If you’ve been following along with our posts about improving your SEO, you may be interested in tracking the difference in your site’s traffic as you continue to optimize it. Of course there are plenty of signs that your efforts are making a difference – more signups on your mailing list, more calls and emails from people who have seen your site, more business in general – but sometimes you want more specific data.
Graphs, people. I’m talking about graphs. Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a good pie chart.
If seeing all sorts of statistics about your site’s traffic presented in graphs and percentages appeals to you (and if you’re actively working to improve your SEO, it should!) then what you need is Google Analytics. Another useful free service brought to you by our
overlords good friends at Google, Google Analytics is easy to sign up for with your existing Google account. Once you’ve signed up you’ll be given a Web Property ID, or UID, as well as a snippet of code that you can use to implement the tracking on your website.
If you have a WordPress site you can set this up easily by installing a plugin, such as Google Analyticator, and entering your UID. If your site uses a different platform you will likely be able to easily find specific instructions online for setting up Google Analytics on that platform. Once you’ve set up the tracking code on your site it can take 24 hours, sometimes a little longer, for Google to begin collecting statistics on your traffic.
Once it begins tracking you will have access to a fairly staggering amount of information. You will not only be able to see how many people visited your site and when, but facts such as which browser they used, their general location, the average amount of time they spent on your site, and who provides their internet service – just to name a few.
Perhaps one of the most useful things you can learn, however, is which search terms are bringing users to your site. This information can be extremely beneficial in helping you decide how to best optimize your site’s content. If, for example, you own a bakery and you are hoping to rank well for searches on the term “wedding cakes” but you do not see “wedding cakes” on the list, that’s a clear sign that you need to work on optimizing your content for that keyword. Likewise if you see that users are finding your site through a search term that isn’t actually relevant to your business you may need to decrease your usage of that term on your site. Seeing which terms Google associates with your site and which terms real users are typing in to eventually arrive at your site is an incredible tool for monitoring the effectiveness of your work.
If you’re just getting started learning about SEO don’t be overwhelmed by the flood of information Google Analytics provides – like many robust tools it is designed for users of many different levels and with many different purposes. Some of the statistics provided may never prove useful to you, but others may be invaluable. Start off by simply familiarizing yourself with what is available and from there you can decide which graphs and data will be useful for your goals. If all you ever do with Google Analytics is gauge how well your site is doing by tracking the rise of traffic then you are still gaining a valuable service for no cost.
Even if you are not currently working towards any SEO goals, if you have a website I would highly encourage you to set up Google Analytics. Even if you aren’t planning on using it right away, it will continue to track statistics for you whether you actually view those reports or not. Then in the future should you want to spend more time evaluating your site’s progress that history of data will be there for you to refer to. Likewise should you ever hire someone to monitor your SEO this information will be an excellent resource to give them.
The take-home message? Google Analytics is an extremely useful and free tool. Even if you’re not ready to use it now, if you take the time to set it up now you will very likely be glad you did at some point in the future. You’ve got nothing to lose but your pie chart deficit.