Why even small businesses should be using Analytics

IBM is currently running an expensive advertising campaign all about ‘Big Data’ and ‘Analytics’. Here’s one of the adverts. You’ve probably seen it.

IBM’s campaign is obviously aimed at big businesses and big public sector organisations, because that’s who IBM’s customers are. But small firms can and should be using these techniques to make more informed business decisions. And doing so really doesn’t have to be expensive (at least not if you ask us to help!)

Let’s go on the pretty safe assumption that you have a website. How many people visited it last month? Ah, you can tell me that because you have a hits counter installed. OK. Now how many of those people were native German speakers?

Why is the number of native German speakers important? Well, it might not be. But what if 10% of your site visitors are native German speakers and your site doesn’t have a German language option? Your site – and by extension, your business – won’t be as attractive to those people as the German language version of your competitors’ site.

We’ve actually seen this first hand with some of our clients. We have a number of clients who provide holiday accommodation in Devon and Cornwall. You might not realise this, but this area is very popular with German-speaking tourists. (Why? Well obviously, the beauty of the scenery yada yada yada, but specifically because of a very long-running, very successful German television series based on the works of the Cornish author Rosamunde Pilcher, most of which are set and filmed in the southwest.) We did some web analytics work on one of these clients (the one with the properly translated German language version of their website), and noticed not only that they were getting much better results from their German language visitors than similar businesses, but that the reason for this was that the presence of the German language website.


This sort of analysis is pretty easy to do using Google Analytics, a free service from Google. This sort of powerful analysis tool used to be really expensive, putting it out of the reach of SMEs, until Google acquired Urchin Software in 2005 and developed Analytics from the old (and expensive) ‘Urchin on Demand’ and offered it for free. So you don’t have to spend money on expensive Analytics software.



Analytics CertificateSetting up Analytics is a little bit tricky, and you might want some help with this. You could train yourself – Google’s course is free and will take you a few days to complete, although it’s not easy. Don’t think that you’ll be able to do it when you have the odd spare half hour – you’ll really need to concentrate and set aside the time. You might prefer to ask a qualified professional to set up Analytics for you. The relevant professional qualification you should be looking for is the ‘Google Analytics Individual Qualification’. Here’s my proof of qualification on Google’s site.


The Analytics qualification isn’t just about setting up Google Analytics. It’s also about understanding the data presented and reaching appropriate business conclusions. That means that the qualification is more appropriate for business managers and marketing professionals than it is for IT geeks. Unfortunately, the coding required in setting up Analytics is somewhat intimidating for the average non-geek. That may be why there aren’t actually that many qualified Analytics professionals out there.

If you can get past the geekery, many of you business owners and managers would be able to say that actually, you’re pretty good at “understanding data and reaching appropriate business conclusions”. But qualified professionals, because they have more experience with data analysis, and because they have more experience with other websites, can often spot something that you might miss.

Here are some examples of the sort of things that we would probably spot using Analytics that you might not have thought of:

  • What were people searching for in Google to arrive at your site?
  • Your website gets lots of visitors, but they don’t stay very long – they instantly decide that this isn’t what they are looking for. Why?
  • Your visitors do generally stay for a while on your site, just not on a particular page – what is it about that page that makes users instantly click onto something else?
  • Your visitors stay a long time on the homepage and often don’t click through to the page that explains about your products – how obvious is that link?

Visitor Flow

  • Your pay-per-click advertising is getting you lots of visits, but most of them are from people who weren’t looking for what you sell. (True story: we once had a client come to us for help with their Google AdWords campaign. They were spending a lot of money on clicks, but these weren’t converting into sales. We were able to show them that because of the way their AdWords campaign was set up, their ads were appearing to people searching for any term including the phrase “special offers”. Most of their visitors were actually people who had searched for “lidl special offers” or “aldi special offers”. Our client wasn’t selling anything you could buy in discount supermarkets!)
  • While your website performs well for people using normal PCs and Macs (people stay for a while, look at several pages, buy your products etc), this is not the case for people using smartphones – quite probably your website is difficult to read on a small smartphone screen. (In which case, you need to talk to us about a responsive design website…)

Mobile device info

  • You’re spending lots of money to have your business appear in a prestigious online directory, but only a handful of visitors come to your website having clicked on your link in that directory.
  • You have an online shop with a typical multi-step checkout process, but a surprisingly high percentage of customers put goods in their basket yet never complete the transaction – what is putting them off? Or worse, is there a bug in your website’s shop that is throwing them out? Were all of these incomplete transactions on a particular type of device – e.g. Android smartphones? That’s a very easy way to lose a lot of sales very quickly, and without analytics, you would probably never even find out.
  • Which links on each page do people tend to click on? Which do they ignore? Why?
  • Many more people visit your site in the evening than during the working day, and those people are more likely to complete a purchase – maybe your product is something that people want to think about when they’re at home rather than when they are at work. If you have pay per click advertising, that might prompt you to bid more for clicks in the evening than during office hours. We can help you set up your campaigns like that.
  • You have a blog or a facebook page or a twitter account, but do you know how many people are signing up from your website?
  • Many of the visits to certain pages of your site are from your own employees or your web designers – if you didn’t realise this, you may reach the wrong conclusion about how popular those pages are. (Don’t worry, we can filter out those visitors.)
  • Visitors using a particular web browser don’t stay around – could it be that your website isn’t properly compatible with that web browser? Many web designers (even supposedly respectable ones) do not properly test sites they develop on other browsers, and not all browsers see websites in the same way.
  • Do most of your online sales come from organic searches, people who just typed your web address into their browser, your pay per click campaign, your directory listings or your email marketing campaigns? Analytics can track not just visits from these sources, but how many of those visits turn into sales. You need that information to decide where to spend your marketing budget.
  • A surprising number of your visitors come from one particular foreign country – are they genuine potential customers? (They might not be, but spotting the signs is something of an art…)
  • If you have a site search, what do your visitors type into your search bar?
  • Your site takes a while to load – you maybe don’t notice this because your internet connection at work is superfast, but sites that are slow to load get punished by Google. How? Lower ranking in search results, that’s how! And of course, if users get bored waiting for your site to load, some of them won’t wait. Analytics can even tell you how to speed up your website.

Site speed suggestions

That’s a big list, but it’s really only a tiny fraction of what Analytics and a clever Analytics professional could tell you about your website and your business. And it really isn’t expensive. Give me a call on 01822 835802.

Categorized as Blog

By Mark Poles

Chartered Accountant, Google Qualified Advertising Professional, Google Analytics Qualified Individual, creator of "You're Hired!".