Yesterday I attended Jerusalem WordCamp, a gathering for WordPress enthusiasts and those curious about learning how WordPress can work for them. Topics ranged from SEO tips to coding one-page websites to the legal aspects of running a web business. Of course the greatest part was meeting other people as enthusiastic about the web as I am! I also appreciated the opportunity to actually do something in Hebrew, which I don’t do too often even though I live in Israel, and I even used my Spanish while networking with a Mexican native.
One of the most interesting lectures I attended was about using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools for web development. When Ariel Hochstead of Google Israel asked the audience who actually used Google Webmaster Tools, I was surprised to see that not many people rose their hands. I love data and what it can do, but sometimes too much of it scares me. But the data doesn’t lie when it comes to website optimization.
So I was glad that Ariel could walk us through some of the major features of these handy Google products. After all, it doesn’t matter how lovely your website it and how high it ranks on Google if users come to the site and leave, or they don’t know what to do!
So here are some 10 pointers that I took away from the rare opportunity to talk to Google!:
- Check out Google Website Optimizer to see what is working on your homepage and inside pages. Test what’s working and what isn’t. (Edited to remove – no longer exists).
- Google Insights for Search can show you which topics are trending, or which topics are trending at the expense of others, for instance, how has the popularity of trips to Greece compared to the popularity of searches for trips to Turkey over a period of time?
- Users decide within 8 seconds of landing on a webpage if they’re going to stay or click away. A positive quick first impression is a must!
- Compare your growth with that of your competitors. If your site grew by 15% last year that sounds great, but the competition grew by 30% you didn’t do that great!
- Check changes in the “bounce rate” over time. Bounce rate measures if users click on other pages within your site or stay on the page they landed on and then click off the site. It is not tied to the length of time that a user stays on a page.
- Check out what screen resolution most visitors are using and make sure that your site is optimized for that.
- Do the same for the type of browser most commonly used to view your website.
- Check how many people are getting 404 “page not found” errors and set up monthly reports. You want to check on a regular basis that users aren’t getting sent to bad links.
- Check out top exit pages. Try to identify what it is that isn’t keeping users engaged and find ways to keep them on the site.
- Check your progress regularly – put it in your calendar!
And one more for good luck…
* Test only one thing at a time so that you can isolate variables.