If you’re an SEO-newbie you’ll probably hear lots of new and complicated terms. In our SEO basics-series, we’ll explain all these terms and concepts to you. In this post, I’ll go into user signals. What exactly are user signals? And what do user signals have to do with SEO? What do you need to know about them?

What are user signals?

User signals are behavioral patterns of users which Google uses to establish the rankings of your website in the search results. For instance: users click on a result in the search engines and after that, they immediately bounce back to Google. This is a signal that the website does not fit the search query of the user. Google uses this type of information to estimate what results are useful to show to people searching with a specific search query.

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training Info

The most important user signals

The most important user signals are the bounce rate and the click-through rate (CTR). These are important for your SEO, as Google takes these seriously. But besides that, these user signals are also important for your user experience. Let’s look at these two user signals in more detail.

Bounce rate

Your bounce rate is determined by the amount of people that click on the link to your website in the search engine result pages (SERPs) and consequently click back again to Google. A high bounce rate indicates that people did not find what they were looking for on your website.

It’s hard to pin down at what point a bounce rate is high. First of all, it depends on how you measure the bounce rate. Google Analytics indicates a bounce when a user does not click to other pages and only stays on one page on your site. But, is it still bouncing if someone stays on one page for minutes to read a page? Other analytics packages have different definitions of a bounce rate. Secondly, whether or not a bounce rate is high also depends on the type of website you have. If you have a blog, you’ll probably have a high bounce rate, as people often read only one post and go back to Google to find other blogposts on the same subject. If you sell a specific type of product, say, ballet shoes, your bounce rate is probably much lower.

Although bounce rate is hard to measure you should definitely monitor the trend of your bounce rate and the differences in bounce rate between your pages. If a specific page has a very high bounce rate, you should try to figure out what’s the cause. You could add links to other useful pages or call to actions to keep people on your site.

Read more: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The click through rate (CTR) of a page is determined by the number of people that click on your result in the SERPs. If your snippet is very appealing to a user, or appears in a higher position, people are more inclined to click on it. The more people click on your result (and not on the other snippets in the SERPs), the more Google will think your result does indeed fit the search query of the user best. A high CTR will therefore result in higher rankings, as Google wants to show the best result first.

For SEO purposes, you should definitely monitor the click through rates of different pages. You should be able to see the rates of specific pages on your website in Google Search Console. Take a look at pages that have a relatively low CTR. Maybe the meta description of that page is not written that well. Making your snippets more appealing is a great way of generating more clicks from Google.

Other user signals

Other examples of user signals are the time spent on a website or the percentage of users that return to your website. You can monitor those with tools like Google Analytics as well.

Conclusion

Google’s mission is to organize the worlds’ information and make it universally accessible and useful. Therefore, Google wants to show a user the best result possible, the result that best fits their search query. It’s totally understandable that Google takes user behavior into account in their assessment of which result to rank highest. Every SEO strategy focusing on making the best website possible, will make a website more usable and user-friendly. Looking at user signals is a good way to start optimizing your website for a better user experience and better rankings. It’s a win-win SEO strategy!

Keep reading: ‘SEO basics: What are ranking signals?’ »

The post SEO basics: what are user signals? appeared first on Yoast.

One of the most frequently asked questions by fellow SEO consultants probably is: “What online marketing tools do you use?” In the ever-changing SEO world, it was time for us to update our list with the present day tools we use on a very frequent basis in a variety of projects. Some of these tools are mainly for SEO use, but they all come in handy for every website owner. Use them to check on your site’s health, improve communications and keep track of your traffic. And these are, of course, all important aspects of online marketing. So let’s dive straight in!

Google Analytics

The heart of many a search engine optimization/search engine marketing campaign is Google Analytics. You can use it to track the clicks on your website and the impact of the things you change over time. It is, for example, effective to track how successful your advertisements, email blasts, and SEO campaigns are.

To install Google Analytics on your site you have to put the Google tracking code on every page of your site. If you use a CMS like Joomla, Drupal or WordPress to create your site, you should find this easy to do, using one of the freely available extensions, like MonsterInsights.

Online Marketing tools - Google Analytics

Page Analytics by Google

This handy little Chrome extension is an online marketing tool that will help you read your Google Analytics data on a per page basis. There are more extensions like it, but this one is from Google. You can use it for any site that you have Google Analytics access to.

Online Marketing tools - Google Analytics extension chrome

Google Analytics Tracking Code Debugger

If you want to take your Google A=/=nalytics tracking to a more advanced level, the tracking code debugger extension for Chrome is very helpful. It allows you to see what Google Analytics tracks for the current page.

GetClicky

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info
Get Clicky is another great online marketing tool for analyzing the traffic on your site. Especially if you’re one of those people that don’t want to use Google Analytics. It has one nifty feature that GA doesn’t have: you can watch users navigate your site in real time. This means you can see what pages they land on, what they click on, what they download and where they leave. Using the Spy tool you can even track a given IP address on your site in real time. This will help you check what content on your site is attractive to people, and what content they ignore.

Tip: There’s a free WordPress plugin for Clicky (by Yoast) that makes it easy to install on every page.

Clicky Screenshot

Google Search Console

Google Search Console has many useful options for analyzing and evaluating your site’s performance. It’s still underused by people all over the web. We have written several articles about Google Search Console, so go read if you want to learn more. You’ll also find a few articles about Bing’s webmaster tools there, by the way.

Search Console Structured Data

A nice section to check is the Structured Data section, under ‘Search Appearance‘. See if your shop is well-configured in terms of structured data. This helps search engines understand your site, you can read more about that here. You can also check out our online course about Structured Data for more insights.

