In my experience, lawyers like to talk about “hits” to their websites and blogs. And while the term “hits” makes me cringe (it isn’t very descriptive and is very outdated), ignoring your web analytics data limits your ability to understand your online audience.

And while your audience may provide feedback in other ways (commenting, subscribing, liking, etc), it’s what they’re not saying that may prove even more valuable. This is where web analytics comes into play.

The Digital Analytics Association defines web analytics as:

the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.

In other words, it tracks how internet users interact with with web pages and provides a means by which to analyze their behaviors.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about web analytics, I strongly encourage you to learn some basics and add some tracking code to your site. Even some basic visitor traffic measurements can provide you powerful insights about from where your visitors are coming and how they’re interacting with your pages.

If you are already familiar with web analytics, you might want to skip down to the tips section. Hopefully you will learn something new.

If you pay someone to monitor, manage and report on web analytics data, I encourage you to ask some pointed questions about your visitor traffic statistics.

Some Web Analytics Basics

if ever there was a web analytics guru, it’s Avinash Kaushik. His books, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day & Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability & Science of Customer Centricity are web analytics must-reads.

His blog, Occam’s Razor, is also extremely useful. In Web Analytics Demystified, he lays out some of the basic metrics:

Visits represents the number of sessions on your website, number of times someone interacted with your site. Bounce is the number of those who left instantly!

The Page Views number is how many pages were requested in those visits. Oh and how many in each visit, Pages / Visit.

Avg Time on Site, how long did people stay on your site.

% New Visits shows how many sessions, interactions, were from people (yes people!) who visited your site for the first time.

[Note: Blogs are unique “I’ll only read the latest post and be on my way” animals. In as much both Bounce Rate and Time on Site are poor metrics to judge quality.]

You should also learn a little a bit about traffic sources:

Traffic sources tell you from where your visitors came to your web pages. In general, there are three main types of traffic:

Direct Traffic: How do the people who clicked a bookmark to come to your site or typed your site URL into their browser compare to the “average” visitor to your site? Direct traffic can include visitors recruited via offline (i.e. print, television) campaigns.

Referring Sites: How do the people referred from other sites compare to the “average” visitor to your site? The graph shows the overall trends in traffic volume from referrals while the table lists the sites driving the trends.

Search Engines: How does search engine traffic compare to traffic as a whole to your site? The graph shows overall trends while the table lists the search engines driving the trends.

If you can get a handle on the basic visitor metrics and traffic sources, you will be off to a pretty good start.

Choosing a Web Analytics Software Solution

There are a variety of web analytics solutions from which to choose. Some are free, some are prohibitively expensive. There are a variety of reasons for choosing between these different options.

However, unless you have a good reason not to use it, I recommend using Google Analytics. Here are just a few other popular options:

Google Analytics

I suspect that for most readers of this post, Google Analytics will be the obvious choice. It’s free. It’s extremely robust. And it’s very well-supported. It’s also very easy-to-use.

You can get started with Google Analytics in 3 simple steps:

  1. Step 1: Sign up for an account.
  2. Step 2: Set up account properties.
  3. Step 3: Set up your tracking code.

If you’re using WordPress + Thesis, installing your tracking code couldn’t be easier. In your dashboard, navigate to:

Thesis -> Site Options -> Stats Software/Scripts and copy and paste your analytics tracking code:

That’s all you need to do to start collecting data. The next step is to analyze it and put it to good use. If you’re interested in learning about some of the more advanced functionality of GA, I recommend the following resources from Google:

Some Web Analytics Tips for Lawyers

  • Audit Your Legal Directory Listings – Wondering whether that directory listing is generating any visitors? Web analytics will tell you. See if the money you’re spending on directory listings is generating a return on investment.
  • Don’t Rely Solely on Search Traffic – If search traffic makes up over 90% of your visitor traffic, I suggest that you’re relying too heavily on search. Find ways to diversify your site traffic. Share content on other quality platforms. Provide informative comments on other blogs. Consider participating on legal question & answer sites. Analyze your web analytics data to measure and monitor which sites are providing targeted traffic.
  • Focus on Actionable Insights – Who are you trying to get to your web pages and what are you trying to get them to do? Without specific analytics objectives, you will likely find yourself diving down the data rabbit hole becoming overwhelmed with all sorts of statistics that don’t really matter. From there, you’ll likely draw all sorts of false assumptions. Stick to Avinash’s Trinity: A Mindset & Strategic Approach
  • Avoid False Assumptions & Generalizations – Once you start analyzing your data, you will likely fall victim to making false assumptions. For example, many people tend to hyper-focus on bounce rate. However, in some situations, bounce rate can be an indication that a visitor came to your site, found what they were looking for and left. This isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing (especially if your site is a blog).
  • Design & Implement Goals and Funnels – Goals and funnels allow you to track specific objectives. For example, you may want to track how many people reach a certain page on your site or perform a specific action (like downloading an informational resource).
  • Use Custom Campaign Parameters – These are especially important if you’re doing advertising that you want to track. If you’re advertising with Adwords, I recommend enabling auto-tagging to distinguish your paid search traffic from your organic traffic. For manual URLs, use Google’s URL Builder tool.

Working With a Web Analytics Consultant

If you don’t have the time, interest or desire to learn the intricacies of analyzing web analytics data, you can always hire someone to help you. However, if you’re going to hire a consultant, be sure to properly vet them. Search for a qualified individual or Certified Partner. Beware of folks that have created their own certification badges.

Stay in regular communication with your analytics consultant. Make sure you lay out the specific objectives and goals that you wish to achieve.

As you can probably tell, web analytics data analysis can get a bit complex. However, if you stick to analyzing the basics and stay objective-oriented, you will probably be surprised by the insights that visitor feedback provides.