Archive for the ‘Web Analytics’ Category
In late 2011, Google began redirecting users who were signed into their Google accounts to the encrypted (https) version of the search engine, beginning the keyword (not provided) era. At the time, Matt Cutts assured everyone that the change would only affect single-digit percentages of all organic search traffic reporting.
The reality was, of course, much different. Marketers, webmasters and SEO professionals quickly saw the share of (not provided) keywords rise to the 20%, 30%, even 40% ranges. Then, on September 23, 2013, Google dropped the hammer, encrypting all search traffic and thus hiding keyword referral data for all of its organic search traffic.
The initial response of digital marketing professionals was…panic. Even Rand Fishkin, while not quit declaring the death of search engine optimization, called keyword (not provided) the first existential threat to SEO.
Google’s move did not, of course, “kill” SEO, but it did force marketers to adopt a broader framework to optimize overall web presence. And it forced SEO and analytics professionals to get more creative in how they analyzed and assessed organic search keyword data. Here are half a dozen of the best guides to measuring organic search phrase results in a keyword (not provided) world.
12 Ways to Measure Content Effectiveness After Google’s “Not Provided” Decision by Content Marketing Institute
***** 5 STARS
While many SEO writers offered tips on how to continue to get organic keyword insights after Google stopped providing referring keyword data last fall, this post is one of the best: Mike Murray steps through a dozen techniques for organic keyword analysis, from opening an AdWords account and using Bing/Yahoo data through tracking search rankings and analyzing organic search landing page data.
Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future byh Occam’s Razor
***** 5 STARS
In his typical thoroughly researched, profoundly well thought-out, incredibly detailed, and richly illustrated style, Avinash Kaushik examines the implications of the loss of organic keyword data; helpful metrics that remain available (such as Mutli-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics, organic landing page reports, and paid keyword data); alternatives for keyword data analysis; and possible future solutions (such as “page personality analysis”). It’s a great deal to absorb, but worth reading and bookmarking.
Google Webmaster Tools Search Query Data is Accurate (and Valuable) by Search Engine Watch
Yes, Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) data has become more valuable in the wake of the universal (not provided) issue, but no, it certainly isn’t perfect. Ben Goodsell does an exemplary job here explaining the value of GMT data for SEO analytics, the limitations of the data, and a “secret” workaround to get a bit more detail out of WMT reports.
(Not Provided) Changes the SEO Landscape by iMedia Connection
Dave Murrow steps back and takes a broad view of the keyword (not provided) issue, speculating on why Google may have made the change and recommending that marketers embrace not just new analytics tactics to deal with the loss of organic keyword data, but also strategic changes to website optimization overall.
Not Provided Keywords – SEO Reporting Without Keyword Data by SEER Interactive
Michelle Noonan walks through six techniques to help compensate for the loss of Google organic keyword data, inlcuding both the usual sources—Google WMT data, YaBing visits, keyword rankings—and unique ideas like reporting on referral traffic and looking for “unique markers to track” based on each specific client’s objectives and situation.
Ideas for Keyword (Not Provided) by LunaMetrics
Reid Bandremer lists 15 ideas for dealing with Google’s “keyword not provided” issue—including Google Webmaster Tools data, aksing users, and using paid data sources—but concludes that “There’s simply no magic bullet and no single one-size-fits-all solution to solving 100% keyword (not provided). Instead, what we have currently is a very complicated set of many different methods to uncover little gaps in insights left by (not provided).”
As the old b-school maxim goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” One of the attributes of the web that marketers love most (and occasionally hate most) is its nearly infinite measurability.
Which sources sent the most traffic to your site last month? Which converted at the highest rate? What are the trends over time? Which content seemed to make visitors stick—and which pages drove them away? Which metrics are most important to business executives? To PR professionals? To bloggers?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in ten of the best posts and articles about web analytics from the past year.
9 downloadable custom Google Analytics reports by iMedia Connection
Rachelle Maisner serves up a “four course meal” of custom GA reports, progressing from acquisition metrics (visits and goal conversions by traffic source) as a first course through behavior metrics, conversion measures, and for dessert, site diagnostics including average page load time, bounce rate, and page views.
