Do You Need a 100% Score in Google PageSpeed Insights?

Published in WordPress.

We don’t like to wait. If people have to wait when visiting your website, they’ll get tired of it and will go visit another one. Your web loading fast is an essential requirement nowadays. But how can we know if a website is slow or fast?

I know, this question seems a bit stupid. You can know whether a web is fast or slow by measuring its loading time, duh. The difficult thing is to know if the value resulting from this analysis can be classified as “slow” or “fast”. Waiting 2 seconds may not be a problem, but if my website loads in half the time, that would be absolutely better, wouldn’t it? Specially if you take into account things like your website might only take 2 seconds to load on your Internet connection, but what about those who hve slow connections?

Is your website too slow, or is its speed already good?
Is your website too slow, or is its speed already good?

All this is a more complex problem than it may seem at first. In order to establish comparable measures, there are evaluators of the optimization level of the websites, such as Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix, just to mention a few.

These evaluators are able to analyze a web page and give it a grade on a scale of 0 to 100 depending on its level of optimization. In addition, they detect the characteristics of the web and indicate suggestions that we can carry out to improve its grade and, supposedly, its speed.

However, seeking perfection can be counterproductive. Searching for excellence in Google PageSpeed Insights can neglect other aspects of your website that are also important, such as the user experience.

Searching for Excellence in Google PageSpeed Insights

We have recently rewritten the theme of our website from scratch and have transformed all of our pages using blocks from the new WordPress block editor. It has been an exercise to better understand the characteristics of the block editor and also see their shortcomings, learning by doing.

Taking advantage of this task, we have analyzed our website with Google PageSpeed Insights to try to improve its final grade and get as close as possible to the desired 100. Next we will see some of the points that we have been improving thanks to the indications of Google and our conclusions about it.

Use an appropriate size for the images

We have already discussed this topic in our blog. Remember that you should try to use image sizes compatible with what your theme needs. Don’t use giant images because they are not necessary.

If Google PageSpeed Insights complains about your images, the good thing is that it will tell you what images cause the problems so you can fix them. It is a laborious work to do but whose results have a direct impact in the loading time of your web.

Postpone the load of images that do not appear on the screen

For all those images of your page that to be seen the visitor has to scroll down, what is recommended is to apply lazy loading.

What you get by using lazy loading is that you only ask the server for an image when the visitor scrolls and needs to see it. In this way we avoid overloading the server in the initial request and reduce time, making the web load faster. I recommend you this article about it. If you want to use a plugin for lazy loading, maybe this one will help you.

In our case, the SiteGround optimization plugin includes lazy loading, so we didn’t need anything else to activate this technique on our website.

Make sure the text remains visible while the web font is loading

If you use Google Webfonts, as we do, it is ironic to check how the script that Google gives you to load the fonts is detected by Google PageSpeed Insights as improvable.

According to Google, you should use the CSS font-display in @font-face for users to see the text while loading the web font. In particular, you must put font-display:swap in the loading of the fonts so that the browser does not block the rendering of the text until the font is available. You can download Google fonts and import them directly using font-display as explained here.

With this the visitor is able to see the text from the beginning, even if the specific font by Google is not loaded. At the moment in which the font becomes available, the browser will apply it to the text, transforming its style to the desired one.

Remove resources that block rendering

CSS styles and JavaScript scripts are increasingly used to change the content design and make it dynamic, respectively.

If we load the CSS and JS in the <header> of the web, the normal thing is that the content rendering is blocked and the web doesn’t load contents until the styles and JavaScript files are processed.

One option to avoid this is to move these files to the <footer> of the web. By doing this, all the content that goes in the <body> will load and render first, without being blocked.

Also it is recommended to use the attributes defer and async in JavaScript scripts so that the load is deferred or asynchronously done.

Another aspect that helps to improve the final score of Google PageSpeed Insights is the fact of minifying and compressing the CSS and JS files, as well as combining them in a single CSS and JS file respectively. However, be very careful with the combination because if you combine them in an incorrect order you can suffer flaws in the styles and break the execution of the JavaScript code.

You can use this plugin to get better results, but again, use it carefully.

Downsides of Improving the Speed of Your Website

After applying solutions to the suggestions proposed by Google using the Google PageSpeed Insights reports, the loading time of the website is reduced. However, this has a price that it is not clear if we want to pay.

One of the side effects of lightening our website is that the user experience a visitor gets might not be as good as it was. Let me further elaborate …

For the content of our website to be rendered as soon as possible in the browser of our visitors, we have postponed the loading of JavaScripts and CSS styles in the footer of our web (they have gone from the header to the footer). And we have also allowed the text to load before having the web font.

All this causes the visitor to quickly see the content of the web without style. Which means that they see everything quite flat and ugly. In addition, they will notice how the font of the text is changed when it is already available. Visitors will also see some flickering when the CSS and JavaScript styles are applied and executed.

GTMetrix Results.
GTMetrix Results.

Before, in a common WordPress installation, the visitor saw the web load without any problem. Now he will see that it loads a little faster, but all this flickering that he experiences reduces the user experience and it is possible that it makes the visitor think that the web is loading weirdly. Or even that something is broken on the web because every time you navigate to a page the flickering appears for a moment.

Is it worth providing this weird feeling to visitors just to win a handful of milliseconds in loading time and a few extra points in the Google PageSpeed Insights? We don’t think so. And for this reason we have return to the common way of loading styles and scripts that WordPress does by default.

Whether or not this has a negative effect on other aspects, such as SEO, the truth is that we don’t know (and we do not believe anyone knows for sure). Nor are we clear if the evaluation of Google PageSpeed Insights has as much weight as some people believe.

Results of Google PageSpeed Insights.
Results of Google PageSpeed Insights.

It is clear that there are aspects that need to be improved, such as the correct size of the images, use minified files to reduce their weight or avoid loading everything that is not going to be used on the page.

Don’t go crazy with the evaluators of the optimization of your website and with getting the maximum score. After all, your target visitor is made by flesh and blood, unable to appreciate minimum differences in tenths of a second. Once your grade is mostly correct, focus on something else.

Featured image from Taun Stewart on Unsplash.

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Understanding Bounce Rate

Published in Online Marketing.

We love web analytics. They are the best tool to know if we are improving or not. Today we are going to focus on one of the most forgotten ones: the bounce rate . Despite being less known than other vanity metrics such as the number of visits, it is an important metric to take into account. In fact, the bounce rate is key within the pyramid of web optimization .

If you want to know what the bounce rate is and why it is important, keep reading .

The Bounce Rate in Detail

According to Google , the bounce rate of your website is calculated as the amount of sessions that only visit a single page of your website divided by the total number of sessions . In other words, a bounce occurs when you receive a visit to your website and the visitor leaves without visiting any other page .

If someone visits a page on your website and then leaves without interacting or visiting any other page, we will say that this visit has bounced.

