Most people find it difficult to go from reporting the basic stuff in Google Analytics, like pageviews and sessions, to analyzing data. Drawing valuable and actionable conclusions based on data is even more challenging. Everyone searches for ways to do this, and learns while doing so. Here, I want to discuss a metric in Google Analytics that can help you with putting data into actions. It’s called: Page Value.

What is Page Value

Page Value is a metric you’ll find in the All Pages report in the Behavior section. This metric tells you if the page has contributed to a conversion or not. Google’s definition is:

Page Value is the average value for a page that a user visited before landing on the goal page or completing an Ecommerce transaction (or both).

You can only see a true value in the Page Value column if you have implemented enhanced eCommerce tracking and/or if you’ve set up goals and assigned goal value to them.

If you have none of the former, the Page Value of your pages will be $0.00. As you can see in the screenshot below:

zero page value in Google Analytics

Goals and goal value

The Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik is pretty clear when it comes to goals.

If you don’t have goals, you are not doing digital analytics. You are doing I am wasting earth’s precious oxygenalytics. 

And he has a similar opinion when it comes down to assigning a value to your goals.

Without goals and goal values you are not doing web analytics, you are doing web I am wasting your life and minelytics.

I tend to listen to Avinash Kaushik and I’d recommend you do the same ;-). If you have a clear goal for your website, which means that you know what you want your visitors to do on your site, then translate that into goals. And assign a value to your goals. This means that every website should have goals, for I hope that every website has a goal to exist.

Start with reading this awesome post about goal values on Kaushik’s website. It’s about how to add economic value to goal conversions that don’t directly lead to revenue for your website. Because these conversions probably lead to indirect revenue for your business. Once you’ve set up goals with a Goal Value, the Page Value metric in Google Analytics gets more and more interesting.

Page Value for eCommerce sites

If you’ve implemented eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics, Page Value will be added automatically. Please don’t add Goal Value to the eCommerce goals you’re creating. The eCommerce tracking will take care of that for you.

How Page Value is calculated

Like a lot of things, Page Value is best explained with an example. In this case, I’m going to use the example Google gives:

Example by Google: How Page Value is calculated

In this example we’re going to calculate the Page Value of Page B. The formula is:

(eCommerce Revenue + Total Goal Value) / Number of Unique Pageviews for Page B

We see two sessions in which page B was viewed. Each session had a unique pageview so the number of unique pageviews for Page B is 2. We also see that the Goal of Page D is completed two times and Goal page D has a goal value of $10. Which adds up to $20. Then in Session one, an eCommerce transaction of $100 has taken place. This will result in the following formula:

($100 + $20)/2

This means that the page value of Page B is $60.

What does the Page Value of a page tell you

Your pages should have a purpose. Some pages sell stuff / convert and some merely inform readers about a certain topic. Others assist in making a conversion. If pages that are meant to sell or convert have a low page value, something is going wrong. And if you see that pages you’re not actively using in your strategy have a high Page Value, you might want to consider adding that page to your strategy.

It also works the other way around. If you notice that some pages have a lower than expected Page Value, then these pages are driving people away from a conversion. The same goes for pages with high traffic but low Page Value, and pages with low traffic but high Page Value. As you might’ve guessed, looking at page value is insightful and useful to optimize your conversions!

Blog and Page Value

It all depends on the goals and goal values you have. Let’s say you have a blog and one of the goals of your blog is to get newsletter subscriptions. So you want to set up that goal and add a certain goal value. By doing so, you can identify which blog posts lead to more newsletter subscribers than others. This gives you information about what kind of interests your audience has. You might even conclude that putting posts of interest in your newsletter will lead to more engaged newsletter subscribers.

Also, if you want to start a campaign or promote something on Facebook, for instance, you can choose to share a post with a high Page Value. This makes sense, because you know that it will lead to more conversions / newsletter subscribers (or whatever the goal is) than a post with a lower Page Value. Think about the information the Page Value metric can give you for your marketing as well as your website optimization strategy!

Online shop and Page Value

You can use this principle if you have an online shop as well. If you’ve enabled and correctly implemented enhanced eCommerce tracking, you can see those transactions in the page value of your pages. Of course, you want high page values for your product pages. And you want to find out which other pages lead to conversions. Use this information to identify which pages can be used best in your marketing campaigns. And check where these pages are on your website, can people access them easily?

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an actionable metric in Google Analytics to optimize your website and your marketing campaigns the Page Value metric is the way to go! It gives you information about what works and what doesn’t work for your business. Of course, Page Value doesn’t come by itself, you need Goals with Goal Values and/or eCommerce tracking if you have an online shop. But it’s worth to set this up. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Perfecting your goals in Google Analytics’ »

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Hooking up your site to services like Google Analytics provides you with a wealth of knowledge and data about visitors on your site. But it can be hard to know how to interpret all this data. And of course, you should also think about what your goals are. What’s most important for you may differ, based on the purpose of your site.

For example, you can have a site with a low bounce rate, but also with a low amount of traffic. Is that a good or a bad thing? The truth is, it probably depends on several things. Like what? Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

John Brown emailed us his question on interpreting analytics data:

From an SEO point of view which is better to have: a lower bounce rate and lower traffic to the site or a higher bounce rate and higher traffic to the site?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Which is better: low or high bounce rate and traffic?

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“That’s a tough question to answer in a generic form, but usually, I would say that if you’re relevant to all the traffic, then having more traffic is probably better because then you can optimize for people not to bounce away.