Google URL Builder: How to Track Links Shared by Razor Social
Want to track how many people clicked on key links shared across social media channels, email, news releases,and other distribution points? Writing that “The Google URL builder was developed to support this problem. When you create a link using the URL builder you can tag on additional information to the link that describes what the link is about, where the traffic came from when it lands on your site and much more,” Ian Cleary walks through what the URL builder does, how to use it, what happens when you share the link, and how to analyze the results in Google Analytics.
Know Your Social Traffic With These 3 Google Analytics Powerviews by Search Engine People
Ed Baxter details the social metrics available through Google Analytics and how to use this data to gain a richer perspective of the value and activity of social web traffic. For example, “Knowing which pages visitors look at in a tabular view is helpful but with the Visitor Flow report, we can begin to truly understand where people are landing on our site and how they process through it, highlighting potential trouble areas like never before within Google Analytics.”
How to Filter Bot Traffic From Your Google Analytics by LunaMetrics
Noting that “Bot visits skew your data, artificially inflating visits and unique visitors, increasing bounce rate, and decreasing pages/visit, average visit duration, goal conversion rate, ecommerce conversion rate, etc,” Jim Gianoglio shows how to create filters and custom segments within Google Analytics to prevent bot visits from skewing your (real) visitor data.
Dan Friedman unveils the new Paid & Organic report for AdWords advertisers, explaining that “Previously, most search reports showed paid and organic performance separately, without any insights on user behavior when they overlap. The new paid & organic report is the first to let you see and compare your performance for a query when you have either an ad, an organic listing, or both appearing on the search results page.”
Three Data Points to Measure Your Blog Efforts by Spin Sucks
The delightful Gini Dietrich steps through the process of setting up Goals in Google Analytics to track “how engaged the readers are (even if they don’t comment), whether or not they’re big readers, and increases in subscribers” (or any type of conversion action, such as white paper or ebook downloaders for example).
The metrics that will make your CMO love you by iMedia Connection
Well, competitive multi-channel marketing metrics are what will make your CMO truly love you, but John Ellett makes an excellent case here for three categories of measures: revenue contribution metrics, customer feedback metrics, and marketing effectiveness/efficiency metrics.
Periodic Table of Google Analytics by Jeffalytics
***** 5 STARS
As a result of “working on a project to categorize and visually display all of the powerful options available within Google Analytics,” Jeff Sauer came up with this brilliant guide in the form of a periodic table, in both clickable interactive and printable PDF formats. Worth bookmarking.
The public relations pros’ guide to Google Analytics by Polaris B
Writing that “In today’s converging marketing world it’s especially important for public relations pros to understand the ins and outs of Google, SEO and online analytics. If your mandate is generating media coverage and you understand GA, you’ll be abe to show the benefit of the coverage you’ve secured that goes beyond audience impressions,” Shelley Pringle shares an infographic to guide PR pros to helpful Google Analytics-related resources based on their needs and level of analytics knowledge.
Google Analytics Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet by Cheatography
Get your geek on with this helpful cheat sheet from Jay Taylor, listing Google Analytics regular expressions for character classes, filter group accessors, quantifiers (e.g, zero or more), ranges and groups, and more—along with sample patterns showing how these expressions can be used.
If your responsibilities including managing and optimizing website results for a small to midsized organization, chances are you’re using Google Analytics to track website traffic. Google Analytics is used on more than half of all websites. And if it’s not installed, it should be: the Google Analytics (GA) tool is free, powerful, and easy to set up.
For many small to midsized businesses (SMBs), the biggest problem with GA is that it provides too much information. There are a dozen reports under the “Audience” tab alone (not counting “custom” reports). Every report means something to someone, but which are most important from a small business perspective?The long answer to that question could fill an ebook. The short answer? One of the most actionable reports for SMBs is the All Traffic report. To access it within GA, click on Acquisition > All Traffic in the left sidebar menu, then choose Medium as your Primary Dimension. You should see something like this:
Although the figures will vary from site to site, all sites include at least these three Google traffic categories: direct (none), referral and search (organic) visits. Which sources of traffic should you work to increase? All of them!
