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Understanding Google Analytics
By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
Last month we talked about building a great small business website. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Getting Google Analytics is easy; you can just register on the site, and it will give you a snippet of code that will go on each page of your website. Your web person can do this if it wasn’t installed when your site was built. Most hosting companies come with a C-panel backend that measures traffic, even so, I highly recommend getting Google Analytics for accuracy and other reasons we’ll discuss later on.
Once you set up Google Analytics, give it a few days to gather data, once you do you’ll start to see numbers appear on your dashboard. Google Analytics continues to update their system and recently launched a beta version of real time traffic. Once you’re logged in you can find it in Acquisition.
I tend to watch these real-time traffic numbers pretty closely. It’s also a great tool if you’re on top of a promotion; you can see what kind of traffic you’re driving to your website, in real time!
Getting to Know Your Data
When you first start looking through the numbers, you’ll want to get a sense of some of the numbers we have defined below: Page Views, Bounce Rate, etc. If you’re worried that your bounce rate is too high, consult your web person to see if there’s anything you can do to lower it.
Page views: Each time someone lands on your site (when they load one of your pages) it generates a page view. Keep in mind that this tallies regardless of who visits or how many times they’ve been to the site. It sounds like a bad measurement of traffic and to some degree it is. We all love returning visitors but most of us really care about those valuable first time folks.
Visits: This measure shares how many users have spent time on your website, regardless of the number of pages each user views.
Unique visitors: This is an important stat and as the name implies, this metric counts only the unique users who visit the site. If a particular visitor comes to the site every day, it still only counts as one visit.
Pages/visit: This metric shows you how many pages a visitor perused during each session, the higher this number, the better.
Average visit duration: How much time do users spend on the site during each visit? While you want someone to spend a long time on a site, the average time spent is generally 3-5 min and sometimes less. Obviously longer is better, but the only site in the world that gets massive visit duration is currently Facebook, with an average of twenty minutes per visit.
Bounce rate: This number indicated people who “bounce” off of the page. So, someone visits and then decides they are either in the wrong place or you’ve sent them into “surf shock” and they leave. Generally the lower the number the better, but the average bounce rate is around 50-59%.
% new visits: This measure is the percentage of your traffic from first-time users who have never been to the site before. If you’re eager to get repeat people to your site (and this will often depend on the nature of your business) you’ll want this number lower than your repeating visitor number.
One of the areas I spend a lot of time on is the Traffic from All Sources so I can gauge what’s coming from where. Not only will this help me as I’m creating referring traffic from various channels, but it also helps me know what’s working and what isn’t. You can find this area by clicking on Acquisition > All Traffic > Traffic from All Sources.
Measuring Where Your Traffic is Coming From
One of the most exciting additions to Google Analytics has been their tracking of social media and individual traffic referrals. This is a fantastic tool that lets you see how much of your traffic is coming from social vs. other sites. So, what’s a good mix? I think that half of your traffic coming from social media is too much. Why? Because social media (like Facebook) changes on a dime. My goal is to always have it represent 1/3 of your total traffic. The rest should come organically through search and referral. Have a look at our pie-chart which you can find by going to: Acquisition > All Traffic.
As you can see the 40.1% is organic search, and this doesn’t happen right away, our domain is fifteen+ years old so it’s got some age to it, and I’ve also been actively promoting the site.
Social Media Traffic
A lot of authors and business owners will often ask me how can they know stuff is working; by “stuff” they mean their social media. Generally you’ll know by the engagement you get on that social media page, however that’s not always a consistent measure of success. Why? Because in some cases if you’re running an offer that invites them to click off to your site, you may not see engagement, just a click – which means you need to get to know what your social traction is and Google Analytics can help you determine that.
So let’s go back to the Acquisitions tab and click down to Social. This will show you all of your social traffic and what your biggest driver is:
For us this was no surprise. Twitter is a huge driver of referral traffic to our site, but as you can see, Facebook runs a close second. Keep in mind that we do not run ads on Twitter and only a few on Facebook – in fact not enough that it would matter to these results.
Google Analytics can also connect to your AdWords campaign, allowing you to measure how your online ad campaign is performing. This will allow you to track how your ads are doing and whether they are bringing you visitors. If you run ads on your site, click Acquisition > AdWords > Campaigns to see which pages on your site are earning the most revenue (and how much).
How much traffic you get and how well it’s converting will depend on your reach and your website, but knowing these numbers is important. Keep in mind that the importance of each category will depend largely on the industry you’re in, as I mentioned previously. If you want lots of returning visitors, then the % of new visits number will need to be lower. If you’re looking for lots of new traffic then Unique Visitors is what you need to pay attention to.
Getting to know your traffic is not only important, but mandatory if you’re going to know how effective your online marketing is. Also, knowing your Google Analytics numbers will also show you if there’s a problem on your site, like low conversion which could be because of a broken page or broken link.
Looking to stay informed of other marketing best practices that can help to GROW your small business? Subscribe to our PR 101 eNewsletter today!
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.
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