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Google Analytics visitor opt-out Javascript

June 12, 2020
📓 Article

As we discussed in our post about skipping Google Analytics altogether – we’ve written some JavaScript to make it easy for your visitors to opt-out of GA tracking. This post explains in more detail exactly what the code does and how to install.

Our intent with this code is to offer a useful utility – but it has some downsides that we list below, and will probably need a bit of customization for your use case.

But more importantly, we want to get marketers thinking: Do you really need Google Analytics to run an effective marketing department?

Quick overview of the opt-out code

Google Analytics lets web developers make a simple Javascript call to disable tracking. But Google doesn’t provide an easy way for site visitors to trigger it, so we added that. In addition, as far as we can tell, this value isn’t stored between visits to your site, and perhaps not even between pageviews, so we’ve added functionality to make this selection persistent. Lastly, we’ve added functionality to allow users to turn GA tracking back on if they’d like.

Main functions

The key line of this code is Google’s functionality to turn off tracking:

window['ga-disable-' + gaProperty] = true;

Every other line of the code provides the additional functionality described above. For example, readCookie() and setCookie() are fairly standard cookie functions to save and read whether your users has disable GA tracking. The checkCookie() function uses readCookie() to see if an option for disabling tracking has been set; checkCookie() also manages toggling the link text to switch between opted-in and opted-out states.

Setup

To use this, you can drop the code more or less unchanged into any page on your site; that’s what we’ve done with our blog post. The <a> element will work anywhere you place it, and if you have access to a web developer, they can attach this behavior to a button or some other element, instead.

Caveats and warnings

  • Ideally, you should have this code run before your Google Analytics code runs. If Google Analytics is implemented via Google Tag Manager on your site, the easiest way to do that is to take the code between the <script> tags and add it to a new GTM tag that fires before Google Analytics.
  • Another good reason to use Google Tag Manager: This code needs to run on every page of your site where Google Analytics runs.
  • If you’re subject to the requirements of GDPR or any similar legislation – this code isn’t going to be enough to cover those requirements. We don’t offer legal advice, but there are plenty of Cookie Consent companies out there that offer a full solution to this problem.
  • This code sets its own cookie. The irony isn’t lost on us! It’s just a few letters – optedin or optedout – and we tend to think that simpler cookies, that you control directly, are better. But still.
  • This only works for a single Google Analytics tracker, so if you’re using more than one, you’ll need to modify the code to account for that.

Conclusions

This short script makes it relatively straightforward to allow your users to disable Google Analytics. We’ll continue to develop this code, but mostly we hope this sparks a conversation for you about whether, and how, you want to continue using Google’s tool. Questions? Feel free to chat with us, or open an issue in the GitHub repo.

What data do content marketers actually need?

June 4, 2020
📓 Article

Google Analytics – and most other analytics tools – give you so! much! data! Almost anything you want to measure, you probably can. A quick look at the Dimensions and Metrics Explorer for GA, for example, will show you literally hundreds of:

  • Metrics, which are specific measures of actions taken on your site, like pageviews or sessions
  • Dimensions, which are specific ways of breaking down these measures, like geography, language, device, and so on.

Not to mention segments, filters, date ranges, etc.

But most people – and most content marketers – just don’t need this much data. In fact, looking at too much data can be distracting from your real goals, in addition to being time-consuming to set up and hard to understand and explain.

A few basic measures for content marketing

We think you can do really well with just a few things.

Pageviews, users and sessions. These are slightly different measures of engagement with your site.

Pageviews tell you how many times people looked at your pages, which can be useful for measuring the depth of engagement of a particular visitor, and the popularity of your content overall.

Users tell you how many people engaged with your site, which ultimately ties to lead generation and purchase goals.

And sessions are an important measure that’s kind of in the middle – how many engaged visits are you getting to the site? Of course, you want these numbers to increase.

Entrances. How many times did people enter your site for a certain piece of content? This is important to track so that you understand how much work your content is doing in attracting people to your site in the first place.

Bounce rate and retained sessions.

Bounce rate tells you how often someone came to your site, viewed just one page, then left. Sometimes this means that a visitor found what they were looking for, which is great – but ideally, you’re able to present other content to them, so they’ll stay.

