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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If you want to measure the success of your content SEO strategy, you first need to establish what your goals are. What’s the purpose of your content SEO strategy? Do you want higher rankings? More traffic?

In order to evaluate your Content SEO strategy, you should identify what success means to you! Once you’ve established your goals, you can measure the success of your content SEO strategy. In this post, I’ll help you define your goals and give you tips on exactly how to measure those goals and the success of your content SEO strategy. 

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What’s your ultimate goal?

What do you really want to achieve with your SEO strategy? Lots of people SAY that they want to rank higher in Google. But is that really what they ultimately want to achieve? Or do they want to attract more traffic from Google to their website? Perhaps, they actually want to sell more stuff. Or, to have more return visitors. These are all different goals and these goals require different metrics to evaluate.

Ranking higher in Google for a particular search term will probably lead to more traffic. But not necessarily. We used to rank really high on the term [Google Analytics]. Most of those people were just looking for Google Analytics when they typed in [Google Analytics] in the search bar though – that was their search intent. So although we were ranking sky-high on a major competitive search term like [Google Analytics], it didn’t bring us any traffic.

In most cases, people probably want more organic traffic instead of higher rankings. And, if you have an online shop, you probably want to make more money: you’d like to attract people to your website that have a larger intent to buy. Your content SEO strategy should focus on attracting those people to your website.

Set up a content SEO strategy that fits your goals

Once you’ve established your goals and know what you want to achieve with your content SEO strategy, you should come up with a strategy that actually fits your SEO goals. If you want articles to rank higher, you should update and improve your best articles. If you want to attract more traffic to your website, you should consider a long tail keyword strategy. And if your goal is to sell more items, you should think of ways to attract buyers to your website.

Read more: ‘What is search intent?’ »

How do you measure those goals?

Once you’ve established your ultimate goal and figured out your content SEO strategy, you’ll be able to measure it. If you really want to know whether your content SEO strategy was successful you need to measure at least twice. You need to know just how you were doing before your content SEO strategy kicked in and you need to know how you’re doing afterwards. Let’s look at various goals and ways to measure them.

Higher rankings

Check the positions of your articles. For which terms are you ranking pretty well and which articles need an SEO boost? Rewrite and write new content. Add links. Do your content SEO magic! After some time, you can check your rankings again. If your articles appear in higher positions than they did before you started your content SEO strategy, your rankings will have increased. To keep track of your rankings, you can use Google Search Console.

More traffic

If your goal is to attract more traffic to your website, you should focus on the number of unique visitors you get on a weekly or monthly basis. If the organic traffic – visitors that come to your site using the search engines – increases, your content SEO strategy is paying off. It means more people click on your snippet in the search engines. You can use Google Analytics to keep track of the visitors on your site.

More sales

Increasing the number of purchases on your site could also be the ultimate goal of your content SEO strategy. It’s hard to measure the direct effect of your content SEO strategy on your sales. A decent content SEO strategy will need some time to have an effect. Still, Google Analytics has a lot of options on just how to attribute value of sales to certain pages. If you want to dive into that, read Annelieke’s post on how to measure the success of a Black Friday sale.

Other goals

A content SEO strategy could have other goals as well. It could be aimed at making people stay longer on your website and read more articles. The time spent on site is the metric you need in that specific case. Perhaps you’d want people to come back to your website: measure the number of return visitors. A totally different goal of a content SEO strategy could be making sure people find the information they need on your website, so they don’t need to make a phone call to your call center anymore. In such a situation, you need to measure the number of received phone calls – before and after your content SEO strategy.

Always keep in mind when you’re measuring something like this: try not to change other variables – things that influence, for instance, the amount of calls you get – during your test period! Otherwise your data won’t be reliable, and you’re still in the dark about the effect of your content SEO strategy.

Conclusion

How you should measure the success of a content SEO strategy largely depends on the goal of that specific content SEO strategy. What do you want to achieve? Specify your goals, find the metrics you need, define a test period and determine whether your content SEO strategy was a success. Good luck!

Keep reading: ‘Content SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

 

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It’s Monday morning and you open up your Google Analytics stats. Then there it is, something you don’t wish to see at the beginning of the week: a sudden drop in traffic. And not just a small decline in traffic, no this is a significant drop. Panic strikes, time for action! First, take a couple of deep breaths and grab a piece of (digital) paper and write down the things you should check. This post will help you with trying to find what caused that drop.

