By Vidhan Rana

As a budding entrepreneur, I have just begun to understand the value of tracking and analyzing the traffic to my website. You may even wonder why it is necessary to monitor web traffic. Well first, it is the primary way your customers will find you. It does not matter if you are an economic development organization, a real estate broker, or a freelance consultant. Making it easy for people to find you on the web, for visitors to contact you, and staying engaged with your prospective customers is critical for any business in the 21st century.

So how will tracking your web traffic help your business? First, you will need to understand how many hits (visits) your website gets and where your hits are coming from. If you are a small retail outlet targeting customers locally in Holland, MI, receiving traffic from Atlanta, GA is not worth much. You may ask how many hits per day or per month is a good number. Some large corporations like Ford or Microsoft probably get hundreds of thousands of hits every month. But for a small business, getting to 1,000 hits every month may be a big deal. The key is to make sure that the trend is always increasing. If you have 600 hits this month, your target must be to increase traffic by at least 10% every month to continue to grow your business. Obviously more is better.

I use Google Analytics to monitor traffic on my company’s website. The best thing about Google Analytics is that it is FREE. Who can beat that right?! But it is a powerful tool as well. Not only does it monitor traffic coming to the website, it also tells you where all the traffic is coming from, how many times each page is viewed, how much time a user spends, on average, on a particular page, which device (mobile, tablet, pc, etc.) the user in on, the browser the visitor is using, and a whole host of other variables.

So how best to use this information you may ask. Here is one example: I recently added a new mentorship service in my consulting business for start-up companies based in Kathmandu, Nepal. I created a page dedicated to mentorship services. But after a few days online, I realized 80% of the visitors who landed on the page where leaving my website. Looking at the page, I quickly realized that there was no call to action on the page. It contained basic information about the service we provide, but the visitors were not asked to sign up for any service or go to any other page on the site. With that fact, I added a couple links at the bottom of the page. The very next day, the exit rate (the percentage of visitors leaving the website in that particular page) decreased by more than half!

Another useful way I use Google Analytics is monitoring what percentage of the hits come directly (i.e. people typing on their browser), what percentage comes from search engines, and finally, from referrals. While search engines may have been a major source of traffic for most websites until a year or two ago, referrals from social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin have become a major part of the traffic. For my company’s website, more than 50% of the hits come through referrals. Of the referrals, Facebook is contributing around 80% of the traffic, or 30% of the visits to our website. This number alone goes to show the importance of having a strong presence on social networking sites. The picture below shows the page analyzing the traffic to our website.

In terms of monitoring traffic from search engines, it is important to keep track of the search keywords that visitors are using to find you on the web. If you are a social media marketing consultant and none of the top 10 keywords relate to social media, you may want to consider adding more of such keywords across your website. There is a whole industry based on offering search engine optimization (SEO) services (which is the topic of my next blog post) that can help you do that if you are not savvy on doing it yourself.

In conclusion, analyzing your web traffic can be critical for your business’ success. The smaller your business, the more critical it is for you. Most small businesses have a limited marketing budget, thus making the best use of your existing website will be a wise investment for your time. So if you don’t track your web traffic, start doing it today!

To learn more about how to install and properly use Google Analytics, read the following blog post on Mashable Business.