I admit it. I'm a Google Analytics junkie. I try to stay away, but every now and then I hear it calling my name, and I break down and log in. I feel the familiar rush of excitement running through my veins almost instantly, and I know anything else I may have planned to do that day won't get done because I'll be in my own world for hours. My analytics world. Just me and my stats. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
Sad, huh? Well, not really. I get a ton of great information out of Google Analytics that can later be put to good use in many ways for my business. For instance, I've been writing monthly columns for Search Engine Land and Talent Zoo for quite some time now, and it gets tedious. It's not easy thinking of topics to write about that not only fit the target audience of each publication but that haven't already been written to death. Being the lazy toad that I am, I sometimes just don't want to do them. When that happens, I wonder if it's really worth it and ask myself what I get out of writing these columns. Being the good sport that I am, I am referred back to Google Analytics.
That's what I do
I use Google Analytics all the time to see what keywords people are finding our clients' Web sites with, and I do the same for our own Web site. But I don't always think to use it for other information, like looking at where else (besides the search engines) traffic is coming from. After all, online marketing isn't just about search engine traffic. (Heresy, I know!)
It's a bit tricky to get information regarding articles that are not on our own High Rankings Web site. Ideally, it would be great if we had access to the other sites' analytics to know how many reads the articles actually get, but alas, we don't. Thankfully, the columns I write do have bio links back to our Web site, and many have links to other articles that are published on our site, so what I need to look at in Google Analytics is the traffic that comes from the sites where my columns are posted.
To do this in Google Analytics, I simply click "Traffic Sources," then "Referring Sites." At this point, I either browse through the listings until I see the domain I'm looking for or scroll to the bottom of the page until I see a search box. It says "Find Source" and has a drop-down menu with "containing" or "excluding." In the search box, I type "Talent Zoo" and click "Go." This takes me straight to the page with information about referrals to our Web site from my Talent Zoo articles. I can see how many people visited from Talent Zoo, how many average pages they looked at per visit, the average time they spent on our Web site, what percentage were new visitors as opposed to returning visitors, and I can see the bounce rate, i.e., what percentage came to only one page and then left.
It's cool info
Sure enough, there were a number of visitors from both Talent Zoo and Search Engine Land! Not millions, by any means, but hundreds. One of our marketing goals at High Rankings is to continuously try to get the word out about our free SEO information and resources, as well as our SEO services, products, and SEO classes to people who have never heard of us. Along those lines, Google Analytics showed me that over 50 percent of the people who click through to our site from my columns are new visitors. (The percentage of new visitors from my columns has been going down over the few years since writing the columns, as would be expected.)
Not only that, but some of them convert into newsletter subscribers. Again, it's not huge, but we've already figured out that newsletter subscribers are our most valuable asset in terms of long-term conversions -- that is, they eventually sign up for a class or some SEO consulting.
While I was reviewing this info, I had a look at some of our other referrers. I had a number of them from Sphinn, where I’m an editor and have also I've had newsletter articles posted, as well as a bunch from other industry Web sites that point to my articles. One of the largest referrers is a site called Search Engine Guide, which showcases a number of old articles of mine. It’s interesting that even though I haven’t written anything for them in many years, the old articles are still one of our strongest referrers.
In addition to other sites that host our content, various marketing campaigns including social media and links directly from our newsletter bring in over 4 percent of the Web site’s traffic. Unsurprisingly, these click-throughs are often our best converting ones.
Back to search engine traffic
After reviewing our referral numbers, I was curious how they compared with our search engine traffic. About 57 percent of the traffic to High Rankings comes from Google. Referring sites make up close to 13 percent and direct traffic is just over 22 percent. The greatest amount of search engine traffic goes to a few of my most popular articles on our site, and a large chunk of search engine traffic lands on various High Rankings forum threads.
Overall, when taken as a whole, search engine traffic doesn't have a very high conversion rate. However, not all search engine traffic is created equal. While traffic leading to my articles may not convert very well, traffic coming from searchers at Google looking specifically for SEO services or SEO training does indeed convert, but this is an article for another time!
If you’re wondering whether your marketing efforts are paying off, rather than guess, be sure to review the information provided by your Web analytics program. It will provide you with exactly what you need to know to make an informed decision.