Understanding Web Analytics and choosing the right tool

This article discusses importance of web analytics, metrics used in web analytics, process of collecting and analyzing data for web analytics and how to choose web analytics tools to get desired results

Why Web Analytics

First let us understand why do we even need web analytics.

  • Knowing which content is performing well with your audience: Web analytics can help you understand audience engagement. You can discover which content is resonating with your audience by tracking key metrics such as page views, time on page, and bounce rate. Content marketers can use these insights to tailor their content strategy, creating more engaging and relevant materials that drive audience engagement.
  • Knowing where to sponsor and advertise for best ROI: Web analytics helps you in leveraging referral traffic insights. Make informed decisions about sponsorships and advertising by analyzing where your website traffic is coming from. Ad campaign managers can optimize ad placements and strategies based on the most effective referral sources.
  • Deciding on localization of content: Web analytics can help you in identifying opportunities for international expansion by recognizing significant user traffic from specific countries or regions. It can help you in deciding if it is worth spending money in translating the content in local language. Content marketers can also use this data to create localized content that resonates with the local audience to drive international growth.
  • Deciding where to spend development effort: Web analytics can help you in deciding which platform you should optimize your website for a better user experience by analyzing data on user devices and browsers. Based on the device/browser data of website users, Web developers can make their optimization efforts more targeted and efficient.
  • Deciding if its worth purchasing a website: When you are selling it is important that you have third party data available that can be used to assess the traffic of your site to ensure its not manipulated.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making : Web analytics isn't just about numbers; it's about insight. It empowers businesses to make decisions founded on data, not guesswork. It also helps in removing human biases from the analysis.
  • Performance Evaluation: Web analytics helps assess the performance of your website and content, allowing you to identify what's working and what's not.
  • User Behavior Analysis: By understanding how users interact with your site, you can improve user experiences and engagement.
  • Decision-Making : Web analytics informs strategic decisions, such as content creation, marketing campaigns, and website optimizations.

What is Web Analytics

Now that we've explored why web analytics is essential, let's delve into the fundamental aspects of what web analytics is, the various metrics involved, and its key objectives.

At its core web analytics is the systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data from your website. Its primary purpose is to gain insights into your audience's behavior and to optimize your online presence accordingly.

As we delve deeper into web analytics, keep in mind its central goals. It's about understanding your users, their preferences, and their journeys on your site. Equally important, it's about honing your website's performance to meet their needs seamlessly.

Metrics used in web analytics: Here are the key metrics generally used for analyzing web traffic

  • Page Views: This metric tracks the number of times a page is viewed by users. It's a fundamental indicator of content popularity.
  • Unique Visitors: Unique visitors represent the number of distinct individuals who visit your site, providing insights into audience size.
  • Bounce Rate: Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who leave your site in less than few seconds, indicating user engagement.
  • Median time on Page: This metric shows how long visitors spend on a page, helping gauge content engagement.
  • Referral: Referral data identifies where your traffic is coming from, whether it's a search engine, social media, or a specific website.
  • UTM (Urchin Tracking Module): UTM parameters allow you to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns by adding specific tags to URLs.
  • Conversion Rate: Conversion rate calculates the percentage of users who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

Components of Web Analytics:

  • Data Collection from User Devices: This step involves gathering data from users' devices, such as browsers, operating systems and screen sizes.
  • Inferring Data from HTTP Requests: Data is collected through HTTP requests, including information about the pages visited, referral sources, and user interactions.
  • Processing Data to Derive Metrics: Data is processed and analyzed to derive metrics like page views, unique visitors, and other key performance indicators.

How to choose right web analytics tool

Selecting the right web analytics tool is crucial. Consider your business needs, objectives, and budget. Each tool has its strengths, so choose the one that aligns best with your goals.Here are some of the things you should keep in mind while choosing analytics tool

  • Cookie Banners and Conversion Rates: Cookie banners can negatively impact user experience and conversion rates. To mitigate this, consider using an analytics service that doesn't rely on cookies for tracking.
  • Legal compliance (GDPR/CCPA): With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), it's crucial to choose an analytics service that respects user privacy and ensures compliance. Verify that the service offers options to anonymize data and prevent the collection of personally identifiable information.
  • Collection on mobile: Mobile devices often suspend tasks that don't trigger the onload event, potentially leading to missed data. Ensure that your chosen analytics service accommodates this by providing mechanisms to capture data even without onload events.
  • Method used for collection: Most services rely on POST requests to send data which is unreliable, as network issues/closing browser can lead to data loss. Consider using a service that utilizes the Beacon API, which queues data and ensures more reliable delivery.
  • Support for SPA: When choosing a web analytics service, consider the type of website you operate. SPAs(single page applications), which load content dynamically and don't always result in full page refreshes, require special handling in the tracker.
  • Support for javacript disabled clients: When js is disabled trackers will not be able to give some details like screen size of device however it would still give you page view data. You should check if the web analytics service supports this use case.
  • Accuracy of data: Right way to get accurate data without compromising on users privacy is to use aggregate data instead of individual data points. Different analytics service differ in their approach to collect personally identifiable data(PII). Some don't use ip altogether and use some combination of referer, user agaent, page getting visited etc. to indicate unique users but this does not gives correct picture as far as analytics are concerned it does mitigate PII problem though but at this point you may as well forego using analytics. Others approach it with hashing ip along with time of day and user agent so that you get unique user within 24 hours but this looks like more of an over correction to avoid PII.
  • Misaligned incentives: One of the popular web analytics tool is google analytics. It is free but collects data used to support its core advertising business, creating potential conflicts of interest. While choosing the tool you should ensure that there are no conflict of interest that would affect your visitors privacy.
  • User-Friendly Interface: A user-friendly dashboard and reporting interface make it easier for you and your team to access and understand the data. The service should provide intuitive reports and visualizations.
  • Data Ownership: Clarify who owns the data collected by the analytics service. Ensure that you have control over your data and can export it if you decide to switch to a different service.


Hopefully this article has given you enough data to evaluate and choose right tool for you. When choosing a web analytics tool, it's essential to consider factors like data accuracy, privacy compliance, cost, and how well the tool aligns with your business goals and user privacy concerns. The choice should be made based on your specific requirements, business size, and trade-offs that best suit your needs.

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