Web Analytics: Effective Reporting

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The following blog post was written by MyAdvice’s Director of Visibility Services, Elle Wheeler. Elle manages the visibility strategy for ImplantInfo, LipoSite and FaceForum, as well as all of the local and national clients we work with.

Analyzing web metrics is key in understanding the impact of online visibly on your business. The most common mistakes made when setting up an SEO strategy are tracking the wrong data and tracking too much data. Reporting and gathering data should start right away. If a site is in the middle of development, information gathering should start before the launch of a website.

Establish a Reporting System

Setting up a reporting system to record useful data is essential to visibility success. You must identify the metrics that matter most to your business. Generally, metrics fall into the following categories: engagement, traffic stats and search position.

The reporting system should efficiently gather data with a reliable tracking application. Google analytics and web master tools are both free tools that compile data. Raven SEO Tools, SEOMoz and SEO Power Suite are all subscription based programs.

Software will only get you so far – it’s great for collecting data but the analysis depends the experts running the SEO campaign. Part of setting up a reporting system is building a report template. The report template should include valuable metrics reported on a consistent basis. Decide if it is best to compare traffic month to month or year to year, though one time per month is usually best.

Compile Keywords

Monitoring keywords and tracking search result positions gives helpful insight into the search trends and website progress. However, more isn’t better when it comes to keywords. Tracking too many terms leads to confusion and clouds the visibility index. The visibility index is calculated by dividing the number of terms in the top 10 by the number of terms in the campaign. Visibility experts use the visibility index to get high level insight into the progress of a website in a set of highly targeted search terms.

In addition to tracking the search results position, a complete reporting system includes traffic directed by keywords. The end goal of a visibility strategy is to drive traffic to the website, social media channels or media assets. Most SEO companies don’t look at traffic or place it secondary to ranking. Ranking for a keyword with no traffic is like running an ad in a magazine with no distribution. How will a business attract new customers with a campaign that doesn’t reach your target audience?

Track Engagement

The great benefit of online visibility is the ability to target interested people looking for a particular product or services. You do this by analyzing the intent of a given search query and matching content to expectations.

Click thru rate and engagement stats both give insight into whether or not the content is a good match for the keyword. For example, if a keyword has increased in position yet the traffic hasn’t increased, then you’re not selling content the user wants to click on to. A web visibility expert would look at the click thru rate to see if the search engine traffic isn’t clicking on the organic listing, then look at other key areas like content, keyword targeting and meta information, to determine a solution.

Other important engagement stats include: time spent on site, pageviews, pages per visit.

Time Spent on Site: This measures the amount of time the average visitor spent on the site. The more time visitors spends on a website, the more they captivated they are with the content, and the more likely they are to convert into customers.

PageViews: This shows the number of pages on a website viewed in a given period of time. The more pages a visitor consumes, the more engaged they are with the content of the site. It is also more likely for visitors to complete desired actions the more content they read.

Pages per Visit: This measures the average number of pages a visitor viewed during one session on a website. The pages per visit varies depending on the site.

More Traffic Means More Exposure

Total monthly visits and unique visits per month are both valuable traffic metrics. Analyzing total visits and unique visits requires a deep understanding of the goals of the site. For instance, a website that is information driven would like to have new visits, but needs repeat visits to show that the content is useful and people are coming back. Other sites primarily care about new visits. It all depends on the goals of the site. Next time your SEO company is reviewing your metrics, ask them if it’s more beneficial to your site to have unique visitors or repeat traffic.

Traffic from Search Engines

Next, it is important to understand which strategies are bringing the most traffic. A complete visibility strategy will incorporate email marketing, ad placement, search engine optimization and directory listings. Calculating the percent of traffic accounted from each identifies the tactics that are most successful.

Any business that invests in SEO should know the percent of traffic directed by search engines each month. The plastic surgery directories I manage get 80 percent of their traffic from search engines. Search engine optimization is the cornerstone of our visibility strategy. If you’re investing in an SEO strategy that isn’t resulting in the majority of traffic directed from search engines, then the SEO strategy isn’t working.

To analyze the effectiveness of link building efforts, look at referral traffic. Is the link building effort driving traffic to the website? Is it interested traffic? You can judge all of this by looking at the engagement statistics.

Too many metrics cloud the analysis of the effectiveness of a visibility strategy. Often, inexperienced SEO companies will present a lot of data that really says nothing because they don’t understand where to look in the first place.

Clear, concise reports are a requirement. A skilled web visibility company will present reports that: identify trends, show positive traffic growth, and attribute success to tactics. A sign of a skilled SEO specialist is the ability to dissect relevant web analytics.

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