Google Introduces Weighted Sort

August 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Website Analytics

If you want to fine tune your website in an effort to increase sales you absolutely must pay attention to what your website analytics is telling you. In short, you must know where your problem spots are if you are going to be able to correct them.

Now, there are a number of website metrics that should be focused on in an effort to uncover problems. One of them is your bounce rate — both website wide, and on individual pages throughout the site.

Now, don’t confuse bounce rates with exit rates. The two represent different items. A bounce rate can be defined as follows:

Bounce rate represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. Or in other another way of saying it is the percentage of visits where the visitor enters and exits at the same page without visiting any other pages on the site in between.

It goes without saying that ideally you want your bounce rate as low as possible.

To determine where you have problems associated with bounce rate it is best to drill down on a per page level and determine which pages produce the highest bounce rate. Until now, doing this worked similar to the following: you locate the content sections of your site within analytics, you click the bounce rate column to sort from highest bounce rate to lowest, you are presented with a list of pages from 100% bounce rate to lowest and then you start to scan / scroll / analyze those returned based on what is really important and indicates a problem area.

The initial results returned using this method are useless. You get pages with 100% bounce rate that really don’t indicate a problem spot and for the most part are only listed at the top because of their ‘100%’ measurement. Now, you might be asking how can a page with a 100% bounce rate not be a problem. I’ll provide you with a brief example of this very concept.

One visitor arrives at a page deep within the site (we’ll say the contact page) and then bounces leaving analytics with a 100% bounce rate. One thousand visitors arrive at the home page and 500 bounce leaving a 50% bounce rate for the home page. Although the visitor who arrived at the contact us page resulted in a 100% bounce rate, the more important bounce rate to pay attention to is the bounce rate of the home page. Why? More visitors arrived at the home page than the contact page and thus, the ‘weight’ of the bounce for the home page is more of an indicator of a problem point on the site. Think of it as working with a “larger data sample.”

Having provided this example it now becomes clear that the past sorting method offered by Google Analytics did little to quickly provide the information needed to help make decisions fast. Yes, you could get to it, but even after sorting you had to wade through pages of information to really find those pages that should get attention.

All that has changed with the addition of weighted sort in Google Analytics. Weighted sort enables you to now drill down on previously useless sort results based on the ‘weight’ each page (in this example) has over others on the site. This provides more relevant results faster and thus makes it easier to determine where to focus your attention when attempting to improve your website.

You can read more about the new feature and how to use it here:

http://analytics.blogspot.com/2010/08/introducing-weighted-sort.htm
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PPC vs. Organic SEO

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Search Marketing

Are you engaged in any active Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? What about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising? The fact is you should be working on both.

Both channels should work in conjunction with the other, sharing information between each to further enhance the overall sales return. That is what it is all about, getting the biggest bang for your buck at the lowest risk.

I can’t count the number of times I hear others say that PPC doesn’t work and costs too much. They tend to opt for SEO over PPC because they feel SEO will drive traffic at a less costly rate — but that is a mistake in judgment … more on that below.

PPC when run properly is a very valuable asset to all businesses. If you are losing money on pay per click you are likely not operating it correctly. SEO is also a very important component to business needs, but it should not be the only method you rely on for traffic generation either.

Consider the following example scenario.

You decide not to run any PPC advertising and in place of it put all your traffic generation eggs into the Organic SEO basket. Your efforts have you enjoying a nice ride at the top of the engines, your sales are high and life is good. You wake up one day and for some unknown reason your sales have not only dipped, but have come to an almost screeching halt. Doing some research you find out that the search engines unleashed some new update to their algorithms and with that update, your previous high flying rankings are now non-existent — and your sales are paying the price.

The risk is real. If you were running PPC in conjunction with Organic SEO this hit would not be as significant, and furthermore, you could quickly “buy” your way back into the search results and pick up pretty much where you left off until your natural rankings recover.

You shouldn’t wait to run PPC. As with SEO, many factors in pay per click rely on time and performance. For example, Quality Scores are affected by performance of ads / keywords and the more historical data you have the more opportunity you have to better those scores. Higher Quality Scores mean you can pay less for higher positions in the search engines — even when your competitor is bidding more than you for that same keyword.

Now if you are one of those who think you can wait for the organic SEO to fail and then at that time buy your way back into the engines with PPC, you’re slightly mistaken. Yes, you can have traffic up and running within a few hours at the most. But the price you will pay for that traffic is going to be higher and the learning curve of what works to convert and what doesn’t will still be something that can only be determined with time.

Here are some pros and cons regarding PPC and SEO:

Pros of PPC Advertising

  1. You have more control over paid search traffic.
  2. Targeting your ideal customer is easier.
  3. You can have quality traffic running to your site in just a few hours.
  4. Your traffic will continue to flow as long as your budget allows.
  5. Changes you make to your campaigns are active within hours and thus testing creative, landing pages, etc… is easier.
  6. Taking advantage of limited time opportunities to drive traffic (like holiday sales, back to school, etc…) is easier.

Cons of PPC Advertising

  1. Can get out of hand quickly and bust your budget if not setup and monitored properly.
  2. Can be a challenge to work with if not versed managing PPC campaigns to some degree.
  3. Depending on the type of system you use to set it up / run it, can be difficult with larger numbers of keywords, ads, and ad groups.

Pros of SEO:

  1. Can be more cost effective than PPC (but not always!)
  2. Can help you increase rankings for keywords that might otherwise be out of budget in the PPC channel.
  3. Indexed pages of your site stay in the search engines forever (providing they are not “dropped”).

Cons of SEO:

  1. Testing creative, landing pages, etc… is harder. Changes you make to your campaigns take time to work their way through the system (weeks, months, etc…) and by the time they are active, it’s likely too late to take advantage of any “would be” opportunities.
  2. Here today, gone the next. You could be #1 in Google (or any other engine) one day, and be non-existent the next.
  3. Traffic slows (or stops) as your search rankings drop and it can take time to recover those ranks.
  4. Harder to target and qualify your ideal customer.
  5. Time is your friend here (but that’s not always a good thing.) Things in the SEO world just take time.
  6. No guaranteed placement.

PPC and SEO are both effective means of delivering traffic to your website and arguments can be made for each as to their effectiveness. The fact is if you’re not running both, you’re limiting your potential for growth and increasing your risk. SEO should be seen as an ongoing marketing objective with “long term” results. PPC should also be an ongoing marketing objective with “short term” results. Combine them both, and the two traffic generation methods can work as a well oiled unit, delivering not only a continual flow of visitors to your site, but increased sales as well.

Got anymore insights? I’d love to hear them. Voice your opinion below.