Rising Through the Ranks | A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (Part IV)

Welcome back to my five-week series on Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)!  I’m back this week to speak to the specifics of Google Analytics and what it can do to boost your digital platform.  Three weeks ago, you’ll remember, I launched this series with a brief history of search engines and an inquiry into the necessity of SEO.  I investigated a few ways in which we can better employ keywords.  Two weeks ago, I dedicated an entire blog post to talking about matters of content.  Last week, I opened up the possible Pandora’s Box of metadata by showing some of the benefits of maximizing your SEO through the use of carefully curated titles and tags.  

Analytics, on the other hand––Google Analytics is its own unique creature, and unlike the other SEO tips I’ve already described, Analytics exists outside of your material.  It is a third party, so to speak, and consulting a Google Analytics report is a little like consulting a book review written by an independent literary critic: sometimes, it’s hard to know just what to do with the material.  In this blog post, I hope to unravel some of its many mysteries for you.

Step 5: Optimize your use of Google Analytics

What is Google Analytics, in the first place?  As you will already have guessed, it’s an offshoot of––or a service provided by––Google for producers of digital content.  If you own or otherwise run a blog, that’s you.  Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your web pages, particularly the number of times individual (or “unique”) internet users access (or “hit”) your pages, how long they stay on a given page, and their general demographic data.  Best of all, it’s free!

In order to set up Analytics, you first need to have a Google account (if you have a Gmail address, or use Google Documents, you already have one).  Then, you log in to the Google Analytics home page by clicking the “Access Google Analytics” link in the top right corner.  If it’s your first time using Analytics, Google immediately provides a handy and relatively intuitive tutorial on how to set up your websites to be tracked.  In simple summary, for any website platform other than WordPress, you will copy a short digital code that Analytics generates for you and insert that code into the HTML of your blog’s template.  (WordPress provides a handy plugin that does this for you, with a little tweaking.)  If you’re not familiar with HTML, that’s okay!  You can type “How do I use Google Analytics in Tumblr” (or any other platform you can think of) into a search engine, and find several step-by-step tutorials.  The trick is not to be daunted by the fearsome language of code!

Once you have successfully set up Analytics for your blog, you need to give the service a good span of time to collect information before checking back.  Google Analytics only tracks content going forward from the date it is installed, so it can’t retroactively give you information on the traffic to your website.  I recommend giving yourself about a month before logging back in––a month will give you a good chunk of useable data.

And then?  It’s as simple as clicking a link to view the compiled reports.

So, how are Google Analytics reports useful to the self-published author?

What Google Analytics really does––what it really boils down to––is it sheds light on how users behave once they access your digital content.  You will quickly see what material is popular––more people will “hit” that material, and stay on those webpages longer––and you can easily measure what impact your decisions have on your readers.  Did you adopt a few of the SEO tips I’ve talked about in previous weeks?  Google Analytics will show you if they’re working.  Did you alter what content you provide?  That’s easy to track, too.  Did you host a reading at a local bookstore, or promote your book using a seasonal discount on social media?  The “audience” reports on Google Analytics will show you just how effective that outreach has been in boosting traffic to your blog.  You can use the “Content Experiments” feature to test the efficacy of specific changes––whether you shake up your website design, or start using meta tags, or adopt some other change to your method.  There’s even a specific report you can run to view details about traffic directed to your website by search engines (check out the “Acquisition” tab, then the “Search Engine Optimization” sub-tab).

Essentially, the benefits of Google Analytics to SEO are manifold.  I could go on and on about how much I love using the Analytics interface, and how I used to watch in real-time as my blog posts were accessed in various cities and regions across the globe.  Google routinely updates the features offered by its Analytics service, and every year (sometimes, every month!) I stumble across some new and great application it provides.  Google Analytics is the ultimate resource to help those of us who are striking out on our own to tailor our digital content to our readers!

Once again, I find that I’ve run out of room—check back here next Wednesday as I wrap up this five-week series on SEO.  I have a few final tips and tricks to help you maximize your digital platform, and you don’t want to miss a single one!

If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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