But if you’re not relevant for a lot of that traffic, then having less traffic is probably better because that means you get more targeted traffic, which actually wants to see you and that usually means that you’ll stick around longer in the long run. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics’ »

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Don’t you ever just wonder which pages people look at after they land on your site? How do people click through your website? How do they navigate? Questions like these can be answered with the use of Google Analytics. In this post, I want to show you a very cool feature called: Users Flow.

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What is a Users Flow?

Google Analytics is known for sharing loads and loads of data. In reports and in graphs. But there are some places in Google Analytics where you can find a visualization of data! Exciting! Users Flow is one of them. Let’s check Google’s definition of a Users Flow:

The Users Flow report is a graphical representation of the paths users took through your site, from the source, through the various pages, and where along their paths they exited your site.

And here’s how it looks:

Users Flow in Google Analytics

You can find the Users Flow in the Audience section when you scroll all the way down. Now, by default the starting point of the User Flow is Country. And if this demographic is important for your business, this is an interesting report. You can analyze if people from other countries have different navigation styles. Something to take into account if you have a multilingual site, for instance.

You can see the starting page, the first interaction, second and so on. The green is the number of sessions on that page, and the red is the number of drop-offs. Please note that it shows relative numbers, not actual numbers.

The User Flow has some awesome options:

  • Selection a dimension of your choosing;
  • Adding a segment;
  • Highlighting traffic from a specific segment.

Dimensions in Users Flows

You can imagine that the reason people visit your site can differ, it can differ per source, per campaign and so on. You can analyze the intent people have with Users Flows. For instance, you can expect people that come from an organic search to have an informational search intent; they’re looking for information. People coming from social, perhaps they’re looking for amusement. And people coming from a campaign you’re running, you probably want them to convert. You can select a lot of dimensions in the Users Flow, allowing you to analyze traffic from different sources, landing pages and so on.

dropdown section of Users Flows in Google Analytics

What does the chart tell you? Do they behave like you expect/want them to behave? And if not, ask yourself how you can optimize their flow. Before you look at the chart, think about how you want them to behave first.

Adding a segment

Not only is it interesting to check how people behave from different sources and so on, but it’s also interesting if you can specify that group of people. For instance, analyzing the behavior of New visitors and then analyzing the behavior of Returning visitors.

Adding a segment for Users Flow in Google Analytics

You can also compare the visitors that converted with visitors that didn’t convert. Analyze their paths and map out the navigation. Perhaps you can optimize your navigation options?

You can think of a lot of options to analyze here; you can go totally crazy! So think about what kind of questions you want answered before going actually crazy :-)

Highlighting traffic

The Users Flow is a lot to take in. And for the ease of your own eyes, viewing just one flow can be helpful, it’ll probably help you with analyzing as well.

Viewing one segment in Users Flows in Google Analytics

You can click on every item to view the segment only or to highlight traffic. Last but not least, you can export the Users Flow to a PDF file so you can share it with someone you think will find it interesting.

Conclusion

Using User Flows will help you understand how people navigate through your website and gives you information on how to improve your navigation. It’ll give you insights into how effective your sources and pages are. It’ll show you where people drop-off. And by specifying the Users Flow further, you can see if some sources or campaigns are more effective than others. Of course, place the information in your own context. Check what the goal is of the source of campaign or what you’d like to investigate before you draw conclusions.

Read more: ‘Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics’ »

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Oh, the wonders of email marketing. It can keep your audience up-to-date whilst hopefully resulting in an increase in sales. But how do you measure the efforts of email marketing? Google Analytics can give you insight into how much of your traffic is generated by email. It’s an interesting tool that can break down the email performance, so that – if needed – you can adapt your site accordingly. I’ll explain down below how to monitor your email performance successfully!

Use UTM tags

If you want to track your email performance in Google Analytics, it’s pretty important to get email data into your Google Analytics, right? If you want to know how many people came to your site by clicking on a link in your newsletter, you need to send a piece of information so that Google Analytics can recognize the traffic is coming from your email campaign. You can do so by adding UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tags to all links in your newsletter that link to your site, so-called campaign tracking. As a result of that, a link from your email newsletter might look something like this: x.com/postx/#utm_source=x&utm_medium=y&utm_campaign=z 

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If you google more information about UTM tagging, you might find a lot of different approaches. And tagging your links isn’t something you should think lightly of. You need to find a way that will help you with easily identifying links in Google Analytics. Browse through your source/medium stats, look at campaigns and ask yourself what kind of elements of links in your emails you want to see in your reports. Think about how you want to handle the following UTM tags:

  • utm_medium
  • utm_source
  • utm_campaign

An example: let’s say you’re planning to do a summer sale and you’re sending out an additional email to your customers. How would you add UTM tag links in such an email? One UTM tag you don’t have to think about is the utm_medium tag. That should always, always be ’email.’ That way, Google Analytics will organize this traffic in the Channel email, and that is something you’d want if you’re going to work wilt Multi-Channel Funnels.

Then you have the utm_source tag. Some say you should use the Branded source, for instance, utm_source=mailchimp if you use MailChimp, or utm_source=helpscout if you use HelpScout for support emails and such. But again, it’s all about how you can identify from which source your traffic is coming from. If you sent multiple emails, for instance, your regular newsletter and an occasional sales email, you can decide that for your newsletter, you use utm_source=newsletter and for your sales email utm_source=sales.

Use the campaign tag for more specified tagging. In the example of the Summer Sale, you want to give that sale a specific tag that is used by all the marketing efforts you do for that sale. Your Social Media efforts and so on should use the same utm_campaign tag. That way you can easily recognize what your email did for that campaign and it it’s the best performing source for that campaign. For  example: utm_campaign=summer-sale-july-18.

