In Episode 024, we discuss analytics and SEO (search engine optimization). Mainly, in regards to how it impacts analytics and vice versa. Jan Christenson, digital developer at Creative Arcade, joins Jeff to discuss the basics and also unveils ideas on how to go deeper in its use to uncover business intelligence, how it impacts Voice marketing and overall search on the web.
Alexa: I'm having trouble understanding you.
That's okay, Alexa.
Jan: Alexa's interrupting us again.
Jeff: That's okay, Alexa. We got this.
Phil: We got something.
Jan: The new audio guy made a oops.
Jeff: Yeah, we have a newbie running the audio here, today.
Jeff: Yeah, well, hey everybody. This is Jeff and Jan. This is podcast, what is this 24.
Jeff: Number 24, episode 24.
Jeff: Yeah, that is nice.
Jan: On January 24.
Jeff: Yeah. I think we've got, how many in now, since we kind of restarted? We started on what 21? So this is our fourth or fifth since we kind of got back to doing it again. So welcome. You're usually the audio guy.
Jan: Yeah, I'm usually hiding behind the equipment.
Jeff: We decided to have you on today 'cause I know last time we kind of ... Last time we talked about voice. Phil had done some research and we talked more about voice, which led us down the road of talking about ... 'Cause a big part of voice is SEO.
Jan: Yep, optimizing for it.
Jeff: Optimizing for that so that those things can be found when the don't say her name, A-L-E-X-As of the world or Siris or any of those go on the Internet to find that information that it returns the right stuff. Right? So, but we decided 'cause it was related to SEO it'd be good to talk about some of that stuff.
Jan: Yep, SEO, analytics, all that other stuff that leads into it.
Jeff: So that's cool, but before I get into that, I'm just trying to think is there anything we got to share with everyone before we go? Anything cool happen lately? I'm trying, I'm wracking my brain not that cool stuff doesn't happen all the time.
Jan: Everything is cool.
Jeff: Glass blowing.
Jan: Glass blowing. We did glass blowing.
Jeff: Oh, yeah. Glass blowing. That was fun.
Jeff: We talked about that last time. Where were you?
Jan: You said it would be for the holidays last time.
Jan: That was after.
Jeff: It was after. You're right.
Jeff: You were in it. You were there.
Jan: I know.
Jeff: 'Cause I think you showed off some of the glasses.
Jan: I think so, too.
Jeff: Oh, we didn't?
Jeff: Well that'll be a bonus. We'll throw it at the end of this from last time. No, I guess we're just trying to survive through this unbearable month of January. It's my ... I hate this month with a passion. I just hate it. So cold and it's-
Jan: It's going really fast, though.
Jeff: It is.
Jan: Can't believe it's the 24th already.
Jeff: Thank God. Thank God. I feel like there's stuff to talk about outside of our SEO stuff, but I guess not.
Jan: Nothing major. I mean no huge milestones have happened.
Jan: We've launched a few websites.
Jeff: We've launched a few websites, yeah. That's kept us busy recently.
Jan: Maybe that's where it's been.
Jeff: We're getting close to the launch on some other-
Jeff: Well, we'll share more on those later. I think we're still making sure those are good to go with those clients. But anyways, so yeah, SEO and analytics. So I guess I'll just cut to the chase then if there's nothing else [crosstalk 00:03:14].
Jan: Dive right into it. This something we could probably drone on for a while about.
Jeff: So analytics, I think most people know what they are, but then I'm always surprised when we meet especially with a website client. Now we're using Hub spot more. We definitely, that's a huge part of that is the data behind it. What we learn about behaviors and what people are doing when they access content and websites, but I guess we might as well just make sure everyone knows what we're talking about. So in your words what are analytics?
Jan: Yeah, 'cause there's a lot more to it than people realize. A lot of people think of analytics, they think of just statistics. But there's a lot more to it. What analytics does as a whole is it takes every web server collects just statistical information about all the visits to the website and analytics goes a step beyond that and it takes that raw data and creates reports and it's analytics is the tool that does calculations on that data and gives you a way to communicate that information in a way that's meaningful for your business, for your users. And then you can use that information and the data that it communicates to make business decisions based on the raw data from the web server. Because you look at that raw data and it's just overwhelming. It's just numbers.
Jeff: Numbers and yeah. Boxes and numbers-
Jeff: And that's typically Google Analytics is a lot of other analytics tools, correct?
Jan: And Google Analytics is probably the-
Jeff: Probably the most well-known I think.
