Part VII in a continuing series on improving your firm’s website
Part I: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page
Part II: 5 Best Practices for your Practice Areas
Part III: Video is a Game Changer
Part IV: 4 Reasons You Should Blog
Part V: 3 Videos You Need to Have
Part VI: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO
Part VII: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience
So, you’ve actually taken the steps to improve your firm’s website. You updated all of your attorney bio pages and re-wrote the description of your firm’s practice areas to provide potential clients with the information they need. You started posting blog articles and even put up a couple videos describing your biggest cases. Now it’s time to find out what works and what doesn’t.
How do we do that? Analytics. Sure, it’s nice to have basic information about how many page views your website has in a day or month, but as I’ve said numerous times, a website is advertising. Or, as expressed perfectly by FindLaw’s Strategist: “When it comes to marketing your law firm, your website is your online presence.” You’re spending money on your site, so you need to be able to determine whether you’re getting value for your money. That’s where analytics tools come in, and they can be phenomenally valuable.
Here are my 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience:
(My preferred analytics tool is Google Analytics, a free system that links to your site. If you use WordPress, Jetpack offers a very basic analytics tool, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much information. If there are other analytics programs that you have found valuable, I’d love to hear about them.)
1) Identify your website’s audience.
Even if you know that people are visiting your site, do you know who they are? Are they potential clients in your targeted demographic, or are they family members of your firm’s attorneys? Are they viewing your site from down the street, or are they in another country? Knowing your target audience is important. Knowing your actual audience is more important. Knowing that your actual audience IS your target audience? Priceless.
Using Google Analytics, you have access to a wealth of information about your site’s visitors, including:
- Age (in new Demographics section)
- Location, all the way down to city
- Type of connection (desktop, mobile, tablet)
- Operating System
- Device model and service provider
- New and returning visitors
Knowing the demographics of your site’s visitors gives you significant insight into whether your website is reaching your target audience. If most of your visitors are from out-of-state, you need to focus your marketing efforts locally. If most of your visitors are checking out your site from their smartphone, make sure your updates and new posts are designed to be viewed easily on mobile devices.
2) Learn how they got to your website.
Ok, you know who is viewing your site, their location, and what type of device they’re using. But how did they find your website? Did they get to your site via search engine, or just type your website’s URL into their web browser? Did they see your ad while they were shopping on Amazon, or did one of their Facebook friends “Like” your firm?
In my opinion, knowing how users got to your site is equally as important as knowing who your users are. Remember, your website should be part of an integrated advertising plan. By knowing how your website’s users get to your site, you can evaluate how effective your ad campaign has been.
First, a few basics. There are generally three types of traffic based on how users get to your site, and understanding the difference between them is crucial to understanding your analytics:
Direct – they typed your site’s URL directly into their web browser and went directly to your site.
Referral – while on a different website, they clicked on a link to your site. Referral traffic includes traffic from social media sites.
Search – they came to your site through search engine results.
Each of the traffic types have a number of sub-categories, allowing you to get extremely detailed analysis about where your site’s users find you, and even compare the behaviors of your site’s visitors based on where they came from. This information, in turn, will allow you to plan much more targeted marketing campaigns in the future.
3) Find out what they saw.
You know who your users are and how they got to your site. Great. But how long do they stay on your site? What pages do they look at? How many pages do they look at?
Understanding what content is being read by your visitors, how long they stay, and how many pages they view per visit is critical for effective analysis of your website. The longer a user stays on your site, the better. Short visits or a high “bounce rate” may indicate that you haven’t put the information the visitor needs in the right place.
Does your firm have a blog? Look to see how many of your blog’s viewers actually navigate to your firm’s homepage after reading an article. If too many users leave your blog without ever going to your homepage, reconsider what type of content you’re blogging about, or improve your “call to action.”
In addition to using your analytics to evaluate your site’s content, use your analytics to evaluate its functionality too. If people are leaving your site after only looking at one page, consider making your website’s navigation easier to use. A lot of visitors leaving after only a few seconds? It’s possible your site loads frustratingly slow.
4) Find out what they did.
Here’s where you learn if your investment is paying off. You know who your site’s visitors are, where they’re coming from, AND what they’re looking at while on your site. But do your visitors actually DO anything? You have a video on your bio page, but are any of your visitors clicking “play”? You’ve published a white paper on eDiscovery in business, but have any of your visitors downloaded it?
Information on how users interact with your site can range from very basic (what links do they click on) to very complex (i.e. Goal tracking). There are plenty of tools to help you out, and I strongly recommend checking out the Google Analytics help section. Additional tools can be used to get that hard core (and very nerdy) analysis you may want. For example, if you want to know how effective your website’s layout is, a number of “A/B” layout testing services, such as Visual Website Optimizer, allow you to publish two different versions of the same page and see which is more effective. You can also generate heatmaps, like the one below, to show where users tend to click on your page.
Information is power. The more you know about the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, the better you can design them in the future. By following these four steps, you will have considerable up-to-date information on your website’s visitors. Given the analytics tools available, failing to learn everything you can about your audience, and put that information to use, is inexcusable.
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