Monitoring your site is important to ensure that you notice developing problems before they emerge and can take pro-active action to minimise any problems which might affect your position in search engines or experience for your users.
There are lots of metrics that you could monitor - thousands in fact - but most people are too busy to dig into every nook and cranny and find out every piece of data.
For this reason, there are several ways to combine the data you need to monitor into one central location. Google Analytics has some great resources available in the form of custom segments and dashboards, which can be shared individually or as a package.
Deciding what to monitor really depends on your business/organisation and what is important to them. Ecommerce sites will have a very different interest to blogging and news sites, for example.
In this series of articles we'll consider some general metrics to monitor, along with some sector-specific metrics. These articles assume that you have Google Analytics running on your website, and you have associated a Google Webmaster Tools account with your Analytics account.
Monitoring your website can be challenging – there are so many different metrics that you need to keep an eye on, and different places you might want to gather data from.
It gathers a huge amount of information – including how many pages they visited, how long they spent on each page, if they dropped out of a purchase (and at which point they dropped out), how much was spent – the data is quite mind boggling.
This often results in people being overwhelmed with the choices available, and choosing only to look at the standard 'overview' chart showing how many people have visited your site in a specified timeframe.
While this is useful as a start, it only scrapes the surface of the information you could analyse – and the number of people visiting your site is a very 'blunt' metric – it doesn't give you much idea about how engaged they are, or what they do when they visit. It also doesn't warn you about potential problems which could be developing that may be masked – for example if you are starting to see a reduction in the number of 'organic' searches (searches which come from a search engine and are not via paid advertising) which might cause problems in the future.
Google appreciates the fact that the information we want to see is distributed in several places across its web-based interface, and often people do not have the time to hunt out the relevant page, filter the data, and analyse the information. Therefore, they launched some very helpful features which makes it much easier to see exactly what you need with a couple of clicks every time you come into Analytics. These will be referred to throughout the monitoring section of the SEO Portal, so it's useful to become acquainted with them now, before continuing.
Custom Segments – or Advanced Segments – provide you with the ability to chop up or 'segment' the information you are viewing in any part of Google Analytics, by filtering the data. This can be used, for example, when looking at 'All visits', to segment the graph into organic and paid visits, or to show how many people came using 1, 2, 3 or 4+ keywords.
Custom segments are quite easy to set up – you choose which parameters you wish to use to create the filter using a drop-down select box and entering values (if you're comfortable with regular expressions, you can use them). For example, we might set up a segment:
Show me visits where keywords is equal to 2
This would filter the data we are viewing to show all visits where two keywords were used.
The power of custom segments is huge – it allows you to selectively include and exclude data for any metric that can be used or analysed in Google Analytics.
Google also rolled out a very useful feature, called Dashboards. This is a collection of 'widgets' in a single place, allowing you to get a quick overview of key data in one place. Before dashboards you might have to go into multiple views, run multiple filters, make sure you selected the right data – now you can simply open the dashboard and view the data.
Dashboards can be used for any purpose – and you can create (and share) your own dashboards very easily, with a couple of clicks.
Shortly after the Custom Segments and Dashboards were rolled out, it became quickly evident that there was a need for a 'gallery' where people could share their segments and dashboards with others. This is a great way to get started with dashboards, as you can install multiple pre-created packages which consist of segments and dashboards for specific purposes – for example, an E-commerce bundle might include dashboards to monitor revenue, goal abandonment, mobile E-commerce and so forth.
All you have to do is visit the gallery, choose the items you wish to install, and select the profile you wish to use.
When you are managing SEO in today's climate, you need to have a complete 360 degree view of everything going on in the business – from whether your servers are online to how many visits have been made on your social network profiles through to conversions on your website, organic traffic rates, revenue, and more.
It is often difficult to manage this all – at a basic level it means four or five tabs open and flicking between them to get an idea of what is going on.
Cyfe.com is a great tool which can be found via the Google Analytics Apps Gallery. Cyfe allows you to create dashboards and import all kinds of data – from a staggering number of sources which is growing on a regular basis.
What this allows you to do is to have multiple dashboards where you can quickly see – for example – all the metrics relating to the marketing for your website. Then you could click onto another dashboard and see the metrics relating to sales, and another to see social interaction, another to look at content.
Monitoring for Problems
Monitoring for performance
Monitoring for prominence & people