Scooby Doo Hello GIF by Boomerang Official - Find & Share on GIPHY
Someone access your website, takes a quick look and leaves.

As an example, if half of your visitors only visit a page of your website and then leave, your bounce rate will be 50%. Therefore, to improve the engagement of the website we are interested in reducing this bounce rate.

How to Know The Bounce Rate of a Page?

To know what the bounce rate of our website is, what we need is a web analytics tool, such as Google Analytics .

Log in to your Google Analytics account and go to the Behaviour menu, then to Site content and finally to All Pages . There you will find different information about your pages, including the bounce rate.

Screenshot showing the bounce rate of a particular page on our site in Google Analytics.
Screenshot showing the bounce rate of a particular page on our site in Google Analytics.

It’s that easy to see the bounce rate of your pages with Google Analytics. If you use a different tool, surely they will provide this metric because it is quite common.

What is an Optimal Bounce Rate?

This is the million-dollar question. And the thing is that it depends on the type of website you have and the traffic that reaches it.

For example, if you have a blog where you purely write content, it is usual to have a high bounce rate (as you could see in the previous screenshot where one of our posts was shown) since many readers go directly to read the content (they come from social networks or Google) and then leave.

On the other hand, if you are analyzing a landing page of your website, it is more usual that its bounce rate is lower, since the main task of this type of pages is to direct you to another one by doing some action (visit the pricing page, fill a form, etc).

And if you want specific numbers, there are many websites out there who comment that bounce rates between 26% and 40% are excellent, that the average is between 41% and 55%, and that 56% to 70% are above the average . They also indicate that with a bounce rate above 70% you have a problem unless you are a blog or a news page (pure content, as I explained before).

Even though this analysis seems a bit simplistic, I leave the numbers and then you decide whether you believe them or not.

The Bounce Rate And The Exit or Abandonment Rate

When looking at your web analytics tool, be careful not to confuse the metric of the bounce rate with the exit or abandonment rate. They are not the same. Both measure similar concepts related to the exit of a visitor from a specific page of your website. But, I repeat, they are not the same.

As I said before, the bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who land on a page and leave it before interacting with it . On the other hand, the exit or abandonment rate measures the percentage of visitors that leave the website after having visited a certain page, but they may have come from another page of the same website. Therefore, all bounces involve page exits, but not all exits are bounces.

On What Occasions Can a Bounce Not be a Bounce?

There are many reasons why a visitor can generate a bounce. These are some of the most common:

  • Click on the back button of the browser to return to a previous web.
  • Enter a new URL in the browser.
  • Close the browser or the current tab.
  • The session expires after a certain time (usually after 60 minutes of inactivity).

However, there are moments when our web analytics tool may be tracking bounced visits wrongly.

Google Analytics puts in the same bag a visitor that access your page and runs away; the one who enters your page, spends a while reading the content, and eventually ends up leaving thanks to a link that you have included there; and the one that arrives at your page, reads all its content in detail, and then, once satisfied, goes away.

For Google Analytics, all these cases generate a bounce of equal conditions, but it is clear that what is really happening is not the same. Also, if we look at it from a SEO perspective, would it be fair if Google positions all the pages in the previous scenarios with the same score? Surely your answer is no.

Well, don’t worry because in addition to the bounce rate, Google also takes into account the average time spent on the page to decide how good it is and position it according to it. That is why despite having a very high bounce rate, the page that we have shown you in the screenshot of our Google Analytics has a good positioning. The average time of stay of visitors in it is more than 5 minutes. Not bad at all!

Adapt Google Analytics to “Better” Measure The Bounce Rate

If it bothers you that Google Analytics counts as a bounce the visitors that spent some time in your page (which might indicate they have read its content), I have good news: it is possible to modify Google Analytics so that it avoids counting as a bounce those sessions that have a minimum duration. To do this you only have to send an event to Google Analytics after the time you decide (for example, 30 seconds).

Assuming that in your website you use the Google Analytics script by default, which defines the JavaScript object ga, what you have to do is put the following line after including the tracking code:

setTimeout( ga( 'send','event','Fix the bounce rate', 'Minimum session time of 30 secs.'), 30000 );

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a hack, but you decide whether or not to apply it to your analytics. After doing this you will see that your bounce rate starts to drop, since you will stop marking as a bounce those visitors to your website who only come to read content and then leave.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t apply this hack to our website because we like to see the complete data, even when that implies that in blog posts we have high bounce rates.

How to Reduce The Bounce Rate of a Page?

As I said, once you have applied the previous modification to better adjust the way to track your visitors with Google Analytics, your bounce rate should decrease, showing the pages that really have a bounce problem.

In those pages you should carefully analyze what is happening and try to understand why your visitors leave without further interaction. We leave you a couple of tips so you can work on those pages and improve them.

Improve Content And Its Link Structure

Think about the visitors and put yourself on their shoes. Only then you can get to understand why they leave your pages. Are you providing value to them? Do you solve a problem?

One of the best ways to see a decrease in the bounce rate is to improve the content of the page. And when we talk about the content, I also include links or calls to action. It is possible that the visitor does not interact with the page because he does not know or does not understand the options he has.

And if you’re selling something on that page, remember to review the highest level of the optimization pyramid, of which I spoke earlier in this blog. You will have to persuade the visitor to end up becoming a client: show testimonials, give him confidence, tell him how good you are and how much your product fits his needs…

A/B Test Everything

It will be of little use if you make changes in the content or design of your pages to try to improve their usefulness and thus reduce the bounce rate in them if you do not compare the changes made and the current version in the same conditions and following an appropriate method.

Search an A / B testing tool with which you can try the different modifications on your website. At the end of the tests, you will see if your modifications have improved or worsened your bounce rate, and the best thing is that you will make decisions based on scientific data and not opinions.

Summary

The bounce rate is a useful metric to measure the level of satisfaction of your users, along with the average time on page. If someone enters your page and leaves it without clicking on a second page, that’s a bounce.

You should not worry about SEO if you have a high bounce rate but the average time spent on the page is also high. The search engines will take into account the combination of these factors to position.

But if you have high bounce rates with low average times on page, you should keep an eye on your pages. Surely something is happening that is causing your visitors to run away from your website. In this case, propose improvements in your content and structure and validate them with A/B testing.

Featured image by Sammie Vasquez via Unsplash.

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Learn How to Set up Your Goals in Google Analytics

Published in Online Marketing.

Talking about web analytics is synonymous with talking about Google Analytics. Pretty much everyone has ever used Google Analytics, even if only to look at the visits of a website.

Moreover, if you frequently read our blog, you probably didn’t miss our previous post about Google Analytics. And surely you remember when we talked about the demo account that Google provides you showing a real use case.

Today we are taking a step further and we’ll see how to define the goals of your website in Google Analytics to know how good (or bad) it is performing.

