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Good day, my SEO friends! Here at Search Engine Academy, we teach basic and some advanced Google Analytics functions, but we can’t do it the way E-Nor, a web analytics and digital marketing firm out in sunny California can! They have a four day Google Analytics training course that will give you mad GA skills and knowledge to better measure your website’s performance, I promise!

I recently had the privilege of taking the advanced course here in Washington DC. I invited Eric Fettman, E-Nor’s Analytics instructor and coach to share with you all some of his thoughts about Google Analytics. Without further ado, take it away Eric!

Eric, tell us a little bit about your background and expertise in Google Analytics.

I came to GA both as a developer who wanted to understand how people were interacting with my websites and as a marketer who wanted to gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.  I like to work with GA because it straddles technology and marketing, although its focus is decidedly on the marketing end.

In your opinion, what’s the most useful Google Analytics feature business owners should regularly use to track website performance?

For me, the pillars of Google Analytics are goal tracking and segmentation.  Once you equip every page of your website with a small piece of Google Analytics tracking code, you can easily set up goals and segments and take a rapid leap towards understanding visitor behavior.

What Google Analytics functions should SEO specialists be most proficient in – creating events, goals and funnels or segments?

The difference between branded organic and non-branded organic traffic is fundamental, and these two different traffic segments should not be treated as the same.  For instance, if you work with the Acme Garden Hose company, you can expect a good deal of traffic from “navigational” searchers who enter “Acme” or “acmegardenhose.com” as an organic search and then click through to your website.  These visitors represent an audience segment that is quite different from those who perform an actual organic search for “garden hoses” and click through on an true organic result.

It’s a mistake to lump those two types of visitors together in terms of total visits, goal conversion rate, or any other metric.

There’s a new problem, however, in distinguishing these two audience segments: (not provided)!  We can no longer divide organic Google traffic into branded and non-branded segments, since we no longer know the keywords that are driving the traffic.

I would still strongly encourage SEO specialists working in GA to define an advanced segment for Bing/Yahoo organic non-branded traffic and another advanced segment for Bing/Yahoo organic branded traffic.

You can define an organic non-branded advanced segment as follows (and similarly define a branded equivalent): Click on the picture to make it bigger!

nonbranded traffic from bing and yahoo

Once you have created these advanced segments, you can generally assume the same branded/non-branded percentages, and corresponding levels of performance, for Google organic traffic as for Bing and Yahoo organic traffic.

The Site Search reports can be another useful but potentially overlooked feature of Google Analtyics for SEO.  Site Search reports differ from other GA reports because they directly indicate visitor intent: what your visitors are looking for.  If visitors to your site are searching for certain keywords that don’t appear anywhere on your site, you can develop keyword-specific content that addresses that need and gives your site an opportunity to rank organically for that keyword.  I know of at least one actual case in which the Site Search reports prompted a web team to develop some very long-tail content that came to earn high rankings for the target keyword, which in turn led to an organic visit that generated – you guessed it – a big sale.

What’s the most common fear or false understanding people have regarding installing and using Google Analytics?

It might not be obvious how easy a basic installation of GA is.  You just need to include one small piece of JavaScript code on every page of your website.  Virtually all medium-to-big websites run from templated content management systems, which means that you just need to add the Google Analytics tracking code to the few page templates from which every page in your site is assembled – quick work.

If you opt for Google Tag Manager, the installation is just as easy: you need only to include your code container on your page templates.  You can then dynamically add Google Analytics and other marketing codes to any or all pages of your website via the container, which you, as a marketer/analyst, can control separately from your website code and generally without developer intervention.

What’s your favorite Google Analytics function, and why?

I really love Content Experiments.  Even though they don’t provide multivariate capabilities and may be somewhat more cumbersome to set up than third-party visual (or WYSIWYG:  “what you see is what you get”) testing packages, Content Experiments provide a free and straightforward way to directly measure as many as 10 page variations in terms of goal performance and other metrics.  While other GA reports may require a good deal of interpretation, Content Experiments are understood by everyone in the organization and can often provide a way to engage clients and colleagues who might otherwise remain aloof from analytics.

Why is it important to consolidate your Google Webmaster Tools, Google Adwords and Google Adsense into your Google Analytics dashboard?

Now that we all have to deal with (not provided), it’s truly imperative to have Google Webmaster Tools enabled for every website that you deal with.  If you have integrated GWT with GA, you can pull keyword and landing page reports onto your GA dashboards. (It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t report goal or other performance metrics in the GWT reports that appear in GA; in this regard, the GWT reports in GA are basically static imports.)

Google Analytics can in fact show AdWords data from both ends of the equation: AdWords traffic to your website, and also your AdSense data as a publisher in the Google Content Network.  (If you’re spending money on AdWords, make sure to enable Autotagging for GA.)

It’s important that any significant part of your Web and marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) appear on your dashboard, if only so others stay aware of them and provide input and challenging questions that lead to deeper analysis and further insights on your part. Even if the dashboards are not carefully reviewed by their recipients, they serve a basic awareness-raising role whose importance should not be underestimated.

Any final thoughts for Search Engine Academy readers about Google Analytics or website statistics in general?

Can I say “just do it”, or is that copyrighted? Here’s the thing: your company is not going to fall off a cliff from one day to the next for lack of Web analytics, and in our state of overwork and competing priorities, it’s very easy to neglect this part of the equation.

That said, can a company fall behind a competitor and lose a critical long-term advantage because no one is consistently analyzing Web traffic?  Absolutely.  On the positive site, can even smaller companies increase sales by millions of dollars with a steady focus on analytics and visitor satisfaction?  Definitely. Though these kinds of results don’t happen overnight, I’ve seen them first-hand.  Even shorter-term, you’re most definitely leaving money and opportunities on the table if you’re not devoting some time to analytics on a regular basis. Without the commitment, though, you’re not going to get to the insights that drive success.

And for SEO practitioners in particular, if you can drive more traffic to your site and improve conversion rates for that traffic, the rewards can be exponential.  If your SEO efforts increase organic traffic by 50%, and you improve conversion rate for that traffic by 50%, you’ve generated a 125% performance increase for that channel.

More visitors, better user experience, and higher conversion rates – it’s up to us to make it happen.

Eric Fettman, Google Analytics Trainer and Coach At E-NorEric Fettman is Analytics Instructor and Coach at E-Nor. He is also the developer of googleanalyticstest.com (http://www.googleanalyticstest.com/default.aspx) and the blogger at Google Analytics Tip of the Day.

 

 

Eric, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us about Google Analytics. Gentle readers…got any questions for Eric? Leave them in the comments, and we’ll let Eric know to answer you, umkay?

Well, my SEO buckaroos…that’s it for today! Until next time, definitely keep it between the ditches!

All the very best to you,