In digital advertising, we have an uncommon ability to collect user data that’s superior to other forms of advertising data; particularly compared to what’s available in TV or print.

However, merely collecting the data can be overwhelming unless a marketing anthropologist can cut through the clutter and give meaning to what the data says about your business. 

Here are some tips on how to give meaning to your website traffic or advertising response data.

Separate perception from reality

Often, a business’ perception of its customer is very different than the customer’s actual behavior. Fortunately, analytics can support or challenge your perceptions and help you build a profile of the customers that you attract.

For example, you can determine: 

  • Geographic location – Pinpoint city, regions, states or country
  • Demographics and interests – Combine remarketing data with your site analytics to reveal age, gender, and special interests by category
  • Time of day: Do your users peak at certain times of day? What’s triggering this behavior? 

Know if your traffic is real

Perhaps you’re seeing spikes of spam bot traffic hitting your site and generating false positives about your foreign audience.

High levels of traffic from Netherlands, Ghana, China, Russia and other faraway lands coupled with high bounce rates are likely an indication of bots hitting your site or gaming your analytics code to appear as a visitor, even if they’ve never been to your site.

The most common tactic occurring now is referral traffic sent to you from suspicious sites. Check your referral reports for names such as “Simple-Share-Buttons,” “Event-Tracking.com” and “Get-Free-Traffic.”

A link to these sites will appear in your reports - but don’t click on them – they may be a gateway to a computer virus, Trojan, or a black hat SEO firm advertising their services.

You can eliminate this data from your reports by creating filters, though it requires a diligent effort to stay one step ahead of the bad guys as the names often change.

In the end, you may no longer have the international following that you felt you had, but your data will be clean and tell a more accurate story of your business.

Determine the strength of your brand

“Direct Traffic” is any traffic that comes to you via a direct link or URL and not via more choice-driven responses such as a search engines, social media, or advertising.

A healthy percentage of direct traffic will indicate that consumers are familiar with your brand and likely type it directly into their browser. Look for this percentage to grow over time as your brand benefits from advertising, repeat business, and consumer memory.

Additionally, your brand name should be a top 5 keyword for your business as this indicates strong brand memory in the minds of consumers searching for you. If your brand name is not strong enough to break your top 5, consider a branding campaign or public relations to provide lift and grow name recognition.five

Long tail keyword data

The keyword choices that consumers use to find your business can tell you a lot. They may misspell your company name, associate you with a competitor, know you only by a product that you sell, or search for an employee or spokesperson by name.

By collecting this long tail keyword data, you can better understand how your customers know you, what they call you, what they want from you, and perhaps where they’re confused about your brand.

It’s important to note that in Google Analytics, some keyword information may be categorized as “not set” meaning the source is not available. It can be frustrating to marketing analytic gurus to not have this window into their data.

“Not set” typically means the user is searching privately with a cloaked browser or is logged in to a search engine and has chosen to not have their behaviors tracked. 

In AdWords, however, this data becomes available as a part of Google’s advertising services. If you encounter “Not Set” data, substitute with AdWords data when available.  A few years ago, Google set default browser search settings to private; however, Yahoo/Bing searches provide keyword-level data within Google Analytics.

Also, be aware of fake organic keywords that appear in your reporting and make their way into your data. Ghost referrals are keywords that have utilized a weakness in Google Analytics to appear in your reporting.

These suspicious keywords may appear as “Get Free Traffic” or something similar in an attempt to play like an advertisement for the company that placed the term in your reporting. The terms are typically obvious and have no relevance to your business.

Image credit: raventools

Lori Goldberg

Published 12 June, 2015 by Lori Goldberg

Lori Goldberg is CEO at Silverlight Digital and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

10 more posts from this author

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Comments (3)

Ian Bevis

Ian Bevis, SEO Consultant at Chameleon Web Services

Knowing more about the traffic to your website is vital. If you are achieving rankings for keywords you do not want this will more than likely result in a high bounce rate which will effect the overall site performance in Google.

The other very important factor is brand traffic, this is vital to see where your visitors are coming from that are aware of the brand name.

over 2 years ago

Bonnie Martin

Bonnie Martin, Owner at Zen Web Consultant

Nice tips! I hate seeing those fake referrals in analytics all the time.

over 2 years ago

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John Smith, Owner at website devlopment

Yes, GA Shows that "Not set" option for many keywords information & that is one of the irritating thing, as keywords are really important for ranking. I used GoStats to measure site performance.

over 2 years ago

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