An introduction to analytics

Use metrics and data to understand how people use your website

What are web analytics?

Web analytics are the collection, analysis, and reporting of website metrics and data.

Is your website effectively meeting its intended purpose? Are customers able to complete their tasks quickly and easily? Web analytics can help you answer such questions and identify opportunities to improve the user experience.

Why are analytics important?

Gathering and analyzing metrics and data on how people use your website can help you make design and development decisions informed by data, rather than by guess or executive whim. Sources of data that can be particularly useful include web analytics, customer feedback, and device usage patterns.

Sharing data from and about the real people who use your products and services is a powerful tool to gain buy-in to make customer-focused improvements.

How to use web analytics to measure performance

Before you begin collecting data, determine what your website is ultimately trying to accomplish. Establishing goals and objectives will help you identify the data you need to understand whether or not you’re meeting those overarching goals.

Follow the framework in the table below to create objectives and calls-to-action, and identify key performance indicators to measure their success or failure.

Measurement Definition Example
Goals Explains the purpose of your website and what it’s supposed to accomplish Educate the public about safe handling of food.
Objectives Defines how you will achieve your goals Reach online users looking for information on food safety and convert them into site visitors.
Calls to action (CTA) Tasks that visitors must complete as part of your website’s goals and objectives Online users come to the website because it was listed on search engines as a credible source for food safety content.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) Metrics that measure each CTA Website’s search clickthrough rate for keywords related to food safety.
Search visits to the website for keywords related to food safety.
Targets Thresholds that determine whether you’re meeting your KPIs Search clickthrough rate in queries for food safety should be no less than 10%.
Search visits show an increasing trend.

Using a framework like this can help you identify exactly what data you need to assess whether or not you’re meeting your goals. Appropriate research methods and clear KPIs can help you measure only what matters, to focus on the insights you need to meet your targets. There are lots of tools out there. Which ones you’ll need will depend on your KPIs and targets. For example:

  • Customer satisfaction and page-level surveys provide a glimpse into what people think and feel.
  • A/B, multivariate, and user testing demonstrate usage and user preference.
  • Web analytics, clickthroughs, scroll-tracking, and heatmaps show how people navigate.
  • Keywords and search terms surface the words people use to search for your content and identify topics they’re having trouble finding.

Don’t focus on traffic alone. More visits, more pageviews or low bounce rates don’t necessarily equate to user success. Instead, determine your business goals, define how you will measure success, then gather the right data to know when you’ve met your targets.

What can I do next?

It’s a good idea to understand what your agency’s top-visited websites and webpages are. You may need to report your top sites and pages periodically. But more importantly, this data can help you prioritize how you improve the user experience on the sites you manage.

The Digital Analytics Program (DAP) at GSA provides this reporting at no cost to federal agencies. Add your site to DAP and then follow the steps below to get access to your agency’s top website data.

  1. Install DAP. Make sure to install the code at least 30 days ahead of when you will need the report.
  2. With DAP installed, go to
  3. Select your agency from the dropdown.
  4. Select ‘30 Days’ under the Top Web Pages and App Screens section.
  5. Select “Download the full dataset.”
  6. Open the .csv file and analyze the dataset in a spreadsheet.

You can also review more detailed data (such as the top webpages) in Google Analytics at

If you have any questions, please email the DAP team at