Deep Dives · 11 min read

What are website analytics? A complete starter’s guide

If you own a website, then you should be tracking your website’s statistics. Here, we define website analytics, explain what they mean, and share tools and resources to help you track them.

Table of Contents
  • What are web analytics?
  • Importance of web analytics
  • Examples
  • How web analytics work
  • Best practices
  • Finding the right tool
  • Most popular platforms
  • FAQs

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Product analytics and Digital Experience Intelligence platforms like Fullstory help companies easily track their user retention and understand why users are leaving or staying. Using heatmaps, session replay, and more, these platforms give you a direct line into what your customers are seeing, what they like, and what they don’t like.

If you’re a free trial user looking to track your user retention rates in Fullstory, refer to our Fullstory Cookbook page for a quick setup how-to. And here’s how to configure retention charting in the Fullstory app.

Looking to better understand your users so they stick around? Start a free trial today.

Key takeaways:

  • Website analytics are a critical part of building any successful website, regardless of your industry

  • Analytics range from metrics as basic page views to tracking entire customer journeys

  • Combining quantitative data with qualitative insights is how to understand the what and the why behind behavior

  • Web analytics can work through a simple code snippet put on your website

  • The best way to analyze your website is through using an analytics tool

  • When selecting an analytics tool, make sure its features align with your business goals

What are web analytics?

Operating and maintaining a website is no easy task. As a business, it’s important to know how well your website is performing and understand your users’ behavior. Web analytics can help you do just that by tracking user data on your site, such as:

  • Page views

  • Number of visits

  • Time on page

  • Bounce rate

  • Referral sources 

  • Conversions 

  • Purchases

  • Retention

A dashboard in the FullStory app showing users today, sessions today, error rate, and avg. page load time
Metrics provide information about how many people user your site, where they're coming from, how they're engaging, and more.

Metrics provide insight into how visitors interact with your website. They indicate where problems originate and highlight areas needing improvement. With this data, you can optimize your website to create the best user experience possible—all while increasing conversions and sales. 

Website analytics are about more than just numbers. They can also tell you what people like and don’t like about your site, and the areas that need improvement. 

True website analysis combines both qualitative and quantitative data to understand the what as well as the why behind user behavior.

Trying to make sense of so much data can certainly be a challenge, especially early in your website’s life. But understanding the basics and what you should track is key to creating a successful online presence.

Importance of web analytics

The primary key to web analytics is understanding the importance of data. Without complete data, it’s impossible to accurately measure successes or failures. Web analytics are important for many reasons, including:

  • Analyzing user behavior and preferences: Analyzing user behavior is essential for optimizing a website for conversions. What are users clicking on? What are they ignoring? Where are they going and from where? And why? These are all answers site analytics can provide.

  • Gaining insights into how people find your site: Knowing where people find and access your site is key to developing an effective SEO or PPC strategy.

  • Improving user experience: You can use web analytics to identify areas that need improvement, like page loading times, navigation, or content. Taking the time to improve these areas can have a huge impact on your user experience. 

  • Making data-driven decisions: With web analytics, you can make data-informed decisions about the direction of your website and marketing campaigns. Guessing what you should be doing is a fool’s errand.

To get started with website analytics, it’s important to use the right tools and resources. Fortunately, there are many tools and resources available that can help you track website traffic and gain insight into customer behavior. First, examine the following examples of web analytics.

Web analytics examples

Examples of web analytics are a great way to gain an understanding of what you should be tracking. The following are some of the most common web analytics metrics:


One of the single most crucial site analytics metrics is pageviews. A pageview is counted each time a page on your site is loaded by a browser. 

Pageview counts tell the number of times a specific page was viewed, including multiple views from the same visitor. 

It’s important to note that a high number of views doesn’t necessarily mean a post is popular. It could also mean that a page was confusing and visitors had to return to it multiple times.

Unique pageviews

Another important web analytics metric is unique pageviews. Unique pageviews refer to the total number of times a page was viewed by users in single visits. 

