Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational keynote speaker who specializes in business trends including the increasing analysis of data, both online and off. But within the online world, his business topics include Google Analytics as well as Google Adwords and Google Adsense. He’s a leading authority on self-employment and the author of Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley). The 33rd and 34th chapters of this award-winning book (2012 Small Business Book Awards) is entitled Google Analytics and Understanding Analytics Data respectively (in Part 3 of the book: Build Your Website or Blog) and they are both included below for your review. The book has a total of 80 short chapters, each ending with an Implementation Checklist. Also, Patrick’s perspective on the necessity of analytics data and the opportunity to improve website performance with the free Google Analytics platform is provided below.
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Keynote Speech about Google Analytics
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. In today’s online economy, you can measure anything. Ten or 20 years ago, you had to do surveys and focus groups to understand consumer preferences. Today, because so much business activity takes place online, you can measure and track everything. That means you can optimize these processes more than ever before. Between A/B split testing, wire frame analysis, eye tracking studies and analytics data, all aspects of consumer behavior can be broken down into mathematical probabilities. Patrick has written about these topics and incorporated them into a wide variety of speaking programs. Please let us know if you would like the power of Google Analytics incorporated into a general session or keynote address. Patrick can convey the opportunity in a way that you audience will embrace and leverage in their own businesses.
Chapter 32: Google Analytics
Who’s visiting your website? Any idea?
Precisely answering this question lies at the heart of online success. You can only improve what you measure. But before we get into determining who exactly your visitors are, I want to explain an important fact of life on the Internet. There are no secrets! This is a simple but powerful truth. On the Internet, everything can be tracked. If you’re curious what people are searching for, you can find out. If you’re curious which products are selling the best, you can find out. If you want to know where people are coming from and where they’re going, you can find out. The process of measuring all this online activity is called website analytics, and everything on the Internet can be tracked using this process. Turns out, you can access some amazingly powerful tools without spending a penny … enter Google Analytics, stage left.
Let’s break it down. Using Google Analytics, you can see:
How many people are visiting your website.
The keywords they used to find you on search engines.
Which website referred them to you.
What page they saw first.
How much time they spent on your site.
How many pages they visited.
From what page they exited your site.
The geographic location of your visitors.
The browser they’re using.
And a host of other facts, figures and statistics!
Installing Google Analytics is simple and free. Once you sign up for an account, the platform gives you a small piece of script (computer code) that you need to put into the footer of your website. Once this process is complete, Google starts tracking all the activity on your website. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this capability. You could track everything you do online and know with certainty what’s working and what’s not. There are no secrets. You can know without any shadow of a doubt. That’s powerful stuff. In the past, you would’ve had to do surveys or focus groups to gain insights to these topics. No longer. On the Internet, you can see it all.
Let’s take one example. Using Google Analytics, you can see your “bounce rate.” That’s the percentage of people who quickly leave your website after viewing any particular page. Now, just to be clear, you do not want people leaving your website. You want them to keep browsing. If they’re leaving your site from one particular page, you need to improve that page to keep your visitors interested. With Google Analytics, you could list all of your web pages sorted by their respective bounce rates. The ones with the highest bounce rate are the ones that need the most attention. Work on those pages to keep visitors interested and engaged. Every time you do this one simple exercise, your website will be a bit more effective than it was before. This is just one example, but there are dozens. Google Analytics is a great platform and it gives you the opportunity to systematically improve your website. There are a lot of other platforms that provide analytics data and some of them are very good. You’re welcome to use whichever you like. I focused on Google Analytics in this chapter because it’s free, powerful, and extremely well used.
Google Analytics: Implementation Checklist
Sign up for a Google Analytics account.
Add the script into the footer of your site.
Let the platform start accumulating data.
Visit your analytics account regularly.
Click on every option; explore everything.
See which websites are referring visitors.
Check the keywords that bring you traffic.
Notice how long people stay on your site.
Check which pages they go to the most.
Never stop looking for more insights.
Compare notes and ideas with a colleague.