The first thing you’ll need is a Google Analytics account, something very easy to get if you already have a Google account. I’m going to assume you have one and that you also have installed the Google Analytics tracking code on your website. You can always review this article in case you have problems on the matter.

To define the goals of your website in Google Analytics, you have to access to the admin panel of your account and there you will find the Goals menu in the View section.

In the Google Analytics admin panel you will find the Goals menu, where you can define them.
In the Google Analytics admin panel you will find the Goals menu, where you can define them.

Within this menu you’ll find all the goals previously defined. If you didn’t create one yet, the list will be empty. Luckily for you, if you don’t want to mess with your account you can see the goals defined in the aforementioned Google Analytics demo account. You won’t be able to set new goals in that account, but at least you’ll be able to see how they’re set.

Goals defined in the Google Analytics demo account of the Google Merchandise Store.
Goals defined in the Google Analytics demo account of the Google Merchandise Store.

To create your goals in your web analytics tool you must first know what you want to count as a goal in your website. In Google Analytics there are three types of basic goals that you can define: destination, duration, and pages/screens per session. In addition, you have an extra type of goal that takes into account events, but I’ll leave it for another day so we can focus on the other, simpler ones.

View for creating a goal in Google Analytics.
View for creating a goal in Google Analytics.

Let’s look at each of these three types of simple goals, what they are, and how we can define them to measure what we want.

Duration

If you want to measure how many times your visitors spend more than a certain number of seconds on your website, you can do it with Google Analytics Duration goals. This is especially useful in websites full of content to know if visitors really spend the time required to read everything or if they leave before doing so.

Or also on websites that sell products. Research has shown that if your visitors spend more time on your website, it is easier for them to end up completing a purchase on it. If they leave quickly, you have a problem that you must solve. With this type of goal you will be able to know this information.

When you create a new goal in Google Analytics you will have to choose its type. Choose Duration and name the goal so you can quickly identify it.

How to set up in Google Analytics a goal to measure the duration of your visitors on your website.
How to set up in Google Analytics a goal to measure the duration of your visitors on your website.

In the above image, what we want to do is to count those visitors who spend more than 1 minute on our website. That is why we have chosen “1 minute or more” as the name of the target. When you click Continue, you will see the next part of the goal creation form:

You only have to state the minimum time you want your visitors to spend on your website and Google Analytics will count how many of them meet this goal.
You only need to state the minimum time you want your visitors to spend on your website and Google Analytics will count how many of them meet this goal.

At this point you have to indicate the amount of time you want to mark as a minimum for your goal to be counted as fulfilled. In our example, if a visitor spends a minute visiting our website, Google Analytics will count that as a goal completion.

Later on we will be able to see the conversion rate for that goal, which will indicate the percentage of visitors over the total who have met the duration goal (in our case, spending more than a minute visiting the website).

Pages/Screens Per Session

Another kind of goal is to measure the number of pages or screens that a visitor has accessed during a session. If we are interested in counting this, with Google Analytics we only have to choose this type of goal, as you can see in the image below:

How to create a goal in Google Analytics to measure the pages per session of your visitors.
How to create a goal in Google Analytics to measure the pages per session of your visitors.

In our case we want at least 4 pages to be visited on our website, so we set the target so that the number of pages visited is greater than 3 (that is, 4 or more).

As soon as your visitor meets this goal, Google Analytics will note it and then you will be able to see the conversion rate on this specific metric you just defined.

To measure how many visitors to your site visit a minimum number of pages, use the appropriate Google Analytics goal.
To measure how many visitors to your site visit a minimum number of pages, use the appropriate Google Analytics goal.

So far, you can see that both the Duration and Pages per session goals are quite simple to understand and define. Let’s try to do something a little more difficult…

Destination

If you want to measure how many of your visitors access a certain page of your website, Google Analytics already gives you that information without any additional configuration. You only need to check the amount of visits to that page.

However, the Destination goal is extremely useful because it not only lets you know how many visitors are coming to a particular page, but you can also define the previous pages that they have to go through to get to that page. This way you can check the entire funnel through which your users pass and track where you lose them. Is it in the first step? Just before reaching the final destination page?

With Google Analytics you can measure how many of your visitors come to visit a certain page (after having visited others in a certain order). This way we measure the quality of our conversion funnels.
With Google Analytics you can measure how many of your visitors come to visit a certain page (after having visited others in a certain order). This way we measure the quality of our conversion funnels.

Create the goal, name it, and choose the type Destination. In the example above you can see that we have chosen “Purchase Completed” to name the goal. This is because we want to know how the sales funnel of our website is working, from the moment the user goes to the shopping cart until the order is completed.

When you go to the next step of the goal creation form, you must choose which destination page the visitor ends up on (ordercompleted.html in the example):

In the Google Analytics of type Destination you can define which pages are part of the conversion funnel.
In the Google Analytics of type Destination you can define which pages are part of the conversion funnel.

Then, we activate the funnel option (as you see in the image above, it is optional and disabled by default). This is where we are creating the necessary steps to define the sales funnel of our website.

In our running example there are 4 steps before getting to the destination page. We define these steps in order and, in addition to giving them a name, we indicate the partial URL of each of the pages that belong to the sales funnel:

  1. The visitor goes to the shopping cart (which is the page /basket.html).
  2. Confirms that he wants to start the checkout process and, when redirected to the page /yourinfo.html, introduces his billing and shipping info.
  3. The process continues and he enters the payment details (in the page /payment.html).
  4. After that, the visitor reviews the order (page /revieworder.html).
  5. When the order is completed (redirection to /ordercompleted.html) the purchase process ends.

This is the same scenario Google defined in its Google Analytics demo account for the funnel of the Google Merchandise Store. If you go check that demo account you’ll find there the Purchase Completed goal.

The benefit of defining the goal including its funnel is that you can go to the menu Funnel Visualisation inside Goals submenu as shown in the next image. There you can see at a glance the visitors flow and check where you lose them during the steps of the sales funnel:

In the Conversions section of Google Analytics you can see the conversion funnel graphic of your website that you just defined as a goal. Here you have the previous example taken from the Google Analytics demo account, where you can see the real funnel of the Google merchandising store.
In the Conversions section of Google Analytics you can see the conversion funnel graphic of your website that you just defined as a goal. Here you have the previous example taken from the Google Analytics demo account, where you can see the real funnel of the Google merchandising store.

Final Remarks

Google Analytics is not only used to see the number of monthly visits your website receives. By defining and using goals in Google Analytics, you can control your conversion rates and even know where in your sales funnel you have the most problems.

If you’ve never defined a goal on your website with Google Analytics, I encourage you not to waste more time and give it a try. I am sure that the data you get out of it will help you to continue improving and optimizing the performance of your website.

Featured image by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash.

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The Pyramid of Web Optimization

Published in Online Marketing.