Fetch as Googlebot is one of our favorite features, because it allows you to fetch a page exactly the way Googlebot would. It then shows if there are any issues that prevent Googlebot from accessing your content.

Google Cache (Text Only Version)

To check how Google sees your site you can also search for your page, then click the small triangle next to the URL in the search results and click ‘cached’.

This will show you a (hopefully) recent version of your page. Click on ‘Text-Only version’, in the upper left corner of your page (in the gray area), to see the text on your page as Google sees it.

Google Cache

When indexing your site, Google looks for keywords in the domain name, in the Title tag, in the Heading (H1, H2, H3…) tags, etc. So check how Google sees your site to ensure that everything is clear. If you want to sell Motorcycles on your site, but all the keywords are Sales, Training and Special Offers, Google won’t send you much traffic. Also, when your content is buried under loads of paragraphs about other stuff, it won’t work well for your online marketing.

Wirify

Wirify allows you to see the relationship between text and graphics on a page. This is practical when you’re looking at complex pages and you want to see the relationship between the number of graphics and the amount of text on a site. Wirify lets you see where these elements appear respective to one another in a schematic way. It’s also a useful tool if you just want to use the layout of another site as inspiration for your own site. 

Want to outrank your competitor and get more sales? Read our Shop SEO eBook! »

Shop SEO$ 25 - Buy now » Info

To use this tool, just visit the Wirify page, drag the Wirify by Volkside link into your bookmark toolbar. Visit any page and click the link to see a wireframe version of your site.

MajesticSEO

MajesticSEO lets you see all the people who link to your site. Incoming links from other relevant and well-linked websites are crucial to ensure that your page will rank well in Google listings. This tool is also useful to see who links to your competitors. Checking that will give you new people to contact for your link building. Recently, we interviewed Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic, and he shared his views on link building and using Majestic. You can read it here.

Alternatives are Open Site Explorer and aHrefs.

Google Trends

Some search terms are just better than others, and search term value changes over time. Google Trends lets you rank keywords against each other, allows you to see their performance over time, by geographic location if desired.

Online marketing tools: Google trends

From a marketing perspective, the best thing is to have a website that focuses on a keyword that is starting a meteoric rise. For example, if you are the only cell phone accessory store with content about the iPhone, the week the new iPhone is announced, and your site is equipped to close sales, you’ll likely draw a lot of traffic and sell loads of products.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Another important tool for evaluating the usefulness of keywords is to examine them with Google Adwords Keyword Planner. You input a series of search terms and Google shows you how many people searched for those terms, and related terms, both globally and locally. Click on the headings at the top of the table to sort by keyword, by the number of searches or by competition.

Keyword Planner Google AdWords

Competition is a measurement of how many people are actively marketing that term through Google Adwords. This gives you an idea of how hard it may be to rank for the term.

BrowserStack

Online marketing tools: Browsershots

As time goes by, the number of browsers people use to surf the Internet increases. Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Mozilla, IE, Opera… and for every browser a dozen or more versions. BrowserStack (free trial) makes it easy to see how your page looks in all these browsers, highlighting any issues that may make the site unusable.

An alternative online marketing tool with the same purpose is BrowserShots, see screenshot.

Contrast Ratio Calculators

For anyone who creates websites, Contrast Ratio Calculators are critical. These allow you to check colors, and indeed entire pages, to conform to international accessibility standards. One such test is Lea Verou’s Contrast Ratio. It will instantly tell you if two colors are a match or not.

Contrast Ratio test

Remember when choosing colors for your website that a pretty large percentage of men around the world is, at least partly, color blind. Having good, contrasting colors in your design is important for them!

Quix

Quix is an extensible bookmarklet, developed by Joost himself. It allows you to easily access all your bookmarks and bookmarklets, across all your browsers, while maintaining them in only one spot. All you have to do is remember the shortcut for the bookmarklet.

Basically, it is a command line for your browser. So you can type ‘bitly’, and bring up a tool to shorten with bit.ly, etc. If, like most developers, you have fifty browser-based analysis and editing tools you use every day, Quix will save you many clicks and key strokes.

Share your tools!

The web is always coming up with new tools, new techniques, and new utilities, but this list provides a quick overview of things we use and refer people to regularly. We hope it proves useful for your online marketing efforts. Of course, we understand that this list might be a bit basic if you’ve been doing SEO for years. So feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments. Thanks!

Read more: ‘SEO tools’ »

Perhaps you’ve heard about it: Google Tag Manager. Google introduced this tool 5 years ago, a tool that would make marketers less dependent on developers and that would, therefore, speed up your marketing process. Google Tag Manager has evolved over the years becoming a more complete and easy to use tool. Here I want to explain why you should sign up today, if you aren’t using Google Tag Manager already. 

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Before I go on to introduce Tag Manager, I do want to say a word of warning. Tag Manager is a powerful tool, and like any power tool, it should be used with care. Don’t just add tags that look appealing to you but you don’t fully understand. For instance, you might bring in a tag that could harm your site because the code is not safe. Or use a tag that influences your data tracking. If you’re not sure or in doubt of a certain tag, have someone who knows JavaScript take a look at it. Luckily, Tag Manager has a great Preview and Debug mode that lets you validate code before you publish.

What is Google Tag Manager?

If you have closer look at the term Google Tag Manager, you can guess what it’s about. It’s a tool developed by Google to manage your tags. But then the next question arises: what’s a tag? A tag is a snippet of code. There’s a whole bunch of analytics and marketing tools out there that work with JavaScript code. For instance, the Google Analytics tracking code – the one you add to your site to track your site’s traffic with Google Analytics – is JavaScript code.

