Fred Dunayer: Welcome to the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast, Been There, Done That. To get free mentoring services as well as to see the wide variety of resources available for small businesses, visit our website at www.score.org or call 1-800-634-0245. Now, here’s your host, Dennis Zink.
Dennis Zink: Episode number 21, Analyzing Your Website Performance. Fred Dunayer joins me today in our studio as our co-host SCORE mentor and our audio engineer. Good morning Fred.
Fred Dunayer: Good morning Dennis.
Dennis Zink: Our guest today is Scott Gonnello. Scott Gonnello is a consultant, author and speaker specializing in search engine optimization, also known as SEO. His clientele ranges from small startup businesses to large global companies such as Victorinox Swiss Army. Scott’s latest book is “Common SEO Mistakes: Basic Edition.” Scott looks at 25 basic search engine optimization mistakes that can kill your business. His knowledge and ability to explain SEO in non-technical terms to the average website owner is what makes him one of the best SEO consultants in America. Scott, welcome back to Been There, Done That.
Scott Gonnello: Thank you Dennis, great to be back.
Dennis Zink: Scott, today we’re going to talk about website performance. How does one analyze their website?
Scott Gonnello: Well, there’s many ways to analyze your website. Number one, if your sales are going through the roof, if your phone calls are coming in, getting a lot of email requests, those are all ways to verify that it’s working, but if you want to get more technical, you could drill down into Google Analytics. There’s a wealth of information that they provide that can give you a lot of information on how your website is performing.
Dennis Zink: What exactly is Google Analytics?
Scott Gonnello: Well, the short answer is it’s a tracking software. It tracks the traffic that’s coming in, it tells you how long they’ve been on the site, how many users, the bounce rate, pages per session, a whole bunch of information that you can utilize and play detective, so to speak, to see what’s working and what’s not working.
Dennis Zink: Is having Google Analytics the same as SEO, search engine optimization?
Scott Gonnello: The answer is absolutely yes and no. Having a library card in your wallet that you never go to the library doesn’t make you smarter unless you actually use it. Just having analytics, a lot of companies think that that’s SEO, that they’re doing SEO, but the reality is unless you’re actually looking at those numbers and doing something with them, it’s not really SEO.
Dennis Zink: How is analytics used to help SEO?
Scott Gonnello: Well, you can look at the traffic that’s coming in, how many users you’re getting per month, is that number going up or is it going down. Basically all these numbers you look at is for you to get an idea and start seeing trends and traffic patterns and what’s working and what’s not working. You might have a really high bounce rate and that means people don’t like your site, unless of course the phone is ringing off the hook from that bounce rate. There’s trends and there’s numbers but you have to know how to look at those.
Dennis Zink: How can the phone ring off the hook with the bounce rate? I don’t get that.
Scott Gonnello: Well, for instance if you’re doing an online sales and they search for a page online and they find that one page and they make the call right there or they place the order right there, in that case, that’s not a bad bounce rate.
Dennis Zink: What should the average website owner look at in Google Analytics?
Scott Gonnello: That’s a good question because when I talk to clients around the world, they don’t really understand the analytics. They say, “Well, we have Google Analytics in our site for new customers that we work with,” and they don’t really know what to look for or how to use that. Even if you just took the basics, and there’s two sides of it, one is your audience which gives you the numbers on who’s looking from where, when, all that information, and the other one is the acquisitions, how they’re finding you.
Let’s say on the audience side you look at your overview. It basically tells you a lot of things like how many people came to your site, how long did they stay on your site, how many pages did they look at, what was the bounce rate, that type of information. Just looking at that gives you a wealth of information and after the intimidation wears off, you can start to see trends and patterns. The acquisition side tells you where they’re coming from, how they’re finding you through the search engines, through referrals, through other websites, that type of information.
Dennis Zink: Let’s break down into the audience first and then the acquisition second. there’s a lot to cover there, if you could explain page views to start.