And if a page generates lots of entrances, that’s good, but if they don’t stay, that’s much less helpful. So we calculate retained sessions by taking the number of sessions, and subtracting the percentage of sessions that bounced.

You’ll want to segment all of these measures, of course, by where visitors came from, with organic search being a key dimension to pay attention to.

Beyond the basics

We usually recommend a pretty focused set of measurements, but there are a few more things you can add if you’re doing a deep dive on your content or traffic strategy.

Heatmapping can be helpful as an infrequent exercise to see where visitors are engaging with your menu bar or other key pages on your site (e.g. the homepage). Most people shouldn’t run heatmapping tools all the time, since they slow down your site. When you’ve finished gathering data, turn the heatmapping tool off.

It can also be helpful to track a measure we call conversion contribution. For any conversion, what page on your site did that visitor first visit? If you’re knowledgeable about Google Analytics, you can track this by using the existing Converters segment, but you’ll need to make sure that conversions on your site are tracked. (We’re happy to chat about this, hit the chat button below if you want advice on your specific situation.)

google-analytics-converters-segment.png

Getting account-based marketing metrics from your content

If you’re using account-based marketing, there are a lot of tools you can also use to tag your visitors in Google Analytics as being part of your target accounts, then segment to see the behavior of just those visitors.

All of these engagement metrics, and particularly metrics from specific companies, should be folded into reports that your reps can use when they’re calling in.

Conclusion

Google Analytics (and other analytics tools) give you a lot of data. But usually, you can focus on just a few numbers to build content that performs really well – use the basics, like users, sessions, and pageviews, and of course you’ll want to measure entrances, bounce rates, and retained sessions.

Finding and using customer language

June 3, 2020
📓 Article

When you’re creating content for your customers and prospects, we always recommend that you use the words your customers say. Using customer language means that:

  • You are addressing the problems they say they have (instead of the problems you think they have)
  • The language you use is the language they use, which makes it easier for search engines and social media to match your content to their questions
  • When your customers and prospects arrive on your site, you have instant credibility with them because you’re speaking their language

While customer interviews are ideal sources of this language, not every company has an ongoing interview program. But there are plenty of places you can find this language if you know where to look.

Customer review sites. Places like G2Crowd are goldmines of customer language, since they catalog thousands of reviews written by real customers. Here are a couple of good examples of useful reviews:

G2reviews1.png

G2reviews2.png

We’ve underlined in red the specific language that a real customer is using to describe how they use this product (in this case, Drift.)

Live chat. Live chat can be really helpful for your entire content marketing strategy. In brief, it’s literally a source to ask visitors to your website about what they’re experiencing, and what problems they’re trying to solve. (And here’s more about how live chat can improve your overall strategy.)

Interviews. Not every company has an ongoing interview program with customers, but maybe you can start one if you don’t! Some important questions to ask:

  • What problems does our product solve for you?
  • How would you describe our product to someone else?
  • If our product disappeared tomorrow, what would you do instead?

These interviews are also great for learning about how your customers make decisions, and where they hear about solutions. “How did you hear about us?” or even “Where do you go to get information about products you’re going to use?”

Keyword suggestions. These are your favorite search engine’s suggestions for what else searchers are looking for.

GoogleSearchSuggestions.png

Conclusion

Finding the language that your customers use to describe you and their problems is key to successful content strategy and promotion. There are lots of sources you can use, and the highest value is talking to customers. These conversations will dramatically improve the ability of your content to speak to the people you need to speak with.

When to remove content

June 2, 2020
📓 Article

Sometimes, in reviewing your content, you’ll find articles or other assets that don’t get visitors or leads, that don’t align with your value proposition anymore, and that don’t serve another purpose for your organization.

In this article, we’ll cover best practices for dealing with content like this, and some alternatives to consider.

Should you remove non-performing content?

