Website Analytics 101 for Accountants
What are website analytics? And why should I care? Website analytics provide you with diagnostic feedback about how many people are visiting your accounting website, where they are going on your website, where they came from, how much time they are spending on your website, and other types of visitor behavior. Website analytics can provide answers to questions like:
- How many visitors came? How many pages per visit? How much time?
- Where they came from? Which website or search engine? Organic listing in search engine results page or a pay per click ad? Where in the country or outside the US?
- What page they first visited? What page they exited on?
- If they came from a search engine, what keywords did they type in?
- If they came from an ad, where was the ad placed?
- What types of browsers did they use? IE? Firefox? Safari? Chrome?
This diagnostic information can help you diagnose problems, better understand the path they take throughout your website, and improve their website experience.
What is a common misperception that most accountants have about their website?
Most accountants believe that everyone comes to their website at the home page. In reality, the home page is just one of many pages that website visitors begin their voyage on your website.
Search engines often dictate which page many visitors begin their visit, and it is frequently something other than the home page. In some circumstances, it might be a services page or about us page or industry page. In other words, they may come in the front door, side door or back door much like your house.
Your website should be designed with navigation so that any user can get from the page they landed on initially to answer their question in 1-2 clicks.
What analytics tools should I consider for my accounting website?
Most small accounting firms use Google Analytics. It's a powerful tool that is provided free to the user. Most accounting website providers should be able to support the installation of Google Analytics. We currently do this for about 20% of our website clients at no extra charge. However, the analysis work is done by the accounting firm.
Google Analytics is by far the industry leader and it is more than adequate. There are fee based analytics programs on the market but we don't recommend them and most accounting firms would not want to invest the time and money to adequately support them. The fee based tools range from Omniture to Webtrends.
To set up a Google Analytics account, simply go to google.com/analytics/.
What are the types of things you look at when you are analyzing a website?
1.) Bounce Rate - We look at the bounce rate to see if there are problems for the initial visitor. The bounce rate is the percent of visitors that land on a page, do not advance (dead-end), and hit the back button. This is a cue that an initial landing page in your website may not be meeting their expectations and should be adjusted to draw them into your website and visit multiple pages.
2.) Exit Page - We also look at exit pages to see if we failed to deliver some type of information they wanted.
3.) Click Path - We also look at the traffic flow that website visitors take after arriving at the website.
4.) Average Length of Session - Over time, we want to increase the average number of pages per visitor and expand the length of time each person visits. This indicates that they like what they see and are evaluating the fit.
5.) Unique Visitors and Average Number of Pages Per Unique Visitor - Over time, we are monitoring the total reach of the website by monitoring the number of unique visitors in combination with the average number of pages per unique visitor. For example, a person that comes to a website five times in one day accessing fifty pages only counts as one unique visitor.
If an accounting firm completes all of this website analytics work and draws the conclusion that we aren't getting enough phone calls and leads from the website, what do you recommend?
Within the analytics analysis, one of the areas that we investigate is the source of traffic. In other words, how are people finding the website now and how does that compare to other accounting firm websites? For example, what percent of the website traffic is coming from search engines because the website has secured solid placements in the Google, Yahoo and Bing? We would also look at other sources of traffic like directories like QuickBooks Certified Pro Advisor, Bookkeepinghelp.com, and online yellow pages. And social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, website blog and Yelp. And other sources like the Local Chamber of Commerce, placement in a local accounting association, and miscellaneous articles that have been published online. And last, how much is coming from advertising sources like Google Ads, Yahoo and Bing? From this, we develop a list of suggestions to increase both the quantity of website traffic and improve the quality of the leads generated.
What other types of information are you searching for that can improve the productivity from your website?
Another area that we investigate is broken links to a missing page and error pages. In other words, we want the analysis to highlight how many pages are coming up as broken links (e.g., page not found). Broken links happen but are something that need to be corrected over time.
How do you identify pages on your accountin gwebsite that are not performing well?
The key indicator for a poorly performing page is that it has a high bounce rate or high percentage of exits. Most analytics packages provide a report of the top exit pages for you to monitor.
About the Author
Hugh Duffy is co-founder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, a practice development and marketing company for small to medium sized accounting firms and accounting website design firm. Hugh has taught a series of Accounting Marketing Workshops; is frequently published in various publications, including state CPA society magazines, The CPA Practice Advisor, and Progressive Accountant. He can be reached at 888-999-9800 x151, or at [email protected].