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1. Look at ‘the drop’ in Google Analytics

After you’ve taken your deep breath, check how ‘bad’ the traffic drop is. Sometimes a drop can look sharp because you’ve set the wrong date range. For example, you’ve included today and the day isn’t over. Or you’re looking at an hourly report.

Hourly report in Google Analytics

It’s also possible that you’ve included a weekend in your date range.

Weekend date range in Google Analytics

What I’m trying to illustrate is that you can get skewed graphs because of the date range you’ve chosen. No website has a consistent amount of traffic; it goes up and down. It’s key that you put the drop into perspective. Take a broader date range that you can divide by seven, or compare date ranges.

One of the things worth exploring is to compare the date range with last years date range. Did you have a similar drop in % last year? Then it might be that you have an off-season around the same time each year.

Compare dates in Google Analytics

Is the amount of traffic recovering? Then there might’ve been a temporarily issue with your site. Still worth exploring, but less frightening than an actual drop.

2. Check with IT

If the drop is massive and quite unnatural, my first instinct would be that a technical issue has occurred. Someone from IT can tell you if something happened to the website. Perhaps the site experienced downtime, or they’ve used a new template or did a migration. Check if there’s been a change that could’ve influenced the Google Analytics tracking code.

Use Chrome extensions like Google Tag Assistant, Ghostery and/or Google Analytics Debugger to check whether there’s nothing wrong with the tracking code. And don’t forget to look at your Google Search Console stats, do you see a lot of crawl errors or a drop in the number of indexed pages? And check the search analytics stats while you’re there.

3. Zoom in on your traffic sources

You’ve established that there is a significant traffic drop and it’s not caused by a technical error or an unlucky chosen date range, it’s time to look further. You need to check if you’re getting less traffic from one or more of your traffic sources. The acquisition tab in Google Analytics gives more insight into what drives people to your website.

Drop in traffic source in Google Analytics

First, have a look at the Channels you’ve got and plot rows of each channel, you can plot six channels at a time:

Plot rows in Google Analytics

It’ll show you a specified graph with a graph line for each channel you’ve plotted. That way you can identify which channel caused the drop. Once identified, you can specify even further by clicking on the Channel or by narrowing down the Source and Medium of that Channel in the Source/Medium tab.

If you see a decline in organic traffic, you might have an SEO issue on your hands, like a Google Penalty. If so, sprint to your Google Search Console account to check if you’ve got a message from Google. Also, if you see less traffic coming from social media channels, check whether you’re still active on these channels. A decline in Direct traffic could indicate things like a new competitor showing up, or some pages don’t work anymore.

4. Analyze the audience tab

If the traffic sources aren’t giving you the answer you’re searching for, it’s time to look at your audience tab.

Audience Overview in Google Analytics

New vs. returning

Starting with the New vs. returning, you can find this under the Behavior item in Google Analytics. When you’re seeing a decline in new visitors, you need to work on your visibility. Invest more in SEO, social media and content SEO to drive more new visitors to your site.

Seeing fewer visitors return to your site? Take a firm look at your site’s health. Do you have a proper site structure and is it user-friendly? Are you providing the best user experience? Do you meet your visitor’s expectations? Do your pages work and is your site fast enough?

Country

Don’t forget there can be causes of a traffic drop in which you don’t have control. Like for example, the holidays, hurricanes, power outages, unstable political climate and so on. By looking at countries, you can identify if a specific country has a significant drop in traffic. Then you can check the news and find out if something has happened in that country. You can also do this check on a regional level or a city level.

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Conclusion

When you identified there’s a significant drop in traffic in your Google Analytics, follow these steps to identify what might’ve caused it. If it’s not a technical issue, you can’t see a drop from one of your traffic sources and your audience stayed pretty much the same; then it’s time to ask around. The cause won’t be that obvious, so you need to get a full view of everything that happened on your site and in your marketing efforts. That’s probably where the answer lies. Good luck!

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

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Black Friday is almost here. The day of the year where people go wild and spend loads of money in stores and online shops. As an owner of an online business, you want people to spend their money at your store. So you want to draw a lot of visitors to your site and seduce them with an awesome discount. But how do you know if your Black Friday campaign was a success? Which steps do you need to take to make sure you can measure that success in Google Analytics? Read this post to find out!

