Analytics - 5/6 - Digital Marketing Agency

Can You Over-SEO Your Website?

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Matt Cutts, the Google employee who regularly speaks on SEO and the Google algorithm, has released yet another Youtube video answering questions from the public.

The question was basically – can you over-optimise a website? The example the questioner gave was excessive use of No-follow tags.

I thought the question of over-optimising was a great one, and was excited to hear Matt’s response. But like many of his video’s before, the answers were vague, not giving away corporate secrets, which is of course understandable, but didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

His one concrete statement was that you can put as many no-follow tags on your own site as you want – this will incur no penalty.

As for other SEO practices, he only seemed to discuss a couple.

The first was keyword stuffing – which is certainly an SEO strategy, but not a highly regarded one. Keywords are almost a necessity on a page, if you want it to rank highly. Some people take this to the extreme, and ‘stuff’ their keywords on there. Which means, that they put excessive amounts in – more than necessary for a human reader. As Matt said in his video, this can render a page spammy, make it unreadable or unpleasant to read, and does not make for a good user experience. He did not say though, that Google will penalise a site with keyword stuffing.

The other strategy, which is related to keyword stuffing, is to cloak keywords, or make them the same colour as the background. This means that human readers can’t see the keywords (and therefore their user experience isn’t affected by them), but the Google robot can. Surprisingly, Matt didn’t dwell on this for more than a second and didn’t say that it was a bad thing to do. Which is so wierd, because it is widely considered a black hat technique.

There was zero discussion of offsite SEO or structural SEO in his answer. Offsite SEO in particular is a huge one, and there are so many pitfalls, and ways in which you CAN over-optimise, that I actually thought this would be an obvious part of the answer.

Matt’s discussion seemed concerned solely with the user experience, insinuating that we webmasters could do whatever we liked to the site as long as the user wouldn’t be adversely affected. SEO practitioners would know that this hasn’t seemed to be true in the past, with black hat SEO techniques occassionaly being punished.

Track Your Email Marketing Campaigns With Google Analytics

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If you send out any emails with links to your site in it, you should think about using Google Analytics tags to track them. Whether you are emailing regular clients, sending out flyers, or have the link in your signature block, you might want to know if people are ever clicking.

Maybe you thought Google Analytics already told you thinks like this, because you have traffic from Gmail and Yahoo in your referrers? Well, this is because they are web based email. Desktop email subscribers will be lumped in with all your direct users. As for the web based email – there is no way to differentiate what kind of email or link they arrived from.

By simply setting some parameters on the end of your URLs, you can track visitors from the various forms of emails. To track email visitors, you need to tag the links on which they will be clicking.

Say you send out a link in an email to people that sends them to http://www.mysite.com/redpage.php

To track who arrived from your email campaign in Google analytics you need to append the URL with some parameters identifying the source. These parameters are then removed by Google analytics when you arrive on the site, and stored in a cookie on your computer so all your subsequent onsite actions can be attributed to the correct origins.

The parameters you need to include are:
Campaign – e.g. February newsletter
Medium – for this it will be email (medium can also mean other kinds of pay per click marketing, banner ads, etc. Link tagging can be used for identifying lots of different types of online ads).
Source – This could be the provider who sends your emails, or more descriptively, it could be the name of the particular email list you are using, or the segment of email users the email went to.
Content – if there are multiple links in your email, you might want to track them separately. You can use different campaign content tags to do this.

To write the tags onto your URL, it will look like this:

http://www.mysite.com/redpage.php?utm_campaign=February-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=mysite

Of course, this is a very ugly link, so you need to make sure that it is replaceable with anchor text.

Web Analytics Series Part 2 – After Set Up

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Last week, we posted on web analytics set up, outlining how simple it is to get analytics onto your site.

Once you have it tracking though, there are a few other things you need to consider straight away. Nothing in Google Analytics will work retrospectively.  So, if next week you implement some filters and goals, it will only record them from implementation time onward. For this reason, you need to think about setting certain things up early on in the game.