There are two other UTM tags you can use to differentiate even further:

  • utm_term
  • utm_content

You can use the utm_term, for instance, to add the subject of the post you’re linking to. And you can use utm_content to differentiate elements of the newsletter. For instance, if you’re linking to the same page twice, but one with a text link and the other with a banner, you can use utm_content=textlink and utm_content=banner.

Where to find your emails in Google Analytics?

If you use campaign tracking on all links in your emails, you can find them in your Acquisition reports when clicking on All Traffic –> Source/Medium. You can find what you used for utm_source in the Source report, and what you used for utm_medium in de Medium report. Or both in the Source/Medium report:

email in aquisition reports in Google Analytics

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can use the search bar that searches in the first column of your report:

search for email in Google Analytics

Then you’ll get a nice overview of all sources for your utm_medium=email. In the screenshot above, you can see the performance of a sales email for a given period. You can see how much users came to your site, how many sessions there are, how long they lasted on average, and in the last column you can see how your email converted for the goals you’ve set. And you can compare this with your other email marketing efforts and check which was most successful.

If you want to know how your email campaigns (utm_campaign) worked out for you, you can add a Secondary dimension: Campaign to your report.

email campaigns in Google Analytics

You can also go to your campaign report that’s filed under Acquisition: Campaigns –> All Campaigns campaigns report in Google Analytics

You can add Source / Medium as a Secondary dimension here as well. But there are other UTM tags you can add as Secondary dimensions, like the utm_term and utm_content tags. For utm_term, you need to find ‘Seach Term,’ and for utm_content you need to look for ‘Ad Content.’

I find it very insightful to click my way through these reports and check if I’m tagging in a way I can understand my traffic sources. If I see a UTM tag that I find useless, I’ll know I have to change the way I’m tagging. This is especially the case if I decide to use utm_term and utm_content tags for links to my site.

utm_term in Google Analytics

utm_content in Google Analytics

Create a segment for email

If you don’t want to deal with Secondary dimensions and want to see more than what the Acquisition reports have to offer, you can decide on creating a segment for your emails in general. Or you can narrow the segment down to just the email you’re interested in using all UTM tags that are in your email as shown in the image below. Creating an email segment in Google Analytics

Just play a little with your segment. If you just want to see Medium=email, create that segment. If you just want to see Source=sales, create another segment. Find the joy in segments; they’re fun!

Reports to look at

Before you look at all the numbers in your Google Analytics report, think about what kind of questions you want to be answered. This will help you with finding what you’re looking for in the jungle called Google Analytics. Do you want to know how many users came to your site via email? How many new users your email drove to your site? How long they stayed and so on: check the Audience Overview report and use a segment to you’ll only see traffic from your emails.

You can also compare email with other sources, see how effective your emails were by checking the stats in your Acquisition report. Did email get the most sessions, conversions and so on? Are the people coming from email more engaged than other sources? What’s your question and hypothesis here?

And using an email segment shows you which pages users saw in the Behavior reports, the products they bought in the Conversion reports, the (goal/eCommerce) conversion rate of your newsletter subscribers. And you can use this data to compare it with other marketing efforts. Which was more effective? Do newsletter subscribers convert better? And do you know why?

One final tip, when sending out an email to your users, check the real-time report. Is what you’re seeing what you expected? Or isn’t there any traffic coming from email? Then there might be an issue with your newsletter.

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Conclusion

The most important thing if you want to analyze your newsletter performance, is using campaign tracking on the links in your email. There are email services that can add UTM tags automatically, like MailChimp. Otherwise, you have to do this manually. And trust me, you want to do this. Because you want to check your email performance in Google Analytics. When analyzing your newsletters, think about the questions you want to be answered. Using segments will make sure you rock your Google Analytics reports!

Read more: ‘Tools to improve your online marketing campaign’ »

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The Audience data in Google Analytics beholds a lot of interesting data about your users. Not only does it provide you information about from which country they’re coming or the language they’re using, but it also gives insight in the device they’re using when visiting your site and the browser they’re using for doing that. And that my dear friends, is information you can use to make your site more accessible and user-friendly.

Technology report

Information about the browser people are using to visit your website, can be found in the Technology report. Expand the Audience tab and scroll down:

Technology report in Google Analytics Expanded Technology report in Google Analytics

 

 

 

 

 

The Technology report has some pretty cool features, let me show you:

Technology reporting features in Google Analytics

This is the default report you see when clicking on Technology. You can see the most popular browsers that are used for visiting your website. For this particular website, Chrome is by far the most important browser. But you can also check Operating System, Screen Resolution, Screen Colors, Flash Version and Java Support.

What does it tell you?

Browser

Of course, it’s interesting to know what your visitors are using for visiting your website, but that’s just information that’s ‘cool’ to know. But how can you use this data to optimize your website even further? Take a look at the report and see if you notice anything that’s a bit odd.

A higher bounce rate for a particular browser for instance. It may be an indication that your site looks different on a Safari browser than on a Chrome browser. Take a look at the Average Session Duration too, is there a browser with a very low session duration? Use that browser yourself and visit your website to see if you can understand why.

And if you have particular goals, like a contact form submit goal, you can check if there’s a browser performing poorly for that goal. It might just be that the contact form isn’t working properly for that browser. The same goes if you have an online shop, check the eCommerce stats and go over the report to check if you see anything unusual.

Keep in mind that you base your conclusions on a sufficient amount of data. But it won’t hurt testing your website across different browsers.

Operating System

You can do the same checks for Operating System. How does Windows perform on your site in comparison with Macintosh? Of course, it’s very well possible that people who are using Windows differ from people who use Macintosh. Do iPhone users convert better than Android users like discussed in this article? But again, it doesn’t hurt testing if your site works on your most popular Operating Systems. How awful would it be if your checkout doesn’t work on Android? Check the conversions for each of your goals, which Operating System is underperforming?

