Archive for May, 2011

Website Analytics

So which website statistics are most important to look at when evaluating the performance of your website? The easy answer is to say the traffic levels – and you would be dead wrong. A high traffic website can still fail if it is not converting the traffic into sales or leads.

So for someone like me who gets hired to improve the performance of a website, the website analytics are crucial to the cause.  Knowing which statistics to look at, understanding what they mean, as well as making them understandable to the client is what it is all about. The first order of business is to get a good snapshot of how the site is performing right now, then second is to figure out how to make things better.

If you are selling stuff, or gathering leads from the site – a good performer is usually pretty easy to spot. With a good performer you don’t need to look at the statistics to know – you look in the cash register (smile).  But wait a second, even with a so-called good performing website – don’t you want to improve it even more, make even more money?  Of course you do!

And you don’t want to just look at the current statistics for the site – what is important is to know the trends. You put the statistics into a spreadsheet if you have to each week, and that way you can tell if you are improving or not. You can take an action on the site and then watch and see if it results in the desired way.

When I first work on a site, I can usually get some significant improvements made because the site is usually missing some fundamental stuff – this is the low hanging fruit. But as you continue, it gets harder and harder to improve things, and at that point you have to look for incremental improvements over time – which is only identified by using trend data.

Anyways, sorry for being so long-winded with this. But with that in mind, here is a breakdown of some stats I tend to watch close. The most important ones are #1 – #3, the others are helpful indicators for your site.

  1. Traffic level breakdown – knowing who it is coming into your site, broken down into 4 main areas.
    1. SEO traffic. Your ‘seo traffic’ is coming in from the search engines, and can be improved by implementing some SEO tactics and strategies. This traffic is highly valued because it is free, and typically represents the level of new customers you are attracting.
    2. Referral traffic. This is traffic coming to you from other websites. Also helps with your SEO efforts because these are the holy backlinks everyone talks about.
    3. Direct traffic. This is the traffic coming from bookmarks, or otherwise from people who already know you.
    4. SEM traffic. This is your paid traffic like PPC, banner ads, or what have you.  A larger company probably has this broken down further by source.
  2. Keyword ranking is important because you will want to increase your SEO traffic into the site. Find a tool that will check the ranking of your desired keywords, and measure them each week.
  3. Goals achieved tells you if the website visitor is doing what you want, buying something, submitting a lead, funneling to certain information, etc.
  4. Bounce rate will show you if people are actually viewing your site, or coming to it by accident.
  5. Pages per visit will show how interested people are in your site and what you are offering.
  6. Unique visitors will tell you how many new visitors are coming into the site, instead of returning visitors.
  7. Top content will give a list of pages that are most visited on your site.
  8. Site navigation will tell you the most often traveled paths thru your site.

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I’m Number One!

I shake my head over some of the promises being made to website owners regarding SEO.  I get lots of spam emails myself , where some SEO company based out of India is promising to make me “number 1 in the search engines!”  So let me address this a little bit, put it into perspective.

First off, the point is not just to be “number 1” – the point is to be “number 1” for the keyword that you want.  Huge difference.  Anyone can get number 1 rankings for the keyword phrase “doohickey 123” by simply placing that prominently on their website. Since no one else is competing for that phrase – give it about 2 weeks and you will be number 1 in google for that term. That is the scam – they take advantage of the fact that people don’t really understand what SEO is about.

If you make yourself a website and have high hopes for it’s success, an important area to look at is who your competitors are, and what are they optimizing for. Obviously they will be optimized for the keywords people are using the most – so a good tactic for new website owners is to use keywords that are more “niche” than what your competition is doing. So instead of optimizing for “idaho plumber” you optimize instead for “boise plumber” – you make the keyphrase less broad. To make that even more effective, you make lots of pages optimized for lots of niche keywords.

Another thing to watch out for with some SEO companies are the ones using what is called “black hat” techniques in your name. If you hire someone to get you better SEO, and they are using techniques forbidden by Google, then Google can ban your website – and it will take you awhile to recover from that.

I’ve had some good success doing SEO for my customers, and you want to know my secret?  I do what Google says I should do – and I do it very well. I admit that doesn’t sound as attractive as promising you the “number 1 position” or “10,000 backlinks” – what it is though is effective.  I’m just saying.

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Which Test Won?

I do a lot of testing of webpages – pitting two versions of a page against each other in the attempt at raising its conversion rate (CR).  The idea is to find the winner, and then do the test again having a newer version of the page to increase the CR even more.

Anyways, there is a website called Which Test Won that shows actual tests people have run, and for fun lets you try and guess which version of the test won. Pretty interesting, and a good place to look for ideas on how to improve your own site.

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