Category: SEO – Beef Up Your Web Site


analytics

First, the disclaimer

I’m not an expert on Google Analytics.  That would take years; there’s a lot to it!

I’m a web designer.  I do small business websites, and I often set up Google Analytics for my clients. Since it can be overwhelming to make sense of all that data, I am writing with my clients in mind – to get them started, and to get them interested.

Now, it’s possible to completely customize your Dashboard (your data overview page), and there’s a good article on that from KISSmetrics: How Google Analytics Dashboards Can Make Your Life Easier. But my purpose here is to work with the standard Dashboard.

Specifically, I want to list and comment on my favorite links / data views.  I’m not promising to be comprehensive about it, either!  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Finding your way to the good stuff

analytics_overviewWhen you log into your account and click on the All Website Data link beneath your website name, you are taken to the Audience Overview page.

If you look at the left column navigation menu, you’ll see that Overview is the first link under the Audience section. Makes sense so far, doesn’t it?

 

navNow, if you click on Audience in the navigation menu, you’ll see that the Audience section collapses (it’s an accordion-style menu), and when it does, you’ll notice the two sections beneath it:  Aquisition and Behavior. Audience, Aquisition and Behavior will soon be your three favorite sections, so you need to know where they are!

Oh and, it would help to know what they are.  Think of it this way:

Audience:  Who is visiting your website?
Aquistion:  How do they find you?
Behavior:  What do they do / see on your website?

Who are my peeps? Audience > Overview

audience-graph

So, back to Audience > Overview.  Here you will notice that by default it shows you data from the past 30 days.  You can change that if you like. The graph at the top of the page shows the number of sessions each day, and if you move your mouse over it, you’ll get a detailed view. A session can be thought of as a visit.  A visitor (user) could view multiple pages in a single session, and the same user could come back  later in the day for another session. So, your number of users would be different from your number of sessions, and also from your number of page views.

audience-stats

The information beneath the graph is, for the most part, self explanatory.  You can see numbers for users, sessions, page views, average session duration, and percent of new (vs returning) visitors.

One stat needs special mention:  the Bounce Rate.  A Bounce happens when a user lands on a web page, them leaves your website without visiting any other pages.  A high bounce rate could mean that users are are not finding what they came for, or that they found your website by mistake.  Bounces are quite common –  after all, the average web users has the attention span of a gnat on meth! Consequently,  a bounce rate of 50% or lower is considered good.

Other fun Audience stats

Audience > Geo > Location: Shows a world map so you can see what countries your visitors come from.  Scroll down to see the list version, where you can compare countries and see who stays on your website longest (among other stats).

Audience > Behavior > Engagement: Shows how long people stay on your website.

Audience > Technology > Browser & OS: This interests me as a web designer.  I want to see  how many people are still using Internet Explorer, even after we web designers have told them not to!

Audience > Technology > Network: Lists what internet service provider (ISP) your visitors are using. This data, combined with the Browser data above, helps me infer what percentage of the website sessions were created by me.  While working on a website, I view many pages repeatedly, generating statistics (ie sessions and page views) that inflate the numbers.  Since I use Chrome as my browser and Comcast as my ISP, I can get some idea of what impact I’m having on the stats.  Good to keep in mind….

Audience > Mobile > Overview: Shows how many users are on desktops, phones and tablets.  You might be surprised!

How did they find me? Aquisition > Overview

channelsThe Aquisition > Overview page helps you see how users get to your website.  The breakdown is like this:

  • Organic Search:  They used a search engine
  • Referral:  They came from another website
  • Direct:  They typed in your web address directly, or had it bookmarked
  • Social:  They came from a social media site (probably your Facebook page)
  • Email:  They clicked on a link in an email (probably because you are sending out eNewsletters)

It’s helpful to know where your traffic is coming from.  But even more helpful is being able to correlate that with other behaviors.   You could answer questions like this:

  • Do my Facebook visitors stay on my website longer than others?
  • Who is more likely to buy a product on my website?  Organic traffic or Referral traffic?
  • Are my blog posts driving traffic to my website?

For instance, from the first line of the example table below, you can see that, for this website, organic traffic generates the highest number of sessions, and also the lowest bounce rate.
channels2
But it gets even better.  You can drill down by clicking on the traffic type in the table above.