Did you ever had to wait for a developer to add a piece of JavaScript to your site? Or to test whether that code wasn’t harming your website? Then you know how much valuable time that can take. With Google Tag Manager you can add these pieces of JavaScript or tags yourself. Google Tag Manager even has the ability to test whether you’ve implemented the tag correctly.

Running every tag from Google Tag Manager has two big advantages. First of all, you’ll have an overview of the tags you’ve added. Secondly, you’re in full control of measuring the effects of your marketing efforts.

What can you use it for?

Because Google Tag Manager allows you to add JavaScript to your site, you can use it for a lot of things. You can use it to get more insight in the behaviour of visitors on your site – ‘events’ like clicking on a button – but also to get tags of third party tools on your site. It will even help you to add structured data to your pages!

Google Analytics and Tag Manager

One of the most used tags that’s managed in Google Tag Manager is the Google Analytics tag. Not only can you add the Google Analytics tracking code. You can use Google Tag Manager to create, for instance, custom dimensions, events or content grouping. This means that you can track if people click on your buttons, if they scroll down to a certain point on your page, if they watch your videos and so on. All the cool things you can do with Google Analytics events, can now be managed in Google Tag Manager. And you won’t need a developer for it!

Other third party tools

Google Tag Manager supports a lot of third party tags, like: Adwords, Adobe Analytics, Bing ads, Hotjar, Crazyegg and so on. You can find the complete list on the Google Google Tag Manager support forum. You can use Hotjar tags to finally get those heatmaps – a visual representation of where people click on your site – you wanted to have. Or run surveys and A/B tests on your site. Getting data like that can help you bring your conversion rate to the next level.

Google Tag Manager and structured data

But there’s more! You can also use Google Tag Manager to implement structured data on your site. Structured data is extra information you add to your page in a specific format. Google can show this information in the search results, which makes it more likely people click on your result and engage with your page.

At the moment, we’re working on a new and practical course about structured data. In this course, you’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. Don’t miss the launch and keep an eye on our newsletter!

Where to find Google Tag Manager?

Google is ubiquitous with its tools. If you visit: google.com/analytics/  you can see all tools Google has developed to help you with your marketing strategy. In addition to Google Analytics, there are tools to help you boost conversion or perform customer surveys. And, of course, there’s Google Tag Manager. You can sign up for free! Wait! Free, you say? Yes, free!! So what’s stopping you?

After you’ve signed up, you can create an account for your website, your iOS or Android app or your AMP pages:

Create a container in Google Tag Manager

Just provide the URL of your site as the container name and then select web – if you want to implement it on your website. After you’ve created this container, Google Tag Manager will ask you to add a piece of code in the <head> and <body> of the page. I promise, this is one of the few things you might need a developer for, when it comes to using Google Tag Manager.

install Google Tag manager on your site

Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, you can easily add the Google Tag Manager code using a plugin called DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Please note that you only have to use the GTM-XXXX code.

If you’re using another CMS, please check out the quick install guide for more information on how to get started.

After you’ve inserted the Google Tag Manager code to your pages, you’re ready to create your own tags. This can be done in a so called workspace that looks like this:

So now you’re all set up and ready to add those tags to your site.

And now?

We’ll be doing more posts on Google Tag Manager soon. Explaining the practical side of things like how to create variables, triggers and tags, and how to implement structured data with it. We’ll also help you understand how to combine Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics to use it to its full extent. So stay tuned!

Read more: ‘How to use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics’ »

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post we’ll explain how we’ve done this at Yoast and will give you some pointers on how to get started.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What are social buttons?

For those who don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. This is great for gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

At Yoast, our social buttons look as follow:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how these buttons were implemented. Your initial thought might be that this was added with some kind of plugin. However, at Yoast we decided to add it to our theme. This gives us extra control in how we style and display things. Of course we could have decided to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal for us.

We’ve decided to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way we can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how we implemented a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with psuedo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';

$title = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
$og_image = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.

$images   = $og_image->get_images();
$url = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
$url .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
$url .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
$url .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
$url .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
echo esc_attr( $url );
}
?>
<div id="social-share">
<div class="socialbox">
<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share" href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>">
<i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i>
</a>
</div>
</div>

The above code could be used in a similar fashion for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise you look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons in your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better.
At Yoast, we use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of the social media sharing is done correctly so we can easily see what social media platforms are popular among our readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) {
	$( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) {
		e.preventDefault();
		
		if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) {
			__gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) );
		}
	});	
});

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

Yoast SEO for WordPress training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information we passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows us to easily extend the social-share div and add more buttons.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

“I came, I puked, I left” is a very famous definition of the bounce rate by Avinash Kaushik. But what does it mean exactly? When does a visitor bounce? Is it purely a visitor that hits the back button or is there more to it? And what can you tell by looking at the bounce rate of a webpage? In this post, I want to show you what it is, what it means and how you can improve your bounce rate. 

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

What’s bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of people who land on your website, and do completely nothing on the page they entered. So they don’t click on a menu item, a ‘read more’ link, or any other internal links on the page. This means that the Google Analytics server doesn’t receive a trigger from the visitor. A user bounces when there has been no engagement with the landing page and the visit ends with a single-page visit. You can use bounce rate as a metric that indicates the quality of a webpage and/or the “quality” of your audience. By quality of your audience I mean whether the audience fits the purpose of your site.

How does Google Analytics calculate bounce rate?

