Guide to web analytics

Web Analytics: The Quick Start Guide


You’ve spent ages carefully designing your website, crafting copy to encourage as many users as possible to purchase your product. 

But they aren’t. And you don’t know why. 

The good news is you don’t have to remain in the dark. Collecting and analysing web analytics lets you understand how your users behave on your site and why they aren’t converting.  

But before you can do that, you need to know what those metrics and KPIs mean. That’s why this article is taking things back to basics. Below, we’ll show you which metrics to track, what they mean and how to choose the best web analytics platform. 

What is web analytics?

Web analytics is the process of collecting, analysing and reporting website data to understand how users behave on your website. Web analytics platforms like Matomo collect this data by adding a code line to every site page. 

Why is it important to track web analytics?

There are plenty of reasons you should start tracking web analytics, including the following:

Why is it important to track web analytics?

Analyse user behaviour

Being able to analyse user behaviour is the most important reason to track website analytics. After all, you can’t improve your website’s conversion rate if you don’t know what users do on your site.

A web analytics platform can show you how users move around your site, the links they click on and the forms they fill in. 

Improve site experience

Web analytics is a fantastic way to identify issues and find areas where your site could improve. You could look at your site’s exit pages, for example, and see why so many users leave your site when viewing one of these pages and what you can do to fix it.

It can also teach you about your user’s preferences so you can improve the user experience in the future. Maybe they always click a certain type of button or prefer one page’s design over another. Whatever the case, you can use the data to make your site more user-friendly and increase conversions.

Boost marketing efforts

Web analytics is one of the best ways to understand your marketing efforts and learn how to improve them.

A good platform can collect valuable data about your marketing campaigns, including:

  • Where users came from
  • What actions these users take on your site
  • Which traffic sources create the most conversions

This information can help you decide which marketing campaigns send the best users to your site and generate the highest ROI. 

Make informed decisions

Ultimately, web analytics simplifies decision-making for your website and marketing efforts by relying on concrete data instead of guesswork.

Rather than wonder why users aren’t adding products to their shopping cart or signing up for your newsletter, you can analyse how they behave and use that information to hypothesise how you can improve conversions. Web analytics will even give you the data to confirm whether you were right or wrong. 

What are the key metrics you should track?

Getting your head around web analytics means knowing the most important metrics to track. Below are seven key metrics and how to track them using Matomo. 


Traffic is the number of people visiting your website over a period of time. It is the lifeblood of your website since the more visits your site receives, the more revenue it stands to generate.

However, simply having a high volume of visitors does not guarantee substantial revenue. To maximise your success, focus on attracting your ideal customers and generating quality traffic from those who are most likely to engage with your offerings.

Ideally, you should be seeing an upward trend in traffic over time though. The longer your website has been published and the more quality and targeted content you create, the more traffic you should receive. 

Matomo offers multiple ways to check your website’s traffic:

The visits log report in Matomo is perfect if you want a granular view of your visitors.

A screenshot of Matomo's visitor log report

It shows you each user session and get a detailed picture of each user, including:

  • Their geographic location
  • The number of actions they took
  • How they found your site
  • The length of time they stayed
  • Their device type
  • What browser they are using
  • The keyword they used to find your site

Traffic sources

Traffic sources show how users access your website. They can enter via a range of traffic sources, including search engines, email and direct visits, for instance.

Matomo has five default traffic source types:

  • Search engine – visitors from search platforms (like Google, Bing, etc.)
  • Direct traffic – individuals who directly type your website’s URL into their browser or have it bookmarked, bypassing search engines or external links
  • Websites – visits from other external sites
  • Campaigns – traffic resulting from specific marketing initiatives (like a newsletter or ad campaign, for instance)
  • Social networks  – visitors who access your website through various social media platforms (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. etc.)

But each of these can be broken into more granular sources. Take organic traffic from search engines, for example:

A screenshot of Matomo's organic traffic report

Matomo tracks visits from each search engine, showing you how many visits you had in total, how many actions those visitors took, and the average amount of time those visitors spent on your site. 

You can even integrate Google, Bing and Yahoo search consoles to monitor keyword performance and enhance your search engine optimisation efforts.


Whenever a browser loads a page, your web analytics tool records a pageview. This term, pageview, represents the count of unique times a page on your website is loaded.

You can track pageviews in Matomo by opening the Pages tab in the Behaviour section of the main navigation. 

A screenshot of Matomo's page analytic sreport

You can quickly see your site’s most visited pages in this report in Matomo. 

Be careful of deriving too much meaning from pageviews. Just because a page has lots of views, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s quality or valuable. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the page might be confusing, so users have to keep revisiting it to understand the content. Second, it could be the default page most visitors land on when they enter your site, like the homepage. 

While pageviews offer insights, it’s important to dig deeper into user behaviour and other metrics to truly gauge a page’s importance and impact.

Average time on page

Time on page is the amount of time users spend on the page on average. You can see average time on page in Matomo’s page analytics report.

A low time on page score isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Users will naturally spend less time on gateway pages and checkout pages. A short time spent on checkout pages, especially if users are successfully completing their transactions, indicates that the checkout process is easy and seamless.

Conversely, a longer time on blog posts is a positive indicator. It suggests that readers are genuinely engaged with the content.

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Returning visitors

Returning visitors measures the number of people who visit your site more than once. It can be expressed as a number or a percentage. 

While some analytics tools only show returning visitors as a percentage, Matomo lets you learn more about each of them in the Visitor profile report. 

