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The two most important web metrics for your marketing efforts

1 October, 2007 (13:15) | Search Engines, Testing | By: Nick Dalton

I the previous article you installed two different web analytics tools on your web site. Today we’re going to use the data from those tools to optimize your marketing efforts.

We all want more traffic to our web sites. There are numerous ways to attract visitors to your web site: article marketing, blogs, social bookmarking sites, PPC, link exchanges, etc, etc. Each one has it’s proponents (along with a product that they’re happy to sell you). But how do you know which one works for you? Using real data from your web analytics tools sure beats guessing or trusting the so called gurus. Here’s how.

Referrer

To know which marketing efforts are most effective we need to know where your visitors are coming from. In web analytics terms this is called the referrer.
In Google Analytics click on Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites -> Pie Chart and you’ll see something similar to this (I’ve hidden some columns for clarity):

Referring Sites Pie Chart

Here you will see which sites are sending you the most visitors. StumbleUpon is as you can see a very important traffic source and I think it requires a separate article to cover properly. (While you’re waiting for that article you can check out ProBlogger’s tips on StumbleUpon.)

If you click on any of the site names you will get a list of the actual URLs within that site that sent you the traffic:

Referral Paths

Click on a URL and you’ll get a link that says “Visit this referring link” and you’ll finally find out why this page is sending you traffic. However if you’re using StatCounter then there is a much faster way to get this information. Select Recent Pageload Activity and you will see a list of entries like this:

Recent Pageloads

The URL in green is the referrer, and if you click on it you will be taken directly to that page. Once I’m on that page I realize that I wrote a comment on Rich Shefren’s Strategic Profits blog and a lot of people are clicking through to my blog from it.

Writing thoughtful comments on other related blogs is one of my most successful ways to get traffic. According to the web analytics data above this strategy accounts for 4 of the top 10 referring sites.

But unless you’re selling ads on your site per impression then the number of page views is not the metric you’re most interested in. You should look at some of the other columns in this table ( Google Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites):

Referring Sites Table

For each referring site you will see how long they stuck around on your site. Social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit sent quite a bit of traffic as number 4 and 5 on the list but a majority of these visitors just viewed one page and then left again. You see that by a Pages/Visit number that is close to 1 and a Bounce Rate close to 100%.

Does that mean I should not waste my time on social bookmarking sites? Compared to the time it takes to write an attractive comment on another blog, just clicking on the Digg/Reddit link for one of my own blog posts is a breeze. And if just one of the many Digg drive-bys signs up for my RSS feed or purchases one of my products, it’s well worth the effort. We’ll cover how to track this in a future article.

Keywords

Search engines are a special case of referring sites. What we care about here are the keywords the visitor used to find your site. In Google Analytics go to Traffic Sources -> Search Engines and select a search engine. You will then see a list like this:

Search Engine Keywords

This is not a lot of organic search traffic as this is not the primary mechanism that I generate traffic for this site. But any free traffic is welcome. So what can we learn from this list.

  1. Four of the top five keyword terms are variations of “article submission software”. Do some keyword research to determine which variation gets most search traffic and then target those specific keywords in your SEO efforts.
  2. People type in the keywords “article submission” into search engines a lot more frequently than the others, and that is why it’s number two on the list. But this site is not really about article submission in general so most of these visitors bounce away quickly in search of something more relevant. This is reflected by the low number of Pages/Visit and the high Bounce Rate. In this case you have the choice of bulking up your site with relevant content for these keywords, or just ignoring that traffic.

An important factor of how much organic search traffic you’re going to receive is of course how well your pages rank. In StatCounter this is very easy to see. Go to Recent Keyword Activity and you will see a list like this:

Recent Keywords

Click on the link in the Query column and you will be taken to the search engine results page. For this particular keyword phrase it turns out that I’m #5 in Google. Cool!

Data is Useless…

…unless you take action on it. For the simple action of installing a web analytics tool on your site you will received all this useful data described in this article. Now you need to make use of it.

  1. Determine which traffic sources send most visitors to your site. Focus on these for your future promotion efforts. Don’t waste any more time on methods that do not result in any significant traffic.
  2. Examine the source pages that are sending you traffic. Identify patterns that work well, e.g. a brief comment with an explicit link to your site, or maybe a simple trackback. Look at headlines; what works what doesn’t. Do more of the “what works” category.
  3. Look at the keywords that are resulting in organic traffic. Are you already targeting these keywords? If not, do some keyword research to determine if they could generate enough traffic to be worth targeting.

Comments

Comment from Alan
Time: October 2, 2007, 13:31

Hi Nick
Good article. Looking at your graphs, I’m finding that Stumbleupon works best for me also. I’ve my blog for the past few months and the hardest thing is driving traffic to it. Anyway, last week I found a sponsor which is great! Come and visit my site for a look!
Best of luck
Alan

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