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There's no denying the utility and effectiveness of Google Analytics as a means to better understanding the way users interact with your website. Among all the features that GA has though, Real-Time Reports are often a bone of contention; it's a matter of dispute as to exactly how useful they are.
I decided to ask some experts for their views on the matter to try and get some answers.
On our Google Analytics Course you'll learn exactly how to make the most of its impressive features to maximise your online efforts, including Real-Time reports.
So let's take a look at what the experts say:
Great for Testing
A key theme that seemed to crop up regularly was how many found real-time reports useful for testing technical aspects of a campaign, whether that's for code, tracking or links.
@AaronCharlie Great for testing code, 'walking the shop floor', and getting non-experts interested in analytics. Underrated reports.
— dan barker (@danbarker) July 26, 2013
very useful for checking new tracking (e.g. events, goals, etc.). Also for testing emails to make sure all tagged links work — Dara Fitzgerald (@darafitzgerald) July 26, 2013
In the past week, Google released a video called ‘SEO for start-ups in under 10 minutes’ in which Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye runs through everything a start up should and shouldn’t do to help gain organic traffic from Google.
As it’s only in 10 minutes the tips are very succinct, but they’re also very Googlecentric to the point of assuming Google is the only search engine worth caring about.
Interestingly, the next day Glenn Gabe published a very detailed post about how most startups get SEO wrong. It’s interesting to get the two viewpoints within days of each other – what the search engines recommend you do and what a professional SEO thinks you should do. They’re not always the same!
So, as a startup, what should you do to ensure that your new site is visible in search?
Well, the first thing we would recommend is to come to Brighton for an SEO workshop. In 1 day you will get to grips with all the SEO basics and you’ll be able to ask questions directly to an SEO expert about your startup!
However, for those who have already been on the course or don’t like in the UK I’m going to run through Google’s SEO tips for startups, without being so Google centric! Many of these tips are also useful for existing businesses who may have been doing things wrong for a while!
Here are my first 6 tips - keep an eye out for part 2 on Wednesday with 6 more!
Everyone talks about ROI (return on investment) and many businesses use Google Analytics to measure the ROI of their internet marketing endeavours using the number of sales measured against the data they get about user activity before they "add to cart" or similar.
What if you have no e-commerce on your site? Maybe you provide a service, provide information, market a cause or a brand and there is no on-line payment transaction to enable this type of analysis. What should you be measuring? How can you use Google Analytics data to interpret the success of a visit to your website?
Whilst the jury is still out about how much Google uses visitor loyalty data when calculating the quality of your site. I think it is safe to presume that after the Google Panda update, these metrics are becoming much more relevant to page position in the SERP's than before. If you follow our surviving the Google Panda update guidelines, you will be well on your way to solving any problems that you discover when analysing your visitor loyalty.
If you are new to Google Analytics I would strongly recommend our Google Analytics Course, we get rave reviews. For those who are familiar with the basics you can fine tune your master skills on our Advanced Google Analytics Course, we also provide SEO training, however back to the plot.
Measuring Visitor Loyalty in Google Analytics
We recommend measuring successful visits using the four different metrics in the "Visitor Loyalty" section of Google Analytics found in the Visitors section that appears when you log into your account:
- Length of Visit
- Depth of Visit
The fact that Google Analytics shows you the distribution of the metrics is key to being able use this data in a way that allows you to analyse and measure success.
How many of you have installed Google Analytics tracking code on your site, but only ever look at the Top Content and Traffic Sources reports?! Sound like you? If so - don't be embarrassed - you're not alone!
However - Google Analytics is about much more than just seeing which of your pages get the most hits, and which keywords are working best for you.
Google Analytics is as much a tool for tracking user behaviour and refining user interface design as it is for monitoring the success of your SEO campaigns. And setting up Goals in Google Analytics is a great way to do this.
