Online metrics to watch

Web analytics (or ‘stats’ as they are sometimes called) can provide a wealth of information about your site visitors and these tools are becoming more and more sophisticated. But which bits of information are truly useful?

An increase in site visitors isn’t necessarily anything to get excited about if they don’t stay for long or worse still bounce immediately off the site. The often misunderstood term ‘hits’ does not mean the total number of visitors to a site but refers to each page visited or link clicked, usually a much larger number.

You want to keep visitors engaged so within the analytics data take note of the average time spent on the site and how many pages they visited. You may also measure the number of social media shares – if people are sharing your content – then it must be of value. By taking note of what pages are keeping your visitors engaged and what content is shared you can identify weaker areas and take action to improve this content.

Even if you can improve the length of time that visitors stay on your site, it won’t necessarily mean that they convert to a customer or get sold on your cause. You need to set ‘goals’ within the analytics software and track the conversion rates in order to truly see what’s working. Google Analytics is probably the best known free website analytics tool. It can track visitors’ journeys through your site – letting you know if they reached your desired call to action or ‘goal’. Examples of useful goals are a file to download or the submission of a completed enquiry form.

Also check which channels are driving most traffic to your website – is it Pay Per Click, organic (non paid-for) listings on search engines, referring directory sites etc. By understanding which of these is providing more ‘goal’ completions might help you allocate your website promotion budgets more effectively. You can also see what search strings people are typing into search engines to find your site and whether they are using a tablet or mobile to view it.

As well as measuring the above using Google Analytics or similar, spend some time regularly reviewing your backlinks, it is a very important metric to watch (there are some free backlink checking tools available, try Site Explorer). Backlinks have always been important when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation, but it is no longer a case of quantity, it is quality that you need.

There was a time when backlinks were created from ‘keyword anchor text’ to improve SEO but this now needs to be considered with care. Over-optimisation using ‘keyword anchor text’ backlinks could lead to Search Engine penalties that either push your site far down the listings or may even remove your entry altogether. Backlinks from ‘link farms’ and ‘questionable!’ sites have long been bad news and we recommend trying to get these lower quality backlinks removed. If your website has be optimized by a dodgy SEO company you may have hundreds or thousands of spammy artificial backlinks and removing these is a somewhat lengthy process using – for example – Google Webmaster Tool’s ‘disavow’ procedure.

Viewing a list of your backlinks and considering how these might effect your SEO is important and it also gives you an insight into how useful or interesting your content is to other people if they are wanting to reference it. This was the whole foundation of Google’s page ranking algorithm and it is still an important factor that search engines use to determine the relevance and usefulness of your site’s content.

Another useful free service from Google is their Webmaster Tools which will help you identify a variety of issues that may need addressing. Of course, if you want to stick to your day job, we will be delighted to sign you up for our SEO services to analyse problems and implement changes that improve the effectiveness of your website marketing.