Measuring User Behavior Through Web Analytics Metrics

“Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage” [66]. It is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but also performs market research and improves website effectiveness. Web analytics contains two types of data. One is on-page and the other is off-page. On-page data consists of measuring and improving visitor’s behavior by improving the UX [67]. This data may include information about conversion on a website. Whereas, off-page data consists of measuring potential audience (opportunity), visibility and buzz that is happening on the internet.

Google Analytics (GA) is a free Web Analytics service provider that generates detailed statistics about the website’s traffic, measures website usability and conversions, and sales [68,69]. The important sections of Google analytics are discussed in the following subsection.

1.1.1        On-Page Web Analytics

Millions of websites are coming into service, as with the increase of user involvement over the web. This motivated many businesspersons to get an online presence and become equally competitive [70]. Despite this motivation, it created strict requirements of usability to follow the rules and restrictions set by the website owners. However, the literature suggested that designing a usable website has a close relation with user satisfaction. This satisfaction can be achieved through a website’s communication ability in understanding the user’s needs [71]. It means that if a website is designed according to the user’s needs, it can for sure appeal and retain the customer in the repetitive visiting of the website. Customer retention makes website profit but it requires measuring time to time performance of the website overall.

Moreover, there is no such common standard to evaluate the overall performance of the website.  Shanshan Qi presented a framework for evaluating the overall performance of the website as shown in Figure 1 [71]. The stated framework is based on the evaluation of two types of performance. One is the technical performance, which is useful to evaluate the technical aspects (that is structure, usability, layout & design and effective navigation) of the website whereas the service performance is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the service (that is customer satisfaction, trust, response to customers) provided by the organization to their customers. Moreover, the framework highlights the key factors necessary while designing/ developing a website.     Site Speed

Researchers [73], [74], [75] emphasized the importance of site speed. They mentioned that download delay is an important design criterion on the internet. However, some researchers [76], [77] stated that when there is any uncertainty about the waiting (waiting for web pages to download), then the negative feeling is generated by the waiting experienced users. Moreover, they stated that waiting for the homepage to download is less damaging to the website evaluation than then waiting for the interaction with the website [76].     Content

Content is considered as the most important factor of SEO. The phrase “Content is the King” can be heard again and again when it comes to SEO success. However, Search engine algorithms like caffeine, panda, and freshness update, author rank depicts the importance of content in the eye of search engines [78]. Furthermore, in usability, the content represents the functionality of the website [71]. Therefore, tools like Google analytic allow website owners to discover the specific ways that people may be searching for the content     Top Landing Pages

Landing Pages are the pages through which people used to enter the site. More importantly, webmasters can inspect the number of bounces/bounce rate (%) of each landing page. The bounce rate is a good indicator of the landing page’s relevance and effectiveness.  Moreover, website masters can low the bounce rate by tailoring each landing page with its associated ad and referral links. The more relevant a page is, the less will be the bounce rate. In Landing Pages, entrance paths are powerful tools for analyzing navigation path [79].     Exit Pages

An exit page shows the unnatural exit points of a website. In order to check the “exit pages” of an eCommerce website, for example, a large number of users are dropping out at the second page of an e-commerce shopping cart; it is considered as one of the usability problems. However, finding and fixing these problem points/ exit pages can have a major impact on the bottom line of a website.  The reports about the exit pages can be drawn from Google Analytics [80].     Measuring Conversions via Conversion Funnel

The funnel conversion analysis provides a detailed overview of the critical areas of a website. Conversion funnels can provide a lot of valuable information that can help to increase the time spent on site, bounce rates, conversions, and sales. Moreover, examining the customer’s behavior through the website can determine the changes website owners need to consider to increase the purchasing rate of the customer. [81].

Figure 1: Standard Online Purchase Process [82]

Figure 3 is the standard online purchasing process through an e-commerce Website. The following steps, which are mainly performed by the visitors:

  1. The visitors visits an e-commerce website,
  2. The interested visitors start putting an item into their shopping basket,
  3. The visitor clicks “checkout”,
  4. The visitor enters shipping/ billing address and selects the secure payment method,
  5. Enter the credit information and clicks “Buy”.

Steps (I to IV) are all micro conversions and Step V is a macro conversion [67]. However, through the conversion funnel, website owners can determine why visitors drop out at micro-conversions. Therefore, website owners need to look at these sections and find why visitors leave from the pages. The researchers [*] took an example case to better understand the use of conversion funnel. These are the visits assumed on each web page of an e-commerce website.

I. One hundred and fifty Visits on the landing page

Webmasters need to observe first, from where the traffic is coming from (either from PPC ads, email promotion, social media (Facebook or Twitter). Secondly, there is a need to know i the page relevant to the visitors. If it is, written “Men Suits” and visitors are directed to a page containing blue jeans and T-shirts. “Bounce Rate” more commonly known as a metric can be checked as in, if the bounce rate is significantly high 70- 80 %, then it means the page is not relevant to the visitor.

II. Eighty Visits put an item on their online shopping basket.

The Webmaster can identify the reasons of bouncing back of the 70 visits from the home page.  One reason could be non-relevant information displayed to the customer as mentioned in the first point. The question is whether the 80 visits put an item to the shopping basket. There a clear call to action such as the “Buy Now” button for a visitor. Do not use system-specific terms like “Add to Cart”.  The location of this button “Buy now” is visible to the user.

III. Fifty visitors click the checkout button. 

To monitor whether the checkout buttons are easily seen by the visitor and can visitors easily access the shopping cart and checkout process from the product pages.

IV. Twenty-five enters all the shipping/ billing information and clicks on the secure payment page.

These are the questions webmaster can self-questioned to them. “Less is more”; the focus is to monitor and remove the unnecessary steps in the shopping cart process. To enable that the status of the completely shopping cart process is displayed to the visitor and the input fields, a drop-down is whether appropriate for the required data.

V. Fifteen visitors enter all of their credit card information and click “Buy”.

It is necessary to calculate shipping and taxes. Therefore, visitors know exactly what they pay before they reach the final payment stage. There is a preview available to the summary i-e products, taxes, shipping and billing address, the total cost in the final step and whether the final step clear, such as the “Complete purchase” button.

1.1.1        Off-Page Web Analytics

Google has provided a web analytics tool, known as Google Analytics. It is used for a website evaluation by checking the required metrics for a website. These metrics must be analyzed against certain goals of a website. Therefore, it is far more important to first determine the website conversion goals. An online conversion goal is an action that website owners want visitors to take on the website [83]. To determine the website conversion goals, website owners can ask themselves “What they ultimately want visitors to do on their website?” A few examples of a conversion for a website are signing up for the newsletter of a fashion magazine website, filling out a contact us form, making a purchase on an e-commerce website, reading blog posts of a blog or downloading an e-book on a website.

Using the below metrics “Customer Satisfaction” can be measured up to some extent, which is an important aspect of usability.     Pages Per visit

Google defines pages per visit is “the average number of pages viewed per visit to the website. Repeated views of a single page are counted in this calculation [85]. Usually, product ordering pages of an e-commerce website is about 5 layers deep as shown in figure 1.” Checking “Pages per visit” can inform website owners about the issues on the website pages, if visitors leave the website in between the process. For example, average 2/3 Pages per visit is probably a bad sign for an e-commerce website.     Average Visit-Duration / Time-on-Site

Google explains the “average visit duration”. “It can be calculated by dividing the total time on site by the number of sessions for the selected time frame” [86]. Evaluating the metric “Average time-on-site” for an e-commerce website does not have a useful impact on measuring customer satisfaction. Because of the low time which indicates a better customer experience and smoother checkout. In addition, if the average time on an e-commerce website is greater than it is possible that a website is difficult to navigate and find products. This metric can be an effective parameter for a blog website where a higher average time on site represents the good content on a site.     Bounce Rate

“Bounce Rate is the percentage of bounced visits to the website”. The bounce visits happen when a visitor lands on a home page, looks around for a minute or two and immediately leaves [87]. By checking the bounce rate of the website, the percentage can be known for total bounced visitors from the website. In addition, steps should be taken to reduce the website bounce rate.     Exit Pages

This metric identifies the number of exits from website pages, as with entrances. Using this metric in combination with particular content pages in order to determine the number of times that a particular page is last viewed by visitors [80]. An exit page shows the unnatural exit points of a website. In order to check the “exit pages” of an e-commerce website, if for example, a large number of users are dropping out on the second page of an e-commerce shopping cart then it may have a usability problem. However, finding and fixing these problem points/ exit pages can have a major impact on the bottom line of a website.     New Visitors vs. Returning visitors

When someone visits a website for the first time, the visit is categorized as “Visit from a new visitor”. If the visitor has browsed the website before, the visit is categorized as “Visit from a returning visitor” [88]. The difference of “New Visitors” Vs “Returning visitors” can be monitored for the e-commerce website. For example, if for 3 months, the new visitors are about 90 % but returning visitors are 10% it means the website is not capable to retain the old visitors (returning visitors). The reasons may be that the website is not appealing to the visitors or may have issues with the usability of the website.