We all want to improve. To get a better job, a better salary, a better house, to be better persons, to be happier, etc. The difficulty lies in knowing where to start, where to put more resources or what our priorities should be.

We have the same goal in the web world. We like to improve our website, the way we communicate through it, and our participation in social networks to attract more visitors. But the funny thing here is that most organizations still focus mainly on attraction and little or nothing on optimization.

Attracting more visitors to your website should be a priority, but also optimizing your website to make the visit profitable to both your visitors and your own organization. However, and going back to the beginning, it is difficult to know where to start when we want to optimize our website.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Image by Tim’s Printables.

Just as there’s no sense in saving to buy a Ferrari when you’re starving, you shouldn’t focus on just attracting new visitors if your website crashes all the time. This that seems so obvious is what Abraham Maslow explains in his pyramid of human needs, where as the most basic needs are met (bottom of the pyramid), humans develop higher needs and desires (top of the pyramid).

Following this same idea, Bryan Eisenberg adapts Maslow’s pyramid to the world of web optimization, creating his own hierarchy of optimization. As with Maslow’s hierarchy, Eisenberg’s pyramid indicates that only once the basic needs of the base are met, potential buyers can ascend to address the next need. As they reach the top of the pyramid, they are persuaded to perform the conversion action.

Eisenberg's web optimization pyramid.
Eisenberg’s web optimization pyramid.

In order to determine at what point of the pyramid we should devote our efforts to optimizing our website, we must start at the bottom and move upwards as the different aspects are covered. Let’s see step by step, each level of the pyramid in some detail.

Functional Optimization

It’s the bottom of the pyramid. If our website does not work properly, takes a long time to load or even breaks, we must focus on ensuring a sufficient level of reliability in terms of functionality before we want to optimize any other aspect.

In our blog we have already talked about this type of aspects, such as when we dealt with the issue of backups or the importance of choosing a decent hosting provider.

To find out the level of optimization of our website at the functional level we must study aspects such as the loading time, the number of requests to the server and its load, the file transfer from the server, service downtimes and 404 errors, or the quality of the images we use, among others.

For this task, some tools that can help us are:

  • Google Test My Site: Google‘s utility to measure the loading time of your website on mobile devices.
  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Google‘s utility to measure the speed of the web in general.
  • GTMetrix: utility that analyzes your website and details the improvements you should apply both at the server level and at the web itself to load everything better and faster.
  • Pingdom Tools: utility that like GTMetrix shows you the whole process of loading your website with suggestions for improvement.

Once you have covered the minimum functionality that your website needs to work, you can focus on the next level of the pyramid.

Accessibility Optimization

This is where you have to check if your website is easily accessible to your visitors. You should focus on whether the font combinations used make it easier to read, as well as whether you are using sufficiently large font sizes. You will also need to check the colors used on your web, as not everyone sees them the same way, so you will need to choose a correct color palette with enough contrast.

On the other hand, if your audience visits you from different geographical areas, bear in mind that you will probably have to offer the possibility of being able to access your content in their own language. In our case, we offer our content in Spanish and English, to cover the maximum possible amount of our audience but always bearing in mind that our resources are limited.

You can still find websites like this kebab stand in Berlin that work with Flash and are an example of anti-accessibility.
You can still find websites like this kebab stand in Berlin that work with Flash and are an example of anti-accessibility.

You should also make sure your website looks good on all kinds of devices, including smartphones and tablets. And you should also check that the different browsers are able to display your website correctly. This is quite obvious nowadays, but you can still find many websites with problems here, either by ignorance or simple laziness.

Usability Optimization

The usability of a website is essential. Facilitating the user’s life so that they can navigate our website without complications is key to optimization. A website with good usability is one that provides users with a simple, intuitive, pleasant, and safe interaction.

Make sure your website satisfies a minimum level of usability. Otherwise, you could end up with a website that is too complex for the visitor, such as this online store.
Make sure your website satisfies a minimum level of usability. Otherwise, you could end up with a website that is too complex for the visitor, such as this online store.

Maintaining a consistent design and similar to other websites within the same area, avoiding the abuse of animations that may distract and confuse the visitor, or placing navigation menus on all pages of the website are clear examples of recommendations to make your website more usable.

Intuitiveness Optimization

Does a visitor to your website know quickly what your organization does when they enter the main page? Is your purchase process simple and guided? If you don’t have a clear answer to these types of questions, you should dedicate yourself to improving how intuitive your website is.

Don’t force your users to take unnecessary steps or perform unnatural actions when they visit your website. If you ask them for information in a form, ask for what you really need and avoid all the secondary stuff. If you sell products, describe them well so that they always know what they are buying and thus avoid later problems. Make it clear to your visitors where they are, what they can do, and how they should do it.

If you have an online store, make sure that searching for products in it is intuitive for the visitor. This will make it easier for you to become a customer. A good example of this is the Amazon store.
If you have an online store, make sure that searching for products in it is intuitive for the visitor. This will make it easier for you to become a customer. A good example of this is the Amazon store.

All the messages that reduce friction during the actions that the visitor makes, anticipate their questions, and offer answers when the visitor asks them will be great to improve the intuitive aspect of your website and, therefore, its degree of optimization.

Persuasiveness Optimization

Only when you have all the levels of the pyramid properly resolved you can focus on reaching the top by working on the persuasive aspect of your website. This is where you have to include messages on your website to convince your visitor to end up performing the action you want, whether it’s a purchase, filling out a form, or reading content.

Hotel booking websites, such as Booking.com, are serious about showing persuasive messages to future customers.
Hotel booking websites, such as Booking.com, are serious about showing persuasive messages to future customers.

Establish a relationship of trust with your visitors by showing them the value you are going to give them and by generating peace of mind. This will make it easier for them to convince themselves to become your customers. It is very important that you work on the content and images to make your website more persuasive, avoiding crossing the thin line between persuasion and annoyance.

Final Remarks

Remember that you shouldn’t only focus on attracting new visitors, but you should also dedicate a minimum of resources on optimizing your website. For this you have the Eisenberg optimization pyramid that will help you understand the different levels of optimization. Following these levels is the only way to improve your conversion and get more leads and sales.

Are you already doing all this on your website? Tell us about your experience in optimization. Leave us a comment down below. Surely you have something interesting to say on this topic.

Featured image by Paul Dufour via Unsplash.

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Heatmaps – Try Them on Your Website With This Simple Script

Published in Online Marketing.

We always want to know what visitors do when they come to our website. Do they read all the content of the pages or just part of it? Do they see the button that leads to the pricing page? We have thousands of questions whose answers could help us to improve our website and thus increase the success ratio of our goals. Goals that, directly or indirectly, we want to turn into money 🤑.