1. Multiple profiles – if you want to track different groups using filters, if you want to use more than 4 goals, or if you think you are going to receive more than the Google analytics traffic limit per day, you will want to introduce multiple profiles to your account.

This is a great way of experimenting with your data and your analytics account without threatening the integrity of your data.

To make multiple profiles, log into your analytics account. Under the table which lists your domains, there will be a link to “create new website profile”. Click on this and then choose “Add a profile for an existing domain”.

This will make you a duplicate profile which will be identical to the original unless you make changes to it (e.g. filters, new goals, etc).

2. Filters – Filters are used to filter out that traffic in which you aren’t interested. For example, perhaps you don’t want to be confusing your customer traffic with your staff traffic. Or maybe you aren’t interested in overseas traffic. Maybe you want a separate profile for each state you operate in.

To make a filter, go to your website profile settings in Google Analytics. Click on Edit in the table, then scroll down to the Filter box, and click “Add Filter”. If you want to exclude multiple IP addresses, try and use this tool from Google Analytics Help.

Using filters you can exclude traffic from an IP address, a domain, include traffic only to a certain subdirectory and much more.

3. Linking to Adwords – Another thing you will want to do ASAP, is link your Google Analytics account to your Google Adwords account (if you have one). Because if you don’t, then Google analytics will record all your search engine traffic as organic traffic.

To do this, you just need to click on the ‘Reporting’ tab in Google Adwords, and then choose ‘Google Analytics’. This will then prompt you to link the accounts. Note – to do this you need to have administrator access in the Google Analytics account.

4. Goals – Finally, you probably want to add goals to your profile. Each profile will allow you to add up to 4, but like I said before, you can make more profiles to record more goals.

To add goals, go to the profile settings page in Google Analytics, click ‘edit’ for the profile to which you want to add goals.

You will need the URL for the goal you want to add. This is often a thankyou page – for example after a sign up or purchase. You can have any URL on site as your goal, or even download links (like a brochure).

Similarly to Goals, is Ecommerce tracking, which is a more advanced type of goal measurement, which allows you to track products sold, total amount earned, etc. Setting up Ecommerce tracking will be covered in Part 3 of this series.

Web analytics Series Part 1- Initial Set Up

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OK, so you have decided to put Google Analytics on your website? The first question you need to ask yourself is – why bother?

Imagine Google Analytics wasn’t free, and you had to justify to your boss why you should implement it (which may be the case for many people anyway, time being money and all that). This is an important thing to consider so you can make sure you get the most out of Google Analytics.

Web analytics can provide such a huge amount of data that it can be overwhelming. By having clarity on what exact information you want from the start, you can make the journey easier for yourself, and also make sure you set up your account appropriately from the very beginning.  For example, my reason for setting up the account on our website was to see the following main things:

  • Where traffic to our site comes from –  to try to figure out how to increase it
  • The traffic patterns to our blog – to know what is popular/worthwhile writing about; and
  • To examine interaction with our ‘contact us’ page – this is our main onsite ‘conversion’

Of course establishing some purpose to your web analytics doesn’t mean you can never use it for anything else, it just means that you have structure to your work, which means you are more likely to use your web analytics.

Once you have established your reasons for implementing analytics, just sign up. The sign up and implementation of the initial code is very easy. Simply make a Google account (or you probably already have one), enter the URL of your website, and cut and paste the code Google provides between the body tags of your website. UPDATE: It is much better to use Google Tag Manager to implement your Google Analytics.

Make sure to use the new code (not the old Urchin version), because any new upgrades and improvements by Google will be made to the new code only. UPDATE: as of 2014, you can upgrade to Universal Analytics.

Very quickly, your website will start to collect data. Still, there are a few more things you need to do with your account to make sure it is set up properly, so stay tuned.

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