Marketing / SEO

Understanding your website's analytics: what the data really means for SEO

Adam Steele

Sep 03, 2020 · 11 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

Understanding your website's analytics: what the data really means for SEO

If you want to be competitive in today’s business world, you need to invest in SEO.

Search engines have grown by a staggering amount over the past decade. An estimated 69% of Americans have shopped online, with that number expected to hit 91% by 2023.

If you want to generate more business, you should be looking at your website and how it can rank higher on Google searches.

If you’re going to invest in SEO, you need to know what analytics to use to make sure it’s effective. They will help you see what’s working, what isn’t, and get insights on how you can improve.

So where do you even start if you want to get a better grasp of your site analytics? Here’s a quick guide to understanding your website’s analytics and what they tell you about your SEO progress.

What are website analytics?

Website analytics refers to collecting and analyzing data regarding your website’s performance. They include how many visitors your website receives, as well as what their behavior is like while they’re browsing your site.

Data points can include:

  • Number of website sessions
  • Engagement metrics
  • Conversions
  • Popular landing pages

The more you learn about them, the more you can start creating and automating reports with in-depth insights. You can also work in data visualization to make the raw data easier to understand.

So, why is it important to understand your website’s analytics data?

Because, by understanding these analytics, you will be able to gain valuable insights into your website and your customers.

Consider this:

Did you know that around 20% of all businesses fail within their first year?

One reason why is because people don’t know how to grow their business so it can sustain itself. In order to succeed and see real growth, you need to use and understand analytics.

Not convinced? Here are all the reasons why you will benefit from tracking and analyzing website data:

  • To understand what’s going on with your website
  • To know why things are happening
  • To find gaps and opportunities (like new pages to create or keywords to target)
  • To help make data-backed decisions
  • To estimate expected outcomes of actions

Google Analytics is your go-to for website metrics. It’s a free website analytics tool and offers you tons of data and metrics to help you figure out all of the above points.

You can learn what content your customers engage with the most, so you generate more content like it. You can also test different website design ideas so they can navigate your website easier.

10 website analytics to measure for SEO

Let’s look at the 10 best website metrics to measure to get the best indication about the success (or failure) of your SEO campaign.

You can use them to focus more on what succeeds, or improve on what hasn’t worked. (All of these metrics you can find in Google Analytics).

1. Number of sessions (visits)

The most basic metric you will see throughout Google Analytics is “Sessions”.

This refers to the number of times a person visits your website. When one person visits your website, clicks on a few pages, watches a video, and/or submits a form, those all count as one session.

Sessions give you the best idea if your SEO is working. You should see the number of your sessions increase over time. Here are other ways to use sessions:

  • Compare your total sessions from organic traffic (Google) over time to see growth
  • Use it with link building to see what domains are driving the most traffic
  • Use it to see what geographic locations or demographic groups visit your website

Most of the reporting you can run from your Google Analytics account will include Sessions as one of the core metrics.

2. Percentage of New Sessions

Percentage of new sessions refers to the portion of all sessions your website has earned from brand new users.

If someone visits your website on Monday and again on Tuesday, those are two total sessions — but they would count as one “new” session.

However, if someone visits your website on their phone, then visits again on their laptop later that day, Google will not know it’s a different person. They will count as two “new” sessions.

If you want to see growth for your business, you should be constantly attracting new users. You will have some repeat visitors, but your Percentage of New Sessions should stay about the same.

If it declines over time, it means you aren’t earning any new visitors and your customer base will stagnate.

3. Channels

In Google Analytics, “Channels” refers to the different categories of website traffic.

You can create your own custom channels, but the basic groups include:

  • Organic search = traffic from search engines
  • Direct = traffic from people directly going to your website without any link
  • Referral = traffic from a link from another website
  • Paid search = traffic from ads you have on search engines
  • Display = traffic from banner ads you have on another website
  • Social = traffic from social media
  • (other) = a default category that catches traffic not included in the above channels

Channels can be a big help to you with your SEO. Say you’re seeing a lot of growth to your sessions, that can be a good thing!

But if you’re seeing that the growth is coming from Paid Search and your Organic search is trending down, you know your SEO isn’t working after all.

