Archive for SEO

Sep
17

Web Analytics 101: Think Different

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As much as some people may think that web analytics has some sort of mystical or voodoo powers and that by using them you will be filled with a wealth of insight and knowledge that you will immediately see working its wonders on your site’s traffic, think again. All web analytic software does is give you a bunch of dumb data. You (or who ever is in charge of the analytics) play the pivotal role of what information you need and how to use it.

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Categories : The Art of War
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To start with, no one package will have everything you need to truly unlock your site’s potential. However there are a number of free and purchased sites and software that can give you a look at the bigger picture.

The Top Ten things to look for in analytical software is as follows:

  1. Referring Links
  2. Referring Keywords and Search Engines
  3. Keywords You are Missing
  4. Bounce Rate, Bounce Pages
  5. Unlimited Lists
  6. Categorized Error Reports
  7. Navigation Paths/Funnels
  8. Customized Reports
  9. Vendor Support
  10. Report Generation

Referring Links and Keywords is a basic component to all analytical software. However, your software package should included and unlimited/user defined amount. Top ten refers just won’t do. The top ten will rarely change over the course of your site, but the refers below that will. This will give you an opportunity to network with those referrers who are lower on the list and give you more traffic. Another cool feature to look for would be referrer trends. Did that article you post increase the amount of traffic from a key term? Did that advertising program increase the amount of traffic over the course of 3 months? 6 months? When you combine trends and user defined lists, you can get a lot more quality information.

Keywords you are missing is rarely found in a complete analytics software package. This also includes negative key terms that are impacting your PPC campaigns. If you use Google Adwords you can solve this problem. The reports can give you keyword variations you may not have thought of as well as giving you a complete list of people who clicked on your add from something like hotel host/hostess services.

Bounce rate and the pages people people leave your site from is a very telling statistic. In another blog I will talk about how this needs to be researched properly to get the full benefit, but for now your software should be giving you a complete account on where visitors leave from. It might be a good location, ie leaving from a banner click or it good be a bad location, leaving from the product features page. Either way it will help you fine tune the content of your site and find ways of tailoring poor pages to become super pages.

Unlimited listings is a KEY feature. Your software MUST have this. User defined limits is of course preferred. By getting the full information you can see long tail searches, all the search terms people use to navigate your site, the popularity of every page and the list goes on. In short, this is a necessity and if the package you are considering doesn’t have it then reconsider your considering.

Categorized error reports or reports on errors by their error code is a useful tool when dealing with bottlenecks and other problems on a site. With unlimited listings you can see which pages stopped working and what caused the error. In some cases, bad code is to blame in other areas you might find that you need a better hosting package to handle the load on your site. A useful addendum to this would be having error pages categorized by date and time. That way you can see if the problem stems from overloading your server’s resources. These error pages can also tell you if someone is trying to implant a XSS or SQL Injection attack (by giving you the URL). This too is a necessity.

At the base you need navigation paths. At the highest navigation funnels have proven to be more useful. Your reliance on one or the other greatly depends on how many pages you have that channel traffic to certain sales or exit pages, the amount of traffic, and the diversity of traffic. Funnels give you a broad sense of traffic that you might not have thought of when creating navigation paths. If you package doesn’t have funnels, see if an upgrade does or if the customized reports allow you to build a funnel of sections to the pages you want traffic to follow. Having trends for this segment is an added bonus, but if you can generate reports than you can do it by hand if your software does not allow trends.

Customized report can greatly increase the depth of your analytics. Say you wanted to track your RSS feeds or wish to generate data for one key term in your site’s search bar; customized reports will help you do it. If your software doesn’t have side by side comparisons of which paths are working the best, you can create one yourself. Customized reports is not a necessity when you are getting your feet wet. They take time and patience to create and at the outset you might be too busy tackling all this data to even begin thinking about areas of improvement. However, as you become more of an expert on your site, customized reports give you a major tool in digging into the deep data some software just doesn’t cover.

Never underestimate the power of customer support. Quality customer support will aid you in building customized reports, understanding information you have garnered and will keep you appraised of newer versions and even helpful mods (if the software supports modding).

Report generation allows you to generate a report on those things most important to you. In the end, its all about automation. By building daily, weekly, and monthly reports that sent to you via email or placed in a convenient location in your analytic’s control panel you are able to build one stop summaries of your traffic without having to dig around every area of your control panel. This is not a necessity, but the larger your site gets the more work this takes off of your shoulders.

Unfortunately this is an inaccurate list. I was going to name it 11 things, but I wanted to reward those who read the entire length of this blog. The number 1 absolutely critical feature that you need in your analytical software is a user interface YOU are comfortable with. The software could be the greatest package on the face of the planet, but if you can’t find the reports how can you use the software to its fullest?

I am Dave Dunlap and I approve of this message. Until the next time, happy hosting!

Categories : Commentary
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Aug
31

SEO is dead, long live SEM

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Optimization is not enough to handle the increasing importance of search engines and all that is included with them. SEO was the process for increasing search engine traffic to a site through a series of tweaks, fixes, and techniques. Yet, increasing search engine traffic is no longer the main priority, capitalizing on the traffic you receive is. Therefore, SEM, search engine marketing, should become the new focus.

