Understand and Enjoy Your Analytics Data!

Just as Justin Timberlake brought ‘sexy back’, it’s my goal to try to do the same with your Analytics, or at least attempt it!  Analytics can be exciting and insightful or depressing and uninspiring, depending on how the data is interpreted and by whom. The biggest challenge facing SEO analysts can be in rendering the data for everyone else and going beyond observing basic metrics, sticking their necks out by making bold decisions about website changes. So, let’s look at some common scenarios we run into in digging into Analytics, provide some tips on navigating through your website data and how to effectively make decisions on actions to take.

Too much data leads people to switch off, so what matters?

When logging into Analytics, the first thing you see is your dashboard and most likely just look at the first report or two and in most cases they will be the default reports that are not tuned to your site. Start to decide what matters to you about your site like particular pages, goals, traffic sources, mobile visits, visits from a certain state any thing that relates to your target audience and most important services you offer. Then you can build out a dashboard that helps you paint a better picture of how your target audience interacts with your site.

Here are 10 typical reports that I like to see on dashboard:

  1. Search Engine Traffic Sources – This is key to tracking your organic SEO efforts;
  2. Non-Branded Keyword Traffic – This will demonstrate your site’s reach and success of attracting new visitors;
  3. Referring Site Traffic Sources – This will help you measure the effectiveness of various back links and offline efforts;
  4. Top Landing Pages – This will tell you which pages are performing well and which need some help;
  5. Goal Conversions – Always set up goals like form submissions as primary measures and set up engagement goals as secondary measurements;
  6. New vs. Returning Visitors – This will help you understand the stickiness of the site and balance your efforts between reach and engagement;
  7. Top Exit Pages – Watch out for leaky pages, but keep in mind some pages like contact pages always have high exit rates;
  8. Pay per Click Traffic – If you pay for ads, make sure they are performing or drop them before you waste money;
  9. Map Overlay by Target State – This helps if you have a specific geographic audience and keyword targeting;
  10. Keyword Visits looking at at least 3 pages – Understand what makes your best visitors tick; look after this audience segment.

Falling into a Data Trap: When to panic and when not to?

"Mind the Gap", Waterloo station, on...

It’s easy to state that a metric is up or down, which in some cases is all that’s needed, but that won’t always be enough to make a good decision about your site. It can sometimes even lead to a knee jerk decision based on a single metric.

Common things I have heard are “Visits are down, so we need to do some pay-per-click” or “the bounce rate is way too high, we need a complete design overhaul”. Without some context, this can lead to some expensive mistakes. Check your business goals.

  • Do you want quality conversions from targeted traffic or vast numbers of visits from branded traffic?
  • If visits went down, did conversions go down too or did they remain consistent?
  • Are certain pages inflating the overall bounce rate of the site?
  • Check your key pages; what are those bounce rates like?
  • Which referring sites should I care about?

These are all questions that lonely dashboard metrics simply cannot answer. The data will never be perfect, but an Internet Marketer can help you navigate these questions.

Just reporting the data doesn’t help. It’s what you do with it.

Once some of these questions have answers, the next trick is to systematically address problem areas. This might mean:

  • Providing more relevant content that satisfies your audience;
  • Adding fresh content;
  • Tweaking your social media pages and linking back to relevant content on your site;
  • Providing better ways for visitors to interact with the site;
  • Checking your conversion forms for length and required information;
  • Making sure Meta Data is relevant to corresponding pages;
  • Make it easier to find content with internal linking;
  • Removing out of date content and anything unnecessary;

The list goes on and there is no silver bullet that will have every metric trending in the right direction, but chip away at specific, targeted areas, and you will start to see improvements.

Engagement from clients is important, but at what level?

Lets be honest, you don’t have to understand everything about Analytics unless it’s your job. However, if you do work with one, it is important to trust and engage enough to keep the conversation moving forward and creating some action. As a business owner or employee, you need to make decisions and not analyze data to the point of inaction. For an Internet Marketer , keeping abreast of the website goals is crucial, so that the insights gleaned from an Analytics report are relevant to the overall business goals and keep the site dynamic.

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