How Does Google Analytic Metrics Impact Website Rankings
Google Analytics gives you some basic details about how Google understands your website. It provides a guide into the metrics and factors that you need to improve as well those in which you are doing perfectly well. But more important is your ability to interpret these metrics to be able to make actionable decisions where necessary. In this post we provide a very simple guide into how you should respond to the most important metrics provided by Google Analytics.
Researching online businesses and working with over 500 clients, we have found an interesting correlation between major analytic data and website performance on the search engines. However, we do not encourage you to write content just to improve SEO metrics. Your content should be designed and written to serve user intent and crafted to encourage clickthrough rate and dwell time. In other words, build content to impress your readers and visitors and not the search engines. Google has a way of knowing when your users are happy and Google loves websites that serve user intents.
Now, back to our focus in this article, here are the key findings we made on how Google analytic data influences raking behavior for websites:
1. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is defined as the rate at which visitors leave a website without visiting another page outside the landing page. So, if 20 visitors are recorded out of which 15 visit at least two pages on the website, the bounce rate will be 25 percent. Generally, an excellent bounce rate is between 26 - 40 percent, a good or average bounce rate is between 41 - 55 percent and a higher than average bounce rate is between 56 - 70 percent. Anything above 70 percent is considered a poor bounce rate.
We found a correlation between low bounce rate and higher rankings in Google search engine result pages. The lower the bounce rate, the more likely a website would rank higher in the search engines.
Quick Take Away on How to Increase Bounce Rate
- Try to understand why the bounces. Look at website or content structure, navigation, speed and improve on these metrics.
- Improve the user experience. Make your website fully mobile friendly, make navigation easy and so on. You may want to read our full article on how to improve user experience.
- Improve on internal linking. Internal linking will help and improve the number of pages people visit on your website. Improve on internal linking and make it attractive to get clicks. You may want to read our article on improving internal link building.
2. Number of Visitors
This metric measures the total number of unique visitors to your page. It is actually a measure of the traffic to a website. We found a correlation between increased users and website performance in the search engines. The higher the number of users, the more likely a website will rank higher in the search engines.
But analyzing visitor traffic is not so simple. There are a few considerations that are important to analyze and interpret visitor traffic. If visitor traffic is high and results in high bounce rate, lower clickthrough rates and low number of return visitors, it is unlikely to result in higher ranking.
How to Improve on this Metric.
- Consider advertising. Paid advertising is one source of guaranteed traffic to a website. However, you also need to consider the advertising medium as it could affect the quality of traffic by bringing the wrong visitors who may not be interested in your offers. Wrong visitor traffic will only increase the bounces and exit rates.
- Build traffic with social media.
- Write attractive page titles. Compelling page titles will help you get more clicks and reduce bounces.
- Pay attention to On-Page SEO. Such elements like attractive titles and description, long tail keywords, website speed, content quality, use of headers and other on-page SEO factors can build trust and encourage clickthrough rates.
3. New Users / Return Visitors
These metrics measure the number or percentage of visitor traffic to a website that is coming for the first time and compares it with those that are returning after a previous visit. We found a correlation between the number of new users vs return users and website performance.
An increase in the number of new users suggest that pages on the website are performing better and driving traffic. Comparatively, an increase in return visitors suggest that visitors found your website content useful and returned for other searches.
On the contrary, a decrease in new and returning visitors will suggest that the pages on the website are not driving traffic and visitors are not returning probably because they did not find the website content satisfactory or were not impressed with the answers they got from previous queries.
How to Encourage New Users and Return Visitors
- Encourage social media connections and shares.
- Promote content with Newsletters.
- Publish new content regularly. Visitors are likely to constantly return to your website when it becomes a source of rich useful content.
- Consider a customer loyalty program. Make offers to customers who repurchase from you or provide some incentives to loyal customers.
- Retarget your ads. You could be targeting the wrong people. Reassess your advertising programme and re-target your ads to a more receptive and responsive population.
Number of sessions per user
This metric is obtained by dividing the total number of sessions by the total number of users. We found a correlation between the number of sessions per user and website performance on the search engines. On the average, it is expected that the number of sessions per user should exceed an average of one session. So, an average of 1.2 sessions per user is considered good.
How to Improve the Number of Sessions Per User
- Solve problems with your content. Consider contents like "how to" which focus specifically on addressing specific problems affecting visitors.
- Improve content quality to make sure the subject matter is properly addressed and customer intents are addressed.