Thanks to web analytics we have much of the work done. If you are a regular reader of our blog you know that Google Analytics can give you a lot of information about the behavior of your visitors. And it’s a free tool whose installation is very easy! But this is only part of what we can find out about our website. There are other techniques to understand visitor behavior. And today we will focus on heatmaps.

Why Heatmaps?

When we talk about usability in software one of the most common tests is to analyze the real behavior of users. This is done in a laboratory specially prepared in which a user is asked to complete exercises in front of the computer and everything is recorded for further analysis.

The most curious part is the recording of where the user is looking at with a camera that points to his or her eyes directly (a technique known as “eye-tracking”). In this way we can know exactly what coordinates the user is looking at and see what captures his or her attention and how he or she reacts to the user interface presented to him/her.

Analyzing eye tracking is something that is used in countless fields, even in supermarkets to see which products attract the most attention.
Analyzing eye tracking is something that is used in countless fields, even in supermarkets to see which products attract the most attention.

This technique gives you accurate information about user behavior, but it has some drawbacks. The main problems with this type of test are its high costs (you need a special lab with the right equipment), the complexity of analyzing the data you collect (converting coordinates into useful knowledge is difficult if you haven’t done it before) and its inefficiency (testing every user is slow, they have to be physically present in the lab, and you will need a more or less representative sample of these for the data to make sense).

A heatmap is a visual representation in which we observe different colors indicating the relevance of the different elements or areas that are part of the web. The warmer colors indicate a greater interaction in the zone while the colder ones show the opposite. In the following screenshot you can see that the left part, where the cheaper purchasing plans are defined, captures more attention.

In this heatmap we can see which areas receive the most attention on a pricing page.
In this heatmap we can see which areas receive the most attention on a pricing page.

Heatmaps are the low-cost version of conventional usability analyses. Here’s why. On the one hand, you don’t need a complex lab—any visitor on your website can participate in the test anonymously and even without knowing it. On the other hand, the cost is very low because you’re tracking the mouse cursor (not the eyes), which, sure, is less accurate, but it works quite well and has its scientific basis.

Therefore, heatmaps are the perfect alternative for you to understand how your visitors interact with the web without having to need a complex usability lab. In addition, there are other variants such as clickmaps, which only take into account the clicks and not the movement of the cursor, or scrollmaps, which mark the depth at which visitors reach moving vertically down the web.

A Script to Simulate a Heatmap in Your Web

If you want to try how to make a heatmap of your behavior on your website, you’re lucky because I’m going to explain how to do it easily. You don’t need to know how to program, just how to copy and paste.

The first thing you have to do is open the web page where you want to simulate the heatmap. Once there, open the browser’s JavaScript console. This is done differently depending on the browser and operating system you use. Find out how to do this here.

In my specific case I use Google Chrome on a Mac OS X system, so I just have to go to the menu View » Developer » JavaScript Console or press Alt+Command+J. This will open a view where you have access to a kind of terminal in the browser where you can paste JavaScript code.

Once you have done this, copy the following piece of code (which you can also find in my GitHub here):

The code you just copied makes use of heatmap.js, a JavaScript library that allows you to create heatmaps quickly on your website. Now paste it into the JavaScript console of the browser you have open and press enter to execute it. If everything has gone well and you won’t see any error, you can close the JavaScript console. Now, as soon as you move the mouse or click on the page you will see how the heatmap appears with the tracking of your movement and clicks.

 

This has only been a kid’s game, but it’s fun, isn’t it? Keep in mind that, for such an experiment to be valid, you’ll have to track your visitors transparently (i.e. they should not know their actions are being “watched”) and you’ll have to aggregate their cursor tracking data. This way, the data would be real and the conclusions you could draw about it would be valid.

If you master JavaScript you could set up a system yourself that will track and send the data to the server where you can then aggregate it and give the final visualization. But if this is not your case, there are many heatmaps tools out there, but the one we recommend for WordPress is Nelio A/B Testing, where you can create heatmaps in a very simple way.

If you feel like it, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment with your experience. I’m sure that the information you get from heatmaps will be very useful for you to better understand your visitors and act accordingly.

Featured image by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash.

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Fun Facts about Your Website You Can Discover Thanks to Google Analytics

Published in WordPress.

Google Analytics is the reference tool of web analytics for most of us. When you build a website, it’s one of the first things you set up so you can see how many visitors you receive and how they behave.

We’ve already talked about how to configure Google Analytics on your website. And we’ve seen how you can explore their reports to get the most out of this tool. Now, did you know that you can get a lot of fun facts about your website and its visitors with Google Analytics? Today we’re going to study some interesting points of Google Analytics that will help you spend some fun time researching data and getting to know your audience and your website better.

Interesting Facts You Can Discover Thanks to Google Analytics

The number of page views or the amount of time your visitors spend on your pages is well-known data that almost any article on Google Analytics will explain to you. To be a little more different and original, let’s ask ourselves 7 curious questions about our website and its visitors and see how to answer them with Google Analytics. I hope you like it!

Do You Have More Men or Women Visiting Your Website?

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Or so they say…. What is certain is that men and women in general see the world differently in some ways, so understanding whether your audience is made up of more men than women (or vice versa) can be interesting.

Depending on this, you can address your audience in one way or another (more direct, more informal, etc.). I don’t want this to be a war of genders to find out which one is better. But it’s clear that if you have a website about makeup and your audience is mostly male, you’re doing something wrong (or maybe not, and you’ve found a niche to exploit). I hope you see my point…

Google Analytics shows you a graph with the gender of your visitors.
Google Analytics shows you a graph with the gender of your visitors.

Google Analytics allows you to know the gender of your visitors in a very simple way. Go to the Audience menu and there you will find the Demographics panel. In our case, as you can see from the image above, we have a male majority. It’s that the web world in general and WordPress in particular is still dominated by men… but I hope this trend will change in the future and we’ll see more women interested in our blog!

It’s also interesting to see the age groups of the visitors. We have an average visitor age of 25-34 years, although this is perhaps somewhat obvious as it’s more difficult for the 55+ age group to be dominant, since they are not digital native generations.

It's funny to see the interests of your audience in Google Analytics. This way you can draw a fairly accurate profile of your visitors.
It’s funny to see the interests of your audience in Google Analytics. This way you can draw a fairly accurate profile of your visitors.

In the same menu we can find the Interests option, where you can discover in which categories Google Analytics includes your visitors. In our case we see that our audience is made up of buyers and technolm philes from the business and web segment. It seems that we have not failed too much in trying to reach this kind of audience with the contents of our website, right?

What’s The Weirdest Location From Where Visitors Visit You?

Google Analytics shows you a summary of the geographical locations from where your visitors visit your website. Usually, if you publish content in Spanish you will have visitors from countries that speak that language (Spain and Latin America).

The locations from which people visit our website are not very surprising because we write content in Spanish and English.
The locations from which people visit our website are not very surprising because we write content in Spanish and English.

