Google analytics has become a great source of data about visitors to your website – assuming your configuration is correct. Sometimes configuration issues inadvertently block your view of what is really happening. Common issues can include…
1. Not having your analytics snippet in the correct place.
There are many legacy variations of the analytics snippets. In addition, what was the correct installation a couple of years ago may have dramatically changed, depending on if you have an asynchronous snippet, etc. We still run into snippets calling for urchin.js for their Google Analytics, which are quite a few years old. The best place – currently – to have your analytics code is inside the <head> tag, and right before it ends with the </head> tag. This will prevent interference with other scripts, which we have seen mess with bounce rates, conversion tracking, ROI, sleep schedules, general happiness, and more
Your filters could have been created years ago and for long forgotten purposes. In Google Analytics, check your Admin area (under view, on the right halfway down) to see if you are filtering traffic. Look at the filters – do you know who created them and why they are present? Some have complicated REGEX rules and it can be difficult to decipher. Everyone should have at least one profile with no filters. We usually name this profile with RAW in the name. This system allows anyone to easily see if a filter has “gone rogue” and is filtering out good traffic.
There are also these problems with getting good data, and you did not even cause them:
1. Incomplete data / views
Most businesses are using the free version of Google Analytics, and sometimes experience “sampling” in important reports.
Sampling in Google Analytics (or in any analytics software) refers to the practice of selecting a subset of data from your traffic and reporting on the trends detected in that sample set. Sampling is widely used in statistical analysis because analyzing a subset of data gives similar results to an analysis of a complete data set, while returning these results to you more quickly due to reduced processing time.
In Analytics, sampling can occur in your reports, during your data collection, or in both place.
(Image of sampling)
2. Organic keywords
Years back, Google Analytics allowed you to see the query typed in by visitors. It was so powerful! It allowed you to see quite a bit of information about your prospects – perhaps too much. It has now become standard that search engines, browsers, and analytics itself is restricting this information. If you are new to analytics, you probably have not missed what you do not have. However, if you have been doing this a while, take a second to reflect on what was lost. We are right there with you. Hmph.
3. Referral spam, organic keyword spam, language spam
In addition to losing out on good data, there is often too much noise in otherwise good data. Using fake browsers – bots that can run analytics code, all sorts of things are being inserted into your analytics. Some of the offenders might put
– “Vitally was here” in the list of languages your visitors use
– or make it look like visitors are coming in droves from some site you’ve never heard of (which is either selling SEO or hosting malware).
Spam is analytics has become a major nuisance and we constantly have to deal with it while compiling reports. We see the same offenders across multiple accounts, and create a custom analytics segment to filter them from reports.
Want to try our segment? Click this link and scrub your own view of your account:
(There are other great segments on the Internet too, but we have customized this one for our clients.)
[Updated Nov 1, 2016]
“How do you write great title tags and meta descriptions?” That is the question that clients ask me most frequently. And it’s a complicated question, for sure! There are several components to writing great titles and descriptions, but there are also a few specifications that each company will want to consider for themselves.
I’ll address the considerations first. The goal is to write title tags that are Google-bot-pleasing, but you also want to have titles and descriptions that are functional and helpful to the human visitors to your website. This can be tricky when the approach is different when thinking of writing for bots versus humans. My best advice: somewhere right in the middle is your best bet! Write naturally and use the same voice that you are using in your page content, but include keyword phrases that are specific to the page.
Title tags must fall in a range of characters, but also need to fall into a size range to appear complete in Google search. This size range has to do with the number of pixels that a title tag takes up on the page. For example, if you’ve got a title tag with a couple of w’s in it, that will take up far more space than a title with several lower case l’s and i’s. Just look at this spacing difference: www lil. The three skinnier letters take up about as much space as one of the w’s! Why does this matter? Well, in Google search results, you are allotted a specific amount of space for the title of your page. This went into effect in early 2014 when Google updated its search results page. There was another update to the format of Google’s search results in 2016. Now, search results have a bit more space on the page. Yay, but, wait, there are also some other things to consider: like how many words you use, where the break might show up in those words (if you use too many) and the fact that Google is now appending the brand name to the end of the title tag in some cases. You want your page titles to appear complete in the results, while getting you the most out of this limited function. Unfortunately, this all makes it really tricky to say that there is a specific number of characters that you should use for each title tag. Around 52-55 characters is probably a pretty safe bet, but if you think you might be using a lot of wide characters (or if you test and find that Google is appending your brand name to every title), choose to use a few less letters.
Meta descriptions also have a size range that you want to target for full effect in Google search results. Meta descriptions are not used in Google’s algorithm, but a good meta description raises your organic click-through-rate. Google can tell human searchers are clicking through to your site, and likely takes that into account with your ranking. Google also does see short or duplicate meta descriptions as a site quality issue – so I guess it is indeed part of their overall formula. Recently, Google has made some changes to how they display descriptions and in some cases, they are chopping up your beautiful descriptions and taking bits and pieces of your content and adding that to the description so that they can highlight more of the search terms a user typed into the search bar. In addition, Google will sometimes add a date to the beginning or end of the description field in search results. Considering all of this, however, I still recommend meta descriptions of between 139 and 156 characters. The seem to work best, no matter what Google decides to do with them. Again, strive to convey your message to human visitors with your natural writing style, but include those keyword targets specific to the page. When writing meta descriptions, entice users to click on your search engine result by listing benefits and a call to action. In addition, the meta description should be different for each page of your website.
I have written a plethora of title tags and meta descriptions for a wide range of clients and what I’ve learned is that if you are organized and set up systems, even the largest websites can have all new titles and descriptions before you know it. I recommend setting up a spreadsheet and setting columns for old titles, new titles, character count, old description, new description and character count. Once you get used to using the spreadsheet, you can set the width of the columns to help guide you to the right size while you are writing.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed about getting your titles and descriptions in order, just give me a call. I’ve just about got it down to an art and I’ve also got a few tools in my tool belt that can automate some of the process that may be bogging you down. I’m here to help! Questions? Shoot me an email or a message at @jannavance on Twitter. Good luck!
Last month, Google rolled out one of their largest local search updates in quite some time. Since Google didn’t name the update, Search Engine Land named this one the Google Pigeon Update. It’s seemingly unrelated to Google’s Pigeon Rank, an April Fools joke from back when Google did good and funny things.
This update does not penalize sites, but does change how local results are shown:
– Fewer queries are generating a map listing / “local pack”
– More traditional SEO signals are used, such as title tags and quality inbound links.
Some interesting things are happening with this update:
– When a query includes the word “yelp”, those listings on yelp.com are back at the top. This fixes a recent bug.
– Web design and SEO companies are getting shown in local queries again!
If you depend on local traffic, hopefully your results weren’t negatively impacted by the update. The best approach for local visibility includes these tasks:
– make sure to update and creat local directory listings on authority sites such as yelp.
– Use the highest quality photo on your Google+ business profile, and get more reviews. You might make it into the Carousel listings at the top of Google for some queries.
– Make sure your business Name, Address and Phone(NAP) are consistent on your site, google+ business page, and local directories.
– Be sure your city/state is in site’s title tags
And now for something good, and funny:
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