How is your site doing? Do you know? Are the keywords that you’re targeting generating traffic? How are people finding your site? What about your competitors – do you know how they’re doing?
Getting quality visitor data from your website is key to any successful site. You need to know if your site is getting the exposure that you want. Competition is fierce, and getting quality results from your site is absolutely essential.
Actionable data is available if you know where to find it. Some of these you will have heard of, others may be new, but these tools are the ones that I’ve found most useful and valuable for my projects and clients.
This free application is invaluable for getting relevant information and statistics about the traffic for your site. Whenever I hear a question about increasing traffic or gaining increased visibility my first response is always, “do you have Google Analytics set up on your site?”
Analytics will provide you fine-grained detailed reports on your website – visitor information, traffic sources, and feedback about your top content. You’ll learn about what browser that they use to get to your website, their screen resolution, and connection speed. You’ll learn where your traffic is coming from through the data on referring sites and keywords used to find you. You’ll learn about the top content on your site and what’s attracting the most visitors. One of my favorites is under the “content” tools called “site overlay”. The site overlay renders your site with an overlay of statistical data on with rich traffic data while maintaining all your links so that you can click through yourself and see the trends and paths that users take through your site.
All this is just scraping the surface. The goal setting and custom reporting options give you even more ability to gain valuable insights and make plans for your website marketing.
Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster tools are the other side of the coin from Google Analytics. This tool gives you feedback on how your site is seen by search engines. It details keywords that your site ranks highly on, any potential errors encountered when the Google bot was crawling your site. You will find out if you have broken links and what your link structure looks like on your site. One of the more valuable tools here is the Sitemaps tool. It allows you to submit your website’s sitemap and is incredibly valuable and resourceful for getting Google to crawl your site.
When evaluating how well a site is put together, a good quick tool I use to evaluate what’s working and what’s not is websitegrader.com. This site will take a snapshot of essential elements that make up solid code and good design. They evaluate keyword usage amongst several other elements such as language usage, proper use of meta tags and page descriptions, use of links and images and more. Some newer features also evaluate the use of social media elements for blogs, and even Twitter. All these elements are essential for putting a good site together, and it can often give you answers as to why your site is performing well – or not.
Are you curious about how your site matches up against the competition? Then compete.com is the tool for you. The free service is a great tool to get a good bird’s eye view of how your traffic ranks against two other competitors. For the more ambitious, there is a paid version where you can get much more detailed information. The only downside to Compete.com is that if you’re site isn’t large enough to attract their attention there will be no results for your site.
Google Merchant Center
If you’re selling a product on your site you probably already know about Google Merchant Center. If you don’t, then as soon as you’re done reading this article go directly there and get signed up – it’s that important. This is Google’s free shopping submission service that allows you to submit your products via data feeds, and manual entry and will be listed in Google’s shopping search results. Setting up a data feed is by far the easiest and most efficient way to use this tool and will result in your products being listed in search results within a day or so. Once they’re listed, they’re listed. Just make sure you follow the guidelines and get it set up correctly – this can be a real boon for your site traffic and you should reasonably see an increase in sales from it. You’ll also learn a lot about who’s competing in your niche, so you’ll get a lot of good competitive information too, as you learn to work with it.
If you’re curious to see how fast your website loads on computers other than the one on your desktop then you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this one. As a designer, I’m always curious to know how my designs perform in other areas of the world. Host-Tracker.com will give you information on page-load times from all over the world. It’s that simple.
Another tool that is great for sites with enough traffic to get noticed is Quantcast.com. This site gives you some great feedback about the demographics of your audience. This is great feed back if your site is “quantified” but, like Compete.com above, if you don’t have a lot of traffic this one won’t help much. The demographic information here is really great – segmented by age, ethnicity, income, college, and more, it helps you refine your message and determine areas of strength and opportunity.
There are yet still more tools available out there – Omniture offers premium analytics services, and there are premium shopping feed submission services like Singlefeed. However, these are the ones that I’ve found to give me the best feedback about my sites and projects, and they’re all free!