There may still be some small businesses that are not using their Google Analytics data, but if you exist out there then the best advice you can take is to start using them right away. If you want to be able to optimise your website better, understand your visitors better and convert more visitors into paying customers then Analytics data are one of your most effective weapons.
One of the key data elements you should be reviewing is the Bounce Rate. There has been much discussion since the Google Panda update about whether or not Bounce Rate is a ranking signal and, if not, whether it should be. But regardless of how Google perceives Bounce Rate in terms of search engine optimisation, as a small business owner you need to take it seriously.
Bounce Rate together with the Time Spent on Page, is the indicator that shows you whether visitors find what they are looking for on your website. It is shown as a percentage of visitors who looked no further through your website than the landing page on which they arrived. So if you get 500 visitors a day and your bounce rate is 60% then you are only capturing the attention of 200 of those visitors. Many small businesses like to know what a realistic bounce rate is, but it varies hugely both by market sector and by the keywords used to drive traffic to a site. General keywords will always result in a higher bounce rate than highly targeted 3-4 word keywords so it is very difficult to generalise but as a very rough guide you should aim for no more than 50% – 60%.
Google’s own definition of Bounce Rate is:
“Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.”
It’s fairly obvious that if visitors are not staying long on your site or only visiting one page then you either aren’t offering them what they want or they can’t find it easily. Either way there is room for improvement. This is where a small business search engine optimisation campaign starts to get entwined with the marketing and it can be hard to see where SEO ends and marketing begins. (This, of course, is why we see the term Search Engine Marketing more and more).
The focus should be on creating a site where a visitor will want to stay for a while and browse and then search further within the site. This comes back to the value of good content and Google’s focus on a good user-experience; this is the best way to keep people on your site, which will keep Google happy but also be good for your business. What this means in practise is that every page on a site should ideally be a high-quality page with good content. This has the added benefit of ensuring that all of your internal links point to high-quality pages which prevents good-quality pages with internal links to low-quality pages from losing some of their value as a result.
But back to that valuable Analytics data – Bounce Rate is shown as an average for the whole site but also as a percentage by keyword for each web page. By reviewing all of these data you can pinpoint very high bounce rates that are dragging down the site average and also very low rates, which indicate a high level of customer satisfaction.
But there is more in Google Analytics than just Bounce Rate, Time Spent on Site and the Number of Pages Visited. It can also be used to spot long-tail keywords that are targeting visitors you didn’t know you had. Keywords can be viewed by individual pages in order of popularity. If visitors are arriving at a low-quality page via a particular keyword then there is the opportunity to change that page to be more appealing to that visitor. For example, if a high percentage of visitors are landing on general information pages through long-tail keywords but you want them to buy a product, or at the very least register so you have their contact details, then add links to the information pages that will take the visitor to the registration page or product pages. Show them your site has more than just information.
You can also view the on-page click patterns of your visitors. This is a great way to visually show what links are most popular and can help in redesigning the layout of a page for better effect.
So if you are involved in a small business SEO campaign take a good look at your Google Analytics on a regular basis and use these data in your search engine optimisation efforts. If you don’t, you are wasting a great opportunity.