Google Analytics: How To Make Actionable Decisions

Google Analytics: How To Make Actionable Decisions

SEO tips for Winston Salem and GreensboroThe importance of tracking traffic to your website is generally understood these days. But when I say "understood" I mean that most business owners know that it's important, but not why. You can do far more with software like Google Analytics than simply count how many visitors your site had in the last 30 days, and going those extra steps with your tracking can lead to a much stronger website overall.

Not just how many, but when?

Web traffic does naturally ebb and flow. Even a keyword you rank well for and receive a lot of traffic from isn't something everyone is looking for every day. Some of the peaks and valleys you'll see observing your last 30 days of traffic is random, but if you've been tracking your other marketing efforts you may notice correlations.

If you ran a big Facebook ad last week on Wednesday, for example, is there a corresponding spike in traffic that day or the day after? If not, that can help us refine the ad to make it more effective.

Bounce rate

Some analysts get really hung up on the bounce rate. I wouldn't argue that it's not important, but there are a lot of factors that play into the bounce rate. Consequently it's not as simple as looking at a number that says 85% and saying "whoa, I guess my site is terrible!"

I've heard a lot of industry professionals say that anything under 60-75% is good, and I would generally agree. In a lot of cases, especially if you've been blogging on your site to boost traffic, a visitor arrives on a given page seeking information. If the page does a good job of providing that info, the visitor may simply leave through no fault of your site. Sure, call to actions and other design features can reduce the chances of that happening, but if I'm looking up how to build a deck and your article answered my question, there may be nothing more that interests me at this time. Or I may bookmark your site to return later, but I'm not ready to purchase anything today.

There has also been some contention about what counts as a bounce. Technically it should mean when someone arrives on a given page of your site and leaves without interacting further with your site or clicking other pages. But some have said that if a visitor does click elsewhere in your site too quickly, leaving the page they entered on too fast, that tracking can erroneously count it as a bounce.

It's a good general indicator of the engagement level on your site, but is best used as a marker alongside everything else.

Top pages and keywords

Having a look at your page performance under Google Analytics' "Behavior" tab will give you insight into how each of your pages are performing. At a glance you can glean the most successful posts from a social sharing or SEO standpoint, but you an also look at how long on average viewers spend on each page and what the individual bounce rates are. This is a bit more useful than looking at overall bounce rates and such.

If one page has a 23% bounce rate and another one has a 75%, it's a good indication that tweaking is needed for the higher one. That's a pretty significant difference, and one that goes beyond the standard variance of 10% or so you'd expect as a "natural" flow. Observing  the average visit duration to that page also clarifies this. If viewer time is low and the bounce rate is high, there's probably an issue with that page. On the other hand,. a long viewer time and a high bounce rate may simply be what we discussed above, that the content is interesting but the reader doesn't see any other clear action before leaving.

In that case the page content might be okay to leave alone, but you may consider adding elements to the page to get them to take action. That action might be subscribing to your newsletter, contacting you, or simply reading more posts (related posts plugins are useful for this).

Connecting Webmaster Tools for keywords

By connecting your Google Webmaster Tools account with your Analytics account you can pull even more information into Analytics. Note that using Analytics is also one of the verification methods for Webmaster Tools, in which case the connecting step is done for you.

Google Webmaster Tools is useful for determining how your site is indexed, i.e. how many pages have been added and if there are issues Google bots encountered while trying to crawl the site.

Read more SEO-themed articles for tips on improving your website's performance!

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Brian Watkins

Brian Watkins

Web strategist, tech geek, and music lover. I've been in the marketing and web development industry for since 2007, combining technical and coding skills with creative writing to improve businesses' websites and better communicate their brands to their target customers. Having worked at both ends of this spectrum — the back end coding and the front end presentation, as well as business operations and strategizing with sales teams — I've gained some valuable insights in making all these pieces mesh.

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