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Screen resolution

When creating a new design for your website or deciding where your most important call-to-action should be, looking at screen resolution is a wise thing to do. You want to optimize for the vast majority of your visitors so check how your site looks on the most-used screen resolutions. Perhaps you’re always using an enormous monitor yourself when browsing while others might just be using laptops. Keep in mind that your site is for your users, take into account the screen resolution your visitors are using and take that as the basis for your design. How’s the font size? Can you see your call-to-action without scrolling?

Conclusion

To keep your site as optimized as possible, checking your Technology reports once in a while is a good idea. It can help you identify technical issues your site might have with particular browsers or browser versions and operating systems. If you’re planning to do a redesign, check if your redesign works on the most popular browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions. And if you’re using new software or plugins on your site, the Technology report gives great insight into whether or not everything works for your visitors.

Read more: ‘Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics: a how to’ »

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Anyone who has browsed through Google Analytics should have come across a whole lot of variables in the reporting stats. The reports consist of dimensions and metrics; Google Analytics calls these the building blocks of your reports. And if you want to create a custom report in Google Analytics or Google Data Studio, you have complete freedom in what dimensions and metrics you put in this report. But be careful, you might create a useless report. In this post, I’m going to explain what the difference is between dimensions and metrics. And what to look out for when combining these two yourselves.

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What are dimensions in Google Analytics?

All the data you see in Google Analytics, all variables in reports is either a dimension or a metric. Google explains dimensions as:

Dimensions are attributes of your data.

So in a way, a dimension is a description, a characteristic, a feature or aspect of your data. It’s not a quantitative variable but more a qualitative variable. Let me make this clear by giving you a couple of examples of metrics:

  • City
  • Device
  • Source/Medium
  • Campaign
  • Page
  • Goals
  • Products

Notice what they all have in common? They all consist of words, not numbers. Of course, some dimensions are expressed in numbers, like hour and date. But still, the dimension is an aspect or feature of the user itself, but not how or what the user is doing on your site. Dimensions describe the data that’s collected.

You can see dimensions in the first column of your reports.

dimensions in Google Analytics

The report also gives you clues on what other dimensions there are and there are sooooo many. If you’re curious on what other dimensions you can add to, in this example, the Acquisition: Source/Medium report, click on the Secondary dimension button.

Adding a secondary dimension in Google Analytics

When you click on ‘Display as alphabetical list’ you can browse through all dimensions you can add to this particular report. It’s an easy way for you to get familiar with dimensions.

For instance, you can add ‘User Type’ as a secondary dimension, to see which source drives more New visitors to your site. You can add ‘Page’ to your report, to check which pages people land on from a particular source. You can do a lot of cool things here, and quite easily as well. But before you go all out; what’s the question you’re trying to answer?

What are metrics in Google Analytics?

Metrics are the numbers you see in each dimension. Metrics show you what a user did on your site, expressed in numbers. For example, if we look at the Behavior – All Pages report:

Behavior report with page dimension in Google Analytics

The page is the dimension; it’s the variable in which specific metrics are collected. Pageviews and entrances and such are metrics; these variables show you numbers on what users did in this particular dimension.

Metrics need dimensions, for context, otherwise, it’s just numbers.

The standard Google Analytics doesn’t allow you to add a secondary metric, because not every metric is collected for every dimension. It might raise your eyebrows, and it’s a bit confusing. But it gets less complicated if you know how Google Analytics collects data.

What’s scope in Google Analytics?

Ever wondered why Google Analytics shows certain dimensions and metrics but leaves out other seemingly essential dimensions and metrics in their default reports? That’s because Google Analytics doesn’t want to combine these two, it would show incorrect data and will let you draw conclusions based on the wrong data. Now, why is that? Why does Google Analytics want to prevent you from combining this? It all has to do with how Google Analytics processes its data: Google Analytics scope. Each dimension and metric can only have one of the following scope-types:

  1. Hit
  2. Session
  3. User
  4. Product

Hit

You can see a hit as everytime a user (cookie) does something on your site, it will send data to Google Analytics. Every single action is stored. The hit scope is the lowest level of data storage. A page is a hit-level dimension, just like language and page title is. Pageviews, time on page, load time and total events are examples of metrics on hit-level.

Session

The session scope is more time-based and is one level higher than the hit-level. A session consists of hits that happen in just one session for the same user. Dimensions and metrics on session-level collect data about a session. Examples of dimensions on a session-level are Source/Medium, Landing Page, and Device Category. Examples of session-level metrics are sessions, bounce rate, exits, goals, and pageviews per session.

User

The user scope is the highest level in which data is organized. Users can have more sessions, and a session can have more hits. Examples of dimensions that belong to the user scope are user type, days since the last session, gender. Examples of user-level metrics are users, new sessions, and percentage of new sessions.

Product

The product-level scope has everything to do with data about a product.

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Combining dimensions and metrics: do’s and don’ts

The session-level dimensions and metrics contain data about specific sessions. But hit-level dimensions and metrics don’t have data on session-level variables because they’re independent of sessions. So if you decide to combine pages with sessions in a custom report because you want to see how many sessions a page has gotten during a session, you’d be looking at something else than what you were expecting.

hit + session level report in Google Analytics

This report will show you something like this:

Pages and sessions in a custom report in Google Analytics

But if you think that page 1 was viewed in 1,199 sessions in total, then you’re wrong. What you are seeing is how many sessions began on page 1. because that’s the first hit of the session. There are a couple of common reporting fails described by LunaMetrics that explains this in more detail.