According to Google bounce rate is calculated in the following way:

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

In other words, it collects all sessions where a visitor only visited one page and divides it by all sessions.

Having a high bounce rate can mean three things:
1. The quality of the page is low. There’s nothing inviting to engage with.
2. Your audience doesn’t match the purpose of the page, as they won’t engage with your page.
3. Visitors have found the information that they were looking for.

I’ll get back to the meaning of bounce rate further below.

Bounce rate and SEO

In this post, I’m talking about bounce rate in Google Analytics. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor. I can hardly imagine that Google takes Google Analytics’ data as a ranking factor, because if Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly, then the data isn’t reliable. Moreover, you can easily manipulate the bounce rate.

Luckily, several Googlers say the same thing: Google doesn’t use Google Analytics’ data in their search algorithm. But, of course, you need to make sure that when people come from a search engine to your site, they don’t bounce back to the search results, since that kind of bouncing probably is a ranking factor. It might be measured in a different way than the bounce rate we see in Google Analytics, though.

From a holistic SEO perspective, you need to optimize every aspect of your site. So, looking closely at your bounce rate can help you optimize your website even further, which contributes to your SEO.

How to interpret bounce rates?

The height of your bounce rate and whether that’s a good or a bad thing, really depends on the purpose of the page. If the purpose of the page is purely to inform, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing per se. Of course, you’d like people to read more articles on your website, subscribe to your newsletter and so on. But when they’ve only visited a page to, for instance, read a post or find an address, then it isn’t surprising that they close the tab after they’re done reading. Mind you, even in this case, there’s no trigger sent to the Google Analytics server, so it’s a bounce.

A clever thing to do, when you own a blog, is creating a segment that only contains ‘New visitors’. If the bounce rate amongst new visitors is high, think about how you could improve their engagement with your site. Because you do want new visitors to engage with your site.

If the purpose of a page is to actively engage with your site, then a high bounce rate is a bad thing. Let’s say you have a page that has one goal: get visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. If that page has a high bounce rate, then you might need to optimize the page itself. By adding a clear call-to-action, a ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ button, for instance, you could lower that bounce rate.

But there can be other causes for a high bounce rate on a newsletter subscription page. In case you’ve lured visitors in under false pretenses, you shouldn’t be surprised when these visitors don’t engage with your page. They probably expected something else when landing on your subscription page. On the other hand, if you’ve been very clear from the start about what visitors could expect on the subscription page, a low bounce rate could say something about the quality of the visitors – they could be very motivated to get the newsletter – and not necessarily about the quality of the page.

Bounce rate and conversion

If you look at bounce rate from a conversion perspective, then bounce rate can be used as a metric to measure success. For instance, let’s say you’ve changed the design of your page hoping that it will convert better, then make sure to keep an eye on the bounce rate of that page. If you’re seeing an increase in bounces, the change in design you’ve made might have been the wrong change and it could explain the low conversion rate you have.

You could also check the bounce rate of your most popular pages. Which pages have a low and which pages have a high bounce rate? Compare the two, then learn from the pages with low bounce rates.

Another way of looking at your bounce rate, is from a traffic sources perspective. Which traffic sources lead to a high or a low bounce rate? Your newsletter for instance? Or a referral website that sends a lot of traffic? Can you figure out what causes this bounce rate? And if you’re running an AdWords campaign, you should keep an eye on the bounce rate of that traffic source as well.

Be careful with drawing conclusions though…

We’ve seen loads of clients with a bounce rate that was unnaturally low. In that case, all alarm bells should go off, especially if you don’t expect low bounce rates. Because that probably means that Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly. There are several things that influence bounce rate, because they send a trigger to the Google Analytics server and Google Analytics falsely recognizes it as an engagement. Usually, an unnaturally low bounce rate is caused by an event that triggers the Google Analytics server. Think of pop-ups, auto-play of videos or an event you’ve implemented that fires after 1 second.

Of course, if you’ve created an event that tracks scrolling counts, then having a low bounce rate is a good thing. It shows that people actually scroll down the page and read your content.

How to lower high bounce rates?

The only way of lowering your bounce rate is by amping up the engagement on your page. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at bounce rate. From a traffic perspective and from a page perspective.

If certain traffic sources have high bounce rates, then you need to look at the expectations of the visitors coming to your site from those sources. Let’s say you’re running an ad on another website, and most people coming to your site via that ad bounce, then you’re not making their wish come true. You’re not living up to their expectations. Review the ad you’re running and see if it matches the page you’re showing. If not, make sure the page is a logical follow-up of the ad or vice versa.

If your page lives up to the expectations of your visitors, and the page still has a high bounce rate, then you have to look at the page itself. How’s the usability of the page? Is there a call-to-action above the fold on the page? Do you have internal links that point to related pages or posts? Do you have a menu that’s easy to use? Does the page invite people to look further on your site? These are all things you need to consider when optimizing your page.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

What about exit rate?