And although you can adopt a number of strategies to boost your site’s traffic, a proven approach is web presence optimization (WPO): the art and science of being found.
As you study your All Traffic report, it helps to understand each type of web traffic, which also helps you learn more about your audience—and in turn, you can make improvements to your site that better serve visitors, thereby boosting your traffic. Let’s take a look at the three traffic sources and how you can improve them:
Direct (“none”) Traffic
Direct traffic primarily comes from two sources: visitors typing in a site URL directly into their browser, or clicking on a stored bookmark. The first group is likely to contain more prospective customers and others new to your site, while the latter is more often existing customers and partners.
To drive more repeat (bookmarked) direct visits, offer resources, additional products/services, support and other reasons, including regularly updated content, for customers to keep returning to your site.
New direct visits result from both offline and online branding activities. Offline tactics include trade shows and other events, business cards, direct mail, printed brochures, signage and print advertising.
Online branding tactics include media mentions, building links by writing guest posts and articles, product reviews, social media, and industry activities like high-quality directory listings and trade association membership. Note that, as part of an effective WPO strategy, these activities also drive more referral visits and create valuable backlinks that help attract more visits from search.
Referral traffic results from visitors clicking links on other websites that lead to your website—think of it as following a trail of digital breadcrumbs directly to your online hub. Possible sources of referral traffic links include:
- • News articles in trade, local or business publications
- • Coverage by industry or financial analysts
- • Product reviews
- • Blogs (guest posts, comments or blogroll links)
- • Industry and local business directories
- • Partner websites (e.g., retailers, resellers, technology partners, affiliates or vendors)
- • Social media sites (e.g., YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, SlideShare, Scoop.it)
- • Online forums and discussion boards
- • Trade show and event websites
- • Other company or product websites or microsites (mostly for large organizations)
In many cases, your company may attract such links over time simply through normal business activities. A more proactive (and effective) approach, however, is to help build links through a combined digital marketing strategy that includes PR, social, content marketing, and SEO. As you use each of these components to build links and boost your visibility, keep a close eye on your referral traffic. What types of sites send the most traffic your way? That data is a clear signal to continue using those sources in order to keep your referral traffic at optimal levels. Additionally, a robust set of WPO metrics can help in evaluating the value of traffic from each referral source as well as identify competitor links and tactics to emulate.
Search (Organic) Traffic
As you can probably guess, search traffic is comprised of visits from Google, Yahoo!, Bing and a host of smaller search engines. To increase search traffic, your site needs to be optimized to rank highly in the search engines for the types of phrases that buyers use when searching for the types of products and/or services you offer.
Rankings are determined by a combination of relevance (how well does the content on your site align with the search query) and authority (the number and quality of backlinks to your website).
Backlinks, as noted above, can be generated through PR, social, SEO, and other marketing tactics. Links are most valuable when they appear on sites that are highly relevant to your business, i.e., other websites that your prospective customers would be likely to visit for information. Links from low-quality, general purpose directories were helpful for ranking at one time, but are now essentially worthless (and can even be harmful to rankings if your site has too many such links).
The best type of content is that which educates your buyers or helps them solve problems, and only indirectly promotes your products or services. After all, your customers don’t necessarily want to hear how great you are—they want help solving their problems as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. And many times, some of the most valuable backlinks to your site will be those that are created voluntarily and spontaneously by others—bloggers, site owners, social media users—based on the quality and usefulness of your content.
Given the near ubiquitous use of the web for researching product and services prior to buying, optimizing all of your potential sources of site traffic gives you the best chance to be found when your prospective customers are looking. And as you continue to analyze your site’s traffic, be aware that website marketing and traffic building are ongoing processes.
It’s critical to regularly examine your data so that you can spot potential problems and fix them before your site’s visibility and traffic is further compromised. On the flip side, your customers will tell you what you’re doing right—you simply have to pay attention to the data and understand that it not only tells you a powerful story about your customers, but also helps you make key decisions.
Are you listening?