We just learned that you couldn’t combine dimensions and metrics that don’t share the same scope. Best practice is obviously to check whether or not the dimensions and metrics you want to combine, do share the same scope. But how can you find out? Google has a Dimensions and Metrics Explorer. On this page, you can find all dimensions and metrics. When I first saw this huge list and expanded a couple of items, I got confused. I couldn’t make sense of it.

Dimensions & Metrics Explorer of Google Analytics

But it helps if you use the UI Names, the names that you see in Google Analytics itself. And by expanding them all, you’ll have a nice overview. Don’t click on the dimension or metric, instead click on the checkbox. Some will turn to grey if you do that, then you’ll know you can’t use these in combination. Still, if you select ‘pageviews’, the ‘sessions’ metric doesn’t turn grey. And the list doesn’t show you on which scope every dimension or metric is processed. So this tool isn’t foolproof when it comes down to combining your dimensions and metrics in a custom report. Unfortunately, defining which scope it is, is something you have to do yourself.

Conclusion

When creating custom reports, segments or you’re going more advanced with custom dimensions and custom metrics, think about what you want to measure first. Think about on what level, or scope your dimensions and metrics are. And think about if it all makes sense. In general, if you want to add the Sessions metric to a custom report, make sure you stick to the Session-level scope! And don’t combine hit-level variables with session-level variables.

Read more: ‘How to guide: Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics’ »

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When browsing through the ‘Behavior’ section in Google Analytics, you’ll come across the term ‘pageviews’ a lot. And you might think that the more pageviews a page has, the better. But is that actually true? What’s a pageview exactly and can pageviews help you understand your site and audience better? Find out in this post!

What are pageviews in Google Analytics?

Google Analytics has this handy feature that explains what a certain metric or dimension is when you hover over the question mark icon. According to Google Analytics, the definition of a pageview is:

definition of pageviews in Google Analytics

Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

According to Google’s Google Analytics support site, a pageview is:

A pageview (or pageview hit, page tracking hit) is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. Pageviews is a metric defined as the total number of pages viewed.

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Now that’s a pretty straightforward explanation. So, let’s say you have a page about a Basic SEO course: pageviews will show you the number of times that page is viewed for a given period. The metric itself says nothing about how many visitors saw that page or how many times the page was viewed per session. It’s just the total number of pageviews per page. This means that one visitor can be responsible for a lot of pageviews, and that a page can be viewed multiple times per session.

Pageviews in combination with other metrics

Pageviews can give an indication of how popular a post or page is. But having a high number of pageviews for a post doesn’t necessarily mean it is popular. Is it a good thing that you have a lot of pageviews per visit? Does it mean that people like to read a lot of pages on your site? Or does it mean that they can’t find what they’re looking for? A good data analyst is critical of his or her data at all times. A single metric doesn’t tell you a lot; it’s the context that provides the information you can use.

Speaking of context, you might think: “Why don’t I see ‘sessions’, ‘pageviews’ and ‘users’ in one grid table in Google Analytics?” There’s a reason why Google Analytics doesn’t let you see pageviews in combination with sessions and users by default. And that has everything to do with the way Google Analytics collects its data. The Google Analytics data is organized based on scopes. You can see these four different scopes if you want to add a Custom Dimension:

Scope in Google Analytics

Lunametrics wrote a blog post on understanding scope in Google Analytics, which explains why you can’t combine metrics from different scopes. In short, they say: never combine hit- and session-level metrics. So if you create a custom report that shows pageviews and sessions per page, then you get a report that doesn’t make any sense. Because sessions have hits, but hits don’t have sessions.

Adding context to pageviews

So if you can’t combine user and session metrics to pageviews, what can you do to add more context to the pageviews metric?

Unique Pageviews

First of all, you can look at the number of unique pageviews compared to pageviews. According to the question mark in Google Analytics:

Unique Pageviews in Google Analytics

Unique Pageviews is the number of sessions during which the specified page was viewed at least once. A unique pageview is counted for each page URL + page Title combination.

I think this definition needs some more explanation. Let’s say a visitor visits a page about a Basic SEO course, then reads a basic SEO article and then visits the page about Basic SEO course again. During this session, the Basic SEO course page is viewed two times. These two pageviews in this single session will be added to the total number of pageviews for that page. But only one unique pageview will be added to the total number of unique pageviews for that page during a single session.

In fact, if you want to see the number of sessions for a page, the best way is to look at the unique pageviews metric. And if you divide the number of pageviews by the number of unique pageviews, you get the average number of times a particular page was viewed per session. It’s a good idea to check the pages for which the number of pageviews differs a lot from the number of unique pageviews. This means that visitors viewed this page a couple of times during a single session. That may indicate that the page is confusing people. But there are other explanations for this as well. Our knowledge base articles, for instance, have a lot of pageviews compared to the number of unique pageviews. People refer to those articles a couple of times during a single session to follow the steps listed in these articles.

Creating segments

You can also look at the number of pageviews per visit and create a segment. That lets you compare groups of users and see where they differ from each other. For instance, visits with more than three pageviews against visits with less than three pageviews.

creating a page depth segment in Google Analytics

Are these two groups coming from different sources? Do they read different articles? Do they buy things or not? Comparing groups will help you understand your audience better.

Conclusion

There you have it; an understanding of pageviews in Google Analytics. All in all, pageviews probably isn’t the most spectacular metric you can use in your analysis. And if you do consider it one of the most important metrics in your reports, please reconsider because there are more valuable metrics out there. What do you want to know? And is pageviews the way to get that information? Probably not.

