I know what analytics is – but how can I use it better for my business?

Pierre DeBois Chicago Small Business Expo
Pierre DeBois speaking about analytics at the 2014 Small Business Expo in Chicago

Most businesses have heard the definition of analytics at some point since 2006 (with Zimana being in business since 2009).  Here is the definition, for those just joining the internet.  Analytics is about the measurement of a system. With respect to small businesses, the interest is in web analytics. Web analytics is the measurement of website performance.

The origins of web analytics is linked with web development.  Originally it was meant to track and help account for webpages being served – in essence, a diagnostic tool.  But with the advent of paid search, combined with newly introduced Javascript tags, marketers realized that web analytics could provide a means to manage marketing campaigns, thus raising results and reducing costs.

The next advancement of importance  are smartphones and tablets. They changed the ways people review websites before making a purchase, because sites are accessed while visitors on the go instead of just at home.  Moreover, websites are increasingly accessed by mobile devices, so the sites have to be mobile-friendly.

If you are starting your business, there are a few ways to start using analytics to confirm how your website enhances your business digital strategy.  Planning for data collection can become complex based on the amount of marketing you have planned, but a dedicated planning pays off in organizing necessary steps, reducing effort needed over time.

If you are unsure where to start, here are a few great starting points if you are just planning to launching a website.

  • Identify how your web presence will be laid out.  Web designers use wireframes to lay our each page navigation, but if you are technically challenged you can do so on a piece of paper. This will also help assess costs for launching and maintaining associated components such as a microsite for an app or an e-commerce cart.
  • Choose your downloadable material for the site – these can be tagged in analytics through features such as event tracking, a minor code typically added to the HTML links for the documents. Tag managers are also available to make tag management manageable.
  • Install an analytics tag is on each page. Most analytic solutions use a Javascript code added into the HTML coding of the page (for Google Analytics, there are several checkers available).  Be prepared to modify the code for e-commerce, CRM, and other  features that are not included with standard reporting (a web developer or analytics specialist should help). Also consider a tag manager to manage a number of tags easily, particularly for complex set ups with cross-domains and e-commerce shopping carts.
  • Consider names for each webpages that includes a highly-trafficked keyword if feasible. You’ll have to keep page name lengths simple for user convenience (and it may depend on the URL you select). Three words in a subdirectory URL is a good rule of thumb to maintain.  So a URL can appear like this example below:

www.site.com/shoe-repair-services 

In this example, three words can be selected to the subdomain, kept relatively short in case a customer is typing the URL or speaking the words into a search window on a smartphone.  Each word can be an opportunity to use a keyword – say “shoe repair” in this instance – or a useful high volume description like “Chicago” to help in local search.

www.site.com/Chicago-shoe-repair 

There’s no one combination that will guarantee success, but the key is develop the most descriptive page names that will aid discovery in a general search engine.

  • Make sure each page title and description are filled out, since those come in handy not only for search engine but in sharing content on Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, and other social media platforms.
  •  Identify a goal page from your website. This will aid reporting on how well people are navigating on your site.
  • Plan your marketing in addition to executing a search strategy.  Search traffic is helpful, but you may need to select marketing for an additional reach to your audience.

Growing A Pinterest Audience – Infographic via Who Is Hosting This

This infograph from the site Who Is Hosting This takes a comprehensive look at how a Pinterest audience is developed.  Doubling followers is no simple task, and no one task will trigger a flood of followers.  But organizing the activity in managing a Pinterest account can create additional followers.

Review the tips below and see how this infographic can refine your social media strategy for long-term success.

Double Your Pinterest Followers in Just Five Minutes a Day - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Source: WhoIsHostingThis.com

SEO How-To: Quickly Highlight Bad Links with Google Analytics

Link building can be an elaborate process, depending on the website, but sometimes you need a simple way to identify bad links. Google Analytics has a way to help identify

Go into the reporting of  Google Analytics account, and navigate to the Landing Pages report. The Landing Page report is a sub-bullet under the Content report under the Behavior segment (Behavior > Content > Landing Page).

Google Analytics Landing Page

Note: There is another landing page menu item under Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization. It does NOT contain the same second dimension menu as the one pictured, so do NOT use it for this link analysis.

Next, click on the drop down menu of the secondary source and add the following as a secondary dimension: Acquisition > Source.

Google Analytics Landing Page Report

You’ll see the source that generated the visit alongside the page on which the visitor landed to enter your site. You will see those sources that may lead to a quality link – you’ll see Small Business Trends as a favorite for Zimana, for example – and spammy links which should be questioned and removed. You can also see some 404s if that is the case.

Now examine links, using different time periods (30 days, 60 days, 90 days) to see what links appear in each period. The info indicates what people are consistently encountering.

