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Web Analytics: Why You Need It & What Ideal Positions Can Offer, Part 2

This post is Part 2 of a three-part series.  To get caught-up, see Part 1 here.

Part Two: Google Analytics

At this time, the gold-standard for web analytics software is Google Analytics, and this is the only web analytics software officially recommended by Ideal Positions.  Google Analytics has a wide-range of benefits over other solutions.  For example:

*It’s FREE.  Yes, really.  Google does not charge for the use of the standard Google Analytics software, even though it is worth paying for!

*It’s easy to install.  Most web developers can have Google Analytics’ requisite code installed properly on every page of the average business’ website in under an hour.

*It has fantastic user access privilege settings.  In other words, Google Analytics has features that allow you to grant access to third parties such as Ideal Positions using those third parties’ own Google login credentials.  You don’t have to give your username and password to anyone just to let them review your web analytics reporting.

*Its use is incredibly widespread.  In fact, Google Analytics is used by 66.2% of the world’s top 10,000 websites (ranked by popularity), and is known to be in use on more than 25 million sites in total. (1) This means you wont have a hard time finding professionals such as Ideal Positions’ staff that can help you utilize Google Analytics to its fullest potential.

 

If you would like assistance in getting Google Analytics for your own website, please contact Ideal Positions, and our staff would be happy to assist you.

 

Tracking Key Performance Indicators Using Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a web-based application that you can access anywhere you have access to a modern Internet browser and a good Internet connection.  All you need is a username and password for the reporting profile that is installed on your website, and you can log-in to view all of the KPIs discussed in Part 1 of this series, as well as a vast wealth of additional metrics that may or may not be of value to you, depending on your business model and overall marketing goals.  To log-in to Google Analytics, simply navigate to www.Google.com/Analytics

Once logged-in, you will have the ability to select the reporting profile for the website you would like to view.  Some accounts will have access to more than one profile.  For example, a business owner with more than one website will have a separate profile for each site.  If you are unsure of which profile belongs to the site you wish to analyze, look for a unique identifier next to the profile names that looks like this: UA-#######-# where the hashtags are replaced with numbers.  All Google Analytics profiles have a unique identifier associated with them that starts with UA-. You can compare this identifier to the source code on your website.  Viewing source code for a website varies by browser, but once you are looking at the code, search for “Analytics” and you should see a javascript snippet that contains the unique identifier.

If you need assistance identifying which Google Analytics profile you should be viewing, Ideal Positions’ staff would be happy to assist you.  Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to offer a free consultation with Ideal Positions’ staff to assess the metrics recorded in your Google Analytics reporting.  Our staff has decades of combined experience in analyzing web analytics reporting, and we’re here to help!

A Note About Accuracy in Google Analytics Reporting: For a variety of reasons, the data reported in Google Analytics (and other web analytics software) can be off by up to 10% or more.  Typically the error is in under-reporting the numbers, rather than over-reporting.  For example, if Google Analytics shows that you got 100 visits in June, you may have actually gotten closer to 110.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, the most common being that some web surfers use software that keeps them from being tracked by Google Analytics.  Additionally, many modern Internet browsers have settings that ask Google Analytics to not track users, and Google does honor these settings’ requests.  It’s also possible for Google Analytics to be showing you sampled data rather than the entire report, but that typically only happens for reporting profiles that have a volume of visits in excess of 500k/month, which is unusual for most small to medium-sized businesses.

 

Reporting: Google Analytics vs. Google AdWords

Since early 2012, Ideal Positions has offered its clients Read-Only Access to Google AdWords accounts that we manage for their business in an effort to provide a level of transparency that is unrivaled in the Search Engine Marketing industry.  This access level allows you to log-in to the Google AdWords account that Ideal Positions uses to keep your website on the first page of Google and view many of the metrics that are reported within.  In fact, many of you reading this article will have already accepted this Read-Only Access, and already familiarized yourself with the Google AdWords reporting interface.