Read more: ‘Analytics basics: Which posts and pages perform best?’ »

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I remember my first time in Google Analytics. As a data lover, I enthusiastically clicked my way through the numerous tabs. Seeing terms like sessions, pageviews, users, bounce rate and so on. Being so enthusiastic, I didn’t really think about what these terms actually mean. And that’s pretty important, because without knowing what Google Analytics’ definition of the term is, you might draw the wrong conclusions. In this post, I’m going to discuss an important term in Google Analytics: a session. 

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What are sessions in Google Analytics?

If you think of the term session, what do you think it means? My definition is that it is a period in which a certain thing happens. Keep your own definition in mind and check if it equals Google Analytics’s definition of a session:

A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.

Cool, it’s pretty much the same as my definition. And that helps me with understanding what I’m looking at when dealing with sessions in Google Analytics.

Let’s break it down. If a visitor or user enters your website a session begins. Google Analytics records it and collects data from the very start. Within that session, a user can do a lot of things on your website that Google Analytics records, for instance, view pages, buy products, fill out forms and so on.

When does a session end?

Looking at the definition, you see that a session has a given time frame. This implicates that it can end after a certain period and that you can adjust when the session ends. A session can end because of one of three reasons:

  1. After 30 minutes of inactivity
  2. At midnight
  3. Campaign change

1. After 30 minutes of inactivity

By default, a session ends when a user did nothing on your site for 30 minutes straight. For example, a user looks at a page on your site, then reads a blog post and leaves that open without doing anything on that page for 30 minutes, the session ends. If after, for instance, 29 minutes a user interacts with the page, by clicking on a link or a menu item or something like that, the very same session is extended by another 30 minutes. So every time you interact with the site, the session is extended. If you don’t do anything for 30 minutes, it ends.

There are cases where 30 minutes is too short. If you have very long articles, for instance, people need more time than just those 30 minutes. There are also cases in which 30 minutes is too long, for instance for product pages in a shop. Luckily you can adjust the session timeout. Go to the admin section, at property level you’ll see an item about Tracking info. There you can find session settings:

adjusting session timeout in Google Analytics

As you can see, the minimum you can set is 1 minute, the maximum is 4 hours. If you want to have an idea about how long an average session on your site is, go to your audience tab, click overview and you’ll see a summary with a couple of statistics like Avg. Session Duration:

average session duration in Google Analytics

Before drawing conclusions, please check the date range you’ve set. Check for a month, or compare a couple months to see if the duration doesn’t change that much. You can use this information to set the right session timeout. Usually it makes most sense to set it at the average session duration.

2. At midnight

The second reason a session can end is simply because a new day is beginning. If a user is on your website and reads a post at 11:58 PM for instance, that session ends at 11:59:59 PM and a new session begins at 12:00 PM.

3. Campaign change

Users of your site come from different sources, like Google, Facebook or email. Sometimes they arrive on your site following a specific campaign link, for instance, if you’re running an AdWords campaign or you’ve added a utm_campaign parameter to a URL in your newsletter. Let’s say a visitor lands on your website by a certain AdWord paid keyword, then Google Analytics stores that campaign in its data. But if that same user goes to your site via a different campaign, the first session ends and a new session starts.

Now what?

Just knowing how much sessions you’ve got, isn’t that interesting per se. It gets interesting when you compare it with something. For instance, if you compare last month’s sessions with the month before that. Does it follow the same trend? And if you see a spike in sessions, do you know what caused that spike? Or compare weeks, do you see a drop in sessions in the weekends? You can also compare sources, which source drives most sessions to your site? And how many pages per session does every source have? What’s your most successful source of traffic when it comes down to sessions? There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself. My tip: ask the question first, then open up Google Analytics and try to find the answer.

Conclusion

If you want to be able to analyze your Google Analytics data you have to understand what the variables of this tool mean exactly. A session is a group of actions of one user in a given time frame. It starts when a user enters your site and it ends after a certain time of inactivity, a change of campaign or at midnight. You can set the time after which it should end, depending on the average time a user spends on your site.

Now go have a look at your sessions! Do you see anything remarkable?

Read more: ‘Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics’ »

 

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Maintaining a website is hard work, and to do it right, you have to be skilled in many things: writing, editing, SEO, marketing (if you own a business) and perhaps even a bit of coding, to name but a few. But that’s not all. If you handle and collect the data of your site’s visitors, you should also familiarize yourself with relevant laws on data protection and privacy.

In April 2016, a new regulation on privacy and data protection was adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council. After a transition period of two years, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become enforceable from 25 May 2018 onward. This means you can get a fine if you don’t comply with the GDPR.

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It’s important to note that the GDPR doesn’t just apply to organizations located within the EU. It also applies to organizations located outside of the EU, if they offer services or products to, or monitor the behavior of people residing in the EU. The consequences of this law for you and your business depend on the kind of data you handle and if (and how) you get consent for that. So, what to do when preparing for the GDPR? Let me give you my take on the subject in this week’s Ask Yoast!

Joerg Gastmann emailed us his question on the GDPR:

At YoastCon 2017, Dixon Jones mentioned that certain plugins collect data about users and this might cause problems with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What should a webmaster do to avoid legal penalties for using plugins, like Jetpack, that process statistical/user data on their servers?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Preparing for the GDPR

“Well, you don’t get a penalty specifically for the fact that these plugins are using that data. You get a penalty for not getting your user’s consent for doing that. So you should get your user’s consent, or stop doing that. Some of these things you can put into your general terms of service because they’re required for your business to work.

