In the SEO industry, Google Analytics is a touchy subject. So, for those in the industry who feel the need to yell and rant because I’m adding “Google” to the title, yell on, while I talk to the target audience.
Because, you see, GA is a free analytics platform (yes, I know, it has a paid version). Thus, it’s widely used by many business owners small and large. As well, tons of SEO tools incorporate with Google Analytics, such as Raven Tools – a product I’m testing now. While you can use the analytics program offered with most web hosting platforms, many find it hard to read the raw data. Thus, GA – nuff’ said.
How do you use Google Analytics, though? How accurate is it? What can it tell you?
Well, GA can give you tons of useful information. The information isn’t completely accurate, but it’s accurate enough to pinpoint what pages need help in terms of conversions. It can help you find out what types of referrals bring you the most bangs for your buck (which also helps you develop a more targeted link building campaign). It’s not the Holy Grail of site statistics and SEO, but it’ll definitely do in a pinch.
Part 1: Understanding Keyword Reports
GA shows your traffic in an overview and in a format broken down into forms of traffic. “Keywords” is one of these metrics. The image below shows a small excerpt of our keyword data metrics for the Article Archive. What we want to know when looking at this metric is:
- What key terms are bringing people to the site?
- How long do they stay?
- Does the content keep them looking around the site?
- Are they new or returning visitors?
Now, keep in mind these are simple metrics; this is not an advanced Google Analytics course, merely an overview. You can click on the image for a larger view. I did skew the report to show no bounce rate, but our bounce rate is our business :).
What are you looking at?
- Column 1: Which terms people have used to find our site
- Column 2: Which page they landed on when clicking through from the SERPS
- Column 3: How many visitors came in from the key term
- Column 4: The average amount of pages looked at from those brought in through the key term
- Column 5: The average length of time they stayed
- Column 6: Percentage of unique visitors
- Column 7: Bounce rate
Quiz Question: Which column is least important? I’ll tell you the answer in a minute.
Let’s pretend that the site is new and these are the only key term hits we’ve received. Now, we have reason to be happy, because we’re starting to show up for relevant key terms: relevant to our site and our business. For instance, “SEO my site” and “reputation SEO” are good ones.
So let’s say we’re looking at a site and not a blog. I’m going to break down what we’re looking at and how we begin choosing what to test/tweak.
First, we look at relevant terms:
1: How to SEO my website
For this month, we had three brand new visitors land on a relevant page for the term. This is good. However, we need to know if they found the information they wanted there. The statistics of 10 seconds says we didn’t grab their interest enough. They stayed to scan the information, but didn’t find it interesting enough to look around the site.
Because of the search term, we can “almost” assume they were looking for enough information to do it themselves. Although these visitors might convert, it’s not likely.
2. SEO my site
We have the same statistics. The difference here is that the possibility of conversion is more likely. In other words, they may be looking for someone to provide SEO, rather than information on how to do it themselves.
Because they only scanned and didn’t look further into the site, we can safely assume we didn’t grab their attention enough. At some point in the game, we missed the ball on conversion. So, I’m going to set that aside as a page to analyze, tweak and test.
3 & 4: Reputation SEO, Reverse SEO
This is excellent, or could be. Four new people used these phrases to find us and landed on an appropriate page. They didn’t just scan; they looked around at other pages on the site. Did they convert? They could have. I’ll put these aside also, to get more information.
5: SEO and online reputation
Of the two visitors from this key term, one was new, one returned. Neither went further on the site, but they stayed awhile. What do we learn from this? They found the information they wanted. Period. They weren’t looking for anything else. However, I’m still going to look at the page. It’s getting traffic from several search terms, and may or may not be getting conversions. I need to know what’s going on with that page and how I can better convert those visitors.
Quiz Answer: Bounce Rate is the least important metric.
Why? The bounce rate says, “this visitor came, went and didn’t stay long enough to really look at anything.” Seems like it’d be extremely important, right? However, here is one of Google Analytics’ faults.
Google has an insanely high amount of time someone has to stay on a page for it not to count as a bounce. How long does it take you to scan a page for information and grab a number? 10 secs? 15 secs?
On blogs, for instance, bounce rates can be extremely high. People visit to find specific information. They scan, for the most part, garner what they want to know and then leave. The bounce rate doesn’t say whether they:
- Called a number
- Grabbed an email address
- Followed on Twitter
- Bookmarked the site for visiting later
In other words, the bounce rate is just a number that, while somewhat useful, isn’t one you should put a lot of emphasis on.
I had planned to delve into several metrics, but you’d have a book to read. I hope this information has given you the beginnings of how to use Google Analytics for better SEO and conversions.
As we move forward over the next couple of months, Level343 and the Article Archive will be focusing on putting out more helpful, informational articles. If you have questions you’d like to see answered in an article, please feel free to drop one in the comments.