Jan: Probably, I mean, I think when we do talk to people that have any kind of idea about analytics they'll say Google Analytics. I think they've kind of ... I mean it's kind of the standard.
Jeff: They've become the standard, yeah.
Jeff: Probably 'cause it's, well it's a freebie. Whereas there are some other analytics tools that you have to pay for, depending on what they provide, at least in the past. So that's probably why they kind of have the corner on it. I think, too, because they work so well, you think about Google-
Jan: It's consistent.
Jeff: It's consistent, they have all the data across the Internet about-
Jan: And the best part about them in particular, it's already integrated with so many other systems that it just works really well as a platform. But that's a really important distinction to make with analytics though is that it's more than just raw numbers. There's a lot of processing that goes into that to make it useful information.
Jeff: So as a company, what should people, what should they be looking for when it comes to their analytics? What are some of the rules of thumb in looking at analytics?
Jan: I guess some of the things we talked about with Google Analytics already, the number one is going to be reliability. There's a lot of vendors out there that offer analytics. You want a vendor that's going to be consistent and reliable and always on gathering consistent data. I think one of the major things you want to look for is a company. Second is going to be how easy is it to implement? 'Cause if ... You could pay for the greatest service in the world to use this software for analytics but if you can't figure out how to actually put it into your site it's useless. And so you want it to be something that's relatively easy to implement and that's difficult to balance because this is all very technical stuff, incorporating this into an app, but Google Analytics has done a great job of providing clear documentation and it's a pretty straight-forward process to incorporate this.
Jeff: Would you say, yes, that if you have a website or have had a website that it should be something that your developer, whoever, should have that stuff added?
Jan: It should be automatic. I think with any website that goes live, that should be just a natural part of the launch process.
Jeff: Right, so you can see what stuff is going on.
Jan: Yep, it's not going to do you any good if you can't see how your website is performing. And that's what analytics does for you. And I think the last really major thing a company needs to look for in analytics is the ability to customize it. You want to be able to build your own reports, you want to be able to filter data the way you want to filter the data, and you also want to be able to track additional information above and beyond the default. So that customization ability is really important. Being able to extend it.
Jeff: So how does SEO relate? I mean I guess ... I think a lot of people hear about SEO and maybe don't equate that to analytics. But is there a bridge there? Is there a-
Jan: Yeah, there's definitely a connection. SEO is kind of it's own separate animal. And it's a huge topic. SEO is Search Engine Optimization for those who don't know. Although I don't know how you could not know at this point in the life of the Internet and all the technology we use. But analytics is really closely related because analytics can give you an insight into how people are using your site or your application. And you don't necessarily know how to optimize your content for a search engine unless you have some insight into how it's performing. So analytics gives you a tool that you can use to see what route people are taking through your site. What pages they're viewing, how long they're staying on your page. And if you find an area of your website that isn't performing as well, then you can use that information to go in and optimize it and do the SEO on it.
Jeff: Well, a lot of times too, what's wrong with analytics even are like organic keywords. So meaning like the words people use to find your things on the organic or free search results. So a lot of times we'll get people that say, "How do I become number one on Google without paying any money for any sponsored ads?" And that's what we usually refer to is those free listings, if you will.
Jan: Yep, and people think of search engine optimization as their ranking on a search engine. And that it ends there. But analytics is another window into how your content is performing. And can give you insights into the keywords you need to optimize for and improvements you need to make. And when you start talking about integrations, that's one of the really nice benefits of Google as an engine is you can also integrate your analytics with this webmaster tools and search console and everything and it can give you a lot of information, almost an overwhelming amount of information to drive search engine optimizations.
Jeff: What's the different between search console and webmaster tools? And how are they related to-
Jan: Analytics is what tracks the data, keeps the statistics. Search console can actually, if you've integrated it with your analytics, search console can actually send you periodic recommendations. I got one the other day about some content that we had added to our website and it said, "Hey, there's something wrong with this content. To get it to perform-"
Jeff: On our website?
Jeff: Well, it was specifically about the accelerated mobile page. We viewed it and it said you can improve it by adding this field to your page. And so I hopped into the page, made the change, and submitted it and Google checked it again and verified, "Ta-da. You fixed your problem." That was Search Console. Webmaster Tools gets into where you can integrate both of those together and it'll start running, having more control over your website as a whole. And then on top of all of that, there's Google Tag Manager, which gives you kind of a central place to coordinate all of that. So it can get really deep into all the different integrations inside Google.
Jeff: And Google Tag Manager you can use for a variety of things, correct?
Jeff: Like ...