Deleting content should be avoided for a few reasons:

  • You lose any backlinks to that content, now or in the future
  • Anything that was valuable in that content is gone, unless you maintain a separate archive of your pages
  • The experience for anybody who lands on that page is not great – they get a 404 instead of information

With that said, it’s certainly allowed and in many cases may be important to remove content. Content that’s not working:

  • Is harder to maintain. Because nobody looks at it, it can easily become out of date, because nobody is looking at it.
  • Can distract users from better content you could be pointing them to (or that they could find elsewhere.)
  • Clutters your library, and potentially even your search results for certain keywords – you want your visitor to see the best stuff you have.
  • Diminishes your brand for visitors that do find it, especially in the case of content that’s left over from previous site iterations or product iterations, that’s never been brought up to date.

The best candidates for removal? Pages that get no visitors – and are also short (less than 300 words), and don’t serve another function on the site (e.g. recruiting or brand).

Before you remove content, though, there are some other things you can probably do to make it work for you.

What you can do to help your content perform better

There are specific things you can do to improve any given piece of content:

  • Is your content receiving any traffic, or is there any audience who find the content useful? If so, see if you can use that as a clue to add depth, or rewrite the content, so that it performs better. Also, be sure it’s up to date.
  • Did you promote your content? And in particular, is it integrated with the rest of your library – does it appear on any pages relevant to that topic, and do you link to it from your other posts?
  • Of course, make sure the page is well-written and organized. If the content is thin and irrelevant, this might not make a difference. But sometimes even minor updates here can matter.

If that doesn’t work, consider combining your non-performing content with something else.

For example, let’s say you have a 500-word article on how to play classic guitar solos on a saxophone, and nobody’s reading it.

See if this topic is an important part of another subject you talk about on your site – like a list of different uses for saxophones. Maybe you can cut down the size of this other article, and move it there instead. (Be sure to redirect the old article to the new article).

This has a bunch of advantages – it makes the “winning” article stronger in search, and it also makes the experience for the visitor better.

Mostly, it helps with discoverability. The people who wanted to just know about the more specific article immediately see the knowledge they want in context, and the people who wanted the more general information can dive in if they need to.

And if you do remove content, you should put in a redirect to the next most relevant article. Primarily, this is a better experience for any visitors you might get in the future.

Conclusion

Your content library needs to be maintained, and sometimes this means you should consider taking content down. There are many cases where this makes a lot of sense – but also consider alternatives, like consolidating your non-performing content with something else. Lastly, follow best practices, so you don’t lose any value that was there.

How to organize your blog

May 31, 2020
📓 Article

Blogs have a lot of information, and they’re not easy to organize. Most companies do it chronologically – you arrive at /blog, and you see the latest posts.

But while chronological organization is the easiest way to organize, it’s not necessarily the way that’s most useful for your visitors.

Library vs. publication

You can think of your blog using a bunch of different metaphors.

In a “library” metaphor, you walk up to a shelf (visit your blog) and are presented with a series of assets, not organized by date, but by topic. Your blog becomes a source of reference, and what matters is that all the content available is up to date.

In a “publication” metaphor, you open a newspaper (visit your blog) and are presented with the latest news. Your blog is a way for people to keep themselves updated on what’s going on at your company, or in your industry.

These metaphors suggest some other things about how your blog might work:

  • In a library, your featured posts might be the ones that are the most popular ever, or ones that are topical. If your blog is a publication, it’s whatever’s popular right now.

  • If your blog is a library, the topic matters most and your design should make that information easy to find. If it’s a publication, the date is the most prominent piece of information.

  • In a library, you should plan to keep all of your information up to date. In a publication, new content takes the place of old content.

But you know… both of these could be important ways of presenting information to your visitors. So why not both?

It’s good to have multiple views of your content

These metaphors are useful to keep in mind, but they muddy the waters a little bit. “Blog” and “library” aren’t meaningful by themselves. They’re just ways of presenting the resources you’ve already created; they’re not the information itself. And we think you need both.

A blog – because some visitors will care about the latest content you’re posting. For a lot of companies, job applicants, prospective customers, and even investors might go to a blog to see if you’re active and what you’re doing.

A library – because some visitors will need to track down specific information that you’ve posted:

  • You can build a hub page in your library for a specific topic your customers care about, just like you might have a section of your shelves devoted to Mesopotamian history.

  • You can have search for visitors who trust you as a resource to advise them on their latest marketing campaign.

  • Your sales team is an unconsidered audience for your library; they need a single place where they can easily find content to send to prospects.