Chapter 34 Understand Analytics Data
“My website gets 30,000 visitors per month!”
That’s what a very talkative guy once told me at a networking event. He wasn’t the first person to proudly share such information with me. People are often quick to blurt out how much traffic their websites are supposedly getting. Turns out, you can find out a lot about someone else’s website all on your own. But before we get to that, let me explain a few important distinctions.
First, a “hit” is not a “visitor.” A hit is any click on any link on your website. If you have a bunch of links and someone visits your site and starts browsing around, they can easily rack up 20 or 30 hits during one visit. Most people who claim their website is getting thousands of visitors are misreading their analytics. Those websites might be getting thousands of hits but far fewer visitors. In the case of the guy above who claimed 30,000 visitors, I later found out his website was only getting about 1,500 visitors per month—not bad, but not great either. Going a step further, a visitor is not the same as an “absolute unique visitor.” If you visit your own website twice each day, you could be accounting for 50 or 60 visits (and 1,000+ hits) each month. When reading your analytics, you want to see how many absolute unique visitors you’re getting. That’s the important number.
Here in the United States, you can get a fairly good idea how many visitors a site is getting by checking its Alexa ranking. Alexa is the largest third-party traffic monitoring site on the Internet. With a few million people using their browser toolbar, Alexa can estimate the traffic to different websites based on the browsing activity of their users.
In Europe and Asia, Alexa does not have as many users so the traffic statistics are less reliable. But here in America, you can get a good idea how popular a given site is by checking on Alexa. What does that mean? It means that you now have a tool at your disposal every time someone tries to impress you with their traffic statistics. And why would that matter? Simple. Everyone’s looking for affiliates, sponsors, advertisers, and partners, and it’s good to know which ones have real traffic and which ones are just blowing smoke.
The guy I told you about at the beginning of this chapter wanted me to give him exclusive rights to sell my educational CDs. When he first proposed the idea, I considered it. But then I got back to my office and checked him out on Alexa—what a fraud. My site was getting more traffic than his! By the way, a higher score on Alexa is not what you want. It’s the lower scores that are good. For example, the number one website is the one with the most traffic. As of this writing, Google is number one, Facebook is number two, and YouTube is number three. Any website with an Alexa rank of 400,000 or lower is probably getting at least 100 visitors per day. Sites with a rank of 1,000,000 or higher are getting less than 50 visitors per day, and a website with an Alexa rank higher than 2,000,000 is getting almost no traffic at all.
Here are a couple other tricks you should be aware of. When you go to Google, you can enter some codes to learn things about any given website.
This displays all the individual pages on the website, allowing you to see exactly how big the website is.
This displays all the online locations linking to the website, allowing you to see the total number of inbound links as well as where those links are coming from.
As mentioned in Chapter 30, you can also learn the Google PageRank of any particular website. The Google toolbar provides this information or you could just type “google pagerank checker” into Google to find tons of places where you can enter a URL and determine its Google PageRank. Keep in mind that the PageRank score ranges from 0 to 10 where 10 is the best. It’s calculated on an exponential curve so a PageRank of 4 or higher is actually pretty good and the jump from 4 to 5 is big. Scores higher than 5 are increasingly significant as you move up the ladder. The point is that if a particular website has a Google PageRank of 2 or 3, it’s probably not getting a lot of organic traffic from search engines. Once the site has a PageRank of 4 or higher, it’s probably coming up fairly high on Google searches and getting some respectable traffic as a result.
These four things—the Alexa ranking, the number of pages on the site, the number of inbound links, and the Google PageRank score—will give you a pretty good idea of the significance of any website, including your own. These are all little tricks you can use to become a savvier Internet user. Use them to evaluate your own progress and cut through all the hot air on today’s Internet!
Understanding Analytics Data: Implementation Checklist
Check your Alexa traffic ranking.
Check your number of pages on Google.
Check your inbound links on Google.
Check your Google PageRank score.
Monitor your progress over time.
Check the statistics for your competitors.
Verify claims made by big talkers.
Compare notes and ideas with a colleague.