Online marketing activities preovide marketers with a wealth of metrics; actually, too much information. The challenge in deciding which strategies to pursue, increase, modify, or drop, in most cases isn’t a lack of data but an over-abundance of it. Marketers just want the competitive and multichannel metrics they need to make informed decisions, nothing more.
But like any good thing, data simplification can be overdone. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Of course it’s true that, ultimately, any marketing tactic has to show business results (higher sales, lower costs, or some combination thereof). But to argue that marketing strategies and tactics can be properly evaluated solely on that basis is like saying pilots don’t need instruments; after all, at the end of the day, a pilot isn’t judged by altitude or airspeed, but simply by the result of safely landing at the flight’s destination.
Just as a pilot needs instruments to fly accurately and safely, marketers need a broad set of interim metrics to measure their overall web presence and activities. Simply because a specific metric doesn’t appear on a P&L statement or in an ROI calculation doesn’t make it unimportant.
Yet that’s what was argued recently in The 5 most worthless metrics in marketing in iMedia Connection. Now iMedia Connection is a widely respected marketing publication; its posts and stories are frequently spot-on and highly share-worthy, but this article misses the mark.
The post states that marketers shouldn’t “measure anything that you can’t find a direct line of sight back to your financial statements.” But that criteria would ignore many “interim” metrics that, while not directly bottom-line related in and of themselves, are important guideposts to designing and executing financially successful marketing plans—similar to the way a pilot may use GPS or visual landmarks.
Here are the five metrics and why each is indeed not “worthless.”
The post contends that counting Twitter followers is “a completely pointless exercise…Up to half of all Twitter accounts are inactive, while many are just spambots. It is estimated that two-thirds of the Twitter fans of many celebrities and politicians are fake. So we have to ask: Why would someone purchase fakes on a system whose sole function is to communicate with people?”
There are two problems with this argument. The first is that Twitter follower count is misleading because of inactive and bot accounts. But as Shelly Kramer recently wrote, this issue is easily overcome using a tool like Status People, which checks for fake followers and reports, for any Twitter account, the percentages of fake, inactive, and good Twitter followers (the tools reveals, for example, that for the @TomPick Twitter account, those figures are 1%, 6%, and 93% respectively—not bad).
The second is the notion of “purchasing” Twitter followers, which is a bad idea regardless. Just as a college student may be able to cheat in a class by buying a term paper, or even test answers, the result is that the student didn’t really get the benefit of learning in the class, which will have long-term (if not also short-term) repercussions. And it renders that student’s grade worthless.
But that doesn’t make the general notion of class grades or test scores worthless, only those that are achieved fraudulently. The same principle applies to Twitter followers; as long as they are obtained legitimately, the count does matter.
The article argues in his post that “the vast majority of people who click the ‘like’ button will never return to the site of their own accord. If you want to get value out of them, you need to actively do something.” True! But that doesn’t make “likes” worthless generically, it means, as with Twitter followers, that what matters is how the “like” are obtained and what type of ongoing engagement activities are implemented.
As with many web presence optimization and online marketing metrics, what’s important about Facebook “likes” isn’t the number itself but rather 1) how that number changes over time, and 2) how that number compares to competitors’. If your “likes” aren’t growing over time, it calls for rethinking the type of updates you’re sharing and how you’re engaging on Facebook.
And if competitors have significant more “likes,” why? Is there something in their strategies you can learn from? Or are they merely inflating their follower counts through contests similar low-involvement tactics? If the latter, then the “likes” differential truly doesn’t matter much.
This isn’t to say that Facebook should be a central part of every company’s social strategy. It’s a better environment for promoting hospitality, entertainment, retail and fashion brands than for industrial goods. And if you sell an item like adult diapers or anti-fungal cream, you’re unlikely to get a lot of customers to publicly express affection for your products on Facebook no matter how much they may “like” them in real life.
The point that sentiment tracking is important (thought challenging to do accurately) in providing context around social mentions is well taken, but still: if you’ve got an active social media marketing program going and aren’t getting social mentions, that’s a critical signal that something is wrong. And as with “likes,” if competitors are getting significantly more social mentions than your brand, you need to investigate why.
