Introduction to Google Analytics
Google Analytics has nothing at all to do with SEO or organic rank, but it’s an important part of tuning your website’s performance and provides invaluable data on the result of your SEO efforts:
Analytics is a piece of reporting software that is installed into your website.
When a visitor arrives at your website, the software signals Google HQ (or wherever the data collection system for your Analytics account is stored) to say “here’s a visitor – we’ll update you with what this visitor does while here”. This software monitors the visitor’s every move on your site.
For some visits, a visitor leaves soon after arriving. During other visits, a visitor navigates through a few of your pages, and then leaves.
If your website has eCommerce, and Analytics is correctly configured to track eCommerce transactions, you may also get a report from Analytics as to what they bought, and how much it cost.
Analytics is also fab at telling us how a visitor got to your site in the first place, because when a new visitor comes to the site a digital ‘handover’ occurs that tells Analytics some information on where the visitors came from. That also implies that if you sold something on your website you can attribute that sale to a particular source, entry point or type of visitor. Great information for making decisions about whether the business mechanics of your website is actually working.
None of this information tells us anything about how well your website ranked, or which page of search results the visitor found your website link on. Those are SEO features happening on Google’s website, and that information is not accessible by Analytics.
Before 2014, it was possible to connect a search keyword to a particular visitor. That meant you could see the result of your SEO work directly in Analytics and be able to tell if your website got business from organic search.
Since that time, Google has stopped sharing that information between their search and Analytics systems, so we now rely on some super sleuthing work to connect cause and effect, although you can still connect Google Search Console data into GA.
Did a particular search phrase in Google search result in a sale on your website? We don’t know for sure. Analytics can show the final result, but not connect that result with the exact cause.
So now, we do SEO work, based on some fairly solid research outside of Analytics, and hope that it results in increased visitor rates and more conversions on your website. We can measure the cause through Google Search Console. We can measure the result through Google Analytics. We can’t absolutely prove the connection between the two.
So the boundary of where Search Engine Optimisation ends (at the entry to your website) is where Conversion Rate Optimisation starts.
What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?
Commonly referred to as “CRO”, conversion rate optimisation is the science of arranging your website content in a way that makes it more effective at turning visitors into customers.
There are many different mechanisms you could use to conversion optimise your website. Examples are: well-placed calls to action, like a button with well-written label that tells the visitor what to do next, or perhaps a strong and clear benefit statement that tells the visitor how they could benefit from doing business with you.
CRO is complex and sometimes completely unpredictable. There are specialist providers in the online marketing industry that make it their business to perform expert CRO work.
They might not be the same person you hire to build your website, nor are they necessarily the same person you hire to execute your SEO or PPC campaigns. I suggest you always seek advice around this topic from at least a few sources, and hire the provider that tells you things that make complete sense to you.
Like SEO, it’s not black magic, just an accumulation of good common sense and experience.
How does it work?
OK, I simplified a little when I said that Analytics is software in your website. Technically it doesn’t exist in your website at all, but what it does do is allow Google’s software to run on your site from remote, and send signals to and from Google’s database at certain triggers called ‘events’.
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What is an event?
Events occur on your website as a result of an action that the visitor takes, for example, when they click on a navigation menu and visit another page in your website. This triggers a new page to load and is seen as an event that gets reported to the Analytics database. Other examples of events may vary quite a lot. An event may be triggered when the user scrolls down the page – because as new resources for content later down the page are loaded, these are recorded as engagement events. Another example is clicking the play button on a video, or clicking the add to cart button on a product listing, or submitting a contact form. Events that cause a change in the URL of the page being viewed are easily tracked without much effort. Tracking events within a single page require a little more skill in implementation and may not be available in Analytics ‘out of the box’ so to speak. You may need help from a web developer to install certain kinds of event tracking mechanisms.
What to ‘Conversion Optimise’ for:
It’s simple really: Optimise for the events that result in business success. That might be many different things to different people, so take the time to make sure you have considered your goals and understand how they will affect your business.
Implemented well, Google Analytics can assist in determining the ultimate business measurement: Return On Investment. What did it cost you to get the visitors to your website? What did it cost you to convert those visitors into customers? The total cost of acquisition divided into the total revenue generated is your ROI.
As an SEO specialist, I often see clients shy away from investing in either SEO or CRO with the rationale that they ‘have a website and that cost them a pretty penny, so they will see what happens’. Well, a website without converting visitors is a wasted investment.