Scott Gonnello: Sure. If they come into your site and see one page and leave, that’s one page view. If they see two or three pages, that’s two or three page views. The more page views you have, the more engaging your website is, the more they’re researching you, they’re researching your products or service, they’re looking at more pages throughout your site. The larger page view number is a better number.
Fred Dunayer: Just to clarify, I don’t know that we explained it at the beginning, but if they do just view one page and then leave, is that the number that becomes your bounce rate?
Scott Gonnello: Yes. A bounce rate is when they hit your site, see one page and they leave. Now, that bounce rate ties in with the time on the site, sessions per user. If you have a bounce rate very high and a sessions time on the site very low, that means something’s not right. They go there and they leave instantly. That could be spam sites hitting you, that could be oh it’s not the page they were looking for, it’s not the company they were looking for or they’re really not impressed with that one page and they leave.
Dennis Zink: I’ve seen almost like a heat map, for lack of a better term, I’m not really sure what they call it, where you’ll see how long a person lingers on a page and where they go, what they click, is that all part of analytics?
Scott Gonnello: It is and that’s really high level. For the average user, just going on the overview is more than enough. You need to learn about your site because most average websites are small businesses that aren’t really using their website as powerful as they should, so just knowing these numbers, the basic overview and some of the basic numbers will give you a wealth of information. Once you get comfortable with that, then you can drill down even more with some more high-end results.
Dennis Zink: Is there a certain percentage in bounce rates that’s significant like you want to be under a certain number or percentage?
Scott Gonnello: Well, every industry has a baseline. What I can say is the higher bounce rate is for companies that their site’s not up to speed to where it should be. Lower bounce rates generally tend to be websites that are more shopping carts. You’re looking for a product and you go to the site and you start drilling into that category of let’s say computers or baseballs or whatever and you start drilling down, that has a much lower bounce rate because you have more products to look at. Our high-end global site has 10 page views per user. Those are 10 buy now opportunities. The average site locally might have two to three pages per user.
Dennis Zink: Is one of the keys as in any business metric to look and see what you’ve been doing and try to improve upon it regardless of what that number is?
Scott Gonnello: Sure and tracking these numbers is a good way for you to focus on parts of your website that aren’t performing as well. If you know there’s a page that has a very high bounce rate, you can look at that page and make it better, try to see what’s not working, add some more buttons to say “click here for special offers” or “read more here”, give a call to action for them to do something once they get there.
Dennis Zink: What’s the difference between users and sessions?
Scott Gonnello: That’s a great question. Users are the people that go there. Let’s say 10 people go there, that’s 10 users and let’s say each person goes back twice that same 30-day interval and so you’ve got users of 10, but you have sessions of 20. Generally, what you find is the users is one number and the sessions are slightly larger than that because some people came back and looked again and again. Google tracks their IP address, so they know when they come to the site if they’re new to your site for the first time or they’re returning and it’s that returning viewer that creates a higher session.
Dennis Zink: How about pages per session, can you comment on that?
Scott Gonnello: Sure and that’s again if the average user is looking at 1.2 pages, that’s probably going to be a pretty high bounce rate.
Fred Dunayer: I would imagine that what you choose to be the main page of your website, I guess they call that a landing page, would be critical in determining whether someone who lands on that page continues on or not.
Scott Gonnello: Correct and that is the most searched page is your landing page. By far, that’s the number that everyone hits partly because you’re not doing great SEO to have them find specific pages so they generally show you up as the top page.
Dennis Zink: What should be on a landing page?
Scott Gonnello: Your landing page should be almost like a table of contents, so what’s in the site. Well, here’s some of the products we have, bullet points with links to the pages of those products, here’s some of our services with links to those pages, learn more about us and who’s part of our team. Basically it’s a call to action for them, almost like a menu where they can see what they’re looking for, click on it and go. If sometimes specials are right off the top, if they’re looking for buying something right there, ooh there’s a special, let me click on it. Basically you want to have what your whole site is about cleanly on that top page.
Dennis Zink: I’ve seen where companies sell as a service like landing pages. They might even be called Lander or something like that, I forget the exact name, but could you explain does that have SEO built into it or is that something that makes sense for the average person who has a business to use those types of landing pages or should it be created in some other fashion?
