Web Analytics – Understanding the Basic Performance Metrics
Even the best search engine optimization strategy requires ongoing optimization and improvement. The first step required to understand the necessary changes is to watch and analyze the most important metrics. But what are they? And what’s the easiest way of understanding the impact of different marketing channels on your conversion?
The Basics – Critical Tool & Metrics
While there are different tools which you could use to track your website visitors and their behavior, all you need to get the core website metrics is good old Google Analytics. And if you prefer not to reveal too much info about your website to Google, there are some great alternatives such as Piwik or Yandex Metrica. However, unless you are an advanced SEO and understand why exactly you want to use a different tool, it’s best to stick to the standard solution offered by Google.
The most important metrics that you need to keep an eye on to measure include:
- Number of Sessions
A session is the period of time (30 minutes in Google Analytics) during which user is actively engaged with your website. A session ends if the visitor stops his activity for longer than the duration of a session, leaves your website altogether or at midnight. You can check the number of sessions in Google Analytics under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
Naturally, when it comes to search engine optimization, you should be primarily interested in the number of sessions coming from organic search. The percentage next to the total number of sessions tells you how the number of organic sessions relates to their total site-wide number.
- Number of Pages per Session
The next important piece of information is the average number of pages visited during one session. Usually, the higher this number the better. Typically, if the average number of pages is high, it means that your website is well-structured and your customers can move smoothly between pages, straight to the conversion page.
However, there are exceptions. For example, if your traffic is coming directly to the sales page, you would prefer to limit the number of pages per session (and focus on sales). That’s why sometimes this metric can indicate that you should work on shortening the funnel.
It can be found in Audience > Overview in your GA account (together with the next two):
- Session Duration
Average session duration tells you how much time your visitors spend on your side from the moment they visited to the moment they leave it. Usually, the longer the time, the better as it means that your audience finds your website and its content interesting and engaging.
But it’s important to keep in mind that the time will vary significantly between different industries. For example, online gaming website will have a much longer session duration than an online store. That’s why session duration is most effective when analyzed over time, and across different categories and subsets of pages.
- Bounce Rate
The last metric is bounce rate – which tells you the percentage of visitors who left your website in less than 30 seconds from entering. Unlike the other two, when it comes to bounce rates, lower number is better.
The bounce rate will vary between different pages significantly and can tell you about many different things. For example, it’s a great indicator whether your visitors find your blog post relevant and interesting. If you have a high bounce rate on a sales page, it might mean that it’s poorly designed, your visitors are not ready to make a purchase yet, or that your targeting is way off and they are completely not interested in your products. As a rule of thumb, it’s best if it’s below 50% sitewide.
Of course, watching the above metrics once every few months is far from enough. In fact, more than the numbers themselves, you should watch trends. If your organic traffic keeps growing and your session duration and bounce rate stay at healthy levels (taking into consideration your industry and funnel design), you know that you are most likely going in the right direction.
Using Analytics to Measure the Quality of Your Traffic
Interestingly, if you configure your Google analytics account correctly, you can measure more than just the pure number of your organic website visitors. One of such things is the quality of your traffic i.e. how well it converts into leads or buyers. While there are different attribution models, one of the most convenient ones is the Assisted Conversions report. You can create it under Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions.
Assisted conversions measure all interactions other than the first and last clicks needed for a conversion to happen. Imagine that a particular visitor (based on cookie) converted only after visiting your website from paid search, display advertising, organic search, and direct traffic. While it sounds complicated, it’s not unusual for a conversion to cover multiple channels. For example:
Paid Search (your customer chose ads over organic results) > Organic Search (this time he looked for another query and chose an organic result) > Display (a remarketed ad based on a cookie installed during the first visit) > Direct (he entered the site by typing the domain name in the web browser).
If you were looking at a standard conversion report, you would probably see the conversion attributed just to the Display – by default, Direct is ignored in standard reports, and other channels would be omitted as not taking part in the conversion. But in an assisted conversion report, every channel that participated in the conversion is treated equally – including direct traffic.
Why Assisted Conversion Can Help You?
Because every channel gets credited, this report shows you two important information. First, it shows the percentage of all conversions in which the particular source of traffic was participating but wasn’t the last conversion.
This helps prevent a situation in which you ignore other channels critical for gaining conversions that just aren’t the last source of traffic before it occurs. Moreover, the report proves that to create synergy and achieve the best results and the highest conversion rate, you need to utilize different channels together.
It is also one of the reasons why we offer both PPC & SEO service strategy and execution, as it allows us to create the most efficient marketing plans for our clients. You can learn more about how we use each of the services for your benefit here.
Secondly, the report shows you which channel is usually resulting in direct conversions (the last to get credited) and which is more often an assisting one. This is visible in the last column – numbers above 1 indicate that the channel was mostly in the assisting role, close to 1 indicate it had a more or less equal role and close to 0 means that it was usually the last click before conversion.
Other Attribution Models
The above linear attribution model is not the only multi-touch model which you can use to gain a better understanding of your marketing channels and website conversion rates. Other similar models include Position Based Model (both first and last click get 40% of value attributed to them, and the remaining 20% is attributed to the “middle” ones) and Time-Decay Model, which gives more value to the events happening shortly before the conversion.
Unfortunately, neither the linear one, nor any other attribution model is ideal. Luckily, it’s not something that you should be worrying about right now as the basic data mentioned in this article should be enough to help you optimize your SEO efforts. And if you decide to work with us, a complete analytics setup is included in our marketing services.