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Black Friday extras

You’re probably going to do something special during BFCM weekend. Something extra, more than the usual. You might publish more posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Perhaps you’re dedicating a special newsletter to the Black Friday sale; you might even send out an extra one. What about your website? Will you add a banner throughout the website? Add a countdown clock? A pop-up? Write down all the things you’re planning to do during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and think about how you’re going to measure them.

1. Measurement plan

In comes the measurement plan. It’s vital to know if you can measure the things you’d like to measure and if you have the data to compare it with. If you already have a measurement plan, grab it and refine it. If not, get some piece of paper and a pen and write down the following:

  1. Your business objective for this Black Friday sale
  2. The strategies of your business objective
  3. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  4. Set targets per KPI
  5. Identify segments

There are a couple of sources you can consult for more detailed information: this post from Avinash Kaushik about the measurement model, a Google Analytics YouTube tutorial about creating a measurement plan and these two posts with practical examples of measurement plans: one about Black Friday and one about a charity website.

Once you’ve clarified the above, you need to have an implementation plan so that everything you want to track, is implemented. You might need to ask a developer for certain things. But please keep in mind, measuring something is way, way better than measuring nothing. So if you find this a bit scary, don’t set the bar too high for yourself and measure the things that are easy for you to do.

2. Check your eCommerce tracking

If you own an online shop, you want to gather eCommerce data. Check if you have information about your eCommerce Conversion Rate, the shopping behavior, product performance and revenue.

ecommerce data in Google Analytics

If you do not see this kind of data in Google Analytics, you might need to implement eCommerce tracking. For more information, read this guide about enhanced eCommerce tracking. Knowing what the shopping behavior, checkout behavior and so on is before Black Friday, gives you the opportunity to compare this data with the data you’re collecting during Black Friday. And that gives you insight into whether or not your Black Friday campaign has been successful.

3. Check goals and funnels

To be able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site even more, you can implement goals. You can set a goal for everytime someone pressed the ‘add-to-cart’ button. Having a goal with a funnel for your checkout process is also vital. It calculates a goal conversion rate for the entire checkout and shows where people drop off in the funnel. During Black Friday, having this data will allow you to check for technical issues. If you see a sudden drop in the conversion rate or drop-offs, that’s a sign that tells you to dig in further. Check if payment options are working or if you have downtime.

Implement BFCM events in Google Analytics

If you decide to add banners and/or pop-ups or other elements on your websites where people can click on, don’t forget to implement events. Add goals to those events so you can analyze them in Google Analytics. You do want to know if people actually click on them, right? Adding events take in a bit of extra work. Luckily, Google Tag Manager makes implementing events a lot easier. There are a lot of tutorials on the world wide web that show you how to create events. One of my favorites is the video tutorial by Measureschool.

4. Special BFCM UTM tags

To identify all your Black Friday efforts on other sources such as social media and in your newsletters, you can’t live without the proper UTM tags. Using these UTM tags consistently throughout the entire Black Friday sale is key to effectively analyze the success of all your marketing efforts on other websites than yours. A couple of examples:

1a. Promoted post on Facebook
https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=social-media&utm_medium=FacebookAd&utm_campaign=BlackFriday

1b. Regular post on Facebook
https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=social-media&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=BlackFriday

2a. Text link in Newsletter
https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email-11-24&utm_campaign=BlackFriday&utm_content=textlink

2b. Button in Newsletter
https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email-11-24&utm_campaign=BlackFriday&utm_content=button

As you can see, I used BlackFriday as the campaign UTM tag. Use the utm_campaign=BlackFriday tag on all sources you’re using that point to your website and have a BlackFriday sales purpose. During and after the sale you can get insights from Google Analytics to see if people from the Black Friday campaign bought anything.

Black Friday campaigns in Google Analytics

Keep an eye on this campaign during the sale, if it’s not going according to plan, it will allow you to optimize your efforts during the sale. You can do a lot of cool things with this campaign; I described all of this in a post I wrote about custom campaigns.

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5. Check Google Analytics stats during Black Friday

Google Analytics is great for keeping track if the sale is going right. You can check on a lot of things. Keep an eye on real-time stats, if you see a sudden drop in the number of users on your site, perhaps your site’s down or down in a specific country. You can also check your cart URL and checkout URL in the real-time analysis. If you see a lot of folks there, but no sales coming in, your checkout might not be working. If you just sent out a newsletter, and you see no-one coming to your site from a newsletter, perhaps you’ve added a broken link. The real-time functionality in Google Analytics is your friend here.