Scott Gonnello: You should do everything on your own site. You shouldn’t pay another company to have them find you on their site to drag you over to your site because the money you’re spending with them, you could be putting back into your own site to make it better than what that service is going to give you.
Dennis Zink: How about average session duration, how long do you find that people stay on a site and if you could make some interesting comments about that?
Scott Gonnello: Sure and that’s a great question. The average session for most of the small businesses around the country is a small number because they basically are looking for a product or service, they find it, they look at a couple of pages and within a minute to two minutes, they’re calling or they’re emailing or they’re leaving. Most people will go to a website because they’re researching them. They’ll click on a few pages. They may not necessarily read everything, but they’ll look around quickly and say “do I like this site or not.”
It’s just like when you meet someone. You know within the first couple of seconds if this person is trustworthy, if you like this person, if you want to continue the conversation, your website is the same. They find your site, if it’s engaging they’ll click through a couple times, they’ll build up trust and they’ll pick up the phone or they’ll send an email from the contact form on the site or they’ll buy a product online.
Dennis Zink: One of the Google Analytic numbers is new sessions. Can you go over that, what does that mean?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. New sessions is somebody who’s never been to your site before and that’s a good number to track because if all your traffic is returning business, you’re not finding the people that don’t know about you. Your new sessions you always want to try to keep that at a large number. Generally, we try to keep our clients with new sessions at anywhere between 70% and 85% and that brings in opportunities for more business.
Dennis Zink: How about geocoding or geo-locations?
Scott Gonnello: That’s a great thing to look at because what it does is the 30,000 foot view, so to speak, gives you the world and shows you where you’re getting found from, but as you drill into it, let’s say you drill into United States, then you have the map that has different colors for the states, the darker the better. You go to your state where you’re marketing and you see little dots of where everybody found you in the last let’s say 30 days and that tells you if your marketing is working or your web development is working. What you want to try to do is keep it into your area of where you’re marketing. If you see that it’s a large group of dots in the let’s say the Sarasota area, that’s giving you proof of where people are finding you from.
Fred Dunayer: Dennis had mentioned before we started recording that we were getting a lot of listeners to our podcast out of Egypt. Now, we love having international listeners, but SCORE which is what we’re supporting here is only within the United States. I see your point is if you’re marketing a local service and it’s being viewed by people in other cities or other countries, that’s not necessarily doing you a lot of good.
Scott Gonnello: Right and the geo-targeted part is really good because it gives you a list of your top cities and towns that they’re finding you from. If you’re marketing let’s say Sarasota, you can see that number and if it’s a low number, something’s not right on your site and it gives you the opportunity to go back in and restructure what you’re doing in order to build those numbers up. The other good news is if you see another town that’s doing very well, you could continue that bounce or that marketing power that you built up and continue to market that area.
Also negatively, let’s say you’re doing Springfield, well, there are Springfields in many states throughout the country. If that’s generic and you’re being found throughout the country but you’re not selling there, you might want to do Springfield, Massachusetts or Springfield, Illinois. You can tighten up your local area.
Dennis Zink: We started out with discussing audience versus acquisitions. What do you look for in acquisitions?
Scott Gonnello: Well, the acquisition side is the traffic coming in, how they’re finding you. Again, it gives you a lot of information to look at. If you’re looking at it for the first time, it’s a little overwhelming because it’s percentages, it’s numbers, it’s bounce rates, it’s per views, it’s a lot of stuff, but if you take the time to let it sink in, this is where the CSI part comes in, the crime scene investigation. This is information that you can gather a picture from. Your acquisition tells you it’s coming in from Google Analytics, so it’s organic hits. It lets you see how well you’re doing organically.