To quickly highlight pages that appear in a long list (over 25 dimensions), use the find bar, a search feature in the Firefox and Chrome browsers, to discover the pages in the dimensions column. Click on the three bar icon in the upper right of the browser window. A Finder window will appear at the top (This may vary by browsers; Firefox displays the finder at the bottom) . Type in the word you want, and the Find Bar will reveal every appearance of that word throughout the page. You can even toggle to the specific instance in which the word appears.

After some evaluation, decide if you want to use disavowal links if you see more than a few spammy back links that appear in the reports. To implement a disavowal link, use the tools provided in either the Bing Webmaster or Google Webmaster tools.

You can also add this link report setting as a shortcut in the Dashboard. Adding the shortcut offers the convenience of not having to manually add the secondary dimension each time you check.

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Analytics Tips: Cleaning Referral Traffic Sources to Make Google Analytics Reporting Easier

In 2010, General Motors eliminated three divisions – Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Hummer — in its reorganization under bankruptcy. The interesting part is that one division, Buick, persevered, and was critical to GM’s survival. Over time the brand sold well in the Chinese market, giving GM a foot hold among consumers that it never had before. That factor lead to more investment and to GM putting its bankruptcy behind it.

Referral traffic is like that Buick division – one of those things that becomes important over time. It is a category of website or app traffic that has arrived to a site or app page from another source – a link on a website, a landing page, or through social media.

But over time unwanted sources can appear – the referral traffic becomes the Pontiacs instead of the Buicks. So let’s look at examples of managing referral traffic and see how you can get rolling faster in understanding your traffic sources.

Consolidate the social media referrals

When an analyst reviews dimensions in a referral traffic report, the data can reveal referral traffic sources in an disorganized in a way. Referrals from Facebook related sources can appear listed as several dimension entries such as Facebook.com or m.facebook.com

The Network Referrals report offers a means to combine these entries. The report is accessed through clicking Traffic Sources, then Social, and then Network Referrals on the left panel in Google Analytics. The Network Referrals report provides a clear view of consolidated social network sources, so that one metric value appears for Twitter or Facebook regardless of domain.

Duplicated Self Referral

Duplicated self referrals of a website URL can also create confusing results. These duplicated self referrals appear as two separate dimensions in your referral traffic reports, creating double counts of metrics in the process.

To remove the double count of your domain in Google Analytics, consider using the referral exclusion list. To access the list, navigate to the Admin page. Next, click Property, then Tracking Info. The following image on your screen once you have accessed the list.

Google Analytics Referral Excllusion

Monitor the referrals you want

Opposite of removing duplicated self referrals, your business may have a few related domains and subdomains grouped together for an easier reporting structure. Below is an example, which includes a domain for a related app.

www.zimana.com | app.zimana.com | zimana.com

To set up a report based on desired domains, create a profile view using filtered expression and the regular expression pipe symbol (which means “or”). Navigate to the Admin page, then navigate to the Filters, which appears in the Account column and the View column. Your selection of either will depend on how global the filter would need to be.

Select the custom filter setting, then select “include”, then “hostname” to insert the URLs.

Google Analytics Filter

Make sure to include the escape slashes in the URL – the “/“ before the “.com”, for example. These are used to indicate that the period is read by the filter as a period and not as a “match every character” indicator, which the period is used for.

Make sure to maintain a profile with an unfiltered version of the data. An unfiltered domain provides comparison data for diagnostic purposes, so you can understand if the filter data is not meeting an expected outcome.

Filter bots in the admin

Finally, there is a bot filter within Google Analytics. This is a toggle switch located within the admin section. This is a generic toggle, so you may want to check referral traffic reports for unusual sources that contribute visits but does not influence engagement metrics positively.

Modify the .htaccess file

One easy way to gather referral sites to change or eliminate is to update the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file indicates to search engines which domains should not be considered or how URL should be referred to. Implementing the changes requires modifying the file in a text editor and then uploading the updated file into the same location as the website – in short, the same protocol that would be used to update a HTML webpage or CSS file.

An updated htaccess file with an eliminated website would contain indicating text like the following:

# block visitors referred from website.com
1. RewriteEngine on
2. RewriteBase /
3. RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt.com [NC]
4. RewriteRule .* – [F]

Let’s run through what this text would mean

The comment with the hash in front of it would not been seen by the search engines – it’s just a comment to indicate the purpose of the update.

The first line that get picked up in the file is the ReWrite. The ReWrite triggers the rewrite engine that will execute the code.

The second line, RewriteBase, highlights the main URL of the website to the engine

The third and fourth lines explain the changes you want to see. The third list the website source to be eliminated, using RegEx nomenclature – note the “.” in the site “semalt.com”. This tells the engine to include the “.” when it looks for the referral site semalt.com.

Overall the analytics community as a whole is examining how to manage referral traffic better.  With so many sources ultimately influencing traffic, analytic skills are returning to their roots – the need for diagnostics over marketing analysis.