Whether or not you’ve had a chance to log-in to view the reporting offered by Google AdWords, it’s important to understand why Google Analytics can provide additional insights that the Google AdWords reporting cannot.  In fact, Google Analytics provides much more valuable marketing performance data to most businesses than Google AdWords can.  This is due to the limitations that Google AdWords has in the data it can track.  Google AdWords can track how often your ads display, how many clicks those ads have received, etc.  Google Analytics can track how many clicks your ads have received, but can also track what happened after each click, such as which pages the web surfer navigated to, how long they were on those pages, etc.  Google Analytics also tracks every source of traffic to your site that it can, while Google AdWords only tracks its own traffic.  As you can imagine, having the additional data on other traffic sources for your website can be invaluable in comparing the quality of traffic from each source.  Remember, not all clicks are created equal.

In a nutshell: Google AdWords tracks activity leading up to the click on your ad(s), and Google Analytics tracks activity from the click on your ad(s) to the moment the web surfer leaves your site.

This post is Part 2 of a three-part series.  “Like” Ideal Positions on Facebook to get updates on Part 3 as they become available!

1. Google Analytics Usage Statistics, BuiltWith – August 2013

Google AdWords’ Ad Preview Tool: The Skinny

Have you ever wished there was a way to see a “clean” set of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), unaffected by your past browsing history, personal settings, and location? Believe it or not, there’s a tool for that!

Google AdWords’ Ad Preview Tool provides a near-identical search page to Google.com, with some minor formatting changes that make it more clear you’re not using the real Google.com search page (the tool adds a watermark, for example). It was created by Google to allow users the ability to search and view their ads without creating false impressions.

For every time that an ad is displayed in the SERPs, one impression is generated and recorded in the reporting for the AdWords account that is serving that ad. A valuable indicator of performance in an AdWords account is known as Clickthrough Rate (CTR). Clickthrough Rate is calculated by dividing the total number of clicks received by the total number of impressions. Each time an advertiser uses Google.com to check the position of their ads, they generate a “false” impression which can skew the Clickthrough Rate data.

Many advertisers assume that they can simply disregard the extra impressions they know themselves to be responsible for when evaluating their AdWords reporting. However, many advertisers don’t know that CTR data is also used by Google to evaluate the performance of ads. False impressions can cause the AdWords reporting to reflect poor Clickthrough Rates, and poor Clickthrough Rates can actually increase costs in the AdWords account, meaning the advertiser gets less clicks for their allotted budget!

If you’re advertising with Google AdWords, it is essential to the success of your ad campaigns that you avoid generating false impressions or worse, unwanted clicks. By using Google AdWords’ Ad Preview Tool, you will be able to view your ads without generating false impressions or unwanted clicks. Ideal Positions strongly recommends that you use this tool each and every time you search for your ads.

Using the Google AdWords Ad Preview Tool will give you three distinct advantages:

  1. You’ll be able to check your ads’ positions without having to worry about generating false impressions.
  2. Once you’re viewing your ads’ positions, you wont be able to click on the ad and rack-up unwanted costs in the AdWords account.
  3. You will be able to see a “clean” set of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) that have not been customized to your browsing history, location settings, and more.

How to use Google’s Ad Preview Tool:

  1. Navigate to the tool, which can be found here. (You may be asked to log-in to an existing Google account, such as gmail, Google+, etc)
  2. Enter your search query into to the text box next to the blue “Preview” button.
  3. Directly beneath the text box you should see which location the tool is set to simulate. If applicable, hit “Edit” and change the targeted location.
  4. Beneath the location options you will see device targeting options. Edit your device type (if needed) to select desktop, mobile, or tablet devices.
  5. Click the “Preview” button and a “clean” set of Search Engine Results Pages will display.

Web Analytics: Why You Need It & What Ideal Positions Can Offer, Part 1

Part One: Web Analytics and Data Analysis

In the first quarter of 2013, online advertising spend totaled $9.3 billion, a staggering increase of 15.6% over the same quarter in 2012. (1)  As consumers turn to digital markets for both information and commerce, advertising spend will continue to increase while more and more businesses enter the online marketplace, thus boosting competition.  As this competition increases, many businesses are throwing more money into their Internet marketing campaigns, hoping to come out ahead in their market.  Increasing advertising spend over time is certainly a great idea for most organizations, especially to keep pace with the aforementioned increase in competition.  However, it’s also crucial that business owners, Internet marketers, and advertising coordinators not only look to move more of their advertising spend to Internet marketing but also look at what they can do to allocate that spend smarter.