In the Audience menu, go to the Geo option and from there to Location. There it is, the list with the ranking of visits by country. But have you ever looked at which is the strangest country from which you receive visitors?

At the bottom right corner of this list you have the option to advance in the ranking to reach the end. The result you’ll get is pretty interesting.

Weirdest countries from where we get traffic to our website.
Weirdest countries from where we get traffic to our website.

Our website has visitors from Guernsey, St. Kitts & Nevis, Palau and Togo, among others. Call me ignorant, but I have no idea where those countries are. It’s interesting to discover remote locations from where real people visit your website and view your content!

What Language is The Most Common Among Your Visitors? And The Least Common?

If you write your content in Spanish, the most common language of your visitors will be that one. To check that out, just go to the Audience menu, then go to the Geo information and finally to Language.

Spanish and English are the most common languages for visitors to our website.
Spanish and English are the most common languages for visitors to our website.

As expected, our visitors use Spanish and English as the most common languages. Nothing new here, as our website is in both languages. The curious thing is to go to the end of this list as we did with the list of countries in the previous section and see what we find out.

I'm sure your website has visitors whose language is very strange. They're a minority, obviously, but it's fun to see them.
I’m sure your website has visitors whose language is very strange. They’re a minority, obviously, but it’s fun to see them.

As you can see from the previous screenshot, there is one visitor who speaks Latvian (language code lv) and one who speaks Tamil (language code ta), which is apparently a language spoken in a region of India. You can find out which language each code is by looking at the ISO 639-1 language code reference found on Wikipedia.

From Which Devices do Your Visitors Access Your Website?

If you want the best possible user experience for your visitors, you will have to make sure that those who access your website from mobile devices do not have any problems. With thousands of different devices out there, a common option is to look at which devices are the most common and test your website on them.

Most popular mobile devices among visitors to our website.
Most popular mobile devices among visitors to our website.

In Google Analytics you can see the most used mobile devices for your visitors by going to the Audience menu and the Mobile Devices section. In our case we see Apple’s iPad at the top of the list.

Less popular devices with which some visitors access our website.
Less popular devices with which some visitors access our website.

We can also see which devices are the weirdest our visitors use. We can find here some curious gems, such as the device named Wiko Rainbow Jam, used by one visitor to our website. Apparently, it’s a cheap mobile phone from a French manufacturer. You can learn a lot if you pay attention to this Google Analytics data!

What Browsers And Operating Systems do Your Visitors Use?

In Google Analytics we go to the Acquisition menu, then to the Technology section, and finally to Browser and OS. There we find a list with the most used browsers by our visitors.

In Google Analytics you can see from which web browsers your visitors access your website.
In Google Analytics you can see from which web browsers your visitors access your website.

In this list you can find curiosities like that in our website there are 2 people who have accessed through their PlayStation 3. Are there really people who surf the Internet through their videogame console?

There are also some other rare features, such as Coc Coc (a Vietnamese browser), Maxthon (a Chinese browser) or Puffin (a Windows browser). I’ve never heard of these programs in my life.

Which Google Queries Lead to Your Website?

One of the questions you may ask yourself often when you manage a website is what are the queries visitors ask on Google that make them end up coming to your website. To find this out, you have to go to the Acquisition menu, then to Search Console and finally to Queries.

Queries your audience asks on Google before reaching your website.
Queries your audience asks on Google before reaching your website.

In our case, the query “how to start a blog” is one of the most popular ones in Spanish. This is something that we have facilitated by writing a lot of content on the subject of blogs and content generation.

On the other hand we can find funny things like the fact that people come to our website after searching “game of thrones quotes”. It seems that Ruth’s article on Game of Thrones quotes applied to the entrepreneurial world has been successful on Google!

What’s The Worst Page on Your Website?

It all depends on what you mean by “worst”. In this case, we will define the worst page as the one that brings visitors but has the highest exit rate. That is to say, it will be a page that attracts visitors but once they reach it, they don’t keep browsing your website and just leave. Which is something we clearly don’t want to happen.

The worst pages on your website are those that attract traffic but also lose it afterwards.
The worst pages on your website are those that attract traffic but also lose it afterwards.

Go to the Behavior menu, then to Site Content, and then to Exit Pages. In that view you will see which pages of your website attract traffic and repel it from your website. In our case we see that our blog post where we talk about common WordPress problems has a lot of visits, but also that 93% of the traffic that arrives there is lost.

Final Remarks

Interesting countries, unknown languages, gender wars, curious browsers and devices, funny keywords, or pages that are not as good as you think. All this data is in Google Analytics for you to spend some fun time exploring it.

Don’t stick to the surface data of your web analytics tool. If you dive a little into it, you’ll find some real pearls that will surely amuse you for a while. Have you discovered something interesting in your Google Analytics? Tell us what it is in the comments below. I’m sure you have some funny stories for us. We look forward to hearing from you 😉.

Features image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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How to Set up Your Website in Google Webmasters Tools (Search Console)

Published in WordPress.

We love data. Has the change you’ve made to your website worked? Are more visits coming after writing about a specific topic on your blog? Is your social media promotion working? We always want to know more.

One of the great enigmas of the Internet today is knowing how to better rank our website on Google, the ultimate search engine. In this post we are going to study an essential tool for this purpose: Google Webmaster Tools (now known as Search Console).

What is Google Webmaster Tools? What is Search Console Good For?

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a set of free tools that Google offers to optimize, analyze, and check the status of our website in their search results. Just watch this video where Google itself explains what Google Search Console is:

As you can see, if Google analyzes the content and structure of your website and detects something strange, you’ll find the details about it in Google Search Console. This way, you’ll have the information you need to fix it and make the search engine happy.

Knowing more about how this tool for webmasters works is key to optimizing your website. That’s why we’re going to look at some of the highlights of Google Search Console so that you can get your hands on the tool and get started in no time.

How to Add Your Website to Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console

In order to view your website data in Google Search Console the first thing you have to do is to add your website. You need a Google Account to do this. Log in to the Google Search Console website with your account and you’ll see the welcome screen below:

Google Search Console home screen once you'll see when you're signed in with your Google Account.
Google Search Console home screen once you’ll see when you’re signed in with your Google Account.

At this point you must enter the full web address (URL) of your web page in the text field. Then click on the Add a Property button and then a screen will appear to validate the website:

Google Search Console asks you to validate that you own a website before you start viewing its data.
Google Search Console asks you to validate that you own a website before you start viewing its data.

This step is important, because if you don’t validate that you’re the owner of the website you’re adding (or, at least, that you have sufficient permissions on it), you won’t be able to set it up and get access to Google Search Console data (something totally understandable, by the way).

There are several ways to validate your website in Google Search Console, but the most recommended is the one that Google shows you by default, which is to upload an HTML file to the root directory of your WordPress installation. To do this, download the file from Google Search Console (you can see the link in the previous screenshot), upload it to your website via FTP, and then click on Verify.