4. Bounce Rate

When a user comes to your website through any channel, some will click on other pages but some will leave from the same page they started on.

For the latter group of users, that counts as a “bounce” because they left your website without doing anything. The more people that do this, the higher your “bounce rate” will be.

You generally don’t want to have a very high bounce rate, because it can often mean they don’t like your website’s design or content. You want people to interact with your site and visit multiple pages.

If your SEO campaign is resulting in a high bounce rate on your website, or on specific pages, you’ll know you have work to do.

5. Conversion Goals

Conversion Goals refers to a section within Google Analytics’ reporting that shows you how many users actually fulfilled one of your business goals.

You can set up or customize your own goals to whatever is most important for your business — submitting a form to book an appointment, purchasing a product, and so on.

When you finish configuring these goals, you can both check the Conversions report tab to see the number, rate, and monetary value (if applicable) gained from the website’s conversions.

You can also see conversion data in other reports to see what channels or landing pages drive the most value.

6. Engagement

You may have other goals that, to you, signal more interested users when they are on your website.

For example, you may have an interactive tool on your website that you want people to engage with, or a certain video you want them to watch. You can set up Events or other goals that track when a user engages with your website in those ways.

This helps you find out what SEO strategies generate the most interested and engaged users.

Or you can tell what content gets little to no engagement, or if people don’t like the tool you created. You can also use simple engagement metrics like pages per session and time on page.

7. Site Content

Content is a big part of your website, and one of the pillars for any SEO campaign.

So it’s important to use the Site Content section of Google Analytics so you can see what content is performing well and what needs improvement.

These reports will show you each page along with:

  • Total pageviews + unique pageviews
  • Average time spent on that page
  • Entrances, or how many times people entered your website on that page
  • Bounce rate, or how often people left that page after landing on it

You can also look at the landing page report to see data specifically for users who arrive on your website on certain pages. This is very useful when you are using specific pages for link building, or for important content that people come to through search engines.

8. Devices/Mobile

Mobile traffic is becoming the most valuable type you will have, more than desktop and certainly more than tablets.

Considering that more than 50% of all online traffic is on a mobile device, it makes sense. And since Google uses “mobile first” indexing to treat mobile website design as more important when ranking websites, you shouldn’t ignore it.

Go to the Audience Tab and click on Mobile. You can look at breakdowns for specific devices, but you can also use the general overview report.

It will show you the number of users, sessions, and behavior and conversions data broken out by desktop, mobile and tablet users.

If you’re seeing poorly performing metrics from your mobile users, you’ll need to work on improving the mobile experience of your website.

9. Landing Pages

A landing page refers to the specific page that a user arrives on when they first enter your website.

So if someone clicks on your homepage from a Google search, the homepage is the landing page for that session even if they wind up viewing others.

You can use the Search Console > Landing Pages report to get the best insights.

It will show you how each page of your website performs as landing pages when they appear in organic searches. This helps you filter out data that comes from paid ads or other sources that aren’t relevant to SEO.

If you see an important page isn’t getting enough impressions, clicks, or has a low average position, you’ll know you need to work on improving it.

10. Exit pages

Exit pages are the opposite of landing pages. When someone exits your website, the page they were on at the time is the exit page. Knowing what pages people exit more often can be very illustrative of your SEO efforts.

You can use Google Analytics’ basic report, or you can also use custom reports or funnel visualizations to see what page causes people to exit your site the most.

If you see people exiting your conversion pages a lot without actually converting, that’s an issue you can work on fixing.

Summary

These 10 website analytics metrics are a good starting point for anyone just beginning with SEO. They will give you all of the basic information you need to track your SEO campaign performance.

You will learn valuable insights into your users’ behavior and be able to spot when certain pages are performing poorly and need to be fixed.

When you understand all these metrics and how to analyze them, you will be able to answer the three most important questions for SEO:

How much organic traffic is your website getting? What keywords and pages are driving the most traffic? Where should you concentrate your SEO efforts?

If you see what pages are getting a lot of traffic, maybe there’s a new page you can create on a similar topic to get even more engaged traffic. Or if you see a lot of organic users exiting on specific content pages, you can work on improving them.

The important thing is to learn how to use these website metrics to improve and grow your business online.


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