site Content > All Pages then choose the page you want to inspect. Click on Navigation Summary, and you will see where visitors came from before that page, where they went after and if they landed on or bounced from there.

The key to optimizing your website for conversions is to define your objectives, turn them into Goals in Google Analytics and then track, track and then track some more! 🙂 Using these metrics, you can hone in on what will increase website engagement and repeat it. Here is a well-written article and case study for using metrics to track engagement: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Tracking Website Engagement.

A few quick tips to help you succeed faster:

  • K.I.S.S. – keep it simple sweetheart. Start with one objective, one goal and one funnel. Get to understand the reporting before jumping in over your head, or you may be overwhelmed and throw your hands up in frustration.
  • Ask for Help – you may be surprised by the willingness of other entrepreneurs and managers to share what they’ve learned. If you live in Franklin, we’ve found a strong sense of community here among small business owners who are willing to share to help others succeed.
  • Be consistent – you don’t have to be obsessive but check in regularly and maintain your focus.
  • Don’t short-change yourself – Keep in mind that results need to be monitored over several months in most cases to get quality trends. Don’t expect to see great results over the course of a few days and then re-design your site immediately if you don’t see them. Make incremental changes and monitor over time.
  • Exclude your own IP address – don’t inflate your tracking numbers by tracking yourself! You’re likely to be on your own site quite a bit, so exclude your IP address to ensure that you won’t be included as a “visitor” to your own site. You can do the same for family, employees and others you know will visit often but aren’t customers.

This was a lengthy post, and I’ll try to break up the info into more bite-size components for the future. Do you have additional tips to help increase website engagement?

Please let us know what you want to read about, and we’ll do our best to cover it soon.