SEO for Bloggers: Analytics

Now that we’ve talked about having quality, keyword-rich content, linked both internally and across websites with tags and SEO-friendly URLs, it’s time to talk about something that will pull it all together so you can find out what your next steps will be: Analytics.

There are a number of different ways of keeping track of the traffic on your site, but the most popular – because it’s the best – is to use Google Analytics. After installing a bit of code on your site (a simple matter of copying and pasting into the proper place) Google Analytics will be able to track how people came to your site (directly typing in your URL, linking from a referring site, through a search engine, or through bookmarks), what keywords they used to get there from a search engine, how long they stayed, how many pages they viewed during their visit what country/state/city they are from, and even the screen resolution, browser, operating system, and connection speed they are using.

All of these things come into play to help you make better decisions regarding the SEO of your site. While it’s a good idea to start off with Analytics to help you know where you need to focus your SEO energies before getting started, it’s good to keep a regular eye on the data so you can continually tweak and, hopefully, rank better.

As with all forms of communication and marketing, perhaps the most foundational thing is to know your audience. Analytics helps you do that by providing you with data so you can get a technical look at who your visitors are. However, you also need to draw on your knowledge of who your target audience is. What interests them, how educated are they about the topic, what are they trying to do – these are all questions you need to be answering so you can know not only what content to produce in the first place but also so you know which keywords are most important and which ones you will want to rank well for.

I work for an online sporting goods retailer that caters to a few key sports, each with a different season schedule, which also varies depending on what part of the country you’re looking at. It’s important to look at the Analytics data to determine what keywords to focus on for which sport at which time of the year when crafting the marketing messages for the site. We also might tie in our emails – which are posted on the site and carry some SEO juice – to a specific set of keywords or target them to a different part of the country depending on the time of year and where the players and coaches are in their journey through the season.

Just before Thanksgiving we widened the site to allow for more room to show more products which, in turn, put more keywords on each page. The main factor to make this decision was keeping an eye on traffic and sales coming from users with smaller screen resolutions.

Similarly, if you have a photoblog and you are posting lots of images, you would want to make sure you have the right balance between image quality, dimensions, and file size to suit your visitors based on what the analytics show about screen size and connection speed.

The search engines look at “average time on site” and pageviews and bounce rate when determining your rankings. So, if you have large files that will take a long time to load and/or will force your average reader to scroll too much or, worse yet, leave (or “bounce”) without browsing around some more, your rankings will suffer because of visitor behavior.

However, if you look at your analytics and see that your average viewer is looking at your site with a 1024×768 screen using DSL or a slower browser like Internet Explorer, instead of Chrome, you might want to scale back your images to around 975px wide and 700px (or so) tall at their max, use the “Save for Web and Devices” option in Photoshop to optimize them a bit, and make your user experience more user-friendly. After all, what’s good for your visitors is good for SEO.

I know I kind of went through with the broad brush strokes here, but I hope it’s been helpful in getting you started with your SEO efforts. Please leave comments below if you have questions because I’m sure there are others with the same questions – and perhaps better answers too!

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