If you click on:

  • Organic Search: You’ll see a list of keywords (search terms) that people used to find your site.  Brilliant!
  • Referral:  You’ll see which websites are sending you traffic.
  • Direct:You’ll see which landing pages people go to.  This lets you know which pages are being bookmarked or re-visited.

Other fun Aquisition stats

Aquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries: Shows the keywords / search terms that caused Google to display your website in the SERPs (search engine results pages).  This answers a different question from “which keywords do people use to find me?” (see Organic Search above)   Instead, it answers “which keywords does Google think are pertinent to my site?“. Just because Google decides to show your web address to a searcher doesn’t mean the searcher clicked on it.  If fact, the searcher may not have even seen it,  since Google might have displayed it on the 20th page for that particular search!

Fortunately, Google gives you a bunch of information along with these “queries”:
keyword_stats

  • Impressions:  Number of times Google showed your web address  (for that particular search term)
  • Clicks:  Number of times users clicked on an impression  (for that particular search term)
  • Average Position: Average ranking when Google showed your web address  (for that particular search term).  IE Was it #1, at the very top of the first page, or was it #90, where no one will ever see it?
  • CTR or  Click Through Rate:  The ratio of impressions to clicks.  4% is considered “OK”.

Aquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Landing Pages: Show the pages that users “land” on. These are the pages that Google is showing in the SERPS (search engine results pages).  So, they represent the popular pages, or the pages that Google thinks is most relevant to searches on your website’s topic.

What do they like? Behavior > Overview

The Behavior > Overview page is not that interesting, and it’s redundant with the links I mention below.  But I had to put a sentence here to keep with the format of this blog post!  Moving on…

Other fun Behavior stats

flowBehavior > Behavior Flow: A very cool graphic display of where people go once the land on your website.  It’ll make sense after you stare at it for awhile!

Behavior > Site Content > All Pages: Shows user stats for each page.  A good way to see the strong vs. weak pages on your website.

A note about the data

My Wilderness First Responder instructor told me that a set of vital stats (pulse, blood pressure etc), is practically useless by itself, because everyone is different. One set of vitals only tells you that your patient is alive, not how s/he’s doing.  To be meaningful, you must look at vital stats over a period of time;  you must look for trends.

The same applies to website stats, albeit for  different reasons. User stats are artificially inflated by owners and web designers checking the website.  Search engines have trouble telling if a new user is really “new”, or just a repeat visitor on a different computer.  And how long does a “session” last, anyway?

Google, our main source for this type of information, does not report all search terms, due to privacy concerns.  Hard to believe, I know –  but the point is that you are not getting the full picture.

Take these stats with a grain of salt;  they are not as precise as the appear to be. Better to look for trends as your website grows and improves.  Over time, if you continue to devote attention to your website, you’ll see results!

 

Have you noticed the little yellow review stars appearing in Google search results?   Google is picking up reviews from various places on the web, and inserting them into the RESULTS pages. This means that, before a user even decides to click on your website, they are seeing a rating of your service or product – assuming one exists.  I don’t know about you, but those little stars influence what I click on!

One of my author clients has only one review on one website for her new book.  But it’s a credible website, and Google has “scraped” it.  That means she’s benefiting quite a bit from just ONE review!

A recent survey conducted in the UK and US found  that 69 percent of respondents trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. See article for details: Local Consumers Trust Earned by Having More Reviews – Website Magazine.

As small business owners, we would do well to develop networking or service follow-up routines that include asking satisfied customers rate and review our products or services online.

Did you know that there are only a handful of fonts that are considered “web safe”?
These are the fonts that can be rendered by most people’s computers without any special “work-arounds”.   Web designers just use HTML or CSS to tell the browser what font to use, and that’s that.  You can see these web safe fonts at the ampsoft website.

But wait?!  I’ve seen lots of fancy fonts online!
Yes, these are generally used in titles and logos.  For the most part, these special fonts are really not text, but IMAGES of text. Instead of typing in the text and formatting it, designers create an image of the text in Photoshop, then place it on the web page. You can tell whether a font on a web page is text or an image: Just try to highlight and copy the text (left click and drag over the text).  If  you can’t  copy the text, you’re looking at an image.  If you right-click on the image, you should see a context menu that allows you to save the image.