The bounce rate is frequently mistaken for the exit rate. Literally, the exit rate is the percentage of pageviews that were the last in the session. It says something about users deciding to end their session on your website on that particular page. Google’s support page gives some clear examples of the exit rates and bounce rates, which make the difference very clear. This comes directly from their page:

Monday: Page B > Page A > Page C > Exit
Tuesday: Page B > Exit
Wednesday: Page A > Page C > Page B > Exit
Thursday: Page C > Exit
Friday: Page B > Page C > Page A > Exit

The % Exit and Bounce Rate calculations are:

Exit Rate:
Page A: 33% (3 sessions included Page A, 1 session exited from Page A)
Page B: 50% (4 sessions included Page B, 2 sessions exited from Page B)
Page C: 50% (4 sessions included Page C, 2 sessions exited from Page C)

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0% (one session began with Page A, but that was not a single-page session, so it has no Bounce Rate)
Page B: 33% (Bounce Rate is less than Exit Rate, because 3 sessions started with Page B, with one leading to a bounce)
Page C: 100% (one session started with Page C, and it lead to a bounce)

Conclusion

Bounce rate is a metric you can use to analyze your marketing efforts. You can use it to measure if you’re living up to your visitors’ expectations. As we have seen, visitors bouncing from your website don’t necessarily puke before they leave, in spite of what Avinash Kaushik says. Nevertheless, you want them to engage with your site. So you can use the bounce rate to decide which pages need more attention. Meeting your visitors’ expectations and making your pages more inviting for visitors all leads to creating an awesome website. And we all know that awesome websites rank better!

Read more: ‘Creating segments in Google Analytics’ »

When talking with customers about Google Analytics, you often hear the same thing: “I’m not really using Google Analytics because I don’t know what I’m looking at. It’s just too much”. And that’s a pity because you can learn a whole lot about your website and your audience with Google Analytics’ data. So, is there a simple way to use Google Analytics without getting lost? There might be, by using segments.

What’s a segment?

In Google Analytics a segment is a way to specify the data you’re seeing in every standard view. Google Analytics just throws it all in there, on one big pile of data. This means that when you’re looking at a standard view in Google Analytics you see: ‘all sessions of all visitors’, you see: total revenue, all pages, average time on page of all users, the landing pages of all visitors.

You might recognize this: You’re in the Acquisition section and you’re all happy, because you’ve created the perfect table. You’ve used the advanced filter option to include the Medium: “Organic” and you’re seeing the data you want to see. Then you think: “I’m curious to see which pages these visitors looked at, let’s take these filters to the next section of Google Analytics.” You hit the Behavior section and Poof! your filter is gone. Oh, the frustration!!!

If you want to know which pages people coming from organic search visit, you need to find another way. A segment helps you to narrow down the aggregated data Google Analytics shows, into data you want to see and need, to answer a specific question you have. You can use that segment throughout the sections, the segment doesn’t get lost when switching between sections. For instance, if we want to know which source customers who bought an eBook came from, we can create a segment of people who bought an eBook. By applying that segment and looking at the Acquisition – Source/Medium section, we can conclude that most of our eBook customers came from a newsletter. Goodbye frustration!

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 179 - Buy now » Info

Why do you need segments?

Without segmentation, all data you see is aggregated. This makes it really hard to draw conclusions. As Avinash Kaushik once said: “All data in aggregate is crap.” And I certainly agree with him. If you want to draw a valid conclusion, you need to specify your data.

For example, you can’t just say that most of your visitors visit your site around noon. Well okay, you can. But what does it mean? This data is so aggregated that you can’t build a strategy on it, it doesn’t provide any insight. Based on this data you might conclude that promoting a new product around noon is the way to go. But what if a large amount of your non-paying visitors visit your site around noon, but your high-potential visitors visit your site in the evening? Then you could’ve made the wrong decision based on non-specific aggregated data. So with a segment, you can zoom in on a specific part of your data. And if you do that right, you can make important business decisions that help your business move forward.

How to create a segment in Google Analytics?

First of all, creating a segment in Google Analytics isn’t dangerous. You can edit your segments, you can delete your segments, but you won’t delete the actual data you have. For me this was an important realization, because it meant that I could just ‘play’ with segments without any consequences.

The first step is thinking about what kind of segment you need. Which question do you want answered? What’s important for your business? And where can you find the data to create that segment? Do you want to segment on demographics of the user? And/or, the behavior of the user? Or, the technology the user uses to visit your website? And so on. Knowing what it’s called what you’re looking for in Google Analytics really helps when creating segments.

The second step is adding the actual segment. You can find the segment section at the top of the page in every view from Audience down to Conversions.

add a segment in Google Analytics

This means that if you’re in Dashboards, Shortcuts, Intelligence Events or Real-Time section, you can’t see the segment section.

System segments

Google Analytics offers ‘fixed’ segments which you can find in the ‘System’ section. A lot of these segments are pretty darn useful. For example, there’s an Organic Traffic segment that groups all visitors that came from an organic search result to your site. Very useful, if you want to know which landing pages these users visit. Another example: There’s a Mobile Traffic segment, that groups users that use a mobile device to visit your site. Very helpful as well, for example to find out if the ‘time on page’ is what it should be, this might say something about the mobile friendliness of your site.

Custom segments

There are more segments to think of than the system segments Google Analytics offers. For instance, you can create a segment that filters out all visitors that spend less than half a minute on your site. Or you can create a segment that focuses on the organic traffic from all visitors from the Netherlands. Or, as mentioned before, create a segment based on the products visitors bought or a certain amount of revenue a visitor yielded.

I found this video on YouTube that explains creating a custom segment pretty well:

For me, a couple of segments are really useful. I have segments for every country that’s important for our business, for every product and for every product page. And I have a segment for every medium like Organic, Newsletter and in our case: plugin traffic.

Compare segments

A nifty feature in Google Analytics is the ability to add more than one segment for the same view of data. This means you can compare different segments. For instance, if you created a segment of visitors that stayed longer than 5 minutes on your website and created a segment of visitors that stayed less than 1 minute on your website, you can compare the two and find out more about the behavior of these two groups and in which aspects these two groups differ.

