Addicted to Google Analytics
by Jamison Koehler on November 12, 2009
My wife and I went to see the movie Julie & Julia a couple of months ago, and I was reminded recently of the scene in which the young woman starts her blog. After posting for a couple of weeks, Julie asks plaintively whether or not anyone has in fact been reading what she has written. To which she gets a quick response from her mother, criticizing her for wasting time on the blog.
Clearly, Julie did not know about Google Analytics.
The first thing I do every morning when I get out of bed is to turn on my computer and check Google Analytics. I’m sure the novelty will fade. But right now, given all the effort I have put into setting up the website and blog, I want to find out who has been on my website. Google Analytics is very addicting.
I can’t tell you how it works technically, but, for those of you who are not familiar with the application, I can tell you what it does for you.
First of all, it tells you how many people have been on your site the previous day. I’ve detected a slight drop in traffic over the weekends. I also noticed a tremendous spike on the day I announced the opening of my firm on the ABA listserv Solosez. A lot of my fellow lawyers on the listserv must have been checking me out.
Second, it tells you how many pages an average person will visit on coming to the site. Is the content interesting or useful enough to keep the person once he or she is there? Does the person want to read further?
Third, it will tell you how many “unique” visitors you have – that is, people visiting the site for the first time. I guess unique visitors are good. I wouldn’t want it to be only my brother reading the blog (although he is certainly my most frequent commenter.) But I would also hope for loyalty, which Google Analytics also measures; that is, people returning to the site.
Fourth, it tells you “bounce rate.” I had to look this one up, and I’m still not sure I completely understand what this means. According to Google, bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits or visitors in which the person left the site from the entrance (or landing) page. In other words, did people come in, take one look and then leave? Google advises to use this metric to measure visit quality. A high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.
Fifth, it tells you how people are accessing the site. Are they coming in through a Google search? That’s good. It shows that my search engine optimization (SEO) is high; namely, that my site pops up on an early page when relevant search terms are entered into Google or Yahoo. Are visitors being referred to my site through one of the free legal referral systems I have joined? That’s helpful. I get a lot of traffic through Avvo. That’s good. I don’t seem to get any visitors at all through LinkedIn. That’s not so good.
I do try to use the right terms to maximize my site’s SEO. If I want to attract people interested in DUI or DWI, as I understand it, I need to keep using those terms. But I don’t do what I have noticed some other sites doing. One of my competitors, for example, prefaces everything with DUI DC this and DUI DC that. Maybe that explains why he consistently appears on the first page of a Google search for DUI and DC and why I am — last I looked — on page 25. But, I am told, like a good wine, SEO improves with age. Google rewards you for sticking with it.
Sixth, if visitors used Google to access the site, I can tell what key words they typed in to locate my site. This is probably the most helpful piece of information. I’ve noticed, for example, that a lot of visitors to my site have been interested in the firearms pages, particularly the page on carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL), and to a lesser extent the pages dealing with drug offenses. I get less traffic than I had hoped for on some of the other offenses, such as DUI and assault. Okay then. I know that people are still committing those offenses in D.C. I just need to beef up those sections. And I need to make sure that the information I provide on firearms will be relevant to the people interested in those areas.
I was a little bit concerned about attracting the wrong type of traffic when I posted the Sexual Assault page, so I deliberately avoided using any words describing genitalia, even though the words are sometimes included in the elements of the crime. But no issue has arisen there. The sexual assault page is equally ignored.
So. What does this mean? It means that, for those of you who are reading this, I may not know who you are. But I do know how you access the site, which pages you visit, how long you stay on each page, and what language you speak. Thank you for visiting the site. I hope you have found information that is interesting or helpful to you. I hope you will return.
And, yes, hello to my brother. Like Julie with her mother, I can be confident that at least he will be reading this.