Before we get into the weeds about Google Analytics, we have to start with understanding how Google interacts with the typical business or organization web page. Once we cover that, it will make more sense why the parts we’re about to highlight from Google Analytics are fundamental. I often start describing this to blog development & SEO clients in these terms…
Imagine that you are using a search engine to find the best ergonomic keyboard for $100. We all want to be more comfortable when working, right? However, most of us have to do this on a budget.
When you go to type your question in a search engine what will compel you when you see the responses?
Answer: The first thing you see that answers your question.
So, how do you phrase questions when using Google, Bing, or some other search engine? For me, it is usually a shortened version of a full question. In this case:
“Best ergonomic keyboards under $100?”
^ This is a bit of a long keyword/phrase, right? Though, I know that if I typed in this phrase and the first page of Google was…
“The 10 Best Ergonomic Keyboards Under $100!”
…there’s a pretty darn good chance, I would be opening that page up in a new window! The point of this being that search engines want to serve searchers, people using the search engine to find something, the answers to the questions they have.
In fact, going a bit deeper, Google and others have invested $millions into trying to figure out what you are going to be searching before you even finish your line of thinking.
There is so much more to talk about this particular subject, but today was going to be about how to use Google Analytics to improve your SEO, and though we just scratched the surface above, it did have a point. The point being, you can use Google Analytics, to help figure out if your content is, in fact, answering those questions. Moreover, you should start thinking of Google Analytics as an indispensable tool!
The point being, you can use Google Analytics, to help figure out if your content is, in fact, answering those questions. You can see how often people come to your site, and you can tell when, how, and from what source they are not getting the answers they are seeking.
I’m going to share with you some indispensable ways to use Google Analytics and hope that in doing so you start to understand the power of this very accessible tool.
Using Google Analytics to Measure Baseline Traffic (Sessions & Pageviews)
This measure is the low hanging fruit of Google Analytics. Some of the first things you will see when accessing your site traffic through Analytics is Sessions over a given date in time.
Session analysis will provide you with an idea how many times your website was served to people over a defined point of time. I like to look at this data and present it to clients, in a month-to-month format and a lifetime growth format.
If you use a data presentation software, like Google Data Studio, you can present the either view in a summation style. My favorite part about doing this is pointing out that if the chart starts looking like a smiley face, that means traffic is improving, and if it is a frowny face, well – time to look at the basics….Though, that is why we use these tools in the first place. To make sure we know when and how things work for us, and occasionally against us.
Using Google Analytics to Measure Page Landings
In addition to knowing how your website’s traffic is increasing, decreasing, or staying moderate, you should also start taking a careful approach to figuring out where people go when they get to your website. For the typical website owner without a background in data analysis, this is tracking landing page behavior.
Analytics provides several tools for looking at landing page behavior. This metric is very useful, as when you see where your traffic first touches your site, it will give you an idea of places to start monkeying around with, to see what can start improving those numbers. Of particular interest should be the specific pages most traffic lands on, and the bounce rate of the traffic once there.
If the bounce rate is higher than you expect, it often is if you have never taken a data driven approach to SEO and website improvement, then you need to start brainstorming why someone who searched for your page, left once they saw it! Again, though, it happens – now that you know how to measure how often it is happening you can start working on making it happen less.
Note, improving this metric (bounce rate vs. landing page) will almost assuredly improve your SEO too. Remember, search engines want to serve content that answers people’s questions. If they bounce from your page because it did not respond to their initial question, Google’s algorithm will recognize your page is not a great solution/answer for that particular query and you will probably see your ranking for whatever keyword or keyphrase it is that brought people to your site.
Using Google Analytics to Measure Acquisition Scenarios
This metric is my favorite as far as Google Analytics goes. We have some incredibly cool analysis we can cover in Google Search Console coming up, but that article is forthcoming.
Here’s why I love it so much! You can and should use Google Analytics to measure acquisitions by type of traffic acquired. Though that is a wordy phrase, it means a lot. For example, using Analytics, you should be able to pull up a report of the amount of traffic your site received from Organic Search, Pay Per Click, Social Media, Direct, and Referral traffic. In addition to this, you can see how often they bounced as well.
Using this data, you can do some nifty predictive analysis for clients, and you can start setting up some value for services calculations.
Cool thing #1 you can do with Acquisition Analysis = Predictive Analysis
Multiply the traffic acquired to date by the total days in the month and divide by the day of the month; this will give you the projected traffic for that particular type of acquisition for the month.
For example: On August 11, you have 133 Organic Searches. 133 * 31 (days in August)= 4123 (number means nothing, keep it for the next part of the calculation). 4123/11 (current day of the month) = 375. If you had 133 Organic searches on August 11, you could project out that you will have around 375 by the end of the month. Using the next set of calculations *in Cool things #2, you can see why this is awesome.
Cool thing #2 you can do with Acquisition Analysis = Value Analysis
If you are billing on a monthly basis, it helps to do Cool thing #1 above (assuming you want to do this projection mid-month). Otherwise, setup your data for the last 30 days, or run the numbers at the end of the month.
Once you have projected traffic, or actual traffic, for the month – now you work in the bounce rate. The bounce rate tells you how often people leave without significant interaction; you want the inverse – you want to know how long they stay. So take 1 (1=100%) and subtract the bounce rate in decimal. If for instance, the bounce rate is 74.5% – the number you want is 1-.745, or .255 (25.5%). You are going to take this number and multiply it by the total traffic for that corresponding traffic type. The result being, the effective traffic received for that traffic type.
Now that you know exactly how much traffic is acquired and how much of that traffic stuck around in a meaningful manner, you can calculate the value of your marketing efforts (if you are the owner reading this) or your marketing services (if you are an SEO vendor reading this) is costing per click.
This breakdown is ideal for demonstrating to website owners how ineffective their $$$ is spent on AdWords, and how blogging + SEO blows PPC out of the water every time, from a perspective of value.
Here’s how a typical calculation might go down:
Assumption: $400 on SEO monthly, 200 Organic Searches, 45% retention vs. $800 on PPC, 150 clicks 15% retention.
Organic: $400/(200*.45) = $4.44 /effective click
PPC: $800/(150*.15) = $35.56 /effective click
That’s correct! Marketing budgets spent pursuing Organic traffic are almost 1000% better value than those using pay per click advertising! And we are not even talking about the lifetime value of services. Blog & SEO is an investment vs. Pay Per Click is a simple transaction.
Given the long view investment > transaction every time. Again, though, something to cover in a future article.
In the meantime, thanks for sticking with me to this point. In our next article, I will be covering how Google Search Console adds tremendous context to the great information you now know how to pull from Google Analytics.
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