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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter: November 2010

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which covers news and trends in the field of website marketing.

Following on from last few issues where we looked at the top 10 SEO questions and, last month, some common questions asked about Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, in this month's issue we focus on website analytics. This field is becoming increasingly more important in the competitive online market and is something that all website owners and marketers should review as the data from analytics can help to improve the performance of a website and its online marketing activity. We've listed the 10 most frequently asked questions that we receive about website analytics and, in particular, Google Analytics. Hopefully we've answered some of things that you want to know!

Next month we'll conclude this special focus of our newsletter with a look at the more recent trends in Social Media Marketing and how this can be used as part of your online marketing activity.

We hope you enjoy these issues of the newsletter and, as ever, we welcome your feedback and would like to hear from you if there are any other questions we've not answered.

On to this month's edition...

Common FAQs about Website Analytics

What are website analytics?

This is the broad term for the data that's collected and the software that converts this information as the result of any action completed on a website, so that the site owner can view usable and actionable information. It allows website owners and marketers to view this information in summary reports to help understand such things as how many visitors come onto the site, where they came from and how they use the site. Website analytics can provide in-depth information about the website to help improve the ways that the site is being found and used, so that ultimately it can covert more visitors to sales!

What options do I have to review these analytics?

Website analytics have always been around, but there are more options available these days. Basic website hosting packages will often provide free server software packages, such as Webalizer or AWStats, although these can be quite limited in terms of analysing the data and often the data is only displayed for a rolling 12 month period. Companies with large, high traffic websites will often use server-side analytics software which is a more expensive option with sophisticated analysis, plus the security of retaining the data inhouse. However, the most common and popular option nowadays tends to be the hosted analytics solution where data is collected and stored on external servers through the use of JavaScript tracking code placed on every page of a site. Google Analytics is one example of this method and is now probably the market leader in website analytics.

Is Google Analytics a good option to use?

Most probably, although this will depend on your specific requirements. However, as a good quality, free analytics option, Google Analytics has become very popular with many websites. It's relatively simple to install and manage, plus it seamlessly links into Google AdWords. Some users dislike the idea of Google recording this data on their servers, but for many, it's an in-depth analytics package developed from the highly-regarded, commercial Urchin software system. It's continually being enhanced and updated with new features and provides powerful analysis for many websites.

How do you set up Google Analytics on a website?

The process for doing this fairly straight-forward. Firstly, you need to create an account at the Google Analytics website. Then you add a profile, get the tracking code and add it to all pages of your website. Google provides instructions for adding the code 'snippet' to your site, or your web designers will know how to do this. There can be more advanced set-up options for different types of tracking requirements and there are now many specialist analytics or web marketing companies that can help with this process.

What sort of data does Google Analytics provide?

From every visitor activity on a website, Google Analytics records a range of data which can be used to better understand how the site is working. There are a number of useful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) shown in the standard reports, such as: Visits and visitors; Page views and time spent on a page or on the site; Bounce rate and exit rate; Referral sources and keywords; Content and paths through the site; Goals and revenue.

How should I use this data to help the marketing of my website?

It's useful to track KPIs over time, looking at actions, results and trends that reflect the success of a website. This data provides the best source of quantitative information about how a site is being found and what happens once people land on the site. By understanding how data is collected and what information is presented, the analytics user needs to interpret this into 'Why' events occurred. It's therefore necessary to review the data to make assumptions, then test changes on the site to review the impact on those assumptions with the aim of improving the data trends in a positive way.

What is the bounce rate and why is this important?

The bounce rate indicates the number of visits where only a single-page on the website is viewed - after which the site visitor may use the bounce button to return to search results or leave the site some other way. This figure is valuable since it can be an indication of relevancy to the visitor. High bounce rates or low time spent on the site indicate lower quality traffic, perhaps through the wrong use of search terms to attract traffic. If the bounce rate of a page is high, it may be necessary to change some of the content on it to make it more relevant to the visitor's needs.

What are goals and how are these set up?

The use of goals in Google Analytics are to record all desired actions completed on a website and the paths users take to get there - such as completed sales, submitted enquiry forms, newsletter sign-ups, etc. They are an important data element within analytics reports and will show how users are converted on the site to a lead or sale. Goals can be created within the settings for editing a profile on Google Analytics and a goal completion ideally needs to reflect a unique URL for a confirmation page. By creating 'goal funnels' you can see where visitors might have left the site during the completion path of an order form, or similar process, so that changes can be tested to find improvements to achieve a higher conversion rate.

What trends should I be looking at?

It's important to note changes in trends in the visitor, traffic, content and goals KPIs. With Google Analytics, you can track the trends in data and pick up any unusual or unexpected trends with indications of significance. Email alerts can be used and it's possible to draw assumptions from what is most likely to be happening on the website by reviewing the trend or activity data. These assumptions should then be tested either by changing the marketing activity or the content / actions on the website. Once the test has been implemented, changes to the analytics data should be reviewed and by using data significance or longer term trends, users can review the most likely outcomes of any changes.

What type of reports should I be using?

There are a wide range of reports provided by Google Analytics which should be used as an essential part of the website marketing process. These include the standard reports, as well as custom reports and advanced segments. Standard reports are used to track KPIs over time, looking at actions, results and trends that reflect the success of a website. Custom reports are a powerful and flexible option to help users develop their own reports to look at specific data elements and to include data not shown in standard reports. The Advanced Segments option give users the chance to 'slice and dice' data in various ways, using pre-defined filters or new ones that can be setup. The various reports can also be saved and emailed on scheduled dates and are an excellent way of getting better insights into the website's activity.


We hope that the above questions and answers have helped to explain or clarify some of the core issues surrounding website analytics. If you would like any further information on any of these points, or would like us to answer any other questions that you have, please contact us now.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month: