My friend owns a small day spa chain in the South Bay and is always asking for help in figuring out what to do to promote his website. You may have the same questions that he does, and if you’ve been approached by an SEO consultant, it’s pretty certain that they’ve brought up the benefits of using Google Analytics to measure the health of your business’s online presence. It is also very likely that (unless you too are an fascinated by online geekery) your eyes rolled back into your head and you looked back fondly on your algebra classes, because they now seem easy. Of course, as with any business, you will have to pay people with particular expertise to handle certain things, so that you can focus on your core business. However, you should have a basic understanding of what your employees or contractors are doing to be sure that you are getting the ROI to justify the expense. In the case of SEO and Google Analytics, we believe that a good starting point for understanding how your marketing program is working is knowing the three most basic criteria of any analytics reports: visitors, bounce rate and time on site.
This one seems obvious to most people. You want more people to come to your website, which in turn should hopefully lead to more sales. However, just having a ton of new or returning visitors is not a guarantee that your SEO is succeeding. For one thing, if you are an online retailer like Amazon, you should be striving to get new visitors and keep current customers coming back. But, if you are a service provider like a real estate agent or legal recruiter, then you should not be overly concerned that you don’t have a lot of returning visitors. This is because when you sell them a house or find them a job, they really don’t have much reason to come back to your website, at least not for a couple years or so. However, having an insightful blog linked to your main site may keep a few of them coming back, just to keep up to date on what’s going on in the market and to browse what’s out there.
Bounce rate is quite simple. It is the percentage of visitors who come to a page on your site and leave without visiting any other pages. For example, if you’ve been approached by an SEO company that promises to get you 1,000 new visitors next week, odds are, they can do it…using black hat techniques. These new visitors, from wherever they find you, are of no use if your bounce rate goes from 50% to 90%. This means that they are being driven to your site, but that your site is actually not relevant to what they are looking for. Google and other search engines will notice this and penalize your site (via lowered search rankings) accordingly. You’ve seen them, the sites with no “there” there, just lots of links to keep clicking or one page with almost no content. Don’t be them. Ten new visitors from older, established links, who explore your site, are worth 1,000 visitors who drive up your bounce rate.
Time on Site:
Time on site is related to bounce rate, in that is measures how engaging and relevant your site is to visitors. 1,000 new visitors who spend less than a minute on your site, are worth far less than 10 visitors who spend 3-5-10 minutes exploring. Again, search engines will notice that people are coming to your site and leaving quickly, and then they will penalize you. A retailer should have a higher time on site than, say, a car repair shop. But over time, you be able to determine what is a good ballpark range for time spent on your site. Also, keep in mind that a full website should have a higher time on site than a blog. This is because visitors are more likely to explore an online store for a while, but in the case of a blog, long time readers are likely to simply look at the latest blog post, which may only take a minute to read, so your main page may have a 4 minute time on site, while your blog may only have a time on site of a minute or less, and this is perfectly fine.
Got it? Good! Hopefully this gives you a little direction, but feel free to contact us with questions or comments.