Conclusion

If you want to know what you’re looking at, when clicking your way through Google Analytics, segmentation is the way to go. If you have questions like, “how do the visitors from California behave on my site?” Or, “what are my newsletter visitors doing on my site?” “How’s my campaign going?” Creating a segment is the easiest way to go. It’s a way to dissect your data and actually know what you’re looking at, when looking at all the different sections in Google Analytics. Say farewell to your Google Analytics frustration!

Read more: ‘Facebook Page Insights explained’ »

Today we’re announcing that our Analytics plugins are getting a new home on MonsterInsights.com. One of the “problems” of a quickly growing business is that you have to choose what to focus on. We’ve made that choice: we’ll focus on building best in class SEO products, from plugins to reviews, eBooks and training programs. We’re very happy to be able to get our loyal Google Analytics for WordPress users a good new home at Monster Insights.

Google Analytics by Yoast becomes Monster Insights

Meet the new owner(s)

syed-balkhi-300x300The MonsterInsights.com team is managed by Syed Balkhi. You might know Syed from plugins like OptinMonster, Envira Gallery and more. Syed also runs WPBeginner.com, and is a fantastic entrepreneur. His businesses focus on conversion and business growth, which made our suite of Google Analytics plugins a nice fit.

What does this acquisition mean for existing users?

As Syed says in his post too: aside from new ownership and the new name, it’s business as usual. You can continue to use the plugin that you love without any interruptions.

MonsterInsights logo

The new name and logo for Monster Insights

With the experience Syed and team have, they’ll be adding new features and improvements to what’s now called MonsterInsights in the near future. They’ll update the plugin and give it the love it deserves. I have no doubt in my mind that this will lead to a far better plugin, very quickly.

A nostalgic moment

While I’m very happy about the decision to give this plugin a new home, I’m also feeling nostalgic. Google Analytics for WordPress was my first “major” plugin, even before WordPress SEO (now Yoast SEO) was a thing. It’s been “with me” for a very long time, but I trust Syed and team will take it to even greater heights.

I want to thank Syed for making this tough decision easier. Knowing that he’ll take care of the plugin and both our free and premium customers really made it easier to decide to do what’s right.

If you have questions, pose them in the comments and we’ll try to address them. Also, go ahead over to the new MonsterInsights site and read Syed’s welcome post.

My previous post about AMP lead to a ton of questions and rightfully so. We’ve been testing, developing and working hard in general on understanding what needs to be done to get AMP working without too many errors. This post is an update on where we stand right now, introduces an updated Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugin with new features and gives some more background on the why and what of it all.

The need for multiple plugins

The base AMP functionality is provided by the WordPress AMP plugin. In my previous post I recommended Pagefrog to add styling and tracking to your AMP pages. While it is a nice plugin, it caused more issues for us than it solved. The plugin adds a preview on every post edit screen. This preview is unneeded and there is no way to disable it, and it literally caused browser crashes in our backend.

The issues we had with Pagefrog made me decide to put in some time and created a set of design settings in our Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugin. When you update to version 0.3 of that plugin, you can safely disable Pagefrog and configure the styling on the SEO → AMP design settings tab:

Extra styling options

The Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugin also lets you put in manual CSS and some extra tags in the head section. This allows us, for instance, to have our preferred weight of our Open Sans font available and make the styling fit our brand a bit more.

You can also enable AMP for custom post types on the post types tab. The only post type that doesn’t work yet is pages, as support for that is being added to the main AMP plugin.

WordPress AMP design settings

Errors & testing AMP

We were getting quite a few errors in our Google Search Console AMP report for yoast.com. You can see our indexation and error graph here:

google-search-console-amp-errors

AMP debug mode

You can put any AMP URL into “debug mode” by adding #development=1 to the end of the AMP URL. If you then look in your browsers console – you might have to reload the page – you’ll see the AMP validation warnings. These are the exact same warnings that Google shows in Google Search Console. There are quite a few different types of errors and the Google search console report groups them for you.

I realize the error line in the graph above is not exactly convincing of our quality yet. The drop in errors we saw made clear that we were doing some things right. Now we have about a thousand posts on this blog, and almost a hundred on our development blog. So it’s clear that not all of our content is indexed as AMP yet, and not all of our AMP content is working nicely.

Missing featured images

The biggest source of our issues were Schema.org article errors. This was caused by one simple issue: a lot of our posts, especially the older ones, didn’t have a featured image. The WordPress AMP plugin then simply outputs schema.org JSON+LD tags without that image, causing those errors. The fix is simple: we now have a “default image” field in the design tab of our Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugins settings. It’s used when a post has no featured image. This solved half of our errors.

Testing Schema.org errors

To test whether you will be getting Schema.org errors, run your AMP URLs through the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. The output from that tool tells you which data is missing.

Missing site logo

The JSON+LD output also requires a site logo. While this is not an error we ourselves had, many reported this issue. The AMP plugin uses the logo set as your site icon in the Customizer, and omits it if you don’t have one set. We now let you upload a logo on the design tab of the Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugin too, if you want to use a different one.

Retrofitting AMP onto existing content

Part of what we’re doing with the AMP WordPress plugin and the Yoast SEO AMP glue plugin is “fixing” content that exists in your database to work with AMP. The posts on your site are stored as HTML in your database. The HTML of those posts does not necessarily to conform to what AMP HTML requires. For this purpose, the AMP plugin has a set of so called “sanitizers”. These are filters, run over your content, that remove tags and attributes on tags that aren’t allowed. They even remove some attributes when their values aren’t allowed.