If you have followed the steps correctly, that’s everything you need to do. You’ll be taken directly to the Google Search Console control panel.

The Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) Dashboard

The Google Search Console dashboard contains a lot of different views with different information about your website’s performance on Google. Let’s take a look at some of the main views in this section to learn how to move around the interface with confidence.

Google Search Console includes different sections where you can check the status of your website from a search engine point of view.
Google Search Console includes different sections in which you can check the status of your website from a search engine point of view.

The first thing you’ll encounter int this interface is a summary view with information about the current status of your website. Specifically, you’ll see any crawling errors the Google robot has found when indexing your pages. In addition, you also see the search analytics with the number of clicks your website had on Google results, as well as information about the sitemaps (we’ll see this later) you’ve added in Google Search Console (if any).

Structured Data

Structured data enriches the information that the search engine finds on your website and makes it easier for you to catalog it. To do this, you should include structured data in your website, either through your theme or through a WordPress plugin.

Google Search Console lets you see how Google interprets the structured data in your content and if there are errors in it.
Google Search Console lets you see how Google interprets the structured data in your content and if there are errors in it.

Google Search Console has a specific section for the structured data that Google detects on your page. Also, in case there are errors in your data, usually because you have missed something on a page, here you can find what’s missing and see what you can do to solve it. In the historical graph you’ll see the errors detected and, when you fix them and Google correctly index your structured data, you will see them disappear.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP is a project by Google and other organizations to accelerate the loading of web pages on mobile devices. You have a more in-depth article on AMP and how to set it up here.

Google Search Console shows you how many pages on your website are compatible with AMP and if there are errors.
Google Search Console shows you how many pages on your website are compatible with AMP and if there are errors.

Google Search Console has a specific section for AMP where it shows the total number of pages it has indexed with AMP support on your website. Also, if it finds AMP compatibility errors in any of them, you will be able to see it. You even have access to a compatibility test and an option to notify Google you’ve fixed your website and it’s time for them to recheck it.

Search Analytics

One of the most important sections of Google Search Console is the search analytics section. From here you can see the most frequent queries people make on Google and how many clicks each one brings to your website. This is perfect to see if you’re indexing correctly by the right keywords.

Google Search Console allows you to discover the keywords that people use in Google to reach your website.
Google Search Console allows you to discover the keywords that people use in Google to reach your website.

If you see that the keywords that appear there don’t have much to do with what you want, then you have work to do to create content that can attract visitors with the keywords you’re interested in.

Sitemaps

A Sitemap is nothing more than an XML file with the list of pages you want Google to index on your website. There are several plugins in WordPress that can create a sitemap on your website, but if you have Yoast SEO installed, you should know that this plugin already creates one that usually works pretty fine without your doing anything.

Google Search Console allows you to specify a sitemap of your website to help Google index it better.
Google Search Console allows you to specify a sitemap of your website to help Google index it better.

Take the sitemap URL and add it to the Sitemaps section of the Google Search Console to make it easier for Google to index those pages. Also, as in the previous cases, if Google has problems indexing any of the pages that are listed in the Sitemap, it will tell you to fix it.

The Future of Google Search Console

Google is updating the Google Search Console interface and you can now try it out. But if you do, keep in mind that it is not yet complete and there are reports and views you’ll only find in the old interface.

The new Google Search Console interface shows you relevant information about your website and its contents.
The new Google Search Console interface shows you relevant information about your website and its contents.

The new Google Search Console interface includes information about the link structure of your website, where you will find the most linked pages of your website both on your own website and on other websites. You can even find out which external websites link to you the most.

Google Search Console allows you to view information about the link structure of your website.
Google Search Console allows you to view information about the link structure of your website.

Do You Need the Search Console If You Have Google Analytics?

The answer is a resounding yes. While Google Analytics focuses on your visitors and their behavior, Google Search Console gives you a more search-engine oriented viewpoint. With this tool you will know what Google knows about your site and how Google “sees” its pages.

What you should do is combine both tools to get more out of all the analytics and improvement suggestions you will get from this data. As we always say, the more data you have, the better decisions you can make. So I encourage you to start with Google Search Console now if you’ve never done it before.

Final Remarks

There are thousands of web analytics tools out there. But if one of the most important search engines is giving you a tool to check the quality of your site, ignoring it can be fatal. After reading this article about Google Search Console/Webmaster Tools you will no longer have an excuse not to get information and improve your website.

With the different views and reports provided by Google Search Console you have a long way to go in terms of optimization. Leave us your experience in the comments; I’m sure they’ll be very interesting 😉.

Featured image by Freddy Marschall on Unsplash.

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Why Your Website’s Conversion Rate Matters

Published in Online Marketing.

1996 was a great year. I was 10 years old and the Internet finally arrived to my home. I don’t remember much other that we used Altavista to search for content on the web; there was no streaming content, no YouTube or anything like that; we shared content and music through eMule and Napster; all website were portals with tons of animated GIFs and useless crap…

Baby internet
This GIF defines a whole generation… Source: Giphy.

Oh! And let’s not forget about all those “under construction” sites and signs:

Under construction please
Site under construction. Source: Giphy.

But if there’s one thing I do remember clearly from that time, it was THE ADVICE that all businesses were told: “Build a website, man. You gotta be on the Internet, cuz that’s the future! That’s how you’ll get more customers and money!” And that was it—just being on the Internet meant you’d be able to become rich, right?

More than 20 years later, the Internet has changed radically and so has our understanding of its potential and usefulness. Today we have social media (with their advantages and disadvantages) that allow us to be connected with our friends and family, as well as to follow closely the brands or celebrities that we like the most. We have platforms like WordPress to create websites with dynamic content easily or WooCommerce to create online stores. And, above all, we have learned a lot about online marketing and content marketing: how to reach larger audiences and how to get more followers, more customers, more revenue.

And that’s precisely what I want to talk to you about: how to improve your website by focusing on its conversion rate and the important role this metric plays in your business. So, without further ado, let’s learn what it is, why it’s so important, how to interpret it, and how to improve it!

What’s the Conversion Rate?

Most websites have one clear purpose or goal, one reason for being. For example, our website, neliosoftware.com, has the ultimate goal of getting you to subscribe to one of our services. But it also has some secondary goals such as, I don’t know, that you subscribe to the newsletter, follow us on social media, or start a trial period of a service.

So, now that we know that a website has “a goal”, it’s time to define two basic concepts:

  1. Visitors. They are all those people who, over a certain period of time, access our website, browse it, and consume its content.
  2. Conversions. When a visitor fulfills our website’s goal, then a conversion appears. For example, when a visitor goes to the Nelio Content pricing page and subscribes, we just got a new conversion.

