3 Sources of information about your market, category and brand

Website analytics are rather like accounting systems in that they look back at what has happened and, whilst the past can be used to be help predict the future, a Balanced Scorecard approach needs to draw on other, forward-looking information.

Fortunately such data is easily available if you know where to look:

1)  Track what people are looking for

Website analytics search reports are excellent indications of what is working in terms of driving visitors to your site.  But how can you find out about that vast majority that haven’™t come to your site?  What are they looking for?

Even if you feel that Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) is not for you, there are free tools available that were created to understand what people are searching for. One obvious example is Google’™s “Keyword Tool” (https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool), which provides you both Global and Local Search volumes not just of the keyword you type in, but all variations on it (including many you may not have thought of!). You can apply various filters and even enter your competitor’™s URL to find out how their site is optimised for search and therefore getting traffic for.

2)  Understand what people are saying

Social Media provides a wonderful opportunity to listen in to conversations about your own brand, your competitors and the market in general.

Being a new industry there are still many vendors with offerings at every level of sophistication (and price!).  As a minimum you should be regularly monitoring a variety of key phrases through a free tool such as Twitter or HootSuite and, if you want to interact with those conversations, consider tools like Radian6 or uberVu, which add a level of automation and aggregate reporting on metrics such as “sentiment”.

3)  See what people are doing

This is where digital analytics finally comes into its own.  What Search phrases drive Visitors?  What do they search for when they get there?  Do they search for things but cannot find them?  Also, even if you think you only have a website, your visitors will get different views of you on their pc, tablet and SmartPhone.  Studies have shown people browse on a tablet and then go and buy on a pc.  Is that true for you?  Do you understand how behaviour changes dependent on the device and can you use that?

Bring it all together

To ensure that you keep ahead of the game, you should be using everything at your disposal, making it available to the key staff in your organisation and building it into the culture to use it to inform decisions.  The information is there in a way is has never been before;“ use it, your competitors will! 

How to stay on top despite Google changes

It is nearly the end of the year and a time to reflect on the whole menagerie of Google changes from Pandas through Penguins to Hummingbirds!  To a greater or lesser extent, these have had an effect on the rankings of your pages and leads us to ask the question – how can we keep up? For obvious reasons, Google doesn’t publish its algorithms, so you would have to spend ages scanning the net to find out what the gurus think.  This is fine for the professionals, but for the average business, which just wants to blog or create some additional pages it is far too time consuming.  That is where getting into the head of Google comes into its own! At its heart Google is a Search Engine.  If a “better” search engine came out tomorrow, we would all start using it and Google’s business would disappear overnight.  This is why they are constantly striving to improve – they need to stay ahead of the pack. Therefore the page at the top of the rankings is the one Google believes best fits what was being searched for.  After all, if they don’t do that, someone else will!  So, we need to make sure that Google thinks our page is the best. That is why “Content is King”.  Read what is on your page dispassionately.  Do you still think those pages that are beating yours in the rankings seem to answer the searcher’s question better than yours?  If not, then improving your copy is the first place to start. So, how do we keep up with the raft of new animals Google will introduce next year?  Answer: Think like Google; “if I am a robot reading this page am I going to think it perfectly suits what my prospective visitor is going to want to read?”. I don’t know what further changes are coming down the line, but I do know what they will be trying to achieve, so if we align our goals with Google’s and try and achieve the same thing then everybody will be happy!

3 Sources of information about your market, category and brand

Website analytics are rather like accounting systems in that they look back at what has happened and, whilst the past can be used to be help predict the future, a Balanced Scorecard approach needs to draw on other, forward-looking information.

Fortunately such data is easily available if you know where to look:

1)  Track what people are looking for

Website analytics search reports are excellent indications of what is working in terms of driving visitors to your site.  But how can you find out about that vast majority that haven’™t come to your site?  What are they looking for?

Even if you feel that Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) is not for you, there are free tools available that were created to understand what people are searching for. One obvious example is Google’™s “Keyword Tool” (https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool), which provides you both Global and Local Search volumes not just of the keyword you type in, but all variations on it (including many you may not have thought of!). You can apply various filters and even enter your competitor’™s URL to find out how their site is optimised for search and therefore getting traffic for.

2)  Understand what people are saying

Social Media provides a wonderful opportunity to listen in to conversations about your own brand, your competitors and the market in general.

Being a new industry there are still many vendors with offerings at every level of sophistication (and price!).  As a minimum you should be regularly monitoring a variety of key phrases through a free tool such as Twitter or HootSuite and, if you want to interact with those conversations, consider tools like Radian6 or uberVu, which add a level of automation and aggregate reporting on metrics such as “sentiment”.

3)  See what people are doing

This is where digital analytics finally comes into its own.  What Search phrases drive Visitors?  What do they search for when they get there?  Do they search for things but cannot find them?  Also, even if you think you only have a website, your visitors will get different views of you on their pc, tablet and SmartPhone.  Studies have shown people browse on a tablet and then go and buy on a pc.  Is that true for you?  Do you understand how behaviour changes dependent on the device and can you use that?

Bring it all together

To ensure that you keep ahead of the game, you should be using everything at your disposal, making it available to the key staff in your organisation and building it into the culture to use it to inform decisions.  The information is there in a way is has never been before;“ use it, your competitors will! 

Future looks bleak for understanding organic search as Google confirms all Searches will become secure

Two years ago Google began encrypting organic Search terms for anyone who was logged in to Google, preventing webmasters understanding what terms drove traffic to their site from those Visitors. At the time, Google said that this would apply to only a single digit percentage of Visitors; however it is clear that the actual figure has slowly climbed and can be 50% or more. All users will now be switched to secure search; as reported by Search Engine Watch (http://ow.ly/pbF5x) who were told by Google: 

“We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year.  We a™re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in”.

 All the other Search Engines will still provide Search Terms and Google’™s Webmaster Tools will let you see the terms for Paid Search.  However, that still leaves webmasters with the problem of understanding what terms are working from an SEO point of view and, whilst there are techniques available to get more information if you have a Webmaster Tools account, these involve some effort to set up and are approximate at best. N.B.  The alleged reason for this is privacy, although I can see no logic for organic searching needing to be private, but not paid searching!  The industry view is that it is a ploy by Google to encourage site owners to use paid search –  what do you think?