Text or image, it looks the same. Why is this important?
The important thing to know is that search engines can’t read an image.  So, using images as a replacement for fonts is a tricky business.  Overdo it and it will effect your search rankings.  And here are a couple more reasons to be judicious about replacing text with images.  Screen readers can’t read images;  If all the headings on your web page are done with images, your website will not be accessible to people with special needs.  Also, too many images will slow down you pages.

Web designers love fonts! It’s frustrating to sacrifice beautiful design for search engine friendly design, or vice versa. This is a problem we talk about, and there are some improvements on the way.  But often they require special skills or extra, unnecessary code.

Google Fonts

The folks at Google have offered us a partial solution. By storing some special fonts and code online, and allowing us to link to it, they’ve made some new fonts available to web designers. You can see them at Google Web Fonts:    http://www.google.com/webfonts. Your web designer should be able to implement any of these fonts byt following the instructions provided by Google.  Very most cool!

 

Google Places now lets you specify a business Service Area, as opposed to an address – great for small businesses or freelancers.  You still have to provide a physical street address for your listing, but if you specify a Service Area, you can elect not to display your location.

Who’s Linked to My Web Site?

Bet you don’t know how easy it is to find out who links to your web site.

“Why is that important?” you ask.  Well, most search engines favor sites with quality inbound links.  The term’s called Link Popularity. So it’s a good idea to see who has linked to your site.

And it’s a great idea to promote quality inbound links.  “What’s a quality inbound link”?  It’s a link from a good web site in a business that’s related to yours.  Think of it like a referral, or a testimonial.  You want links from people you trust, whose association with you is relevant to your business.

Here’s how you ask Google search engine to check for inbound links.  Just go to the Google search box and type link:www.mysite.com

Or, check out this free tool that lets you do the same for three major search engines:
http://www.linkpopularity.com/

Get your Business Listed with Google Local

by Suzi Beaumont,  BeauCreations Web Design

Did you know that you can get in the Google Local business listings for free?  This is a must If you have a business with a street address.  Anyone searching Google Maps for your address OR your company name will not only see your location but also your profile, which could include a photograph or a link to your web site.  In addition to being easily found, you’ll also have one more chance to get your name and logo in front of potential customers.

Just go to  http://www.google.com/local/add.  You’ll need to create a free account and a business profile.  If you have trouble with the above URL, go to http://maps.google.com/maps and click the link to “put your business on Google Maps”.

Meta Tag and Keyword Recommendations

by Suzi Beaumont,  BeauCreations Web Design – revised 5/10

There is plenty of discussion on this topic, but I thought I’d share a very simple set of recommendations that seems to work for my clients.  This is just the basics.

Meta tags are part of the code that belongs in the “head” section of the HTML documents that comprise your web site.  Their function is to identify the file (and the web site) to the browser and the search engines.  The user at their computer doesn’t see them (except the title tag), but the search engines do.

Normally, you’d have to know something about HTML and modifying web files to insert meta tags, but many web sites and web hosts are making this easy for you, allowing you to do it with a web-based user interface.  I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts of HTML here – I’m confining my discussion  to what to put in the tags.

KEYWORDS: You’ve probably heard that search engines have reduced the use of the keyword tag due to fraud. And it’s true.  But don’t get confused: Keywords themselves are important! You should identify your keywords on a page by page basis, then use them throughout the text in your pages.

But what about the keyword meta tag? Well, I wouldn’t spend much time on it! Despite strong evidence that search engines practically ignore it, most SEO experts still use it –  just in case. I put my best keywords first and make sure they are used in the copy of the page I’m working on. I use no more than 200 characters.  Keywords are not case sensitive but they are sensitive to singular v plural.

Here are some keywords currently used on my web site:

Atlanta websites
Suzi Beaumont
Marietta web design
website designer
internet marketing
Web page design
affordable websites
creative web sites
Atlanta Georgia

TITLE: This is currently THE most important tag from the standpoint of search engine optimization.  It is used to display the page title that appears in the top-most bar in the browser. As such, it often starts with a word or phrase that describes each particular page (IE About US). Since the title tag is used by search engines to index your web site, it should contain your most important keywords (probably not more than six).