But if you’re doing things like profiling people based on what they visited, based on information they’ve given you them about them, then you should really dive into the GDPR. This is not something I can easily answer in a couple of minutes. It’s a lot of work. There are a lot of people that are very hard at work, making sure that we can do all the things in WordPress that you should be able to do under the GDPR. So yeah, dive in, consult a lawyer- I’m not a lawyer. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read on: ‘Yoast and the GDPR’ »

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Do you have your own website or maintain the website of the company you work for? Of course, to do this right, you need to keep a keen eye on the performance of your website. Google offers several tools to collect and analyze data of your website. You probably have heard of Google Analytics and Google Search Console before. These tools are free to use for everyone maintaining a website and can give you very valuable insights about your website. 

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In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the new Google Search Console. However, since not all features are included in the new version yet, we first tell about the features in the new version. After that, we’ll switch back to the old version. Of course, we’ll update this post when more features are migrated. 

Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console

Google Search Console has been created to easily track the performance of your website. You can get valuable insights out of your Google Search Console account which means that you can see what part of your website needs work. This can be a technical part of your website, such as an increasing number of crawl errors that needs to be fixed. This can also be giving a specific keyword more attention because the rankings or impressions are decreasing.

Besides seeing this kind of data, you’ll get mail notifications when new errors are noticed by Google Search Console. Because of these notifications, you’re quickly aware of issues you need to fix.

Setting up an account

To start using Google Search Console, you’ll need to create an account. Within the new Google Search Console, you can click on ‘add a new property’ in the top bar:

However, the actual function of adding a property isn’t included in the new Google Search Console yet. That’s why GSC automatically switches back to the old version where you can add your website:

Clicking on the ‘Add a property’ button, you can insert the website you want to add. Make sure you add the right URL, so with ‘https’ if you have an https website and with or without ‘www’. For collecting the right data, it’s important to add the right version:

When you’ve added a website, you need to verify that you’re the owner. There are several options to verify your ownership. For WordPress users who use Yoast SEO we recommend using the HTML tag within the ‘Alternate methods’:

You can easily copy this code and paste it into the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab within the Yoast SEO plugin:

After saving this, you can return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Verify’ button to confirm. If everything is ok, you’ll get a success message and GSC will start collecting data for your website. 

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Features in the new version of Google Search Console

Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? We don’t think it’s necessary to look into your Google Search Console data each day. Because of the email notifications, you’ll always be aware of errors right away. Below, we’ll explain more about all features. We’ll start with the new version of Google Search Console and we’ll end with the features which aren’t migrated yet. Sometimes you’ll need to switch between the new and the old version of GSC.

Performance

Within the performance tab, you can see what pages and what keywords your website ranks for in Google. In the old version of GSC you could see the data of a maximum of the last 90 days but in the new version, it’s possible to see the data up to 16 months. Keep in mind that the data is available from the moment you set up your account.

If you check the performance tab regularly, you can quickly see what keywords or what pages need some more attention and optimization. So where to begin? Within the performance tab, you see a list of ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’ or ‘devices’. Each of those sections can be sorted by the number of ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’ or ‘average position’. We’ll explain each of them below:

1. Clicks

The amount of clicks tells you how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. This number can tell something about the performance of your page titles and meta descriptions: if just a few people click on your result, your result might not stand out in the search results. It could be helpful to check what other results are displayed around you to see what can be optimized for your snippet.

The position of the search result also has an impact on the number of clicks of course. If your page is in the top 3 of Google’s first result page it will automatically get more clicks than a page that ranks on the second page of the search results.

2. Impressions

The impressions tell you how often your website in general or how often a specific page is shown in the search results. For example, in the GSC account of our own website, Yoast SEO is one of the keywords our website ranks for. The number of impressions shown after this keyword shows how often our website is shown for that keyword in the search results of Google. You don’t know yet what page ranks for that keyword.

To see what pages might rank for the specific keyword, you can click on the line of the keyword. Doing this for the keyword [Yoast SEO], the keyword is added as a filter:

After that, you could navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab to see what pages exactly rank for this keyword. Are those pages the ones you’d want to rank for that keyword? If not, you might need to optimize the page you’d like to rank. Think of writing better content containing the keyword on that page, adding internal links from relevant pages or posts to the page, making the page load faster etc.

3. Average CTR

The CTR – Click-through rate – tells you what percentage of the people that have seen your website in de search results also clicked through to your website. You probably understand that higher rankings mostly also lead to higher click-through rates.

However, there are also things you can do yourself to increase the CTR. For example, you could rewrite your meta description and make it more appealing. When the description of your site stands out from the other results, more people will probably click on your result and your CTR will increase. Keep in mind that this will not have a big impact if you’re not ranking on the first page yet. You might need to try other things first to improve your ranking.

4. Average position

The last one in this list is the ‘Average position’. This tells you what the average ranking of a specific keyword or page was in the time period you’ve selected. Of course, this position isn’t always reliable since more and more people seem to get different search results. Google seems to understand better and better which results fit best for which visitor. However, this indicator still gives you an idea if the clicks, impressions and the average CTR are explainable.

Index coverage

A more technical but very valuable tab within Google Search Console is the ‘Index coverage’ tab. This section shows how many pages are in the index of Google since the last update, how many pages aren’t and what errors and warnings caused difficulties for Google indexing your pages properly.

We recommend checking this tab regularly to see what errors and warnings appear on your website. However, you also get notifications when Google has found new errors. When you get such a notification you can check the error in more detail here.