It also lets you see if there’s some spam sites hitting you. There are a notorious amount of just really bad spammers out there that hit your site over and over and over, throw your numbers up, but also increase your bounce rate and it brings no value to that. You can see in this list what’s coming in for a high bounce rate. If you see a lot of hits but it’s 100% bounce rate, you want to back that company out with some code. You can delete them from coming in so that it prevents them from hitting your site. It also sees referrals, Facebook, Twitter, that type of thing, other websites. Your acquisitions part, your source tells you what’s working and what’s not working and how to adjust it.
Dennis Zink: Why would spammers want to continuously hit a site? I don’t understand why they would want to do that.
Scott Gonnello: Well, most of these spammers are coming from overseas, Russia, Ukraine. We get a lot of brute force attacks lately from Italy. I don’t know what the problem there is, but they try to break into your sites. They hit your analytics and if you’ve never used analytics before and you’re just learning about this, you would say, “Oh what’s this company here?” and you would go and search it and when you search it and go to their website, you get a cookie on your computer and then when you go to Amazon or some other buying places, they get credit. That’s just one of the forms that they trick you into going to their website to see what it’s all about.
Dennis Zink: Hmm, that’s really interesting. I never knew that. I’ve never heard of that. How about referrals? Can you talk about traffic referrals?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. This is great if you’re doing a lot of social marketing. Let’s say you’re spending a lot of money on Facebook ads or boosting your ads on Facebook. Under the referral section, it tells you where your referrals are coming in from. They’re coming in from Google Analytics. They’re coming in from Facebook. They’re coming in from Twitter. They’re coming in from somebody else’s website as a referral. This is a way to validate what you’re spending on some of your social marketing or other types of referrals that’s either working or not.
If you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on Facebook and you’ve got six referrals, that’s six people actually came from Facebook, probably not a great idea to continue spending that. You may want to look at other areas. The referral part helps you see exactly where the traffic’s coming from, direct meaning they bookmarked you or it’s everyone in the office that has it bookmarked or just typing it in or organic, they’re searching for phrases or they might be searching for your company name because they heard it, social media, Facebook, Twitter, other referrals from other sites, that’s the referral part.
Dennis Zink: What about sharing? You always see this little thing “share it” so you click it and put it on LinkedIn or something or Facebook. Talk about sharing as far as analytics goes.
Scott Gonnello: Well, when you share something, people may read the article and if there’s a call to action in that share button, “click here to go to the contact form” or the specials page or the home page, if you share that and it goes out to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, everywhere else on the internet and people start clicking from that, you can track that through your incoming traffic from your source. If you’re going to do that, it’s good to know which ones you’re doing so when the referrals do come in you can tie it to that and validate that it’s either working or not working.
Dennis Zink: What general advice would you give somebody who’s wanting to know about analytics other than what we’ve just covered in the podcast, what are the things should they be considering, should they be thinking about?
Scott Gonnello: Well, you first of all want to take the time to number one put Google Analytics into your website. There’s a code that they give you. It’s free. It’s no charge. You put the code into your head tag so that Google could start tracking it. The second most important thing is to actually go there and look at it, see the trends. With our business, we look at certain trends that help us make better decisions in order to market their company better. When we see landing pages for instance under your acquisitions, it tells you your most popular pages. Those pages we know are working very well. We can use that and say what is it about this page that is making it get found so many times number one and then we can try to mimic that on other pages that have a high bounce rate and make those pages better.
The second thing about those landing pages, the most popular ones is if you know everyone’s going there, let’s put some more calls to action there, maybe the specials link or click here to learn more about this product or call now or something because you know you have pages that people are finding. Using analytics to start looking at the numbers, it just starts to create a clearer picture about your business, about what’s working and what’s not working.
Fred Dunayer: I get the impression though that if you look at your analytics too often just like looking at your stock portfolio or the stock market all too often that variations, short-term variations can drive decisions that maybe shouldn’t be made. Is there some frequency rule of thumb that you should look at in terms of how often you review those analytics?
