You’ve invested in Search Optimizing your website with better content, meta-code, and Social Media links. Traffic to your site has increased, and you’ve even started to receive more calls and orders. What’s next?
The first thing to realize is that SEO is an open-ended process that is never really complete. It comes with victories and setbacks, and you need to be vigilant about the ways in which your web visitors interact with your site.
That’s a fancy way of saying “watch what your web visitors do.” It can be fascinating.
Many hosting services provide statistics about visits and “hits,” but what you really want is in-depth knowledge about how visitors to your site behave once they get there.
Google Analytics is a tool provided free-of-charge by Google to help you understand that behavior. Of course “free” is a relative term. True, there is no financial charge other than the time needed by your webmaster to install Google’s code. But then Google knows everything down to the last detail about what’s happening on your website. For most web owners, it’s a fair trade.
You can learn more about Google Analytics and how to set it up by following this link: http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/setupchecklist.html
Our purpose in this article is to pick out a few key metrics in Google Analytics reports to watch for and explain why they are important.
Time on Site
When people come to your site, they spend a certain amount of time there, and it’s often shorter than you think. A recent article in Time indicated that 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds actively on a page.
In Google Analytics, you want to look at your Average Session Duration. If your site is interesting to its audience and engages its attention, that number might be in the 1 to 2 minute range. If it’s far less, then you might have more visitors, but few may be interested in what they are seeing.
A “bounce” is simply a visitor who leaves the site after viewing only one page. Bounces go hand-in-hand with time on site, as a high bounce rate likely means your audience is glancing at the home page and then going away.
An average bounce rate is in the 50% to 60% range. Lower than that and you’re doing great; higher and you may have a problem.
If you have a high bounce rate, don’t panic, just take a closer look. You may be attracting segments of the wrong audience, like an industrial “guard rail” manufacturer we’ve worked with who started picking up searches for children’s crib railing.
Or, your site could be having its statistics skewed by visits from some annoying bots. One called SEMALT has been causing trouble recently, and you can read how to remove it from Google Analytics here: https://www.hallaminternet.com/2014/remove-semalt-google-analytics/
Where are the majority of your web visitors coming from? If you have a brick and mortar store on 5th Street, USA, and you have increasing web traffic from Angola, those new visitors can’t possibly do you any good.
Of course, be reasonable with your expectations. Foreign visitors are sure to come; it’s only a problem if a substantial portion of your web traffic is well outside your company’s service area.
User flow is the path followed by your web visitor as they move through the site. You can see what page they came in on (not always the home page), and where they went from there. Did they make it to your contact page? Did they show an interest in something you didn’t realize was a big draw?
Conversions are simply goals that you yourself set for your website. In a simple e-commerce model a conversion would be a sale. For an informational website, a conversion might be when a visitor reaches the “Thank you for Contacting Us” page or the “download completed” page.
Conversions are a way of measuring whether visitors are doing what you want them to do. If you encourage your visitors to read the latest sales flyer and they do not, then something is amiss. Either the action you want them to take is not clear, or they do not see how taking that action can benefit them.
What Browsers and Operating Systems are your visitors using to access your website? The appearance and functionality of a website can change depending on whether it is being viewed in Internet Explorer, Chrome, FireFox, or MAC’s Safari browser.
Recently we worked with a customer whose website was not doing well at all in Safari, but because his business serviced a higher-end clientele, it was likely that more of his customers than average would be viewing his site on MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones. This made solving the Safari glitches a priority.
Speaking of iPads, how many people are visiting your website on their tablets and smart phones? If it’s a lot, and your website is hard to use on smaller screens, then you may be losing potential customers.
In the summer of 2014, more websites were accessed on mobile devices than on traditional laptops and PCs.
Google Analytics offers a treasure trove of behavioral and technical data that is almost second-to-none.
Today, it’s not enough to know that your site got more “hits,” but it can be invaluable to know where your visitors came from, what pages they visited, how long they stayed, and what types of devices they viewed your website on.
Once you have access to the knowledge available in Analytics, you can begin making modifications to your website that will help it do even better tomorrow.
You could add videos, slide shows, or info-graphics to increase time on site and better engage your audience. You could make critical or popular pages easier to reach in the navigation. You could take into account the equipment on which your website is viewed and take steps to assure that the most popular devices and browsers present what you have to offer as clearly and smartly as possible.
With Google Analytics, you open up a whole new world of understanding your online audience, and best of all, when you make those new changes to your website, you will have a direct measure of whether or not they worked!