And then think of the things you have to offer – articles, white papers, videos, resource guides – as resources that you can present in both of these formats.

Blowing up the blog

Let’s take it one step further. Don’t think of “blog posts” anymore. Think of:

  • Articles that appear on your blog, and maybe in your library, too!

  • News updates that appear on your blog, but maybe not in your library.

  • A whitepaper that appears in your library, and that has a blog post announcing it and summarizing its contents.

  • Temporary and time-sensitive updates, like product changelogs, that now have a home on your blog, because your blog isn’t pretending to be a library.

And so on. Thinking of your blog as a presentation format, or as a view, and thinking of assets separately – getting rid of the idea of a “blog post” – gives you much more flexibility, and helps you get out of bad content habits. And it lets you put a lot more stuff on your blog, too

Conclusion

Chronological posting should not be the default. Consider all the types of content you actually create – whitepapers, articles, changelogs, videos – and think of the blog and the library as ways of presenting appropriate content. Using this approach makes both your blog and your library more relevant and useful for your visitors.

To write for humans, understand robots

May 29, 2020
📓 Article

Between blogs, social media, and email, don’t you feel like you’re reading more than ever before? And yet the sheer quantity of content that’s being produced, is even greater. So filtering happens:

  • Email clients add focused inboxes that show only a subset of the mail you receive, whatever the email client thinks is important.
  • Bidding on paid search and paid social gets more expensive.
  • Google gets pickier about what to display for a search, and starts including factors like site speed and usability.

All of these things have something in common – because of the huge amount of content that’s out there today, where your content ends up isn’t just determined by things that you do, or by the quality of your content. It’s also determined by code, software, and robots. (Err… algorithms. Let’s say algorithms, that might be more accurate. Although, robots.txt anyone?)

Creating the right content is important, of course, but if you don’t take the algorithms into account, your content won’t reach your customers. Organic search drives over half of website traffic, depending on how you estimate.

That means, when your customer has a problem, the first thing they’ll often do to solve it, is to Google it. Fortunately, organic search is the place where the algorithms are easiest to work with.

Algorithms and SEO

If I’m interested in buying a tiny watermelon:

  • I open google.com.
  • I type in “tiny watermelons”.

Once I hit Enter, Google ranks the incredibly large number of pages in its index according to their relevance to your query – plus lots of other things, like your search history, location, and more. Then it displays the result.

Since I sell tiny watermelons, I care the most about this last step, in which Google decides whether anyone will see the tiny watermelon content my team has worked hard to put together.

And as a result, everyone spends a lot of time trying to understand Google’s algorithms. Moz, for example, will even show you a history of algorithm updates, together with its historical view of your search visibility.

Google algorithm update examples

Google (and other search engines) have been really clear about what matters for getting your content ranked, and, if anything, they’ve gotten better at it over time.

  • The quality of your content, of course, is critical. Do you understand your topic, and does what you’ve written provide useful information? Is your article long enough to cover the details of whatever you’re writing about? Does it help your visitor?
  • Closely related to this: Is the experience on your site high-quality? Meaning – does your site load fast? Is it easy to get to reading without lots of popups or interstitials? How’s the mobile experience?
  • Does your content add anything new to what’s already out there? Summaries can kind of work. But the best content does the same thing that your business does. It adds new value and new ideas that aren’t already out there. From a keyword perspective, this helps you rank for stuff that’s highly relevant that nobody else is ranking for. From a content quality perspective, it makes your resource more complete than what’s already out there.
  • Is your content being read? It’s a little bit of a chicken and an egg problem, but the more your content is read and shared, the more backlinks it’s likely to have, and the more likely search engines are to think it’s helpful to visitors.

There are lots of other things you can optimize for. So many! We’re here to tell you that we think the bullet points above are what really matters. So few content marketers nail these items – and they are, in fact, so hard to do well – that doing a good job here is likely to deliver serious results.

Conclusion

Every content marketer needs to deal with algorithms today. Organic social, email, and every other marketing channel requires some attention to getting your content delivered to your customers, not just writing it. Fortunately, for most content marketers, organic search algorithms line up reasonably well with writing and producing great content.

Can longer forms have better engagement?