A screenshot of Matomo's Visitor profile report

This report offers a full summary of a user’s previous actions, including:

  • How many times they’ve visited your site
  • The pages they viewed on each visit
  • Where they visited from
  • The devices they used
  • How quickly pages loaded

When people keep coming back to a website, it’s usually a positive sign and means they like the service, content or products. But, it depends on the type of website. If it’s the kind of site where people make one-off purchases, the focus might not be on getting visitors to return. For a site like this, a high number of returning visitors could indicate that the website is confusing or difficult to use. 

It’s all about the context – different websites have different goals, and it’s important to keep this in mind when analysing your site.


A conversion is when a user takes a desired action on your website. This could be:

  • Making a purchase
  • Subscribing to your newsletter
  • Signing up for a webinar

You can track virtually any action as a conversion in Matomo by setting goals and analysing the goals report.

A screenshot of Matomo's goal report

As you can see in the screenshot above, Matomo shows your conversions plotted over time. You can also see your conversion rate to get a complete picture and assign a value to each conversion to calculate how much revenue each conversion generates. 

Bounce rate

A visitor bounces when they leave your website without taking an action or visiting another page. 

Typically, you want bounce rate to be low because it means people are engaged with your site and more likely to convert. However, in some cases, a high bounce rate isn’t necessarily bad. It might mean that visitors found what they needed on the first page and didn’t feel the need to look further. 

The impact of bounce rate depends on your website’s purpose and goals.

You can view your website’s bounce rate using Matomo’s page analytics report — the same report that shows pageviews.

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Web analytics best practices

You should follow several best practices to get the most from website analytics data. 

Choose metrics that align with your goals

Only some metrics your analytics platform tracks will be relevant to your business. So don’t waste time analysing all of them.

Instead, focus on the ones that matter most to your business. A marketer for an e-commerce store, for example, might focus on conversion-related metrics like conversion rate and total number of transactions. They might also want to look at campaign-related metrics, like traffic sources and bounce rates, so they can optimise paid ad campaigns accordingly. 

A marketer looking to improve their site’s SEO, on the other hand, will want to track SEO web analytics like bounce rate and broken links.

Add context to your data

Don’t take your data at face value. There could be dozens of factors that impact how visitors access and use your site — many of which are outside your control. 

For example, you may think an update to your site has sent your conversions crashing when, in reality, a Google algorithm update has negatively impacted your search traffic.

Adding annotations within Matomo can provide invaluable context to your data. These annotations can be used to highlight specific events, changes or external factors that might influence your website metrics.

A screenshot of annotations list in Matomo

By documenting significant occurrences, such as website updates, marketing campaigns or algorithm changes, you create a timeline that helps explain fluctuations in your data.

Go further with advanced web analytics features

It’s clear that a web analytics platform is a necessary tool to understand your website’s performance.

However, if you want greater confidence in decision-making, quicker insights and better use of budget and resources, you need an advanced solution with behavioural analytics features like heatmaps, A/B testing and session recordings

Most web analytics solutions don’t offer these advanced features, but Matomo does, so we’ll be showcasing Matomo’s behavioural analytics features.

Now, if you don’t have a Matomo account, you can try it free for 21-days to see if it’s the right tool for you.

A heatmap showing user mouse movements

A heatmap, like the example above, makes it easy to discover where your users pay attention, which part of your site they have problems with, and how they convert. It adds a layer of qualitative data to the facts offered by your web analytics tool.

Similarly, session recordings will offer you real-time playbacks of user interactions, helping you understand their navigation patterns, identify pain points and gain insights into the user experience.

Then you can run experiments bu using A/B testing to compare different versions of your website or specific elements, allowing you to make informed decisions based on actual user preferences and behaviour. For instance, you can compare different headlines, images, page layouts or call-to-action buttons to see which resonates better with your audience. 

Together, these advanced features will give you the confidence to optimise your website, improve user satisfaction and make data-driven decisions that positively impact your business.

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How to choose a web analytics tool

A web analytics tool is the best way to track the above metrics. Choose the best one for your company by following the steps below. 

Look for the right features

Most popular web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, will offer the same core features like tracking website traffic, monitoring conversions and generating reports. 

But it’s the added features that set great tools apart. Do you need specific tools to measure the performance of your e-commerce store, for example? What about paid ad performance, A/B testing or form analytics?

By understanding exactly what you need from an analytics platform, you can make an informed choice.   

Think about data accuracy

Data accuracy is one of the biggest issues with analytics tools. Many users block cookies or opt out of tracking, making it difficult to get a clear picture of user behaviour — and meaning that you have to think about how your user data will be collected with your chosen platform.

Google Analytics, for instance, uses data sampling to make assumptions about traffic levels rather than relying on accurate data. This can lead to inaccurate reports and false conclusions. 

It’s why Matomo doesn’t use data sampling and provides 100% accurate data. 

Understand how you’ll deal with data privacy

Data privacy is another big concern for analytics users. Several major analytics platforms aren’t compatible with regional data privacy laws like GDPR, which can impact your ability to collect data in these regions. 

It’s why many companies trust privacy-focused analytics tools that abide by regulations without impacting your ability to collect data. Matomo is a market leader in this respect and is one of the few web analytics tools that the Centre for Data Privacy Protection in France has said is exempt from tracking consent requirements.

Many government agencies across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, including organisations like the United Nations and European Commission, rely on Matomo for web analytics.


Web analytics is a powerful tool that helps you better understand your users, improve your site’s performance and boost your marketing efforts. 

If you want a platform that offers advanced features, 100% accurate data and protects your users’ privacy, then look no further than Matomo. 

Try Matomo free for 21 days, no credit card required. 

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A powerful web analytics platform that gives you and your business 100% data ownership and user privacy protection.

No credit card required.

Free forever.