Here is the title text for my About Us page.

About Us | BeauCreations Web Design | Custom Websites | Marietta Georgia

In fact, some people actually omit the  title of the page or the website to put more keywords in this tag. So, it might look like this:

Marietta Web Design |  Custom Websites | Affordable Web Services | Atlanta Georgia

DESCRIPTION: This will be used by search engines to describe your web site to users doing a search, and also to test relevance (IE Is your site’s content really about what you say it’s about). It should be loaded with keywords / phrases (shown here in red, bold), but also succinct and free of “hype”.

BeauCreations Web Design is a Marietta Georgia based web design company specializing in creative, affordable custom websites for small businesses and organizations.

If you do only one thing to optimize your website, makE sure the meta tags are done correctly!  This alone can make a noticeable difference in your search engine rankings!

Tips for Increasing Traffic to Your Web Site

Today I was advising a client on some relatively painless ways to generate more traffic to his web site.  This list isn’t comprehensive, of course, but it may be helpful, (if only to remind you of things you already know! )

My client is a small business owner in the adventure travel industry.  While he does sell trips on his web site,  the primary “call to action” for a web user would be to email or call about a trip.  Relationship building is important here;  These trips aren’t for everyone, but those do end up going usually love it.  If you’ve ever been sea kayaking in Alaska, you know what I mean.  Many of his clients become repeats — again and again and again. 

My goals for the web site: 

  • Improve search engine rankings on pertinent keywords
  • Freshen up the content, and create a means to update more often
  • Add more free, useful information to the web site

 Here’s what we talked about

1.  Review / replace meta tags (keywords, descriptions, page titles).   This is crucial if it hasn’t been done before, or has been done poorly.

2.  Add a Blog.  This is a commitment to write something regularly on topics that may interest your users – that’s why it’s intimidating!  But if you do the writing, it creates new content on your site, which is great for search engines  — and people!  An added benefit is that, with most blogs, users will be able to subscribe to the RSS feed and be notified (sort of) each time you post new material — great especially if your fans are hanging on your every word!
 
3.  Do a Link “Campaign”:  First, see who links to your site.  Go to a Yahoo! search box and key in this:  link:www.beaucreations.biz  (replace my URL with yours).  You’ll see a list of most of the web sites that link to yours.  Hopefully some of them will look familiar, as they’ll be friends, business associates, etc. 

It’s no secret that inbound links generate traffic and help your search engine rankings.  BUT they should be quality links.  That means they should ideally be pertinent links from reputable sources.  Consider putting a  Links page on your web site, so you can refer people to vendors, recommend  services, etc.  Then you can promote link exchanges to your contacts in related (but not competitive) businesses as a way to increase traffic for both of you.

4.  Create an Article Archive.  Do you teach, write articles, or otherwise share your expertise?  Why not share them on your website?  Find every pertinent article, guideline, checklist, recipe, etc. you’ve ever written, and put them on your website. THEN you can mention these things in your blog and newsletter entries (you DO have a newsletter, don’t you!?), and  link to the articles.  You bring traffic to the web site, and your web site is more informative (free information – everybody loves that!). 

5.  Consider Google AdWords.   This is pay per click advertising.  While the actual workings are complicated, Google (and others) make it as simple as possible for you to get started.  You create an account, set a monthly ad budget, and Google commits not to exceed it.  You choose your keywords, write a small ad, and off you go.  You can tell Google to target only local business if you like.

For example, I spend $140 / month and I  get around 3 calls / month, which amounts to around 1 new client each 2-3 months, which is about all I need right now — I’m pretty good at keeping clients once I get them!  This is the only advertising I spend money on.  I can track how each keyword is doing, and how many times someone clicks on my ad, but it’s not as easy to see whether there’s a connection between clicking (which you pay for, that’s why it’s called pay per click) and conversion (actually making a contact or purchase).  There are ways to track these things, but it’s a bit more in depth – not in the “QuickStart”  menu!
 
These are just a few possibilities, which I hope are helpful.  You can spend as much or as little time on these things as you like.  Remember, a great web site has informative content, not just widgets for sale!