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Website Analytics for Indie Authors: Understanding Your Traffic

Truth: in my professional opinion, there is not much that an author really needs to know about website analytics to be successful and make informed decisions. This post will walk you through the need-to-know nitty gritty that will help amp up your website with the power of data.

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

This post is going to be short and sweet (not my usual M.O.) because, in my professional opinion, there is not much that an author really needs to know about website analytics to be successful and make informed decisions.

In my work creating affordable professional websites for authors through Featherlight, and high-end custom websites with my agency, Well Design, my team and I usually rely on a limited set of indicators to help our clients easily understand their web performance.

Why Should You Care about Website Analytics?

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

As an independent author, your strategy can be impacted greatly by an understanding of these Key Performance Indicators, and what they say about not only your website performance, but also your marketing as a whole.

In this post, we'll cover two key areas:

  • What are web analytics and how do I get them?
  • What are the key indicators and how do use them?

After reading this, you will know will be able to define, install, and use basic web analytics for website content decision making. We're going to focus on Google Analytics in our examples because it's free, powerful and widespread. If you have another system, many of the key indicators and their implications will be the same, however, so this should still be of use in your author marketing journey.

Okay, intro out of the way. Here we go!

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Part One - What are Website Analytics?

At their heart, website analytics are a system that tracks visitors to your website, and their interactions with the content they find there. Website analytics measure everything from the number of pages a visitor checks during a visit to the percentage conversion rate on sales through your site.

Analytics are not just numbers, however. They are a way to make informed, scientific decisions about what you are doing right—and what you're messing up. When used properly, they can make your decisions about marketing more than just a shot in the dark.

How Do I Set Up Analytics on My Site?

Each system has a different setup, but generally, it involves taking a snippet of code and adding it to your site. DISCLAIMER: If you don't know code, have a highly-referred web developer do this for you and save yourself the headache of a broken website.

Installing a system like Google analytics can be as simple as installing a plugin if you have WordPress.

The folks at Google Analytics do a good job of running you through how to handle a general install of their platform, so check out the video below if you want to know more and DIY it:

 

Part Two - What Are the Key Indicators?

Here's where it gets a bit stickier. Pay attention, because understanding these indicators is the key to your success with an author website.

In my opinion, there are only 4 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that really matter for authors looking to market themselves and their books:

KPI #1: Unique Visitors (Users)

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.comExactly what it sounds like—the number of individual visitors that went to your site over a specified period. This is essentially a measure of the overall number of people that you were able to drive to your site from all channels, and if driving traffic to your site is a key part of your strategy, this can show you how well your marketing is doing in general.

It is also the stat that all other stats are based on, in general, so understanding what it means lays the foundation for the rest of the KPIs.

Note: This is not to be confused with Visits (also called Sessions), which is the number total visits to your site—which can be more than one per Unique Visitor per period.

For example: if you Visit BookWorks three times this week, our analytics will show that as three Visits, but only one Unique Visitor.

KPI #2: Pages per Visit

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.comThis metric is a simple calculation of total pageviews (or "hits") divided by total Visits (or Sessions) for a specified period.

For example, if your site had 500 pageviews in a month, and 220 total visitors for that same month, your pages per visit would be 2.27. Not bad!

Why it's important: Pages per Visit is a great indicator of how engaged your users are—that is, how interested they are in what you're posting. If your users are not visiting two pages or more on your site, you should think about the following:

  • Is your content boring?
  • Are users having a hard time navigating through your site, or experiencing broken links/pages?
  • Can you add software, such as Yet Another Related Posts plugin (for WordPress), that leads users to visit additional posts or pages by adding recommendations to the end of your blog posts?
KPI #3: Average Time on Page (Average Session Duration)

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.comAnother easy one—how much time is a user spending on a given page, on average? This can help you understand user engagement with your content.

Are they users taking the time to read it? Or are they hitting the page and ditching after reading the headline? Start by creating engaging, original content to increase this KPI. If your time on page remains low, try creating content that is more readable. (Use a readability test to learn how readable your content is.)

KPI #4: Bounce Rate

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Bounce rate is simply the percentage of visits that are terminated while having visited only one page. This stat works hand-in-glove with Average Time on Page and Pages per Visit to give you a great idea of your user engagement level—much more than simply checking out the traffic to a particular post or page.

If the bounce rate is high, (this stat is worse the higher it gets, unlike the others on this list) try directing users to other posts and pages by integrating calls to action in and after the post content. (See KPI #2 for WordPress plugins that help with that.)

BONUS KPI: Conversion Rate

Here's a freebie for all of you who have come this far and are still reading. (Increasing BookWorks' Average Session Duration for sure!)

The final thing is this: all other stats pale in comparison to Conversion Rate. Here's why: Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who perform an action that you want them to do.

Yes, Conversion Rate is most often understood as the rate at which people PURCHASE from your website, but Conversion Rate is much more—anything, really. It could be the rate at which people sign up for an email list or fill out a form. Or it could be the number of users who download a free eBook or share a particular post on social media.

Really, a conversion is just something that expresses what your priorities are, and how effective you are at achieving those priorities.

There is no minimum number for a good conversion rate — the acceptable rate is completely based on your personal or business goals. If I'm looking to make two sales per week, and my conversion rate for sales is 0.5% on 200 visits, then the lower-end conversion rate doesn't really matter. (Most industry averages for purchase conversions through ecommerce are 0.5 - 1.5%).

The way to figure out conversion rate is easy:

Number of conversions / Number of Visits (Sessions) = Conversion Rate

Website analytics for indie authors by Tyler Doornbos for BookWorks.com

Summing It Up

The best part about all of these indicators? Software like Google Analytics can show the KPIs for months or years of total site traffic, for a massive overall view of performance, but can also focus in on something as granular as a single blog post's performance.

If you do nothing else, learn what blog posts your audience is engaging heavily with, and build more content like that!

If you have any strategies for using website analytics in your author business, please let us know in the comments below!

Next time -The best tools to use to unleash the power of data for your book marketing and website. Don't miss it!


If you aren’t already a member of BookWorks, please visit check us out for more great content like this and join our community of indie authors, editors, coaches, designers, marketers, bloggers and other self-publishing pros.


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