If a person views the same page more than once within one session, it will still only be counted as one unique pageview. It’s worth noting, as well, that reloaded sessions are not tracked in unique pageviews.

Accurately recording unique pageviews is crucial. It helps measure the genuine engagement of users with your website. It also gives a better idea of how many people are actually clicking through your pages.


As your users log in and interact with your website, their activities form a “session.” Sessions are simply groupings of user interactions. They comprise everything from pageviews to CTA clicks, downloads, and events.

The timeframe of a session varies by web analytics tool. Usually, sessions end after 30 minutes of inactivity or when the user visits your site via another source. Please be aware that other instances will end the user session, like:

  • Midnight: When the internal clock strikes midnight, the users’ sessions end.

  • Returning from a different traffic source: If a user leaves and returns from another source (i.e., returning after leaving via an email link), the session will end. 

Additionally, you can set custom time frames to define how long a single session can last. This is helpful for understanding user behavior and engagement across different channels.

A FullStory dashboard showing bugs on a website, including errors clicks, dead clicks, rage clicks, uncaught exceptions, and network errors.
Best-in-class platforms also monitor when users are frustrated, using metrics like dead clicks, error clicks, and rage clicks.

New visitors

New visitors are the number of unique visitors to your website—a single visitor can have multiple sessions, but they’ll be identified by a unique visitor. 

It's important to track the number of new visitors over time to see how your website is growing.

Returning visitors

Just as new visitors are important, so too are returning visitors. Users who come back to your website are likely to be more engaged with your site and are more likely to convert. 

The number of returning visitors can be tracked over time, as well as the rate at which they’re returning. This information can help you understand how effective your website is in engaging visitors.

A FullStory dashboard showing returning users in the past 30 days, 51, compared to the previous period, 42.
An increase in returning users can indicate that your site and its content are doing a better job of appealing to users.

Traffic sources

The sources of your website’s traffic can tell you a lot about how people are finding and accessing your site. 

Trackable traffic sources include organic search, paid search, referrals from other websites, and social media. Understanding traffic sources can help you optimize your website’s content and marketing campaigns for maximum efficiency.

A dashboard in FullStory showing new users this week (2,512), mobile sessions (728), sessions per user (1.00), and clicks per session (4.15), top entry pages (homepage), and sessions by device.
Segmenting your users by device type can help you understand which parts of your site work and don’t work for different types of users.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate refers to visitors who, in general, don’t stay around to check out more of your website after initiating a pageview. It’s often calculated as how many visitors view one page then leave, but definitions can vary.

As such, said visitor will come to your website to view a single page and then leave without further exploration. A high bounce rate might not be engaging with your site how you envisioned, and thus changes might be necessary. 

On the other hand, a low bounce rate indicates that visitors are engaged and spending time exploring your site. This can often be indicative of successful content or an effective marketing campaign. 

A FullStory dashboard showing a 64.88% bounce rate
Bounce rate is a relatively simple metric that any web analytics platform should be able to provide, but is an important metric nonetheless.

There are established bounce rates that generally signify a good or bad rate of visitors who leave your website after viewing one page. 

If your website’s bounce rate is 40% or lower, it’s a good indication that your content and marketing efforts are working.

Conversely, a bounce rate of 40% to 70% is considered average, while anything higher than 70% shows that visitors are not staying on your website.

A dashboard in the FullStory app showing average DOM content load time (849.01ms), avg. page load time (1.16s), avg First Contentful paint time (1.64s), avg scroll depth (78%), and problematic sessions by device.
Slow site speeds can impact everything from conversion rates to your Google rankings. Be sure to monitor these metrics to avoid user drop-off.

The best way to analyze website analytics is through tools specifically designed for it. These tools can provide a comprehensive view of website performance and help you make data-driven decisions. With clear insights into user behavior, you can improve your website’s user experience and optimize your marketing campaigns for maximum efficiency. 

