May 13, 2014

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Beginners Guide to Analytics

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Analytics is a powerful solution that track patterns of traffic to your website. Of all the analytics tools available to the beginner, Google Analytics is perhaps the most widespread (and it’s free). So that’s the one I recommend you start out with. There’s also an excellent introductory guide for it here. Google Analytics also integrates with other Google programs such as Webmaster Tools, so developing a good knowledge of it can be incredibly valuable to anyone getting started with their own website.

Why Use Analytics?

Everyone wants good content for their website, and everyone writing content for websites wants that content to be seen. But just because something’s written well doesn’t mean that it’s going to be seen by millions of people. Whenever you write something, you’re competing with at least thousands of other blogs for the attention of everyone on the internet. Analytics can be the thing that gives your content that little edge over competing website and ensures that readers come to your site instead of theirs.

Analytics does have its limits, and is often credited with being able to do things that it can’t. For example, analytics are not going to give you a comprehensive picture of what is and isn’t working for your website. What it does is provide you with is an idea of what is attracting people to your site, and what kind of content is keeping them on the site once they land. Analytics is more of a behavioural study than an exact science, and it’s important to keep in mind that whilst it may not feel like it, you’re dealing with people, not numbers.

Trends, content drilldowns and more

Analytics can also make you aware of trends driving traffic to similar sites. Often, these trends are much more important than individual numbers. If you’re seeing more and more people clicking through to related sites that use a specific keyword, you want to start using that keyword more in your work and SEO. Once you see that number is starting to flatten out, or lose favour, you should start looking for the next trend to capitalise on.

Perhaps the best thing about analytics though, is its ability to prove or disprove any assumptions that you might be making. You’re convinced that most of your traffic is coming from people searching for ‘apple pie’, but once you check analytics you find it’s actually coming from people searching for ‘crust’. In this case it lets you re-assess who your audience is and change how you’re targeting keywords to improve the amount of hits to your website.

The Business Applications of Analytics

If you’re trying to make a living creating websites, providing SEO or writing content for websites, it can be very hard to show why your product is better than another. Most businesses understand the importance of having good content for their websites, but may put up a fight when it comes to how much they will pay for that content because they have no solid numbers for how much of a difference it makes. Analytics allow you to quantify the success off your content in a way that businesses can understand; cold, hard numbers.

These kinds of concrete numbers are good for pitching to new businesses, but they’re also great when updating current clients on your successes. By setting up analytics you can show a company exactly how much more traffic a website has received, and how that traffic has been driven by keywords. You can even use analytics before starting a website management role. Observing where the current traffic is coming from and shifting your content angle to make sure that you include that current traffic flow as well as attracting new readers.

Set Objectives

The best way to use analytics is to set yourself goals early on in a project and use analytics to track your progress. Define the purpose of your website, are you writing about your business? Are you writing film reviews? Is it a cookery blog? Whatever you’re writing, decide on some targets for yourself regarding traffic and track that with your analytics tool.

If you’re a business, setting these objectives also helps to ensure that your goals for the website itself aligns with the objectives that you’re setting for your content. If you want to attract people interested in baking to your website then there’s no point in setting an objective to bring in more people interested in salads. Use your analytics objectives to add structure as your website grows and you’ll feel a lot more in control.

What Do You Want From Visitors?

Analytics helps you to figure out why people are visiting your site, but also gives you information on which parts of your site get the most traffic. The best visual representation of this is crazy egg, which actually generates a heat map of your website, showing you where your visitors move their mouse (which is often representative of their eyes) and which elements they engage with.

More traditional analytic services will do this with numbers, telling you how often a button was clicked on, or how regularly a blog post or page was visited. Using these analytics you can judge which content is drawing readers and which is being overlooked.

Just like with driving traffic, it can help to set yourself goals for visitor behaviour. For example, you may want a hundred people to read the same article within a month. Or you may want each article to get one comment every time it’s posted. All of this can be tracked with analytics tools, and any experiments you engage in to make this happen can be quantified in a useful way.

Start Analysing

These suggestions are only the start of a complex, but rewarding process. Analytics is an essential tool for anyone looking to be successful on the web, no matter what you want from your website. Paired with a good knowledge of SEO and content writing, it should catapult you ahead of other start-up websites and into the eyes of interested, engaged readers.

Bear in mind that this is a beginner guide which is concentrating mostly on content. Analytics can be extremely powerful in experienced hands and can also be used for measuring conversions, performing remarking, adjusting your landing pages and checking where in the world your visitors are coming from, as well as on what devices.

In coming months, we will be penning some more guides to analytics as well as other tools such as Webmaster Tools and AdWords. In the meantime, if you need any help with your digital marketing efforts, get in touch for a quote and we’ll be only too happy to help!

Image: Hashtags.org

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