Scott Gonnello: Sure and you’re right because there’s a big red bold number there that says “down 27%.” One of the things on the overview is, when you first log in to your analytics, in the overview, there’s a graph and it basically looks like a rollercoaster. The numbers go way up and then they go way down and they go up and they go way down. Generally, your numbers you’re looking at are on a 30-day basis. Just looking at that you might be thinking, “Oh we’re losing business on that day or we’re doing really great on these days,” but if you step back a little bit, you look at those days and you realize Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are the highest, in general for a lot of our clients, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is the highest time people visit the site. Thursday, Friday starts to slow down, Saturday and Sunday there’s almost nothing.
Now, the average person looking at that would say, “Well, we’re not doing a lot of business on the weekends,” or you could also say, “People are at work searching for you on company time.” On the weekends is the best time to do work on your site because nobody’s visiting it or very few are visiting it, again to those numbers that you’re looking at. By looking at the overview and looking at that graph, you get to see the patterns of how people are coming to your site. That gives you more information on okay, we’re going to roll out a new page or two or we’re going to take the site down for maintenance, we’ll do it on the days that nobody’s going there.
Fred Dunayer: I suppose you have to be careful about the Dilbert Syndrome, the one where the boss is noticing that 40% of the absences are on Mondays and Fridays.
Scott Gonnello: Well, looking at those numbers, knowing that people are in an office looking at your website and everyone else’s website, one of the reasons when somebody says to us, “We want to have a video on our site and we want to have it play right off the bat,” well, if everyone’s at work and they’ve got their speakers on and they go to your website, that video is going to start blasting, then you’ve just outed that person that they’re surfing the web on company time. That’s the best way to lose somebody from your website.
Fred Dunayer: We’ve talked pretty much specifically about Google Analytics, but without getting into a lot of detail, does Google Analytics cover everything that goes on with your website? Are there other tools and things that you should be looking at?
Scott Gonnello: Google Analytics does not cover everything, but it covers enough information that lets you gather trends and ideas and information on what’s working and what’s not working. They also have another product called Webmaster Tools.
Dennis Zink: What are Webmaster Tools? Could you elaborate on that please?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. Webmaster Tools is another free product from Google that helps you manage your website a little bit more finely detailed than the Analytics. Once you know the trends from your analytics, you can then look at the actual technical numbers through Webmaster Tools. For instance, this is where you would submit your site map to tell Google what’s out there for pages.
Dennis Zink: What’s a site map?
Scott Gonnello: Well, an XML site map is a tool that Google listens to when you produce a new page or a new product or a new service or any information you update your website to, it calls them in to say there’s something new. It’s a way for them to know you’re there and to know how many pages you have, but also it lets them know what pages they like and then they tell you that they like a certain percentage of pages via indexing. When Google indexes your pages, it gives you a separate number.
Dennis Zink: Can you explain indexing in a little more depth?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. Indexing is when Google sees your website, your new pages and they say, “I like this page and it’s got good content, we’re going to index it.” Basically that means you’re in the game. You’re going to show up in the search engines. Where? Well, that’s to be found out over a period of time. If you have a page that they really like, eventually they’ll hopefully bring you towards the top. Indexing is a quick snapshot so when you do a search and you come up in a third of a second, those pages are all indexed. Google took a snapshot of them and placed them there. If you have a hundred pages and you’ve got 80 pages that are indexed, 80% of your website is indexed with Google, you’ve got a better chance of showing up than if you have let’s say 20 pages indexed.
Fred Dunayer: I recall someone, perhaps you in the SEO session, mentioned that one of the things that Google looks for in determining whether or not to elevate your listing is how often your page is updated. Is that the mechanism that’s used to determine that?
Scott Gonnello: Well, that’s one out of about 200 mechanisms. Over the years, they relied heavily on links coming to your site, meaning a lot of people are linking to your site, you’re an authority site. I just read an article the other day saying, “Well, we’re going to back off on the linking end of it because over time people know how to abuse that and false links and whatnot to monkey up the system.” If you have information that you’re updating on your site, if it’s very relevant and good content, that’s great. If you’re making one word bold and you’re putting two extra commas in to update the site or that page, that’s not going to do anything for you. It has to be good quality content that’s even better than it was before.
