Views from Google – Should you care?

So, I was at the Suniweb conference this week – it’s the annual event for web people from the Swedish Higher Education sector. It was up at KTH in Stockholm this year, and was a great experience. It’s fantastic to meet up with colleagues, and great to feel a real buzz around many of the subjects I’m passionate about.

Björn Lija gave a great presention about Google Analytics, which included the slightly controversial statement that measuring Google traffic into our websites was not particularly valuable. (cue tweeting from the audience!). Björn and I discussed this afterwards  and, as always with web analytics, it’s all about placing the data in context. Here are some of my reflections…

Yes, staring at the amount of views from Google will, in itself, not be particularly helpful:

  • Measuring any metric, without segmentation or lacking the context of a goal, is going to make insight and action extremely difficult. Just as the amount of Google traffic is buried in the visitors from search bucket, so also is the fine grain visitor detail buried in the traffic from google metric.

So why would you measure traffic from Google? Well, if you’re doing any SEO work for a start:

  • Google owns search, so if you’re doing any SEO work then you need to pay some attention to how the trends in your inbound Google traffic change to reflect that. Optimizing for a particular keyword? Targeting a particular country? The trending in views from Google for those keywords (for example, changes in your long tail of keywords) or segments will be one way to measure the success of your actions.

There’s also a role for this metric in identifying the low hanging, and often rotten, fruit which decorates our websites:

  • When I work with web editors I often take a look at the amount of search traffic as a quick, and dirty, assessment of page success. We create our pages to be findable, and low numbers of Google traffic is often a big red flag that something is going wrong somewhere. University sites are rich in news and education descriptions which often don’t receive much in the way of search traffic – understanding these trends will contribute to a good web strategy.
  • Segementing out, from your Google traffic, the % of Google visits that bounce from your site will give a good handle on performance
  • Looking at content in respect to views from Google, rather than most visited pages, will give you an overview of how your visitors experience your site
  • How do we make this traffic work for us? How do we use it to measure performance, and to drive improvement?:

  • We need to look at the search traffic in the context of specific goals on our site. For example, how much of the search traffic converts by filling out a form or downloading a brochure? How much search traffic lands on the targeted landing pages we have created? We can also use this metric, relative to goals, to benchmark the success of other marketing activities like PPC advertising.

What do you think?