Calling SEO dead is a bit premature. Your site still needs to be optimized for search engines, but it also needs to be optimized for the traffic that comes in either from search engines, advertising campaigns, and social networks.
SEM is an all encompassing segment of the Web industry. SEM includes:

  • Link Building
  • Keyword Analysis
  • PPC and other Advertising
  • Organic traffic
  • Social Networking
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Usability
  • Web Design
  • Content Creation and Copy Writing
  • Web Analytics
  • Viral Marketing

This is not an exhaustive list of course. With the passing of time, we see more and more items getting added to the list or a need to break things down further (for instance I could have said traditional marketing, banner and contextual ads, and the like to replace advertising).

The basics of this list can be placed into four categories:

  1. Content
  2. Credibility
  3. Usability
  4. Conversion

These categories overlap and complement each other. When one is done well it makes the others that much easier to complete. Of course the opposite is also true. When one is done poorly the others become harder to implement and in some ways impossible.

I don?t want to get too in-depth in this right now because I could go on for pages on why each is important and how they affect each other. Suffice to say; you need all of these and no one person can be an expert in all of them. Even if you learn all the ins and outs of each, you just won?t have the time to implement them all. To reach the next level of growth you will need to rely on all four.

The Foundation
The foundation of a good site is Content, Usability, and Tracking. When building a site from the ground up, you need to understand the focus of the site and its message. Once you understand the general message of a site (will it sell products, services, or just be an information site, maybe it will be a place for people to simply talk, etc) you can start designing the site. During the design process you should choose some sort of tracking/analytical software so you can gauge the power of your content, the conversion of your traffic, and what traffic streams are giving the best results. In this way, you can figure out which content is best, how traffic moves through your site, and which marketing campaigns need work. Tracking is so important that you should stop right now and start researching tracking programs if you don?t have one? Don?t worry I will wait.

You are now ready to build the site. Testing usability before the site goes ?live? is very important. If you have the money to spend, organize test groups. If you don?t have the money build a list of things to find on the site and give it to friends and co-workers. In both cases, you want to be around and observe them while they browse through the site. More often than not, test groups and friends will report a different story from what they actually experience. A friend might give you a 9 out of 10 for speed, when in fact the site was so slow in loading it made them want to pick up the monitor and chuck it out the window. When the site is as audience friendly as you can think of the next step will be to finish up the content you started (you did start writing the content, didn?t you?) and think of ways to build credibility. Also you may want to purchase the services of a consultant who can advise you on how best to optimize your new site for search engines and ad programs.

Credibility: The Long Road
Building credibility is tough work. You have to make sure you are right on things as much as possible or if you are found to be wrong to fix the problem as soon as possible. You need to be able to grow roots in the community of your industry and this takes time. Having a blog or forum can help, but you still have to go out into the world and discuss topics with others and to generate buzz for your site. You can write guest articles on other sites (places like SEOMoz.org actually give you a point system for writing on their site), develop community events, etc. The good thing about building credibility is that it will give you a network of peers and business partners that can help you with future projects, it will allow you learn even more about your industry, it will help you get valuable feedback on how to make your site better, it will generate traffic, and well the list goes on.

Converting Your Traffic
Like the other sections, I am only going to gloss over the details real quick. This will be covered later, but for now the concept of converting traffic starts with the analytic tool you installed on your site. As traffic comes pouring in from all over you can use analytic tools to see which campaigns are giving you the most traffic and where they exit on your site. For an information site, if they exit via a banner ad you have done your part to help your advertisers. If you are selling something, then the out page should be where they click on the buy link and purchase your product or service. By finding out where the traffic comes from you can see which sites and ads give you the best conversions. If it is a site that you have not purchased advertising for, then that is a sign that you should start networking with them. Talk to them about partnerships or joint projects to increase the flow of traffic. If it is an ad campaign, see what that campaign is doing right in order to adjust your other ad campaigns that are falling behind. When it comes to converting traffic, you need to develop a constant cycle of tweaking and watching. Use the tools at hand to find where the purchasing cycle bogs down and fix the problem. The reason why traffic isn?t converting could be that the process is too complicated or there is too much content on the page or there isn?t enough. The problem might also be traced to a page that doesn?t work. Through testing, you can finely tune your site. It may require a lot of work, but you need to ask yourself is it worth it to make several thousand dollars more? Hopefully, your answer is of course it is.

We have only really begun to scratch the surface here. Perhaps this article has given you some ideas on how to adjust your current site or how to build a new one. As this month continues to roll on, we will get more detailed to specifically what needs to be done and how you should go about doing it. Until then happy hosting!

Categories : Marketing
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If you use the Internet on a regular basis you are already aware that the majority of Internet traffic is generated by search engines and directories. You’ve probably surfed the web and spent hours looking for instructions on optimizing your web site and submitting to search engines and directories. Much of this information is confusing and overwhelming and I can hear you screaming for help.

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Categories : Marketing
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