May 28, 2020
📓 Article

If you run a B2B website, part of what you’re trying to achieve is form fills. You want to get people to give you their contact information so you can:

  • Have them talk to a rep now, or
  • Keep communicating with them in hopes of having them talk to a rep later.

Isn’t that it? (If you’re B2C, it’s not so different, maybe instead of “talk to a rep” you want them to buy something directly.)

Most of the time, when you receive this information, it’s a trade: Your visitor gives you their contact information, you give them access to a whitepaper, or brief, or webinar with information they want.

A much more desirable situation, though, is that your visitor fills out the form because your content establishes your credibility and the value of what you offer to solve their problem. And so they want to stay in touch!

Because you, as a content marketer, are partly graded based on form fills, we want to suggest a different way of thinking about this critical part of your content stack, based on the latter scenario.

Boring old best practices for forms

There are a lot of guides out there on form UX. Norman Nielsen Group guides are classics, and here are their guidelines for web form design(https://www.nngroup.com/articles/web-form-design/), with links to plenty of other resources.

All advice on form usability will say that you want to avoid as many as obstacles as possible to getting your form filled out, and add as many incentives as you can. This means:

  • Making it clear what the promise of your content is and why the user should care. This means landing page text that’s compelling and clearly describes what the user will get.
  • Keeping it short. Use as few form fields as possible, of course. Also consider omitting optional fields altogether. And consider using tools that automatically enrich the data so you don’t need to ask for Company when you have an email address.
  • Design is key. The placement of labels, indicating which fields are optional, etc. are all important to avoid confusion. Reduce the cognitive load of filling out your form. And remove any questions about your credibility by keeping your form design consistent with the rest of your site, and generally keeping the design of form controls at the same level as everything else.

But even better…

Instead of thinking about it as a transaction, think of it as a conversation

Here are some frustrating realities about gated content:

  • People will give you whatever information they need to, to get the asset they’re interested in. That might mean a personal email address, which a lot of companies regard as unhelpful.
  • It might also mean a fake email address, for which the workaround is to email your customer their asset. If you email their content, they have to give a valid email address, right? Unfortunately, the context switch required to fish your asset out of their inbox, when they were already in their web browser, makes it much less likely that they’ll look at it.
  • Gated content isn’t indexed by search engines. That means people won’t find (or read!) a lot of your best stuff.

What if, instead of this adversarial model, visitors wanted you to have their personal information because they see you as delivering valuable information?

Why longer forms can have better conversion

Here’s an interesting article by VentureHarbor about a couple of cases where longer forms actually had better conversion rates. Why?

If you think about the form as part of a conversation, you’ll see how this could be true.

  • Short forms may not be credible for some products or services. If you walked into a car dealership and a salesperson asked you a single question, would you think they were in a position to help you buy?
  • If a user views information as necessary to get what they want – for example, they want to talk to you on the phone, and so you ask for their phone number – they’ll fill out the phone number field with accurate information.
  • Forms can be fun! Try asking a user about their day, or what their favorite color is.
  • A form can serve an important purpose for your user, which is to help them think through a process, or think about what they really want.

Also, don’t forget about an important hidden function of forms – maximizing conversion rate isn’t everything. You want to use your form to set the stage for an experience with your brand, and to disqualify prospects who aren’t a fit.

Really making it a conversation: live chat

Live chat can be helpful for lots of reasons. With that said, not every industry or website finds live chat effective, and not every visitor wants to engage in real-time. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Conclusion

Forms are important – there are lots of best practices out there. But instead, think of forms as a conversation, rather than a transaction. Motivate your prospects, and think about how the content leads logically, and naturally, to filling out the form.

Search experience optimization

May 23, 2020
📓 Article

Google is solving a hard problem – based on just a couple of words, it has to figure out what you’re looking for.

For simple, straightforward queries, like a stock quote or “how to wash a car”, it might be easy. But for something more complex and with less obvious intention, like “pie”, there’s much more guesswork to do. Are you looking for pictures of pie, information about what types of pies exist, baking instructions, or something else entirely?

Once Google has guessed what a searcher meant, it has to rank billions of pages by the likelihood that each page will be what the searcher is looking for. And there are lots of factors at play – with machine learning now part of the picture, arguably an infinite number!