Jan: We're using it for tracking clicks and for tracking different events, different interactions. You can start to customize all of that information. You can start tracking analytics across multiple domains together and it gives you one central place that you can manage all of those tags you put on your site, including paid ads and ad integration.
Jeff: It makes it also easier to add ... Well, 'cause once you do it then you can use that same basically tracking pixel, correct?
Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeff: For like ads and things like that.
Jan: Tracking code.
Jeff: Tracking code.
Jan: And like on our website we have multiple things integrated to it, but if I need to make a change I have one bit of code in the pages of our site. I can go into tag manager and make all of my changes without having to change code at all. It just, Google takes care of it through the tag manager.
Jeff: So if you're a small, medium-sized business and you're ranked high in Google, what tips do you have to help them become more visible online in regards to analytics or SEO?
Jeff: That's a really tough question. 'Cause we'll have people calling all the time, "I want to be listed number one in Google Search results." Or whatever insert search engine.
Jan: We're like, "Yeah, take a number."
Jeff: Everybody wants to be number one.
Jan: Right. Everybody wants to be number one.
Jan: I think the number one piece of advice, and we say this to people all the time, is be patient. It's a marathon, it's not a sprint. You're not going to start doing SEO and see immediate results. It's going to be an organic process over time. If you want to do it right, it's an organic process that goes over time. So be patient. You'll get results.
Jeff: Unless you're willing to pay for ads.
Jan: Unless you want to pay. But even then if you pay for ads, it's obvious it's a paid listing, that's not an organic ranking inside Google.
Jeff: Right. And it's also not guaranteed that you'll be placed in a certain order just because you bought an ad.
Jeff: 'Cause there's also others who might be bidding for the same search criteria you're paying for to return your ad, someone else might be willing to pay more for that space.
Jan: And depending on the phrases your trying to match for, the competition can be brutal.
Jeff: So that's we have some agents that do nothing but this kind of stuff, from a paid standpoint.
Jan: Yeah, they're dedicated to that entirely.
Jeff: Obviously we do a lot of those things, too, across the board. But there are some agencies that do nothing but that.
Jan: For good reason.
Jeff: For a good reason.
Jan: It takes constant monitoring and being able to adapt as circumstances change.
Jeff: So that's where probably content comes into play, too, where as far as analytics and rankings 'cause obviously if you put out enough content that can be found, it's just going to drive more traffic, which obviously more traffic means your numbers, your analytics go up or you might be doing certain actions through that content that you might want people to do based on behaviors. So that sounds almost like a third a prong if you will.
Jan: It is. And that's one of the recommendations I had in answer to that question was to just follow best practices, organize your content well, optimize that content around the keywords and searches you want to be ranked for, and then keep track of it as it trends up, and make adjustments as you go along. That's some of the best advice I would give you if you're starting off optimizing your content is do it the right way.
Jeff: We wrote a blog article a while ago about Future Proof SEO was the name of it blog post. And that was what I was talking about when you mentioned future proof SEO is you're not trying to trick search engines into getting the rankings you need. That used to be a really common thing, spamdexing. Back in the early days of the web and the Internet, when we were working on this and you had people who were experts in tricking search engines into ranking you higher.
Jan: But the problem with that is search engines get smarter and smarter as time goes on and they adapt to those techniques and it can actually reach the point where when you use some of those techniques to spam a search index, it'll actually have a negative hit on your ranking. Whereas future proof SEO is using good content, targeting keywords, and putting information on there that your users want. And so as web crawlers change, and they do change, they're always changing.
Jeff: Adapting, learning.
Jeff: As those adapt, your content is still going to be good. And it's still going to be consistent and you're still going to be building domain authority and improving your ranking on the search engine.
Jeff: So explain domain authority since you used that term.
Jan: Domain authority-
Jeff: I mean we've talked about it before in some blogs-
Jan: Blog posts about as well, I think these all link together. Domain authority, the short version, is getting links back to your content from outside sources. And it's essentially just validating-
Jeff: Trusting that content.
Jan: Building trust and third parties validating your expertise in your area. You want to be the thought leader in whatever you're writing about. And that'll build your domain authority.
Jeff: So say you write a good article about SEO and analytics and it gets picked up and now everyone's linking to your article as a good example, that's obviously going to basically proving and validating the trust in that content.
Jan: Yep, you'll be gathering those inbound links.
Jeff: You create domain authority.
Jeff: So, when it comes to analytics and your website, what are some base things you should be looking for and then what are some base things ... And when I say that, like obviously you've heard about hits and things like that. What are some of the basics and then what are some maybe other things that you can track that maybe people don't realize they can track?