Dennis Zink: Can you explain a little bit about keywords and the importance of that?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. What’s great about Webmaster Tools is it tells you what keywords or keyword phrases are doing well for you. Every let’s say 30 days view of what your site’s doing, it’ll actually break down your top pages and it’ll tell you what keyword phrases people are finding you for. This is very important for the SEO side, the real optimization part because if you know you’ve got words that are showing up on the top page, those words are relevant, you can continue your process building your website via that. It’ll actually tell you what number you showed up, so if you were 4.1, you are on the top page between four and five on that list.
What’s great about that is you get to see a list of all your top page results and your second page results and third page results. As an SEO company, we look at those second page results and say, “How can we make them better and bump them up to page number one?” and then work on the page three results and bump those up. The top page results, those are working. We look at the ones that are just about working and aren’t working and figure out why and do something to help them.
Dennis Zink: What about people that send emails to you that say, “I can guarantee getting you on the first page?”
Scott Gonnello: Sure. I can guarantee that too. I can do a pay-per-click ad for you.
Dennis Zink: Okay.
Scott Gonnello: Sure. First of all, if somebody solicits you out of the blue, run, hang up on them. I get calls. I’m in the SEO business and they call me to try to help my SEO company. Everybody is out there to make a buck these days. Be very careful.
Dennis Zink: Can you go into something called crawl errors?
Scott Gonnello: Sure. This is also a very important one. When we take over a new site and we repair it or we try to change some of the pages that aren’t working or no longer relevant, the worst thing you can do is just delete a page out of your site. If Google has it indexed and it was showing up somewhere, the last thing you want to do is to delete it because then you lose that capability of getting found again. Number two, you don’t want to change the name of it. If you do change the name or you delete it, when they come back to index your site, it’s gone and that’s what they call a crawl error. We crawled your site and we can’t find that page anymore. What you want to do through Webmaster Tools is a 301 redirect. You basically say this page here is now that page and that takes care of it. They re-index it under the new page.
Fred Dunayer: Is there something you need to do to turn on Webmaster Tools?
Scott Gonnello: Yes. You sign up for it and then you submit your site map.
Dennis Zink: That’s free?
Scott Gonnello: Yes. It’s free. Having said that it’s free, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be challenging. Part of our SEO service is we make sure everything’s working properly and then we analyze all the information in there.
Dennis Zink: Why would Google do this all for free?
Scott Gonnello: Because they want the best of the best on the top page. They want to make sure you understand how to get there and if you deserve to be there, they’ll help you get there.
Dennis Zink: If I have content appearing on some page somewhere, it’s my content, and then I repurpose that content or even copy it exactly into another site that I own, is that a good thing, a bad thing or do I get dinged for that or how does that work?
Scott Gonnello: It’s probably a bad thing. Keep in mind, the internet in the early stages was for colleges and universities to grade papers and track theses and all sorts of documents and early on they did plagiarism as a check. If you’re copying from this site and placing it on a new site, you’re basically plagiarizing another site.
Dennis Zink: Even if it’s your own content?
Scott Gonnello: Sure and if you’ve got two sites that are competing with themselves, Google will look at that and say, “Well, you’re spamming because you shouldn’t have two sites to try to hedge the bets to get better results.”
Fred Dunayer: Anything else we should know about the Webmaster Tools?
Scott Gonnello: It’s a great tool. It’s free. You really should have your site map plugged in and track what’s working and what’s not working. There’s a wealth of information and from there you can actually learn a lot and make the changes necessary to have better results.
Dennis Zink: Well, Scott, thanks again for being our guest on Been There, Done That.
Scott Gonnello: Thank you Dennis. Thank you Fred. Great to be back.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast, Been There, Done That. The opinions of the hosts and guests are theirs and do not necessarily reflect those of SCORE. If you would like to hear more podcasts, get a free mentor, view a transcript of this podcast or would like more information about the services we provide, you can call SCORE at 800-634-0245 or visit our website at www.score.org. Again, that’s 800-634-0245 or visit the website at www.score.org.