SES NYC 2011: ‘Analytics RX: Diagnosis and Recovery’

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Analytics RX: Diagnosis and Recovery

Session description: You just inherited a website—or have a new client. Where do you start? An initial analytics evaluation is very different from monitoring a campaign, so how do you even begin to evaluate a brand new site and uncover the first things that need to be measured and completed?

Solo Presentation by: Matthew Bailey, SES Advisory Board & President, Site Logic Marketing

Quotes are direct quotations. Things not in quotes are paraphrased.

The skinny

I thought I could get away from it, but no: the preshow talk between Matthew and the few folks here is about March Madness. I shan’t complain (much) because I admire anyone who’s prepared to talk for an hour. Alone. In front of 200 people (about 60 percent of the chairs are occupied).

What Matt said

“What should you do when you get a site for the first time?”

Find errors first

Use Google Analytics to search for your error page to see how much it comes up. The advantage of doing this instead of using Google’s Webmaster tools: You’re seeing the errors that people saw, not Google bot. Then, see what the bounce rate is.

How granular should you get for error page analysis? Well, “how many people do you want to see your Error 404 pages?” I recommend running this report every couple of months.

Detect duplicate content

Filter Top Pages by URL strings to find duplicate content in Google Analytics. In one case, we discovered that Google ad content was showing up in organic Bing search results.

Segment your data

Find out how well you’re doing in business, product, keyword or persona areas. You can only get really good, down-to-earth, information the more you segment your data. I see too many organizational results focused around Page Views. Add context: that’s the principle of segmentation. Keep adding context until you answer the question, “Why?” You want an analyst who constantly asks why. They should be the most subversive person in the organization. We don’t ask enough questions as analysts to get a grasp on where the business is going. “Asking why distinguishes a great analyst.”

[Brief interlude demonstrating why Red Shirts die at a higher rate in Star Trek, where death=conversion rate. Why? If you beam down with Captain Kirk to a planet surface, Red Shirts are more likely to die. If there’s on-board mayhem, Red Shirts are called out first, and die. When Captain Kirk visited planets full of alien women, Red Shirts were less likely to die. When Captain Kirk visited planets full of alien women with green hair, zero Red Shirts died.]

Identify rankings by performance

“You can only measure success when your Goals are clearly defined, and they’re in your analytics. … If you’re not measuring activity that makes you money, you’re not measuring anything.”

  • Find the high-value, performing keywords that turn into conversions, and go after them.
  • Performance provides direction: you can be selling a lot of low-revenue product or a lot of high-level product. Find out which products are producing revenue, and go that direction.
  • Find out which content keeps people on the site, and which content keeps people off the site. Identify the pages with extremely high exit rates—and by revenue.

Segment entry points

Sometimes people entering the category pages convert at a much higher rate than the home page. In one example, we de-optimized the No. 1 ranking home page for the keyword because it didn’t convert as well as the No. 12 category page. You can have the right rankings, but for the wrong page. Find out which page should be ranking based on conversion rates. Optimize the keywords on that page.

Identify bounce rates

The reason people bounce? They didn’t find what they were searching for. That’s why I love the new report in Google Analytics for “Weighted Sort.” Focus your attention on the keywords that are providing high bounce rates and target them specifically.

Follow the money

“The more you follow the money, the more effective you are as an analyst. … Most people with Cs in their title respond when there’s a dollar sign.” Change your language or presentation: make it simpler for the C-set.

If I inherit the site, the first thing I’m looking for is Goal value. The Goal value is critical. When you have the Goal value in place, it turns from measuring views, hits, visitors into measuring money. You can then prove your value. Make the company money, and everyone is happy.

Take action

“The social media room over there? It’s full. They’re not making money. We’re making money.”

[Long interlude explaining how to set up custom segments in GA.]

Then, when you look at your Google Analytics, you can look at that segment of searcher, and see how they viewed the site. With Goals, now we can attach a value to that search. How much value (revenue) does that group of searchers bring?

As you find all of these small groups of people, then you can figure out how to help the small groups—and increase them.

[Plug for his book, Matt Bailey’s Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day. Preorder on Amazon, available next Tuesday. Also, get a free SEO Analytics Video Lesson at, with your first month of training $1.

Audience participation

Q: “I’m getting ready to hire an analyst. Do you have any advice on what to look for?”

Matt: “Someone who asks a lot of questions. So much so that it irritates you.” There’s a difference between analysts and analysts who understand marketing.

Q: “Within Google Analytics, what are the best Custom Variables?” I’m limited to five and need more.

Matt: If Google is limiting you to five, set up another admin and then you’ll get a blank slate. You’ll have to share, though; you’ll have to log in to another account to get your data.

Q: “How do you assign a Goal value for Time on Site?”

Matt: I don’t. I avoid TOS as a Goal. It doesn’t truly measure intent vs. Goal accomplishment. I think it’s a good KPI when comparing different segments, but by itself, it has to be associated with a Goal to make sense.

For a non e-commerce site (such as for branding only), make the Goal some kind of interaction. Then, ask someone in charge of something—so you’re not on the hook—to commit to a value (even $1). If your sales department can’t give you value of a lead with a dollar value, then you’re really stuck. For B2B, as an SEO, you need to be on your sales department to find out what’s the value of a lead. What’s the value of a lead from a website, versus the value of a lead from direct mail, versus the value of a lead from a trade show?

  • An interesting take on SM: “They’re not making money. We’re making money.”

    Anyway, good job on explaining major things to do. Thanks!