Jan: The base things are going to be the number of visitors you have. You want to keep track of whether they're new visitors, returning visitors, unique visitors. The sessions, which is a separate statistic. A session in a search engine, if you think of Google a session is a single visitor's interactions with your website up until there's 30 minutes of inactivity. And then that session ends. And so it's going to track a user as they go through that whole thing. And now of course that's going to vary 'cause it depends on the cookies in your browser and whether you're on the same browser on the same computer. All those different things contribute. So sessions can be a little tricky. You're also going to want to look at the route through your website. What pages they're landing on and where they go from there or if they go anywhere, which leads to the bounce rate. So it's when a user hits a webpage on your website and then does nothing else. That's a bounce. They haven't really connected.
Jeff: They didn't find what they're looking for, they just kind of moved on really quickly.
Jan: Clicked something else. Beyond those base statistics, there's also a lot of demographic information. You can find your geographic location, the language you're browsing in, the browser you're using, the computer you're using, and on and on and on. And you can start to segment that.
Jan: If you start to integrate it with other systems, you can actually start gathering more demographic data like their age range and other information like that. And almost to the point where it gets creepy. But you can go into analytics, and some people don't know this, and you can build segments to actually compare different groups of users so you can find a segment of users that your business is interested in, your target market, and start to compare statistics for those.
Jan: Really important feature that not everybody may know about is that you can actually watch how users go through your website. Their path through your content. And if there's a single page on your site where you see a lot of people dropping off, maybe there's something wrong with that page or you need to add some links to that page to encourage them to go somewhere else or a call to action.
Jan: So in that case, let's just say you followed a blog post and it led to some kind of call to action and it took you to a landing page, but maybe then they didn't convert on that landing page. You can say, "Okay, we at least know they got this far and the last 20 people that were there did the same exact thing. Why aren't they using it?"
Jeff: Why aren't they using our form?
Jeff: So maybe there's a way you can probably, you can test some other maybe content on the page, images, maybe the way it's written.
Jan: Or it could mean that there's something wrong with your form and it's not working. And people are just ... they drop off.
Jeff: They're trying to convert and they can't.
Jan: They want to, but they can't. And so do you have to do some research and look into that.
Jeff: So with analytics can you, I'm assuming you can track conversions. So like a form, or another like a login or some kind of button to either learn about who's going there or maybe segment them out.
Jan: Yep, you can go into analytics settings and actually track, you can add events to your webpage that will track different things. One example we have of that is on our own website I have events in our podcast page that will tell us how many users listen to our podcasts up to 25%, 50%, 75%, or who completely listened to our podcast.
Jeff: Thousands of people.
Jan: Just to see who's actually engaging with the content we're providing and then see what number of users are actually reaching that point in the audio file. Now that's specific to people who are watching it directly through our website. I can't track it if it's provided by iTunes, necessarily. But it gives us a little bit of insight and we can start to see trends as to whether people are using that. But that takes some additional coding and some additional configuration. We've used in other places to track specific clicks, if there's a link in your nav bar that you want to see how many of your visitors are clicking that link, you can do that inside analytics.
Jeff: So, real quick example we have a client that uses software as a service, as a product they sell, and so for those current customers that are using the service, they come to the website to login to their specific place to use their software. And so that was one thing we filtered out so we could kind of take overall traffic but of that traffic, which are people there that are not necessarily there to use the product but maybe see other things.
Jan: Yep, I've used that to track that click link and it sets them as a user as an existing customer, essentially. And you're going to catch some people that are just clicking that login link just out of curiosity, but what you're going to look for in analytics is trends. The numbers are going to vary between different analytics providers, but you're looking for general trends in how your website's performing.
Jeff: And typically when we say trends, I mean that can be a lot of things. If I can think of a real easy one that's pretty common is just work week versus weekends. That's probably a good one as an example.
Jan: Yeah, you can narrow it down to what time of day and on which day during the week your website is the most active. We found that one particular client was it always seemed that Fridays at noon, that hour, was the highest activity on their site. So that can give you some insight on to when you should send out social media blasts.
Jeff: People are paying attention.
Jan: Yeah, either people are paying attention or do it at another time when people aren't paying attention to increase traffic at that time and kind of offset that. And that kind of leads into the last thing that not necessarily everybody realizes about analytics is you can start using it for business intelligence. And using the information from that performance to make business decisions based on that data.
Jan: Yeah, business intelligence.
Jeff: Not BO.