Conclusion

If you want to know if your Black Friday sale has been a success and want to know what made it into a success, you need data to compare the data you’re collecting during the sale with. Make sure you’re currently tracking all the data you need that makes you able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site. Start with writing down a measurement and implementation plan and check if all tracking is in place. After the sale is over, compare the data of the BFCM sale with your prior data and check what worked and what didn’t work so you’ll know what to do next time! You don’t have much time, so get crackin’! Happy analyzing!

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

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Picture this, you have an excellent website with nice pages and posts, but you have no clue how these pages perform. Sound familiar? How do you know if people like the posts you’re writing? Where do you find out if your pages convert visitors into newsletter subscribers or customers? The answer lies in the data you’re collecting. In this post, I’m going to show you where to look at in Google Analytics to see how your pages and posts perform.

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The behavior tab

Let’s start with the Google Analytics tab that brings insight into your pages and posts. On the lefthand side, you can find the behavior tab. Expanding that tab brings you the following:

Behavior tab in Google Analytics

When clicking on Site Content, you’ll find the place that hides all of your site’s content: All pages. That shows a valuable grid table immediately!

All pages grid in Google Analytics

In the columns, you see very cool stuff like

  • Unique Pageviews;
  • Average Time on Page;
  • Entrances;
  • Bounce Rate;
  • Page value.

What do these items tell you about your pages? Unique pageviews say something about how many visitors saw the page during a session. This in combination with how many visitors entered through the page (entrances) gives insight into how many people might have come multiple times to see this page.

The average time on page and bounce rate says something about how popular a page is. If people stay long on a page, they’re probably reading something they like. If the post also has a low bounce rate, they want to see more on your site.

And then there’s page value, this value tells you something about to what extent the page contributed to a conversion. You’ll only see page values if you’ve set up goals and attributed values to your goals.

Purpose of a page and bounce rate

Keep in mind what the purpose of a page or post is. If a product page has a high bounce rate, then that’s a bad sign because these people that bounce aren’t buying your products. A high bounce rate for an informative blog post isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve written a fairly long post and the average time on that page is low, then people might not be enticed enough to read the post. If it’s a short post, then it’s logical that the average time is low.

Take a close look at the data you’re seeing, which pages stand out in a positive way or in a negative way? Do pages with a high bounce rate need work? Do pages with a low average time on page, need to be rewritten? Analyze and take action to improve your content even more and learn what the audience likes and doesn’t like.

Content goals

If you really want to measure the performance of your content then you can’t live without Google Analytics goals. Setting up goals gives you more insight into what people are doing on your website and if they actually read your content. A pageview doesn’t necessarily mean that the page is actually read, with goals you can find out.

Goals in Google Analytics

Creating a goal in Google Analytics

There are a couple of goals you can think of when it comes down to your pages and posts. You can set up a goal for the number of pages viewed, how long they stayed on your pages and a goal if the page has gotten a comment. With scroll depth goals and how long it takes to scroll down, you can tell if someone read the post. You can even set up a goal if people scroll down the bottom of the page in less than a couple of seconds, identifying the so-called scanners. These last couple of goals are a bit hard to implement, you can read more about that in an article Justin Cutroni wrote about advanced content tracking.

When setting up goals, don’t forget to add goal value. Adding this value really gives you invaluable insight into which pages contribute to conversions and which pages are not. Not sure how to do that, read this post about goal values.

Content grouping

Google Analytics offers something called content grouping, it’s a way to group content obviously. If your pages or post URL don’t follow a logical structure, and you want to group them, content grouping is the way to go. You can group pages into product categories, your posts to certain categories or tags and so on. Once implemented, you can easily see which categories, for example, perform best in term of the variables described above.

Content grouping in Google Analytics

Where to find content grouping in Google Analytics

You can create powerful segments with content groups and check which categories, for instance, are most popular amongst people that come from Facebook. Content grouping in combination with page values will show you which categories or which authors convert better.

Page performance in Google Analytics

As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to find out how your pages and posts perform in Google Analytics. Looking at the general data from the ‘All pages’ in the Behavior tab is a good place to start. Combine that data with segments to give your data more meaning. If you’re serious about web analytics, you can’t go without goals and content grouping.

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

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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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’ »