This measures the total number of times a page on your site has been viewed. It is a metric that reflects the most trafficked page and gives you insights into how much traffic to your website is growing. We found a correlation between page views and website performance on the search engines. The higher the page views, the higher the ranking for the page.
How to Improve the Page Views
The key will be to improve the quality of your website. Quality here means crafting content to properly address the subject matter of discussion and provide answers to the questions searchers ask.
- Itemize your points or use bullets.
- Highlight key phrases to guide users on their importance.
- Research the subject properly to cover it in-deptly.
- Reassess your work. Read your content all over again to convince yourself that you have properly covered the subject matter and take notes on whatever comes to mind which appear not to have been properly covered.
This is a very important metric especially in analysing the performance of individual pages. The exit page is the last page a visitor views before leaving your website.It is very important because it will tell you how many people exit your website from a particular page.
If a page has a high exit rate, it means it is most likely a low quality page and not providing sufficient information sought by the customer. It could also mean that it is not properly aligned with its header. For example linking an about us page to a contact us link. Customers want the best answers to what they seek because they may sometimes be in transit and want a quick answer.
The exit rate is presented as a percentage in Google Analytics and the metric is also known as exit rate. It is available under Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Rate
You need to review the results and consider the pages with very high exit rates. Look deeper into the time spent on those pages and see if they appear to serve user intent better and that is why visitors exit from those pages. Also consider the amount of traffic to the pages with high exit rates. If a page has 500 visitors and an exit rate of 40 percent, it cannot be considered to be performing poorly when compared to a page with 50 visitors with an exit rate of 30 percent.
Best Practices to Reduce Exit Rate
- Improve internal linking.
- Use action call to action.
- Improve page quality and enrich your posts with valuable data to gain greater attention.
- Understand your visitors' behavior. One way you can do this is to learn from the pages with low exit rates and take note of what you have done on those pages that are lacking on the pages with high exit rates.
- Encourage visitors to view more pages by using attractive and action "calls to action". Consider phrases like "learn how to" and see "how to improve" can compel clicks and help reduce exit rates.
Average session duration
This measures the time spent by users in a session. It has a close relationship with bounce rate and in many cases, an increase in the average session duration will be reflecting a decrease in bounce rate. Even where bounce rate does not reduce with high average session duration, it suggests that the visitors got what they were looking for and needed not to return to Google search. We found a correlation between the average session duration and website performance on the search engines.
The average session duration is strongly influenced by content quality. The recommendations on how to improve content quality can be very useful.
The Pages / Session metrics in Google Analytics measure the average number of pages viewed during a session, including repeated views of a single page. Again, this metric inversely reflects the bounce rate figures as the higher the number of pages / sessions views, the lower the bounce rate.
We found a correlation between the number of pages visited by a user in a session and website performance in search engines. The higher number of pages / session views suggest that viewer curiosity was high and viewers believed that the website can provide good answers to the questions to which answers are sought.
A high page /session view is a reflection of a quality website.
If a single user has viewed your page multiple times, these visits are combined into one pageview to calculate this metric. So, unique pageviews represent the number of sessions during which a page was viewed one or more times. While page views will reflect the popularity of a page, Unique Page Views is a far more accurate measure as it filters out refreshes to a page thereby providing a more reliable figure on traffic coming to a page. This makes it easy to see what pages drive the most traffic, and what content people are actually interested in.
Location figures are an important but underestimated metric. This is available at Audiences > Geo > Location. It indicates website performance in various countries. So, while the results could show good performance in some countries, it can also show poor performance in some other countries. The important thing is the performance in countries you are targeting. If the metrics are not favourable in countries you are targeting, then you need to take action to improve performance of your content and if possible, craft content for the specific locations.
This metric points to your traffic sources and that could affect your website conversion. If your customers come from the United States and Nigeria, it will really not make sense if you have a high bounce rate in Nigeria and the U.S while you record a good bounce rate in China. The reverse should have been acceptable and in such cases, you need to improve page content.
SEO isn't such an easy endeavour. The Google Webmaster Guidelines provides an excellent pathway to success but you still need tools to be able to determine how much you can impress Google and top the table. Google Analytic date has been the most reliable free tool that can guide you to success. But working with Google Analytics data requires that you understand them and are able to predict their impact on your website performance.
In this post, we have provided a simplistic guide into understanding GA data and what actionable decisions can be made from them. We hope it made a happy reading. You can let us know what we may have missed or what you think in the comments box below.