Jan: And also you can set goals and conversions and you can actually give yourself some insight on revenue. If you have a particular action on your site that is of certain value to your company, you can configure that inside analytics and it will start ... You can set revenue goals and it will tell you whether you're meeting your goals or not.
Jeff: Probably the same with e-commerce, there's probably things there, too, where that would come in [crosstalk 00:21:56].
Jeff: Even more applicable to e-commerce.
Jan: Track how many people ... Really good example of it is track how many people have added a product to your cart and you can keep track of whether they actually completed the order or not.
Jeff: So a conversion.
Jan: And track that conversion.
Jeff: And then over time, you said trends, what are the trends with that specific product.
Jan: Or if there's friction in your shopping experience-
Jeff: Or if there's friction, yep.
Jan: That's preventing them from converting.
Jeff: Right. Makes sense.
Jan: Figure out where it is.
Jan: Maybe your checkout page is confusing and abandoning it.
Jeff: So from our standpoint what are some things that we ... I know we do a lot of things currently with clients and a variety of things, but is there anything that you think we could be helping more of our clients with in this area? Or how could we better collaborate? Or even have clients ask the right question of us. What kinds of things could we do as an agency do you think to help them be successful?
Jan: I think it's really important just to educate them on what they can do with this. 'Cause some of them they know the term analytics and they may have Google Analytics installed on their site, but they don't know what to do with it. They don't know how to go in to look at the information or they don't have someone that can gather that information for them and so just remind them of what the power of this actually is. And how much they can play with it.
Jeff: Even educate them on, which we do, I'm kind of being ... playing devil's advocate here, but just to see what. But I mean it's true. We always give at least the base knowledge. I know with our, we do monthly maintenance for some clients and part of that is a base analytics where we do a small narrative where we try to take the numbers but kind of write it out in a way like a paragraph that kind of explains the basics-
Jan: Just a little summary.
Jeff: A summary, I feel that's a better term for it. I think it's really helpful because it can be overwhelming.
Jan: It is.
Jeff: But then there are some clients that really want to dig deep and we can do that. And there's a couple different layers, if you will, that you can create based on your needs and what you're trying to get out of your online presence. But that's one of things, just is the fact you can measure, whether that's your website, whether that's actual paid ads, whether that's a form or a specific conversion, a landing page. There's so much you can basically measure. So I think actually allocate that to dollars or what people always term ROI, your return on your investment, that's why digital and just being online is such a powerful tool. Because it's so much easier really see like okay I spent x amount of dollars whether that's on my website or creating these landing pages or maybe on a specific paid ad spend, whatever, and then seeing what you got for that. It's pretty amazing.
Jan: Well, we mentioned earlier in search engine optimization that number one tip is to be patient. With really good use of analytics you don't have to necessarily be as patient because you can start to see those trends. When you put out a new piece of content you can see a sudden increase in your traffic.
Jeff: Or not. And find out whether your content is effective and tailor it. And so it kind of helps with that process and that you can actually get involved and see an impact on your analytics.
Jan: I think that's a good thing to think about or keep in mind is just being patient 'cause it does take time sometimes to not only put that stuff out, but allow the analytics to create those trends. You can't just make a good decision on a week's worth of hits or non-hits. You almost got to see a few months maybe of actual data to say is there an actual trend here or is this a mirage? So that's cool.
Jeff: Well, great. Thanks for being on.
Jan: Oh, happy to. In case you couldn't tell, I enjoy statistics. So this is fun stuff for me.
Jeff: That's good.
Jan: I really do like playing with it.
Jeff: That's good. Normally we usually have an Ask [inaudible 00:25:45] Question. This week we don't, but that's okay. I think we had some good stuff here that I think answers some base questions about analytics and SEO, so that's good.
Jan: Or prompted some more questions.
Jeff: Or promoted some more questions, which we'll be glad to answer if and when we have those. Great. I'm glad you were on. I think we'll have you on more often when we have some other specific topics. But this is one that's been kind of timely because we had a few other just client interactions where analytics had become very, very important, not only just on the base level, but just what's that next level deep. And it's kind of blown some minds I think, and we've shown what you can do with it.
Jan: And this is and today we just talked about one of the tools. There's a lot of 'em out there.
Jeff: Right. Well, cool. We'll have to talk more about that later then. But we'll make a Part Two at some point. How about that?
Jeff: Sweet. All right, well until next time, thanks for listening.
Jan: Thank you.
Jeff: Remember to comment if you have anything and ask any questions. Always, we'll see you later.