To make this job as easy as possible for Google, make it easy for your searcher. Create pages that are easy to navigate, and easy to use.

Leave an information scent

We talk about information scent a lot. It’s an elegant metaphor for the process a user goes through to get closer and closer to the information they’re looking for, until they eventually find it. A strong information scent lets users feel confident that you’re about to provide them the information they’re looking for.

In search, your main opportunity to start a user on a trail is through the meta title and meta description. A compelling call to action and a clearly relevant page title in a search engine result provide a better experience for your user, and is likely to drive more traffic that something that’s auto-generated by your Wordpress instance. A clear title and description also help Google, of course, understand what your page is about.

Clear navigation

Once users are on your site, they have to be able to find what they’re looking for easily. Your users like clear navigation – and so does Google.

We cover this more in our article about designing navigation for SEO, but generally, you’ll want to:

  • Keep your navigation bar labels, page URLs, and page titles consistent. If you have a page comparing hydroelectric turbines and nuclear turbines, make sure the page title, page description, and URL reflect this. And, make sure every link that points to the page – especially the ones in your nav bar – use consistent anchor text describing the contents of the page.
  • Include the most important pages in your site in the navigation. Because the navigation bar appears on every page, it’s a hint that Google will receive over and over again as to what content you consider the most worthy of visitors’ attention.
  • Keep related information together. Keep your navigation lean, so that related information is grouped together on a single page—for example, have all your information on flanges appear together. You’ll be making the correct destination extremely clear for visitors, and for Google, too.

Be thoughtful about pages you take down

Navigation isn’t just about the content you have today. When you add a page to your site, you’re responsible for helping visitors to that page, even after you take it down.

If you stop selling a certain type of laserdisc caddy, redirect the visitor to something else that’s highly relevant to their query, such as your Laserdisc Caddy category page offering similar products. Better still, put a message on that page telling the visitor that the particular product they came in for isn’t available, but here are other suggestions they might like.

That’s a better experience for the user. And it tells Google that the new page is relevant for visitors to the old page, which helps it rank better in search results.

Make your site accessible to all visitors

Many of the things you can do to improve your site for Google will also make the experience better for human beings, and vice versa.

For example, you can provide a simple text representation of any image on your site (known as “alt”, or alternative, text). Adding this text is important for vision-impaired visitors so that their screen readers can parse the images you’ve added. But since Google’s bot can’t see what’s on your site, it also reads your alternative text and uses it as another clue to what the page is about.

Conclusion

An important lens for looking at SEO is the whole experience of searching for things on your site. Optimize for your visitor’s experience, and you’ll be optimizing for Google, too.

  • Making your site accessible for everyone isn’t just the right thing to do – Google is one of your users.
  • Providing a great experience even for people who land on content you’ve taken down.
  • Make your navigation clear and useful, and Clear the path to the information your visitor is looking for.

Causes of too much direct traffic in Google Analytics

May 22, 2020
📓 Article

Direct traffic, from an analysis perspective, is the least useful category in Google Analytics (or any other web traffic analysis tool). It’s Google Analytics’ way of saying – “I don’t have any information about where this traffic comes from”.

Some direct traffic is unavoidable, and typically we expect to see about 20% - 25% of traffic tagged as direct – for example, if someone types your URL into their browser, there isn’t a way to know how they found out about your site in the first place.

But we’ve seen sites with much higher percentages of direct traffic, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

What is direct traffic?

Most requests for webpages include information about the webpage that a visitor is coming from – the referrer. This information is in the request header, and you can see it if you take a look at the network traffic associated with the webpage request.

If a visit is missing this information, it will be counted as direct – with one important exception. If you supply information about where the visit is coming from via a utm_medium parameter, that visit will count as coming via that medium. Ideally, you should also use utm_source. So a URL like yoursite.com?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter will not count as direct, even if there isn’t any referral information.

Preliminary investigation

If you have too much direct traffic, we suggest doing some preliminary investigation of your trends to rule possibilities out. In particular, look to see if:

  • The trends for direct traffic follow overall site traffic trends – is the percentage of traffic relatively constant?
  • Or does it spike along with certain activities such as email sends, or even radio ads?
  • You might also want to see if direct traffic is coming from certain device types, certain countries, or to certain pages.