How web analytics work

Web analytics is a method used to collect, measure, analyze, and report data about website usage. It provides valuable insights into user behavior, website traffic, and other website-related metrics that help businesses optimize their online presence. Web analytics tools work by collecting data on user behavior, such as the number of visitors, pageviews, and clicks on links.

To collect this data, web analytics tools use a code snippet—often called a tag—that is placed on every site page. The tag collects data such as the user’s device type, browser, and geographic location, which is determined through the user’s IP address.

Some analytics services use cookies to track individual sessions and to determine repeat visits from the same browser.

Although web analytics tools are generally effective at collecting data, they are not perfect. Some users delete cookies, and different browsers have various restrictions around code snippets, which can cause slightly different results between analytics platforms. 

Despite the limitations, web analytics tools remain a critical part of website optimization.

Web analytics best practices

To get the most out of web analytics, businesses should follow some best practices. Here are some of the most important ones:

Pick suitable metrics: Businesses should identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most relevant to their business objectives. Tools like Fullstory’s autocapture feature can help track all metrics automatically.

Plan business objectives and strategies: Businesses should use data to drive decision-making and base all experiment hypotheses on data. They should use data for A/B testing decisions, experimentation, and making changes. This data can also be used to identify high-value content, showing which content to focus on first.

Don’t limit your focus to traffic

Businesses should always pair data with insights. Reporting only the numbers provides an incomplete picture of website performance. For example, if a website’s traffic is increasing but conversion rate is decreasing, it could indicate a UX problem.

Look at your data in context

It’s essential to analyze data in the right context to avoid making incorrect decisions. Algorithm updates, seasonality, and bots can all have a significant impact on website traffic and other metrics.

Share and ask for feedback from stakeholders

Businesses should provide information to stakeholders in a way that is understandable and actionable. They should ask for information and ideas from stakeholders, who can provide valuable feedback on how they use the data and how they think they can improve the user experience or other issues the data uncovers.

What to look for in a web analytics tool

When selecting a web analytics tool, businesses should consider the following factors:

Features: It’s essential to consider the features that are most relevant to the business objectives. The tool should offer the ability to track conversions, monitor website traffic, measure user engagement, and track visitor behavior.

Data capture: Complete data capture is also essential, as it enables the tool to gather all the data you need to understand website visitors and user behavior.

Reporting capabilities: The tool should be able to provide meaningful reports that help businesses gain insights into their website performance.

How to choose the right web analytics software

To choose the right web analytics software, consider the following:

  • Preferences and requirements: Businesses should identify their preferences and requirements and select a tool that meets their needs.

  • Number of features: The tool should offer the required features to help businesses achieve their business objectives.

  • Pricing model: The pricing model should be reasonable and cost-effective.

  • Support: The vendor should provide good customer support to help businesses make the most of the tool.

Take into account each of these factors to better narrow down the most suitable software for your business’s needs.

The most popular web analytics platforms

Some of the best web analytics tools on the market:


Fullstory is a behavioral data platform that offers a range of features, including session replay, heatmaps, and conversion tracking. It provides businesses with critical insights into user behavior and website performance. 

A free trial is available to help you get started.


MixPanel also provides user-level analytics and data tracking. Businesses can then track user behavior, measure engagement, and adjust their websites.


Hotjar offers heatmaps, session replays, and user feedback tools. Hotjar’s tools further optimize the user experience.


Semrush provides search engine optimization (SEO) and SEM tools, including keyword research, competitor analysis, and site audit features. It helps businesses optimize their online presence and improve their search engine rankings.


Ahrefs provides SEO and backlink analysis tools. It offers businesses insights into their online presence and helps them improve their search engine rankings.

Free web analytics tools

Some free web analytics tools in the market include:

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that provides businesses with insights into website traffic, user behavior, and conversion tracking.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps businesses monitor their website’s presence in Google search results. It offers insights into website traffic, search engine rankings, and website errors.

Frequently asked questions about website analytics

What are website analytics tools?

Is web analytics a good career?

What website analytics should I track?

Do I need Google Analytics on my website?

What are some things web analytics cannot tell you?