We’ve added an extra sanitizer class in our own plugin to remove some more invalid attributes. Once we’re certain that these work, we’ll actually contribute these changes “upstream” to the AMP plugin. These changes have fixed the remainder of the issues we had.

Analytics integration

The only thing we lacked after Pagefrog was removed is tracking. Pagefrog took care of Google Analytics tracking for us. Luckily, adding tracking to AMP pages isn’t hard, so we coded a simple connection to our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin. If you have that enabled and configured, the plugin will automatically grab the account code from it and enable tracking for your AMP pages. You can, however, also choose to use a custom tracking code. If you do this, the plugin no longer integrates with Google Analytics by Yoast.

Facebook Instant Articles

Another thing Pagefrog takes care of is Facebook Instant Articles. There’s now a plugin from Automattic for that purpose, which we’re working on integrating Yoast SEO with. So you won’t need Pagefrog for Facebook Instant Articles either.

Conclusion

With all these changes, getting AMP to work on a WordPress site running Yoast SEO has become slightly easier and lots less error prone. We’ve updated our Setting up WordPress for AMP post with these changes. Good luck and do let us know of errors in the comments!

GA free vs premiumWe have two versions of our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin: a free and a premium version. We’ve had some questions about the difference between the two. And while we can mention the additional features the premium version offers, this doesn’t explain how those premium features could benefit you.

So in this post I’ll explain the difference between the free and the premium version of our Google Analytics plugin.

Features

Let me first tell you what the difference in features between the free and premium Google Analytics by Yoast plugin is:

 
Free Premium
Adds tracking code vinkje x2 vinkje x2
Tracking of 404 and search result pages vinkje x2 vinkje x2
Dashboards vinkje x2 vinkje x2
Specific reports vinkje x2 vinkje x2
Custom dimensions vinkje x2
Adsense tracking vinkje x2
24/7 support vinkje x2

You see that Google Analytics by Yoast Premium comes with some extra features compared to the free version. Let me explain what each of these features does.

Adds tracking code

This is really as simple as that: our Google Analytics plugin adds the Google Analytics tracking code, enabling you to start tracking the traffic on your site. This tracking code is also automatically altered when you check certain options within our plugin. So you won’t ever have to look at that tracking code!

Available for: free and premium

Tracking of 404 and search result pages

After you’ve installed our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin, within Google Analytics you’ll be able to find 404 pages that people have visited on your site. Also, if you have a search functionality on your site and you’ve enabled your site search, you’ll be able to see what people have searched for.

Available for: free and premium

Dashboards

This is a relatively new feature. It enables you to see the sessions to your website of the last month, and your site’s bounce rate for the last month. Just to give you an idea, the sessions graph looks like this:

Yoast Google Analytics Dashboard ‹ Yoast — WordPress

This will give you the ability to get a general overview of how your site’s doing, directly from your WordPress install. You won’t have to go to Google Analytics anymore to see what’s going on.

Available for: free and premium

Specific reports

Next to the dashboards, there are also specific reports that you can take a look at without ever going to Google Analytics. You can see your most important traffic sources, your site’s most popular pages, and countries that get you the most traffic from, all ordered by sessions:

Yoast_Google_Analytics__Dashboard_‹_Yoast_—_WordPress

Available for: free and premium

Custom dimensions

Custom dimensions are quite a powerful tool, but also require a pretty lengthy explanation. I’ve written a post about custom dimensions and what you can do with them. We now support 8 different custom dimensions:

  1. Logged In
  2. Post type
  3. Author
  4. Category
  5. Published at
  6. SEO Score (only when combined with our Yoast SEO plugin)
  7. Focus Keyword (only when combined with our Yoast SEO plugin)
  8. Tags

Let me take the custom dimension “Author” as an example to explain what it can do. It shows you how much traffic each specific author has generated over the period of time you select. Especially when you have multiple authors it comes in handy to see which one gets you the most traffic.

These custom dimensions can be viewed in Google Analytics, but also within your WordPress install:

Yoast_Google_Analytics__Dashboard_‹_Yoast_—_WordPress

Available for: premium

Adsense tracking

To be able to see Adsense reports within your Google Analytics, you need to add a specific tracking code to your site. If you have Google Analytics by Yoast Premium, you can do this by checking a box. If you’re a regular user of Google Adsense, this is something you’ll want (and need).

Available for: premium

24/7 support

Alongside those premium features, the premium version of Google Analytics by Yoast will also give you access to our 24/7 support team. If you have any trouble with your plugin or need help installing it, or anything like that, our support team is always ready to help you out!

Available for: premium

Concluding

Both our free and our premium Google Analytics plugins offer you great tracking and easily accessible insights. If you want to get the most out of your tracking and make money from your website, our premium version is the one for you. If you’re looking for more basic tracking features, the free version will probably be enough.

What about you? What do you use our Google Analytics plugin for? Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared as Google Analytics by Yoast: Free vs Premium on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

You might’ve noticed some features in beta under the Audience tab. One of those beta features is Cohort Analysis. I started looking at this analysis because I was curious. As is often the case with Google Analytics, it wasn’t evident right away. So that’s why I thought I’d delve into it a bit more and try to explain what this does for you!

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

What’s a cohort?

Before I can decently explain what Google Analytics’ cohort analysis is about, it’s probably a smart idea to explain what a cohort is. When asking Google what the meaning of ‘cohort’ is, it gives me this explanation:

cohort meaning Google Search - cohort analysis google analytics

In this case, the second definition is, of course, the one we’re looking for. A cohort is any group of people sharing a characteristic. I think one of the most heard cohorts these days is the ‘Millennials’ cohort. In Google Analytics’ case, the only characteristic to be shared you can select, at the moment, is Acquisition Date.

