What are words for? When no one listens, it’s no use talking at all

Back in the ’80s, long before we started thinking about search engines, this song made some sense. I remember thinking about it occasionally during my first full-time writing job, which didn’t pay squat but did allow some unique insight into what words worked and which did not.

Today we get curiously similar insight from analytics — whether you are using Google or some other app — and what we’re often looking for are long-tail keywords. Now there’s a lot to be said for setting up your website for traditional organic keyword results — and this does pay big dividends — but you really don’t get a good look at your long-tail keywords results until your site is up and those results are rolling into analytics.

I believe that successful results for small-business websites come from continual work on the wording inside the site. I don’t think you have to do it on a daily basis, but you should put aside a couple hours a week looking at your analytics results and tweaking the words accordingly.

I guarantee what you find will be interesting. Recently I set up a site for a construction company that did work throughout most of the northern Colorado Front Range, and I found that 70 percent of the web traffic was coming in sideways — not to the home page, but to posts I had set up using location (cities mostly) and treatment in the titles.

(I would like to prove that this approach works well in the ever changing landscape of search engines, but somehow Google determined that I was not going to be privy to how that actually works.)

Using a traditional WordPress approach — arranging posts into categories and using that for display — works well for this type of approach because you do have titles and descriptions for every post. However, the words you use for this type of long-tail approach don’t have to be seen by the user to work.

Title tags and meta description tags are seen in search results, but there are many other places to place and play with your long-tail keywords. Photo titles and descriptions and other meta tags work equally well, and of course you can always play a little with the copy that is seen, and changing copy on a website on a weekly basis is a very good practice for improving your search engine results.

Back to the past, that newspaper in Lyons, Colorado was right next to the “downtown” cafe, where we would pick up free coffee and discounted meals. I laid out the paper and would watch as people read the weekly — I’d know exactly what they were skipping by, chuckling at, or were angered by.

Curiously, you can also see much of that information in analytics. If the potential customer came in on a page you intentionally set up with a long-tail keyword, such as a temporary landing page, you can set up your account to see how far they went and if they actually purchased something. We’ll get into how to do that with Google Analytics a bit later.

So what are words for? Well today I guess they are important even if it doesn’t appear that anyone is listening.

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Want some good marketing data? Look to your website.

Few, if any, business owners invest in a website without expecting some return on their investment, whether those are online sales, client contacts or even just brand recognition.

So it’s rather remarkable that a great many of those same business don’t take greater advantage of using the data their website can provide them about their future marketing efforts. Many do look at rudimentary data about the number of visits or the number of visits generated by online advertising or what search terms are generating organic search results, but those are just the tip of the iceberg of the usable data the website can generate.

Enter Google Analytics. There are other analytic tools, ranging from rather simple to robust, but Google Analytics is free, its training courses are easy to follow and, well, who knows more about search?

Let’s start with your bounce rate.

The bounce rate, in its most simple terms, measures how many people might leave the site after looking at only one page. But comparing that rate to multiple pages could tell you a great deal about what content your visitors find engaging and what content they don’t.

In Analytics it’s easy to set up a dashboard that reveals this data, so you don’t have to constantly be making the comparison yourself.

The new version of Analytics also allows you to exclude certain actions by the user so that the page is not counted as bounced. That might include interacting with a menu, a video or scrolling down the page.

In essence, Analytics allows you to easily exclude certain user actions, called events, from the bounce rate, giving you a clearer vision of the overall success of your content.

A/B testing.

A simple A/B test might include an advertising campaign conducted on two separate social media channels, say Facebook and Instagram. Let’s say you used the same content on those ads.

So a simple test might just measure how many visitors visited the landing page from those two sites, but that probably doesn’t tell the entire picture. Analytics can also track individual users to the end of that visit, to see, for instance if they actually bought a product. That allows you to fine tune your messaging.

We also know that the visitors from Facebook and Instagram could have very different demographics – principally age. So our copy probably isn’t exactly a right fit for one or other of these platforms.

How can we tell what copy works for what audiences?

Enter Advertising Features.

A new addition to Analytics is Advertising Features, which does require audience notification that your site does take advantage of Google advertising cookies. Of importance to almost any business owner is the access to Google data concerning the visitor’s demographic and their personal interests information.

That information can be used to create audience segments. While you might, or might not, use this information to address copy of your entire site, you might change the content for certain ads or a remarketing effort.

We’ll be addressing other aspects of displaying and using the data from your website in weeks to come. In the meantime you might want to explore how easy Analytics can be to use, or contact a local contractor to help you set up how you view that data.


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