The Segment view is really helpful for this.

Sources of direct traffic

There are a few particular sources of direct traffic that we see frequently.

Email, especially prospecting email from your sellers. When a link in an email is clicked, there often isn’t any referrer information sent. If you send a lot of email, or if your sellers do, that can mean a lot of direct traffic. To fix this, make sure your links have utm_medium (and utm_source) parameters added. You’ll want to make sure any links in your email template, such as a link back to your homepage from the header, are tagged this way as well.

Inconsistent Google Analytics implementation. Depending on your exact setup, it’s likely that Google Analytics counts referrals from your own domain as direct traffic – after all, a referral from your own domain doesn’t really give you any information about where the traffic originally came from. And a good way to get referrals from your own domain is to omit the Google Analytics pixel on some pages on your site.

In that case, Google Analytics would see:

  • Nothing (because one of your landing pages is missing the Google Analytics script), or
  • A new visitor (because the page has the Google Analytics script), but with a referral from your own domain – which counts as direct traffic.

To fix this, make sure Google Analytics is on every page of your site. And make sure you’re using the same Google Analytics property on each page, as well.

Insecure sites. Your site should be serving in https, for lots of reasons. If it isn’t, you may also see additional referral traffic, as document referrers generally aren’t sent from https to http sites. To get around this, you can add utm_medium and utm_source parameters, but note that those won’t work for links you don’t control (like most backlinks).

Traffic from social apps. This is a less common reason for direct traffic, but does happen. When you go from an app, like Instagram or Twitter, to a website, referrer information is generally not sent. To get around this, make sure to tag your social links with utm_medium and utm_source.

Conclusion

Direct traffic isn’t bad! But it’s helpful to understand where all your traffic is coming from, and you don’t want traffic marked as direct if it isn’t. Use Google Analytics for clues – compare your direct traffic to your site traffic over time, and look to see if it’s coming to specific pages. As a best practice, tag your external links, especially in email, with utm_medium and utm_source. And make sure Google Analytics is served consistently across your entire site.

How live chat can improve content performance

May 21, 2020
📓 Article

Live chat can’t directly affect your SEO and content performance, since it’s ephemeral and private, so Google has no way to index it. But it can indirectly help you in a huge number of ways.

  • The more time you spend with customers, the better. Data has a way of isolating marketers, but real live conversations can help fix that. That’s true for you as a marketer, and also for your customers, whose experience is often dramatically enriched by talking to an actual person.

  • Chat data informs keyword strategy. From a strategy perspective, questions that your customers ask are key inputs for building a keyword strategy. If you run a guitar shop and you get a few questions every week about “double-necked guitars”, be sure to at least evaluate “double-necked guitars” as a topic you might want your SEO strategy, and your content strategy, to deal with.

  • Ideas for new content and updates to existing content. Even if not every live chat phrase is strategic, chats with your customers are an important source of ideas for new content to write, or reasons to make existing content more prominent. Do you get asked frequently about whether you also sell ukuleles? If you do, consider adding more information about ukuleles to your navigation so visitors can find it themselves. Ask visitors whether your answers meet their needs, and for bonus points, tag prospects so that you can follow up with them when you publish new content that addresses their questions.

  • Objection handling in advance. Questions can also let you pre-address common misconceptions. If a visitor is interested in buying a cheap guitar for travel, ask them why – and take the opportunity to inform them that quality guitars last longer, and hold up better, when you’re traveling with them.

  • Insight into trends. What customers ask on your site gives you information about trends that might affect your business. In a couple weeks after a meme-worthy performance on a reality show, are you noticing more questions about keytars? Write a post explaining what these are and what to consider when buying, and send that out in your next newsletter to all of your early adopters.

  • Better experience is good for SEO. Most generally, better customer service and experience leads to more time on site, more backlinks, and more recommendations, which are key to SEO performance and to as many people seeing your content as possible.

Conclusion

Live chat is not particularly new, but it’s getting more and more popular. And experiences with human beings are still popular, and will continue to be. Using chat as a way to connect with visitors not only improves your site experience, but it can also give you a window into what your customers are thinking, which can increase the value and reach of your content.