As web developers, we tend to obsess over other people’s website data, while tragically forgetting to leverage our own. Think about it. How much would you pay for a peek at your top competitors’ Google Analytics reports? But how much have you really paid attention to your own? With good search data on your site, you can monitor and optimize countless metrics that can bring your site to more SERPs, and more viewers. But many web developers fear that relying on Google Analytics can cause significant problems. So what programs are available that help you get the website data you need? And, more importantly, how can you use this data to launch an effective and long-lasting SEO campaign?
What Data Should You Be Tracking?
While the data you decide to track will depend largely on the goals of your site, most webmasters have a few key ways in which they would like to improve their overall site. In general, you probably want visitors to:
- Spend more time on your website
- Return to your site more often
- Convert on more affiliate products or offers
- Let other people know you exist
Additionally, you want to make sure that your site is properly optimized from a keyword, code, and content standpoint.
The most important data you should be tracking is keyword data. In a nutshell, you want to see what keywords people are using to reach every page of your site. The goal is to find low-hanging fruit that you might not have meant to target in your original keyword campaign. For example, you run a wireless Internet service affiliate site and notice that one of your pages (which you originally optimized for the phrase AT&T 4G Internet review) is getting a significant amount of traffic from people searching for comparison phrases like AT&T vs. T Mobile and AT&T vs. CLEAR Wireless. The page users are coming to, however, are not converting well and are losing out on traffic to a competitor.
You can use this keyword data to target a new keyword phrase, perhaps on a fresh page of content. You might choose to create a page targeting the phrase AT&T 4G Internet vs. CLEAR, for example. By doing so, you should begin to see a small boost in traffic over time, assuming the keyword phrase search data remains consistent.
Bounce rate is another vital piece of data that helps you improve and expand your online business. Let’s assume that your website data shows that some pages keep visitors on the page for around two minutes, while some see visitors leave in about 30 seconds. Worse, you have a couple of pages where visitors seem to leave within only a few seconds. What’s going on with those pages? We call this data “bounce rate.” Most data programs not only give you an idea of how long visitors stay on your pages, but where they go next.
To use bounce rate data to expand your online business, you have to keep two things in mind, which the good people at searchengineland.com point out in the article Two Simple Rules For Fixing High Bounce Rate Pages. First, consider what people might be looking for on your pages with high bounce rates. Are you really offering the information they expected based on their original search? For example, if visitors searched “dog food,” they’re probably looking for information on what to feed their dogs. Now, if your page is full of recipes on how to use dogs as food (gross…), you might be seeing a high bounce rate because visitors see that your page is not exactly relevant to their searches. You might need to rewrite the page, or create a new page that targets the keyword phrase more relevantly.
You can also examine how people are viewing your page “above the fold” (or before they scroll down) by taking a screenshot of the page and using a tool like Attention Wizard to create a heatmap. Check out the example heatmap we created below using Attention Wizard.
Ideally, you want the hot spots to be on conversion opportunities. You can see in the image that, in general, that does happen. But you also want to check to see if the chronological order of what visitors view follows a conversion path, darting to each ad, submission form, and company logo. But our example also shows that the page is missing a few conversion opportunities, primarily in numbers 6,8,9, and 11. Visitors expect something to be in those locations, but we’re not offering it. If your heatmap seems sporadic, your website might be confusing and frustrating visitors, which can cause high bounce rates.
What Software Can You Use to Track Website Data?
Now, Google Analytics is a fantastic tool. But it often takes a couple of days for data to show up. Worse, some webmasters fear the Google terms and conditions – which seem to imply that any evidence of link campaigning could get you banned/get your AdSense removed. Let’s not forget that Google has also recently announced that Analytics will no longer report search queries from organic search to “protect user privacy.” This means that your keyword data from Analytics will be pretty sparse from now on.
Many webmasters, as a result, choose to use other software to safely track website data. Get Clicky and Woopra are among the most popular.
Get Clicky offers a powerful website data tracking tool, which allows you to check all of the data available on Analytics. Two areas you should pay close attention to are “Traffic Sources” and “Locale.” Traffic Sources helps you identify which countries your visitors search from. If you’re getting a significant amount of traffic from France, you might consider offering a french language version of your website, or at least try writing some content that targets French users in some way.
Traffic Sources is also a great piece of data that gives you some insight into how your various campaigns are working. This section reveals whether you’re getting significant traffic from advertising, or whether most of your traffic comes from links or organic search. This data can help you determine whether you need to bump up your link building campaign, or whether your advertising is not providing a good ROI.
Woopra is a very clean looking program, and helps you check out some very specific pieces of website data in real time. One great feature is “Visitor Engagament,” which tells you what people are doing on your site (reading, writing, or idle). Of course, you can also check other data, like which browsers your visitors use on your site more often, what language they speak, what operating system they’re using – almost everything.
If you’re struggling with conversions, or watching hopelessly as people go to your competition, you might be surprised at just how easy of a fix most problems can be using your own website data. Before you launch a massive link building campaign that could cost thousands of dollars, try looking at your own website data to find problems on your site. If you would like to expand your online business, using your website’s data should be your first step.
About the Author: Mitch O’Conner is an online marketer and writer. When he’s not busy testing sites, generating traffic or writing content, he enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, watching TV, playing games or going camping.