If you have a website, you should have at least one type of analytics software installed, and that analytics software ought to be Google Analytics. It is an incredibly full-featured web analytics solution, and best of all, it is completely free. In fact, it’s even better than most of the paid solutions out there. Google Analytics provides a wealth of data, and it is actually quite easy to use.
Google Analytics can be used to track many statistics, including:
- The number of visits, visitors, new visitors, and unique visitors for a given time period. This is particularly useful for examining trends over time.
- The sources of the traffic to your website: direct traffic (people typing in the exact URL of your site), referring traffic (when people click a link to your website from another website), and search engine traffic. Google Analytics tells you which referring sites and search engines are sending you traffic, and how many visits they send. It also tells you which keywords are driving traffic to your website from the search engines.
- How many times each page is viewed. You can also see the paths that visitors take to get to a given page, and where they go after visiting that page.
- Visitor data, such as geographic location, browser, operating system, screen resolution, if they are using a mobile device, and more.
- “Goals” or “conversions,” i.e. when a visitor completes a certain action, such as filling out a contact form or purchasing an item. This takes a little more effort to configure properly, but can be very useful. You might find that visitors who buy the most items are coming from a particular website or searching for a particular term in the search engines. With this data, you can target your marketing efforts more effectively, and you could improve your ROI dramatically.
The data provided by Google Analytics or other web analytics software can help you to identify your audience. For example, if you find that a significant proportion of your visitors are reaching your site from a mobile device, you should make sure your site is easy to use and read from such devices. If you find that one particular website is responsible for a lot of referring traffic to your website, you should make sure you preserve the relationship you have with that site, and try to replicate that success with your other referring websites. When you have a better understanding of your visitors, you have a better idea about how you can modify your website content to fit their needs.
Google Analytics and SEO
Examining and interpreting web analytics data is crucial for SEO strategy. Before you can work on increasing search engine traffic, you need to know which keywords are already driving traffic to your website, and how much traffic those keywords bring. You don’t want to make changes and inadvertently lose traffic from keywords that have been working for you. You might be surprised when you see some of the keywords that are generating traffic, and you will probably get new keyword ideas as well.
Over time, as you make changes for your site’s SEO, the analytics data tells you how well your efforts are working. Getting the #1 position for a given keyword is meaningless if that keyword isn’t driving any traffic to your website. To measure your SEO effectiveness, you will typically look at the number of search engine visits over time, such as month to month. You should avoid looking at search engine traffic as a percentage of total traffic, because your data can be skewed by irregular traffic due to email marketing or other promotions. For a more accurate representation of your SEO efforts over time, you may want to exclude traffic from “branded” keywords, such as your company name or product names, that you will always rank well for. If your SEO is done properly, you should see your visits from search engines increase substantially over time – double, triple, maybe even increase tenfold or more within a few months.