 

Smarter Spending via Data-Driven Insights

Many fall prey to the assumption that all a business needs to boost revenue from online clientele is increased traffic to their website.  Unfortunately, more traffic doesn’t always equal more sales!  It’s actually possible to see an increase in traffic to a website, while seeing a drop in online conversions.  This can happen because a simple comparison of traffic volumes isn’t enough.  The truth is: not all clicks are created equal.  Quality of traffic and a website’s ability to convert visitors to sales must also be measured and factored in to any analysis of a website’s performance.  It isn’t enough to just “get the horse to water.”  You have to make him drink.

If we can track not only the volume of traffic but how that traffic reacts to and interacts with your website, improvements can be made to the site over time to increase the percentage of visitors that convert to new customers, sales, inquiries, downloads, and more.  Additionally, insights can be gained into how to further optimize your Internet marketing campaigns for better performance.  These insights can be used to make smarter decisions with regards to advertising spend, and can be extremely successful in boosting the revenue generated by every dollar you spend on Internet marketing.

How can these insights be gained for your own website?  Ask your web developer if you have web analytics software installed on your site, and if you can have the highest-level of access to the reporting for such software.  If your web developer is unsure of how to install web analytics software or how to grant you access to it, contact your representative at Ideal Positions and our staff would be happy to assist you.  Web analytics software is available that is free to install and use, and will provide you and the team of advertising professionals you work with at Ideal Positions with the data needed to make the most of your online advertising spend.  With proper web analytics reporting, you can make the horse drink.

Web Analytics Reporting: The Basics

Web analytics reports provide data that experienced professionals can then interpret and use to remove some of the guesswork involved with optimizing marketing campaigns, enhancing the user experience of a website, and more.  However, these reports don’t provide concrete answers.  They don’t climb through your screen, grab you by the collar and shout, “This page right here! Fix that!”  The data is more subtle than that.  In fact, interpreting web analytics reports is often likened to taking a trip to the doctor.  For example, imagine a man goes to see a physician complaining of pain in his abdomen.  No competent doctor would simply look at the man, proclaim the he has acute appendicitis, and send the man to the operating room, would they?  Of course not!  The doctor will check vitals, run some tests, possibly send samples off to the lab, etc.  Data will be collected, and then the doctor will draw from his years of education and experience and attempt to make an informed diagnosis.  Perhaps this man is experiencing liver failure.  Maybe he’s got an ulcer.  Or maybe it’s simple indigestion, and nothing needs to be done at all!

An Internet marketing professional that is competent in analyzing web analytics reports will take a similar approach.  Data is collected, tests are run, comparisons are made, and specialists are consulted with.  The professional will then attempt to make a diagnosis based on the information they have at their disposal.  No one can promise perfect answers, but the availability of the right data can greatly improve strategic planning for future marketing campaigns, optimization of existing marketing campaigns, and enhancements made to the websites and individual pages that matter the most.

To get you started, let’s take a look at some of the industry jargon associated with web analytics.  If you understand the jargon, you will have a much easier time of deciphering web analytics reports, and will find yourself in a much better position to take what you can learn from these reports and apply it to bettering your marketing strategies.

*Metrics: refers to the data obtained from measuring something.  There are a great many different sets of data that can and will be recorded as metrics via web analytics- some are valuable indicators of performance, and others are not, depending on your needs.

*Key Performance Indicators (KPI): a metric that can be used as a valuable and crucial measure of success for a website, marketing campaign, or other measurable asset.  In Search Engine Marketing, KPIs are the metrics that will be used to effectively determine whether or not a marketing campaign is performing well, and will aid marketers and business owners in assessing what may need to be done to improve upon a marketing campaign.

