Do you know what’s happening on your small business website? Exactly how well your site helps you engage with customers, build your brand and boost sales is information you need, especially if your site serves as more than your small business brochure.  If you have made a considerable investment to produce a site to support your business goals, but you are not monitoring and analyzing traffic, you want to start.

Among the tools out there, Google Analytics is powerful yet simple and free. There are other free services; others offer a monthly subscription with prices that vary depending on your need. Whatever tools you choose, here are some of the ways web analytics can help you optimize your site:

Know where traffic comes from: There are three types of traffic sources — search, direct and referral. If most of your traffic comes from search engines, web analytics can tell you what are the most powerful keywords driving web users to your site. Direct traffic refers to the visitors who type your URL into the address bar of their browser. Referral traffic includes visitors who come to your site from another source on the web. Referral traffic, for example, can tell you how many visitors you are getting from an online ad placement or how effective your partners are in directing traffic to your site.

Find out what users like: Web analytics can tell you how many visitors are coming to your site, how much time they spend there and what pages they like the most. It also can tell you how many visitors are leaving. Knowing this, you can improve content to retain and engage visitors longer to achieve the action you desire, such as call for an appointment, order or request more information.

Identify site problems: If people are coming to your site and leaving right after without browsing any other pages, you want to know why. The term is called ‘bounce rate” and it can be caused by a number of things. In addition to uninteresting content, you may have a broken link or an erroneous page. Bounce rates can point you to problems on your site that you need to fix.

Optimize your site: Web analytics tell you what browsers and platforms (Windows, Mac or mobile) visitors are using to view your site and the screen size they have. This data is very important to help you optimize site performance.

There is lot of other data you can get from web analytics. You can find out what days you get the most traffic to help plan for special content or promotions. You can even find out where in the world – countries or cities – visitors come from and coordinate offline marketing there.

Overall, web analytics provide you with a powerful tool to get to know your customers, their likes and dislikes and activity on the web. All this helps you turn your site into a powerful business tool.