Actually, the post is correct here that an unfiltered, raw count of backlinks is meaningless. In the post-Penguin world, a large number of link farm or similar low-quality links can be worse than useless—it can actually be harmful.
Still, with proper categorization and filtering, links counts can be quite enlightening. Discovering that a competitor has far more links from industry news sources or blogs, for example, tells you something important about their strategy, and how you may need to adjust yours.
Search Engine Visibility
Again, while it’s true as the article states that “Many performance indicators, including bounce rate, form abandonment, average order value, engagement, and conversion rate, vary from search phrase to search phrase,” telling a client or boss generically that search engine visibility doesn’t matter is certainly not advisable.
Ideally, a website should attract increasing numbers of visits over time for both branded and non-brand (generic) search phrases. Generic visits are driven by SEO activities (content, social, PR, industry, link-building, etc.). Branded search visits are driven by a host of activities that raise brand awareness; again including PR and social, but also advertising, trade shows, sponsorships, speaking engagements, awards, community involvement among others.
Yes, it’s true that in the final analysis, if a marketing activity isn’t positively contributing to the bottom line, a company shouldn’t be spending time, effort or money on it. But there are many interim measures that are vital in guiding marketers, just as instruments guide pilots, to adjust their speed or direction intelligently in order to reach their final destination.
There’s no question that web analytics are vital, but even Shakespeare acknowledged that one can have too much of a good thing. In an environment where nearly everything that happens online can be measured, the challenge for marketers isn’t gaining the ability to measure even more factors, but rather the clarity to focus on measuring what matters.
How can you measure all of the sources that contributed to a conversion–not just the last click? Which Google Analytics (GA) metrics are most important? How can you take action on analytics reports? What can GA tell you (and not tell you) about your sources of website traffic? How can you capitalize on the Advanced Segments feature in GA?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 16 remarkable guides to web analytics from the past year.
The SEO’s Guide to GA 5, Part II: Top 3 Features for Setting & Achieving SEO Goals by Search Engine Journal
Dali Burgado details three key features of Google Analytics 5 (GA5) for SEO professionals: dashboard customization with SEO widgets (e.g., branded vs. non-branded search), custom alerts, and multi-channel funnels (see Pritesh’s post above). This last feature is interesting but would be much more useful if one could customize segment definitions to correct for the way Google gets search traffic wrong.
Writing that “When conversions take place over multiple visits rather than a single visit to a site, it’s really important to understand the complete customer journey and not use the standard ‘last click wins’ model of attribution,” Pritesh Patel demonstrates how to use Multi-Channel funnel reports in Google Analytics to obtain more detailed insights into the different interactions visitors have with your website before converting to a lead.
Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics: What to Track by Search Engine Watch
Sarah Carling notes that GA is incredibly powerful–but needs to be set up properly first. Much of it’s potential analytical power can’t be accessed “out of the box.” She then provides examples of and instruction for setting up three types of data you may want to track: customer segments (actually, visitor segments), goal and event tracking, and page categories (“If, for instance, you want to know if product category A or B is more likely to result in a customer creating an account or making a purchase, you can track this data”).
Contending that good marketers use analytics to measure the performance of their marketing initiatives, while “Great marketers use them to adapt, improve, and modify their marketing efforts,” frequent best-of honoree Pamela Vaughan shows to use analytics to improve in areas like focusing on popular blog topics, refining SEO strategies, improving landing pages, and more.
Okay, GA 5 isn’t “new” anymore, but the techniques outlined here are still intriguing. This richly illustrated post shows how to set up actionable dashboards and widgets to monitor a variety of specific custom metrics like non-branded keyword traffic, top actionable social content, page load speed, top converting keywords, top exit/bounce pages and others.
Capturing The Value Of Social Media Using Google Analytics by Google Analytics Blog
Noting that “Since social media is often an upper funnel player in a shopper’s journey, it’s not always easy to determine which social channels actually drive value for your business and which tactics are most effective,” Phil Mui steps through five different ways to gauge “social value” in GA, such as the Conversions Report, with which “marketers can now measure the value of each individual social channel by seeing the conversion rates of each social network and the monetary value they drive to your business.” Both goals and goal values need to be defined in order to use this report.