Examples of KPIs in Search Engine Marketing May Include:

*Visits: Each time a web surfer navigates to a web site, one visit is generated in that website’s web analytics software.  As the web surfer navigates through the website, only one total visit should be recorded, and that web surfer will not generate another visit unless they leave the site and come back at a later time (typically more than 30 minutes or more must pass for a second visit to be recorded).  The total number of visits is essentially an accounting of how often people navigate to your website (but should not be considered the total number of individuals that visited the site).

*Unique Visitors: Many web surfers are uniquely identifiable by web analytics software.  Each time a new, uniquely-identifiable web surfer navigates to a website, one unique visitor will be recorded.  If that same web surfer navigates to a website once a day for three days in a row, then three visits will be recorded for that date range, but only one unique visitor.  Tracking the total number of unique visitors to a website is a crucial KPI in Search Engine Marketing and will help you determine roughly how many individual people navigated to your website.  Comparing the total number of visits to the total number of unique visitors can help you assess the rate at which your audience is returning to your site.

*Pageviews: Each time a web surfer loads a page on a website, one pageview is generated in the website’s web analytics reporting.  For example, if you were to navigate to www.IdealPositions.com, then click the “About” link, you will have generated two pageviews in Ideal Positions’ web analytics reports: one for landing on www.IdealPositions.com and one for having navigated to www.IdealPositions.com/about/

*Pages per Visit (aka Pages/Visit): This metric is calculated automatically by most web analytics software by dividing the total number of pageviews recorded by the total number of visits for the date range you are viewing in the analytics reporting.  For example, if your web analytics software recorded a total of 230 pageviews and 50 visits for the month of January, then your pages per visit ratio for January would be 4.6 (230 / 50 = 4.6).  Monitoring pages per visit as a Key Performance Indicator can help you determine how well your website encourages web surfers to interact with the site and view your content.

*Average Time on Site: Average time on site is the average duration of a visit to your website.  Please keep in mind that for most web analytics software, the duration of a visit is only recorded from the moment a web surfer navigates to a site to the moment of the last navigation to a page within the site.  Most web analytics software can only track actions that take place within the website.  If you navigate to a single page within a website and then leave that page to go to another website, the web analytics software will know that you visited that page, but it will most likely not know when you left.  As a result, if a web surfer navigates to a website, and then leaves that site without navigating to any other pages in the site, the duration of that visit will be recorded as zero, even if the web surfer viewed a page for several minutes.  Average time on site can be a valuable KPI because it can give you a good idea of whether or not a web surfer is finding the content of your website to be relevant and engaging.

*Bounce Rate: This is a percentage that is calculated automatically by most web analytics software by tracking the number of visits that only generate a single pageview and comparing that to the total number of visits for the site.  Any time a visit consists of only a single pageview, that visit is considered a “bounce.”  So, if your web analytics software recorded 120 visits to your website for the month of February, and 40 of those visits consisted of a single pageview, then your website had a bounce rate of 33.33% for the month of February (40 / 120 = .3333 * 100 = 33.33%).

*Conversions: This is a general term used to describe the event when a desirable action is taken by a lead or a potential customer.  In Search Engine Marketing, the word conversion can describe many different desirable actions taken by web surfers, such as signing up for a newsletter, using a contact form, placing a phone call, placing an order, and more.  Most of the better web analytics solutions offer a conversion tracking feature that allows you to specify which desirable actions you would like to be tracked.

*Conversion Rates: The formula to calculate your conversion rate is A / B = X, where A is the number of conversions, B is the number of actions that could have potentially lead to a conversion (such as a pageview, visit, or click on an advertisement), and X is the conversion rate.  For example, if you had 300 visits to your eCommerce website (B), and received 20 orders (A), it can be calculated that the conversion rate for the website as a whole is 6.67% (20 / 300 = .0667 * 100 = 6.67%).  You can also measure the conversion rate on a smaller scale, such as comparing the number of pageviews received by your contact page to the number of contact form submissions.  If your contact form received 25 pageviews, and 17 of those pageviews resulted in contact form submissions, then the conversion rate for your contact page is 68% (17 / 25 = .68 * 100 = 68%).

This post is Part 1 of a three-part series.  “Like” Ideal Positions on Facebook to get updates on Parts 2 and 3 as they become available!

 

1. IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, Internet Advertising Bureau – June 2013