Making your website work for you Newsletter no 11

Google Analytics isn’t telling everything
about visits to your website

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that your monthly Google Analytics Overview Report is showing a large number of “not provided” in the list of keywords used by visitors to reach your site. This seems nonsense since clearly visitors have entered a word or phrase in the search bar and selected your site from the offered sites. For some websites the “keyword not provided” figure is well over 80%. Not very useful.

So what’s going on?

Well, a lot of people are using Google services of one sort or another – like Gmail, Google+ etc. -  as well as for web searching and remain logged in to Google. These are secure services and Google has taken the view that they should not pass on search keywords because this could be violating privacy. This is a bit strange since they pass on other details and none of the data used in Google Analytics reports is personalised anyway.

They do however provide this information to their Adwords advertisers – so one can suppose that the real issue is commercial not privacy.

There is also an issue with Cookies.

Since the European directive about cookie opt-outs came into force more people choose to turn off cookies in their browsers as well as for individual websites. If a visitor has cookies turned off Google Analytics won’t capture any data about their visit so the reported number of visits will be less than the actual number. Of course we can’t tell how much less.

And some people have JavaScript turned off.

Google Analytics uses JavaScript code embedded in each page on your website to check what’s going on and report it to the Google servers. Some people (not many) choose not to have JavaScript installed on their PCs maybe because they don’t have very powerful computer or they don’t like the possibility of programs doing things they don’t know about.

So if the reports are not very accurate does this matter?

The most important thing is whether your website is doing what you wanted it to do, for example:

  • More enquiries
  • More business
  • Easier sales
  • Better communication with members, clients, suppliers, press
  • Lower cost of marketing (see Marketing on a shoe-string)

How many visits is not in itself very important (unless the purpose of your website is to make money by on-line advertising or affiliate schemes). But it is useful to understand the trends which you will still be able to see from what Google Analytics does report. The reports can help to highlight:

  • Which products or services are people most interested in (i.e. which pages get most visits)?
  • Is there a spike in visits or visits to a particular page?
  • Which documents (e.g. training prospectus, product specifications) are downloaded most frequently?
  • Is there a seasonal trend?
  • Which days are busiest?
  • Where are visitors located? Country, town etc.
  • Are there pages that are not viewed at all? (maybe need to review content of your website)

This will give you some insight into your customers’ behaviour and enable you to take advantage of opportunities you may not have realised.

So what about those keywords?

Although knowing what key words and phrases people use to get to your website can be useful, an alternative insight into what people are looking for can be got from the Landing Pages report. This shows the first page visited from any source (e.g. search engine, referring site, social site). One problem with relying on keywords alone is the variety of phrases and spelling people use. Google, Bing and other search engines will try to interpret variations but you can get considerable differences in Google search results from quite minor spelling differences. You get a better idea of what they are interested in by where they start the visit to your site.

If you have a hosting package which provides log files and a stats package (e.g. AWStats or Webalizer) you can still get access to keywords and phrases so it may be worth checking those out too. In general they don’t offer such flexible reporting as Google Analytics but they give you another view of your website visitors’ behaviour?

So what should we do?

The number of visitors using particular keywords is by no means the only or most important indicator of the success of your website. There’s a lot of other interesting data to be discovered using Google Analytics about the behaviour of your website visitors. It’s worth taking the time to think about how you would measure the performance of your website within the context of your overall business and what reports would help. That info may be within Google Analytics, your hosting reports or numbers collected from your business activities (how many new clients, where did they hear about you, reduction in printing costs, fewer support phone calls - whatever is relevant to your business).

Next month I’ll cover the important issue of regularly reviewing your website and putting in place a plan for keeping your website doing what you want it to do for your business.

I hope these tips on Making your website work for you are useful. Give me a call or email if you've any questions or if I can help in any way.

Best wishes

Sandra Dillon

If you found this useful and would like me to include any specific topic in a future newsletter please let me know sandra@realcom.co.uk.

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If you are considering a website for your business or organisation or would like professional help with an existing project please email me at sandra@realcom.co.uk or call on 01530 440000

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