Cohort analysis

So a cohort analysis is the analysis of a group of people. In this case, people who interacted with your website at the same date or date range. When clicking Cohort Analysis in Google Analytics, it’ll look something like this:

Cohort Analysis in Google Analytics

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t immediately clear to me, so let me walk you through how to look at it. The chart at the top is a visualization of the average user retention (percentage of returning visitors) for the date range, which is seven days by default.

The most interesting, however, is the table below the chart. This gives us insight in what percentage of people returned to your site within seven days of visiting it for the first time. Day 0 corresponds with the date in the first column. Day 1 is the first day after someone visited your website for the first time. So the 6.08% at Day 1 in the August 29 row means that 6.08% of the people who visited example.com for the first time on August 29, visited example.com again on the next day (August 30). Day 2 is the second day (August 31) and so on.

Note: this is a breakdown of New Users, so although it says “All Sessions,” this only includes people having visited your site for the first time.

What can I do with cohort analysis?

This is a question that I immediately asked myself. It wasn’t clear to me right away, so I might be a bit slow, or it’s not that obvious. I’ll let you be the judge of that ;)

Let me give you an example (not yoast.com, by the way):

Cohort Analyses details in Google Analytics

So what happened on September 1 that made fewer people who visited this website for the first time on September 1 visit again the next day? The retention rate is about 2% lower there. Maybe they had a campaign gone wrong? Were they facing some technical issues with the website? Or perhaps they publish a post every day except for this day? This can be a great way of figuring out whether what you’re trying (new content, new campaigns, etc.) is working.

Breaking down the cohort

If you need a more precise look at what’s happening, either because you don’t know why the retention rate was lower/higher, or because you’re a data geek, you’re in luck. You can actually ‘break down’ your cohort analysis by using segments. For instance, if I were to use the Mobile and Tablet Traffic segment on the data above:

Adding segment in cohort analysis in Google Analytics

Google Analytics will give me this cohort report:

Mobile and Tablet Cohort Analysis in Google Analytics

This shows the data for people who not only visited your website for the first time in the set time frame but were also on a smartphone or tablet when viewing the site. You can have up to four of such segments active at the same time. This way you can see whether the (expected) effect happened for all sorts of people, such as people on mobile phones, people from search engines or direct visitors, etc.

Other metrics

You can select quite a few metrics that will make the cohort analysis useful for a lot more than returning visitors:

Cohort_Analysis_-_Google_Analytics

Although the Cohort Type has a dropdown, it has the one option. The Cohort Size can be set to ‘by day,’ ‘by week’ or ‘by month’ and the Date Range will change accordingly. The most interesting though is the Metric drop-down. You can select a lot of per user metrics (revenue, pageviews, transactions, etc.) or total metrics (again revenue, pageviews, etc.) apart from the Retention metric I used in the examples above.

This way you can see a lot of effects, such as whether your overall revenue or revenue per user has increased after a post or campaign. Of course, you can see your sales or revenue increase if you have a successful campaign, but this data is different.

You can now see how much revenue you got from people that visited your website for the first time on a particular date and see if these new visitors bought something on that date or in the days to follow. And since you can see this for an entire date-range, you’ll also be able to see if that’s a higher or lower revenue than was to be expected.

Example of a cohort analysis

Let me give you an example. Say you changed your landing page recently, which you tailored to convince new visitors of your site to buy a product. You could look at the revenue from new visitors and see if it increases. However, if a visitor were to visit your website for the first time, only to return the next day to buy your product, Google Analytics wouldn’t show it as a new visitor anymore. That’s why these cohorts work: the visitor was new at the set date, so even if they buy the product a day (or two, or more) later, they’ll still show up in the cohort analysis. So you’re not only measuring direct effect anymore, you measure delayed effects as well!

By the way, to be sure you have only the visitors that visited that landing page, you could create a segment for visitors who visited that page.

The downsides

While looking at the cohort analysis for yoast.com, I noticed that the Retention metric is quite difficult for our domain. Our traffic, even from the new visitors, is very stable. The pattern was the same all the time, no matter what date-range I selected. This is because we have such a steady flow of new visitors, any lift here would only be a small change in percentage.

So, the changes in the percentages are too small; if everything between 3.5% and 4.5% is the same color, it’s pretty hard to distinguish any real differences. Of course, I could look at the percentages, but that’s not as convenient.

More importantly, though, we can only create cohorts based on Acquisition Date. That’s nice, but I do hope they’ll start adding more Cohort Types. But this feature has been in beta for a very long time so I’m wondering if they are still working on it. The Acquisition Date is not enough, for me at least. I’d love to see cohorts of people buying a particular product (category), for instance.

Want rich snippets for your site? Try our Structured data training »

Structured data training Info

Summing up

The cohort analysis can give you some insights that weren’t readily available before. However, it does still require more than a basic knowledge of Google Analytics and might be a little confusing in the beginning. So I’m not entirely sold on this feature yet, but to be fair; it’s in beta for a while now, so who knows how much better it will get right?

Did you think of any other cool ways of using the cohort analysis feature? Or do you think I said something utterly stupid in this post? Let me know!

You might’ve noticed some features in beta under the Audience tab. One of those beta features is Cohort Analysis. I started looking at this analysis because I was curious. As is often the case with Google Analytics, it wasn’t really clear right away. So that’s why I thought I’d delve into it a bit more and try to explain what this actually does for you!

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

The post What is Cohort Analysis in Google Analytics? appeared first on Yoast.