Most people know that Google Analytics Goals are there, but don't know how to set them up, or how they can be used. Goals and funnels are covered in our Advanced Google Analytics Training course.
So - as a little freebie here's our beginners guide to setting up Goals in Google Analytics:
How to Set Up a Goal in Google Analytics
What are Google Analytics Goals For?
Before you start setting up any Google Analytics Goals - think about what you want people to do on your site. Do you want them to complete a booking form, or send you an e-mail, or add a product to their shopping cart?
Whatever the user behaviour is that you're trying to achieve is going to be your conversion
Google Analytics Goals are there to track how many times your users convert - and make you money!
What am I tracking?
A very simple goal would just be to count every time someone filled in the booking form, or sent you that e-mail or whatever your conversion is .
However that doesn't tell you anything about how users got to that part of your site, or tell you about the other hundred users who left before they converted (either because the site is badly designed, or your product is too expensive etc...)
Google Analytics allows you to track each stage in the users visit.
For instance, you might want users to enter via a particular landing page, then click on details of a service of product, then fill out the booking form - and a goal will allow you to track each of those stages.
How to set up a Google Analytics Goal
In this example - we're going to track how many users:
1) Visited the Google Analytics Resources page on our site
2) Then looked at the guide to installing Google Analytics Tracking code
3) Then looked at our Google Analytics Training course page
Log in to your Google Analytics account - now click on edit next to the profile you want to add your goal to:
Now on the Profile Settings page - click on Add Goal under Goal Set 1 (presuming you don't already have goals there - otherwise use Goal Set 2, 3 or 4)
Now under Goal Information - complete the following:
Goal Name: Give your Goal a sensible name - e.g. "Purchase Product X", or "Complete Form Y" etc...
Goal Type: Make this URL Destination as this goal is about people ending up on a specific page (you can also set up "time of visit" and "depth of visit" goals)
Match Type: In this example we're setting it as Exact Match as we are counting the number of people who end up on a specific page - however if you want to track how many people who end up on any page within a certain section of your site, use Head Match (see below)
Goal URL: If you're using Exact Match - enter the exact URL of the page that counts as a conversion here. If you're using Head Match, use the first part of the URL only e.g - if you set your Destination URL to www.mysite.com/category-a/, the goal will count anyone who visits www.mysite.com/category-a/page-1/ or www.mysite.com/category-a/page-2/ and so on.
NOTE - Some conversion pages don't have their own URL - e.g. you may want to track how many people complete your order form and press "submit" - but the URL of that form might not change when they press the "submit" button. In these instances you need to either set up a Virtual Page View for when the button is clicked, or use Event Tracking so you can track these goals properly. We don't have room to cover that here - but watch this space as we may treat you to a guide on it later!
Setting up a Google Analytics Funnel
OK - so we've set the Goal URL - which is the page that counts as our conversion - however this will only tell us how many people have hit that page.
By setting up a funnel, we can also track how many users are coming through the pages we want them to, and how many are dropping out.
To do this, click on "Yes, Create a Funnel for this Goal" and you will be given the opportunity to add as many other URLS as Goal Funnel Steps as you like (and name them so they make sense in the report!)
In this instance my funnel starts at our Google Analytics Resources page, then goes to our post on How to Install Google Analytics Code, and finishes off at our Google Analytics Training Course page (which I set as the Goal URL) - so my funnel settings look like this:
Now save your goal - and wait for the results to start flooding in!
Looking at your Goal Reports
Just after you've set up your goal you're not going to have any data - but after a few days and you'll be able to see how many conversions you've achieved. To do this - go to the main dashboard for your profile and click on Goals (at the bottom)
If you have more than one goal set up, the first thing you'll see is a total conversions graph (which is all goals added up) - to see the number of conversions for each goal, click on its title and you can drill down in to the results.
