Data is your friend and I don’t mean the guy from Star Trek
Ask any SEO and they will probably tell you that data from your log files are very important to the success of your online venture but did you know that there are many people that are afraid of data?
Fear of Data or FoD is an affliction that can strike anyone, regardless of how intelligent they are and the symptoms include; a look of confusion, a marked state of panic or an uncontrollable shaking of the head while uttering the words “what they heck do all these numbers even mean”. These symptoms are universal and can begin anytime you need to look under the hood of a website and figure out where the traffic is coming from and what these guests are doing during their visits.
In order to understand website analytics we need to first know what to look for and how it can help us. The following are the top ten most important analytics and what they mean to your success as a website owner or SEO.
1. Keyword Search Referrals is probably the biggest. Mining this for the long-tail and other nuggets of insight is invaluable. I have had websites where 80% of my traffic strategy was gleaned from studying this data. Remember, data does not lie. Even if you see something unexpected in these logs make sure to follow up.
2. Top Referrals is another high value SEO/SEM guiding analytic. This tells you what search engines are referring you the most visitors and it even breaks it down further so you can see what number is coming from say, Google Images and Google Search.
3. Top Viewed URL’s is a virtual goldmine of information because it allows you to see what content on your site is the most popular and it can help identify important SEO opportunities. I have seen client websites that garner a majority of traffic directly to categories on their blogs, even more so than to the main page and because of the relevance they convert extremely well.
4. Visit Duration is a tidbit of information that has a ton of value as it relays to you how happy your visitors are with the site. If you notice a high instance of low duration, like 95% staying for 30 seconds or less then you have what is called a bounce rate problem and you need to work on the look, feel and/or content of your site. Sometimes a quick stay is all that is needed for a visitor to view a picture they searched for and click on a money earning advertisement but typically speaking the longer your visitors linger on your site, the better!
5. Total Visits is a useful statistic for judging the overall general popularity of you website and will give you information on the number of visitors that visit your website. Generally, we like to look more closely at actual unique visitors because those are the ‘bread and butter’ of any growing site.
6. Visits per Host can help tell you a little more about the demographics of your traffic. You might notice a high instance of visitors from certain hosting addresses and this can mean many things. Once time I had a slew of visitors one month from a certain ip address of the local telephone company and it turned out that one of my posts went viral via inter-office email and that was the reason.
7. File Type give you information on how much bandwidth is being used by each file type that is loading up and can again help you target potential problems with high bandwidth cost and even poor user experience if you notice certain memory intensive graphics slowing down the website.
8. Visitors/Country is a good way to track where on the planet your visitors are coming from, this can be useful when planning content because if you see a high majority of your visitors are from a certain geographical area then you can leverage that knowledge and write more topical content to spread your websites appeal even further.
9. Total Data Transferred can be helpful when you have hosting problems and need a quick idea of how traffic heavy your content is. The most common issue being high bandwidth usage. Perhaps a majority of your visitors are watching bandwidth heavy movies or flash files.
10. Total Pages Viewed is handy in determining if your site has some stickiness (meaning visitors stick around and look at more than one page of your site), the more pages each visitor looks at the better it is for you because they obviously found your site compelling enough to spend some time reading the content.
So if you have FoD, like so many webmasters do – you should just remember how much value the data contains because once you realize how valuable it is and experience how much it can help you and your clients you will be like me and move on to a new addiction….LoD (Love of Data).