We do a lot of website rewrites. Sometimes they’re part of a redesign or an SEO strategic plan, sometimes they’re part of ongoing work with a client, sometimes our client is another web firm and we never even speak to the owner of the site.
Unless we’re doing ongoing work with the site owner, we watch the analytics for a couple of weeks to make sure that we’re seeing the trend we had hoped to see, and then we just leave them to it.
Your analytics can, however, give you excellent information that you can use to make decisions about your website and your business on an ongoing basis.
As an example, consider Bill West Roofing, a Kansas City area roofer whose site we redesigned with Tom Hapgood in May of 2010.We kept an eye on their analytics for a couple of weeks and saw their traffic double, set them up for social media, and headed off into the metaphorical sunset.
Aaron West recently contacted us. After a busy fall season, things had settled down, and the company was ready to pick up their neglected social media plans and spend some time boosting their website in preparation for spring.
The question was, what was working well for them, what hadn’t really gotten a chance yet, and what might require a change in direction from the initial plans? Our social media maven, Josepha, met with Aaron and Chris from Bill West Roofing to map out a new strategy.
Before making any decisions, we had a look at the analytics. You can do the same.
The main dashboard at Google Analytics shows you the number of visitors your website has had. You can set the length of time you want to look at, so we looked at the entire history of the site, since we installed the analytics last spring.
Bill West Roofing, as you might anticipate, has a distinct seasonal pattern. We don’t have year over year data, since they didn’t have analytics until last April, but we saw a month’s worth of data before their redesign. We saw a nice rise following the redesign, a further rise throughout the autumn with a dip at Thanksgiving, and then a fall as winter set in — not back to the pre-redesign numbers, but to summer numbers. We expect to see the same pattern in the future, but we want the actual numbers to rise each year.
When you look at your traffic, you should see peaks and valleys that are normal to your business, but you should also see a general trend toward increase. If not, then you need to make some changes.
The Visitors section showed us that the site received a healthy proportion (over 86%) of new visitors, but that many visitors also returned several times — a natural part of such a big decision as who should fix your roof. We saw a pretty typical pattern as far as the browsers and operating systems of the visitors went, and saw also that people were visiting the site with mobile devices. One thing that we weren’t happy to see was that only about 60% of the site’s visitors are in the company’s service area. It doesn’t cost extra to have visitors from 26 countries, as the site does, but Aaron and Chris aren’t planning to nip up to Vancouver to fix roofs, so we want to focus them better for local search.
When you look at your visitors, you should look closely for all the indicators that tell you whether your visitors are your customers or not. If not, you need to do some tweaking.
A look at their traffic sources showed that Bill West Roofing gets most traffic from local directories, from people directly typing in the URL, and from search. There are other sources, but these are the most significant ones. A look at the keywords showed a good variety of relevant keywords, including both geographicalyl specific ones like “Grain Valley roofing” and general ones like “roofers.”
At this point you have to think about whether you need to focus on doing more of what works well, or on opening new avenues. We did a thorough linkbuilding and the company is good about offline advertising, so we’re probably fine for local directories. The keywords show that the content is good, so we don’t see changes there as a priority. However, we can see that social media, including the company blog, were doing some good when they were active. It makes sense to put some effort into that area.
The site has all the basic pages a service website needs, including the homepage, pages describing the services, an About Us page, and a contact page. We also have quite a few “authority” or “information” pages. The site shows a good pattern of visits, but no special seasonal patterns in the content that would suggest any need for changes at this point.
When you look at the Content section of your analytics, you’re mostly checking to make sure that people are using your site as you expected them to, and to identify any surges in interest in particular items or topics.
With the data from analytics, we were able to create a practical plan for the company. You may be able to do the same. If not, give us a call. Chances are, we can see things that you don’t immediately see yourself.