Expanding on the post above, Lars Lofgren steps through each of the six social reports provided by GA, explains how traffic gets tagged as social media, and shows how to use GA’s Social Source Graphs. He cautions in his conclusion though to “be careful. These reports only use the referring URL when assigning traffic to a social media site. So if the referrer gets corrupted in any way, your traffic won’t get assigned to the right network and all your data will be skewed. If you commonly use URL shorteners, it’s very easy for the data in your social reports to be incomplete.”
4 Google Analytics updates you should know by iMedia Connection
Dan Brooks discusses four components of GA 5, including real-time data reporting (one of the primary benefits of which is, as notes, that it’s “just kind of fun to watch”), search engine optimization insights (which requires integration with Google Webmaster Tools) and Google+ integration (useful for organizations getting traction on G+).
What Google Analytics New Social Reports Offer & What They Can’t by Search Engine Watch
Marshall Sponder points out that, though the newest iteration of Google Analytics does offer some useful advantages over older versions, it doesn’t always live up to expectations. For example, “Traffic networks are mixed up with traffic tools…Twitter and Facebook are termed networks while HootSuite, which is a tool, and WordPress, which is a blogging platform, are treated identically by Google, as being the same type of traffic—social media. While technically true, it’s incorrect to place these sources on equal footing.” In addition, custom configuration is required to take advantage of many of the more granular features.
Google Analytics: Understanding Traffic Sources by iMedia Connection
Arden Kaley steps through the details behind the high-level traffic sources reported by Google Analytics (direct, referral, and search), then explains the importance of using Google’s URL Builder to create custom, trackable URLs for different digital marketing activities, and how to use the tool.
3 Steps to Measuring Your Social Marketing Campaign with Google Analytics by Social Media Club
Similar to the post above, Yola Blake supplies detailed instructions on how to create custom UTM codes (including medium, source, campaign name, etc.) for tracking specific marketing campaigns, concluding “Now, you are able to track the performance of the marketing message and pinpoint each sale (or other type of conversion) as a result of the tweet directly in Google Analytics.”
4 Shortcuts for Analyzing Social Media Traffic in Record Time by Social Media Sun
Eugen Oprea details four “shortcuts” for efficiently analyzing social media activity using GA, including instructions for building custom dashboards (“Dashboards are really important because they can provide you information at a glance, without spending hours digging through reports. In Google Analytics you can setup up to 20 dashboards that can provide insights about your visitors”).
Measuring a Mobile World: Introducing Mobile App Analytics by Google Analytics Blog
JiaJing Wang outlines three GA tools for mobile app analytics: Acquisition (and user metrics such as downloads and new users); Engagement (metrics such as retention, crashes and conversions); and Outcome (metrics such as app sales and in-app purchases). While not likely to be needed by most b2b marketers, these new tools may be valuable to b2c brand marketers investing in mobile app development.
8 ways to use Google Analytics beyond keywords by iMedia Connection
Casie Gillette recommends eight ways for marketers to act on GA data, among them: generating blog ideas (“Take a look at which posts drove the most visits and engagement, had the lowest bounce rates, and (of course) which posts were shared the most”), social targeting and attribution, and landing page testing.
3 Hidden Optimization Tips in Google Analytics by Conversation Marketing
Aviva Jorstad offers step-by-step instructions for using “three advanced tips that will help you unearth hidden optimization opportunities with Google Analytics,” such as seven “simple” (though your definition of that term may vary) steps to increase conversions from organic search traffic.
Google Analytics Advanced Segments Comprehensive Template Collection by Penguin Initiatives
***** 5 STARS
Contending that “Advanced segments in Google Analytics are one of the most powerful tools for gaining immense insight into your visitors,” Andy Forsberg provides more than two dozen copy-able advanced segment definitions, for everything from tracking searches of different keyword lengths to “user behavior” segments like Explorers (new visitors who viewed more than three pages) vs. Fans (returning visitors who viewed multiple pages).