Google, in all of their infinite wisdom, provides website owners and online marketers with all (okay, a lot) of the information needed for online business success. There are abundant free tools provided by Google as part of this effort, but none more important than Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.
Unfortunately, we find far too many new clients are using Google Analytics, but not Google Webmaster Tools. Or even worse, businesses aren’t utilizing either. Having both, and having them both setup correctly, is essential to the success of both your website and marketing efforts.
Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool from Google that allows businesses to monitor the performance of their website from a marketing and traffic perspective. This is an essential part of any online business or website as it allows business owners to understand website performance, user behavior, the ROI of ongoing marketing efforts and a thousand other pieces of key data. Analytics is a marketing professionals dream!
Google Analytics generates detailed stats about a website’s traffic, technologies used, site speed, traffic sources, conversions and sales. It’s possible to drill down into the geo-specific location, demographics and traffic sources of a websites visitors. All great stuff, clearly!
In leu of Google Analytics, there are several server-side analytics software suites that many businesses use instead, such as AwStats. It’s important to understand that this server-side analytics program provides some data on what files are accessed, site search terms, and other server, or website specific performance items, but it is not the same (not even close) to Google Analytics.
Google Analytics should be installed on a business website from the moment it’s launched live to the public. Be sure to also tie in event tracking on important calls to action on your website and goal conversion tracking too. If you are running an ecommerce site, Google Adwords campaigns or have Google Webmaster Tools setup, Please! For the love of Bob! Tie everything together correctly so that you have full-picture data on your website’s performance.
Implementation of the basic Google Analytics snippet takes about 15 minutes, but a little extra time should be used to setup goal and e-commerce tracking as well. In total, this should only take a couple of hours based on your website’s setup and what you need to track.
Google Webmaster Tools
On the flip side of the coin, there is Google Webmaster Tools (WMT), which is another free tool from Google, but allows performance monitoring of a website from the technical side, as opposed to the marketing side. Webmaster Tools will tell you important information like:
- How often does Google crawl the website?
- How many of our pages are indexed? How many are not?
- Are there any technical issues with the site? (On-page SEO issues, broken links, etc.)
- Are there any issues with Google crawling the site?
- What search queries are generating traffic and what is the average position?
- Who links to the site? How are they linking?
- Has the site been penalized, or is there another reason the site just “disappeared” from Google?
Setting up Webmaster Tools is easy and Google provides you with at least a few different ways to verify that you own the website and want to start to gather data on it. These verification methods include uploading a file to your website, putting a small piece of code in the html template, verifying through Google Analytics, or through the domain registrar.
Once an account has been created and verified, the next step is to upload a sitemap to WMT with all pertinent website pages. This provides some initial information about the website’s pages to Google, their importance and how often the webpages are updated. This should be done immediately (as soon as it launches) and updated regularly as the website changes.
The “Fetch as Google” feature is pretty cool and will help jump start a crawl in many cases too. Whenever we launch a new website at TM, or an important section of a website, we use this feature to start the crawling and indexation process. Of course, Google is smart enough to figure all of this out on their own, but a little help never hurt.
Webmaster Tools also provides the ability to notify Google of many website changes, including a change of address (if a website has been moved to another domain), the correction of issues and many more.
If someone ever suspects an issue with their site or Google penalty, Analytics and WMT are the first things we’ll ask for. Google is usually pretty good at informing individuals what is good or bad with a website- if that individual knows how to read the data provided.
All in all, the best tip we could give: Do the smart thing! Protect your investment (good websites aren’t cheap) and help your web developers have the information they need to succeed. Of course, if your website pros don’t have both Analytics and Webmaster Tools setup, it might be (is) a sign that you should be looking for a new internet marketing team.
I still need help!
For more information about Google Analytics, please visit: http://www.google.com/analytics/ or our team can always help with this too. You can reach our Analytics experts by using our contact page or calling the phone number above.
To learn more about Google Webmaster Tools, please visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/
Contact TM if you need help with any of the above, or have any questions. We’re happy to help!