To see your Funnel - click on the "Funnel Visualisation" option, and you'll see something like this (not much data at the moment!):
OK - so at the moment we've only got data about one visitor (and they left straight away!) However in time funnels become a really useful ready-reckoner to let you know how many people are making it all the way through your sales process to buy something - and if they're not, at which point most of them are dropping out, so that you can redesign your pages or adjust your product pricing to achieve more conversions.
Best practice is to start making changes from the bottom of the funnel up - i.e first try to increase the number of conversions for people who are nearly getting there - and then work your way up!
Good luck - and happy funneling!
How to identify Trending Topics for SEO
Writing or blogging about trending topics can be a great way to generate traffic (and links) to your site, provided that your content is high quality and that you pick the right keywords to optimise on.
The second half of that equation can be the difference between loads of traffic and very little, so identifying what people want to read about (and more importantly, exactly what they are typing in to Google right now) is paramount. If you can be among the first to blog on a trending topic you can get your site on the front page of Google quickly, and bag the traffic (what's more if you're the first, you're more likely to stay on the front page longer).
So - "how can I find trending topics?" At Friday's BrightonSEO conference Malcolm Coles gave a very informative (and highly entertaining) presentation about how he used a variety of tools to discover trending topics when working on the celebrity news site HolyMoly, including some very interesting data on the searching habits of the Great British male!
Here are our video highlights from his presentation, along with a summary of the tools discussed (more information can also be found on Malcolm's site here)....
News Search Tools: How to Find Trending Topics
We've split the video of Malcolm's presentation in to two parts - the first summarises the News Search Tools used to identify Trending Topics. The second, which I couldn't resist adding, is an example of how HolyMoly used these tools to exploit the search term 'Karen Gillan Underwear', which reveals some interesting (and very amusing) trends in men's searching patterns after they've watched Doctor Who!
#BrightonSEO Video: News Search Tools Summary
A summary of the News Search Tools mentioned is provided below, but do watch the video as Malcolm puts them nicely in to context with examples...
News Search Tools Summary:
Which of these tools you use will depend largely on the sort of content you publish...
AOL homepage(look for the green hot searches box) - This tool is more useful for keyword selection as it provides details of exactly the searches users are submitting
AOL hot search blog (ignore the slow-to-update picture box and look for the topic boxes further down) - Scroll down the hot search blog to find most popular searches by category - e.g. if you often write about gadgets you can see which are currently the most popular.
Google News provides a good summary of what's in the news that day - if its in the news it means that people have already written about it - you won't be able to compete with the major news channels (unless you are one), but you may be able to find an angle on one of these stories for a long-tail search.
Google Insights - A very useful tool if you're writing about an annual / regular event. You can use Google Insights to see what people searched for last time and optimise for those terms. Remember for annual events to include the year in your title (although this has been over-used for major celebrity events like Big Brother and is no longer useful for these).
Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics - These are useful once you're up and running to help you to make the most of the traffic you're already getting and refine your keyword optimisation. Silicon Beach run regular Google Analytics Training and Advanced Google Analytics Training courses if you want to learn more!
Experian Hitwise Data Centre - always a week behind - top 10 searches in various categories on a weekly basis - good for establishing general trends but less useful on a day to day basis.
Surchur - Auseful tool that aggregates multiple sources together to provide "The dashboard to Right Now"!
Major Newspapers often provide useful indicators of what is most viewed - e.g. Guardian Most Viewed and Telegraph (has a 'most viewed' box on each category page and also 'hot topics' right at the bottom of the page.
The BBC also has a summary of the most popular seaches hour by hour on the site
So - there are some really useful News Search tools out there to help you identify what's trending - but what do you do with this information to ensure you get as much traffic as possible...
#BrightonSEO Video: Using News Search Tools: Example - Karen Gillan's Underwear
Here's Malcolm's highly entertaining summary of how HolyMoly discovered a pattern of men searching for "Karen Gillan Underwear", and what they did to ensure they used this to their benefit to obtain maximum site traffic when the Dr. Who Christmas Special came around.