Errors that could appear in this section: a new URL that you’ve added is set to no-index, a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, Google ended up on a 404 error trying to index an URL. Clicking on the link, you can analyze the error more in depth to see what specific URLs are affected. When you’ve fixed the error you can mark it as fixed to make sure Google will test the URL again:

AMP

Below the ‘Index coverage’ you can find the ‘AMP’ tab. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: lightning fast mobile pages. If you’ve set up AMP for your website you can check for errors in Google Search Console. Within this section you can see the valid AMP pages, the valid ones with warnings and errors:

Below the chart, the issues are listed. If you click on one of the issues you can see the affected URLs. Just as in the index section of GSC you can validate your fix if you’ve fixed an issue.

Job Postings

Job postings are new in Google Search Console. Within this tab, you’ll be able to list your job openings and to track their performance. If there are any errors, you’ll see them in here. It’s not the most important feature of GSC but it can be valuable for specific companies or websites.

Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all important pages and posts on your website. We think every website would benefit from having one. Is our Yoast SEO plugin running on your website? Then you automatically have an XML sitemap. If not, we recommend creating one to make sure Google can find your most important pages and posts easily.

Within the XML sitemap tab of Google Search Console you can add your XML sitemap:

We recommend everyone adding their XML sitemap to GSC to make Google find your sitemap easily. In addition to that, you can quickly see if your sitemap gives errors or if some pages aren’t indexed, for instance. Checking this regularly, you’re sure Google can find and read your XML sitemap correctly.

Missing features in the new version of Google Search Console

As you might have noticed not all features are integrated yet into the new version of Google Search Console. Google explains that this could have 2 reasons: they may have found a better way of presenting the data or they’re still in the process of migrating the feature to the new version. As said before, we’ll update this post when there’s progress made in the migration.

The old version of GSC is still available for everyone. So, why should you switch back to the old version once in a while? We’ll list the features that are missing in the new version, but that seem valuable to keep an eye on, below.

Search appearance

From the ‘Search appearance‘ section of the old Google Search Console, we miss the following features in the new version: ‘Structured data‘, ‘Rich cards‘, ‘Data highlighter‘ and the ‘HTML improvements‘.

If you’ve added structured data to your website we recommend checking the structured data tab of the old version regularly. Here you’ll see if all structured data is recognized by Google and errors will be listed. If you’ve added structured data meant for rich cards, you can check for errors in the rich cards tab. The data highlighter can be used to markup your pages without having to code yourself. You can read more in-depth about Google Search Console and structured data here.

In the last missing feature of the search appearance tab, the HTML improvements, you can easily check, for instance, for duplicate titles or quite short titles which can be improved. These listings can be an easy pick: optimizing your titles and meta descriptions might increase your rankings and CTR.

Search traffic

An improved version of the ‘Search analytics‘ tab is included in the new version of GSC. However, all other features within this tab aren’t included yet. We’re talking about ‘Links to your site‘, ‘Internal links‘, ‘Manual actions‘, ‘International targeting‘ and ‘Mobile usability‘.

Within the links to your site section, you can see how many links from other sites are pointing to your website. Besides, you can see what websites link, how many links those websites contain to your site and lastly, what anchor texts are used most linking to your website. This can be valuable information because links still are very important for SEO.

Within the internal links section, you can check what pages of your website are most linked from other spots on your site. This list can be valuable to analyze regularly because you want your most important pages and posts to get most internal links. Doing this, you make sure Google understands as well what your cornerstones are.

The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. When your site gets hit by a Google penalty, you’ll get noticed in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get a noticed in your messages and by email.

The international targeting tab is important for websites who have pages in different languages and who target people in different countries or regions. When you’ve implemented hreflang to your website, you can check for errors within this section of GSC.

Lastly, the mobile usability tab within this section shows you usability issues with your mobile website or with specific mobile pages. Since mobile traffic is rising all over the world, we recommend checking this regularly. If your mobile site isn’t user-friendly, lots of visitors will leave it quickly. 

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Google Index

The index status is already migrated to the new version of GSC. There are 2 reports left in this section: ‘Blocked resources’ and ‘Remove URLs’. The blocked resources tab shows pages which Google couldn’t enter completely. It’s important to remove those blocking elements to make sure Google can ‘see’ your pages completely. In the remove URLs tab, you can add URLs that you want to remove from the search results temporarily.

Crawl

In the crawl tab, you can find the sections ‘Crawl errors’, ‘Crawl stats’, ‘Fetch as Google’, ‘Robots.txt tester’, ‘Sitemaps’ and ‘URL parameters’. It seems that you can find some crawl errors in the new index coverage tag but if we look at our account, we don’t see all crawl errors in the new version. This means that it’s important to check your crawl errors still in the old version of GSC. When you’ve fixed a crawl error you can mark it as fixed. The crawl stats aren’t included yet so you can find those stats in the old version. The crawl stats tell you something about how many pages are crawled per day, how many kilobytes are downloaded per day and how many time was spent downloading a page. If one of the graphs seem to decrease, you know it’s time to do something about it.

The fetch as Google feature gives you the opportunity to see if Google can access a specific page correctly, how it exactly renders the page and if there are blocked resources on the page. You can test your pages both for desktop as for mobile to see the differences between those.

The robots.txt tester is made to add your robots.txt and to test if any errors or warnings seem to appear. You can also add specific URLs to check whether they’re blocked or not.

The sitemaps are already moved to the new version of GSC so it’s time for the last feature of the crawl tab: URL parameters. In the URL parameters section, you can add parameters for your website and ‘tell’ Google how they should be handled. If you want to use this, we recommend reading the guidelines carefully. Don’t just add some parameters to see what happens. This can cause serious problems with your site’s SEO.

Security issues

Last but not least: within the security issues tab you’ll get a notification when your website seems to have a security issue.

Do you already use Google Search Console for your website? If not, we definitely recommend creating an account so you can start collecting data of your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

Read more: ‘How to make your site stand out in the search results’ »

 

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