Understanding Analytics to boost your franchise

Are you making the most of your website data? If you aren't sure, then you need to read this

Understanding Analytics to boost your franchise

Your franchise website is more important than ever because it’s where most people will begin their research after first hearing about your opportunity – and where they’ll start to form an impression of whether yours is the brand for them.
So how can you monitor the performance of your franchise site and maximise its ability to convert eyeballs into enquiries? The answers lie in Google Analytics, which can be overwhelming when first confronted, but with a little practice can become a powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Getting started

Your Analytics homepage by default displays a series of graphical charts on what’s happening on your website over the last seven days. You can tailor these charts to your liking once you’re familiar with the data.

In the Audience – Overview menu, you can see your visitor numbers and other data from any custom length of time you choose, by clicking on the date on the top-right of the graph. More importantly, you can compare two periods to each other – for example visitor numbers from the last four weeks versus the four before that to gauge if you’re getting more or less traffic. You can also compare different periods of a year to account for any seasonality and whether you’ve seen a rise in year-on-year numbers.

As well as the overall traffic, you’ll see a series of graphs underneath which outline what your visitors are doing. Understanding this data helps you tweak your website to encourage more of the behaviour you want, delivering a more effective website whose success can be measured. Here are some of the key metrics and how to use them to your advantage.

Users and sessions

Users can be defined as the number of unique visitors to your site and sessions is the number of different visits made by them.

The caveats: strictly speaking, a user is not always a unique viewer of your site, because if the same person views it in Chrome and then Firefox they’ll be classified as two users and sessions are defined as a user’s interactions within a 30-minutes timeframe. So if someone leaves your website open on a tab and returns to click something on it more than 31 minutes later, a new session will be registered. But for the purposes of monitoring your data, stick to the definitions above and you won’t go far wrong.

Clearly over time you’ll want to see users and sessions to increase, but as with franchise marketing generally, it’s not just about quantity – quality is far more important. Fewer visitors that enquire is much better than many casual browsers that don’t. Monitoring the quality of your traffic is where the rest of the data comes to the fore.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the proportion of visitors that leave your website without viewing any page other than the one they landed on. It’s important because it can guide you on whether your content is engaging your visitors to explore or making it difficult for them to find what they want. Bounce rate is used throughout Analytics so you can also monitor it by individual page or by how people arrived at your site.

There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a good bounce rate, it differs widely by industry and by website. For example, blogs typically have a high bounce rate because someone searches for something, finds the answer on the blog and then leaves. Similarly, if your site places huge emphasis on a single call to action rather than encouraging browsing, then bounce rate will be high but probably not a concern.

That said, for most sites outside those examples it’s widely accepted that anything over 70% would give cause to review and under 60% can be considered decent. Franchise sites should be aiming for as low a bounce rate as possible because a business is a significant investment and the site should guide its users on a fact-finding journey.

If your franchise’s online presence still consists of a single page tacked onto your customer website consisting of little more than ‘We’re a franchise, get in touch’, then A, it will have a high bounce rate and B, you should change this ASAP.

Average session duration and pages per session

These numbers are fairly self-explanatory, measuring how long visitors are staying on your site and how many pages they’re viewing while they’re there. The higher numbers the better for an in-depth process like deciding on a franchise.

Time onsite is considered one of the most important barometers of your content, and in the digital age we have less time than ever to make a strong impression. If people are quickly turned off or bored by what they’re seeing or your site navigation is poor, it will show here.

Acquisition – where your visitors are finding you

The Acquisition menu tells you everything about where your visitors are coming from. The overview link gives a clear indication of how people are finding out about your franchise and clicking into each section will provide further insight on what audiences from different sources do once they reach you.

This menu can also provide you with information on the searches people are using to arrive at your site, helping you with content optimisation. The Google Search Console controls the information people see about you on the front page of a search. By connecting it to the Queries menu you can reveal the terms that led your traffic to you.

The Acquisitions area generally is something you should spend a little time getting to know. Understanding where your traffic is coming from – and, just as importantly, where it isn’t if you’re used paid online advertising – can help inform better spend of your digital budget. For example, if social media traffic is highly engaged on your site then you might want to allocate more time and resources into your social media activities.

Improving individual page performance

While the areas discussed above are important to monitor on a site-wide basis, looking at the performance of individual pages using the same metrics can let you find any glaring poor-performers and improve them. Under the Behaviour menu in Analytics, click Site Content – All Pages to see the views, time spent, bounce rate and more of each individual page.

Doing this gives you incredibly useful data. Look at the bounce rates to see which pages are encouraging people to find out more and which are making them leave quickly. Focus first on improving the pages with high views and high bounce rate, which will have the biggest impact on encouraging traffic to flow throughout the rest of your site. Consider adding more internal links to other pages on your site, or buttons that aid navigation and guide a user’s journey more effectively. Alternatively, you could redesign the page altogether – try putting a video at the top for example – or try something as simple as just changing the headings and some of the copy.

Evolving your website to be more effective is an ongoing project, not a one-and-done effort. Once you start measuring what’s going on you have benchmarks to come back to after you’ve made changes to your content or structure. If the data gets worse, you’ll know the changes should be reversed and you can keep trying new things until you’ve found the right formula to engage your target audience.

It doesn’t matter how stylish your website looks if it’s not providing visitors with the information they need and a journey that guides them along the way. The numbers don’t lie, so follow yours and you’ll make your website work harder for your recruitment.

Paul Stafford
Paul Stafford