From these two concepts we can easily define a website’s conversion rate. As it name states, it’s the ratio between the number of conversions we have on the website and its total number of visitors. For example, if our website has 850 visitors and there have been 20 conversions, the conversion rate is 20 / 850 = 2.35%. This means that for every 100 visitors that come to this website, we can assume that there will be between 2 and 3 conversions.

Why Does Conversion Rate Matter?

The answer is quite obvious: the conversion rate is important because it’s a metric that tells us how good our website is when it comes to helping us achieve our business goals. It’s that simple. If we created our web to get more customers and its conversion rate is 0%, well… there’s clearly something going wrong. Tremendously wrong. By contrast, if everyone who comes to our web purchases something, we’ll have a conversion rate of 100% and that’s just awesome!

Unfortunately, extreme conversion rates are unusual—you won’t see a website with a 0% or 100% conversion rate often. And this begs the following question: if I tell you that our website has a conversion rate of, I don’t know, 2.5%, is it good or bad? 🤔 We need something more…

For the conversion rate to be really useful and help us to identify the quality of our website with respect to a certain objective we need to study it from one of the following perspectives:

  1. Evolution of the conversion rate over time. As I was saying, it’s impossible to know if a 2.5% conversion is just a good or bad figure. However, if we study the conversion rate of our website over time, we’ll see how it’s evolving and, therefore, we’ll see its trend. So, for example, if we start at 2.5%, and the next month we have 2.8%, and the next month we have 3%, and a few weeks later we reach a 4% conversion rate… well, it’s clear that whatever we’re doing on our website, it’s working just fine, because we’re getting better and better results!
  2. Comparison with the industry. The other perspective for determining how good our conversion rate is is through comparison with the ratios other companies have. For example, in a recent article by Khalid Saleh you can see the average conversion rates per sector. If the sector in which we are (software) has an average conversion rate of 4.10% and our website has a conversion rate of 2.5%, it’s obvious we’re behind our competition and that we have to do something to improve.

Conversion Rate Doesn’t Always Matter… Because It May Be Lying To You

As we have seen at the beginning, the conversion rate is defined as the ratio between two figures: the conversions of our website and the number of visitors we have. Therefore, the conversion rate can go up (or down) if we change one of the two figures.

For example, if we improve our marketing campaign and reduce the number of visitors who are not usually interested in our products, we’ll reduce the total number of visitors (for example, from 1,000 to 600) and perhaps maintain the number of conversions (say we had 100), thereby increasing the conversion rate (from 100/1,000 = 10% to a new conversion rate of 100/600 = 16.67%).

The conversion rate is often used as a metric to identify how good the web is at generating revenues, but there’s no direct correlation between these two concepts. As the author describes in the Website Magazine, there are many possible explanations as to why the conversion rate can get better (or worse) and have a completely unpredicted impact on our sales/revenues:

  1. Your conversion rate relies solely on set goals and visitors: If your conversions increase, then your conversion rate increases.
  2. Your conversion rate decreases if your visitors increase: If your conversions hold steady, but more people visit your site, then your rate falls. This is seen as a bad thing – even though you are making the same number of conversions as before.
  3. Eliminating low-quality traffic increases your rate: But what about the sales you have lost by eliminating that low-quality traffic?
  4. A “typical” conversion rate? There’s no such thing: All businesses are unique when it comes to conversion rates. Your rates may tell you your business is failing when in fact it is doing fine – it depends upon which companies you are comparing yourself to.

As you can see, the conversion rate only gives us a biased picture of the quality of our website. We have to consider all the numbers at our disposal (including, of course, absolute conversions and visits figures) to really understand what’s going on. Being aware of these limitations will help us make better decisions, so don’t be afraid and gather and keep as many information as you can.

How Can You Improve Your Website’s Conversion Rate?

There are a variety of actions and recommendations we can take to improve the conversion rate of our website. In Wikipedia, for example, we can find several examples:

  • Employ Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) principles to design the user experience through the conversion funnel,
  • Enhance the user’s credibility and trust in the site, the product, and the business by displaying third-party trust logos and by quality site design,
  • Improve site navigation structure so that users can browse and shop with minimal effort,
  • Offer active help (e.g. live chat, co-browsing),
  • Generate user reviews of the product or service,
  • and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. How can you “improve” the user experience? What does it really mean to “improve” it? Which changes are helpful and which ones are harmful to this goal?

A/B Testing is The Best Technique to Improve Conversion Rates Methodically

A/B Testing is a methodology that allows us to compare two versions of the same website and see which one works best. Neil Patel has a great post about this topic—if you don’t know anything about it, I strongly recommend you visit his blog and read it carefully.

If you are interested in improving the conversion rate of your website with split testing, the smartest thing to do is to use an A/B Testing tool. Personally, I recommend the WordPress plugin we developed: Nelio A/B Testing. With it you can create multiple variations of your pages and content and see which one gives you higher conversion rates.

In Summary

All websites exist for a reason and have a purpose, a goal. When a visitor fulfills that goal, we say there’s been “a conversion“. That’s precisely the basic idea behind the conversion rate metric: determine how good a website is getting conversions compared to the total number of visitors it receives. This metric is great because it’s simple to obtain and easy to understand, but you have to be careful because it only tells a (small) part of the story.

I hope this post has solved your doubts and will help you to start thinking about how to improve your website. See you in the next post!

Featured Image by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash.

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6 Tools to Understand Your Web Analytics

Published in Online Marketing.

When it comes to web analytics, if you’re not measuring something, how can you tell if you’re doing it right? Quick answer: you can’t. We often think that by following our intuition we’re making the right decision. Big mistake!

Today we have a lot of tools that will help us to know whether our website is working as expected. Trying new tools can be intimidating—some are expensive, and if your team doesn’t like them, you’ll have thrown your money.

Fortunately, today I’m going to explain to you 6 very popular web analytics tools that will help you better understand the data that your website emanates so that you can make informed decisions.

#1 Google Analytics

Let’s start with the king of web analytics. Of course, I’m talking about Google Analytics. It has everything it takes to continue being the dominant tool today: it’s free (although it has a premium version), it’s very easy to install, it gives you lots of information about your website, and it’s Google’s.

Screenshot of Google Analytics of Nelio Software
Screenshot of Google Analytics of Nelio Software.

Some of the main features offered by Google Analytics are the following:

  • See in real time how many users visit your website, where they come from, and what pages they are visiting.
  • Know in a specific period of time the users who visited the website, their origin, and how many pages they visited on average.
  • Compare data from a period with the historical data to see if things have improved or not.
  • View aggregated data about your visitors: age, sex, interests, language, location, used browser, device type, etc.
  • Explore the user flow on your website in an aggregated way: what pages they reach, what steps they take, where they leave…
  • Know the origin of the traffic that reaches your website: organic searches, social networks, emails, direct traffic, affiliate links, advertisements…
  • See what terms your visitors search on the web.

In addition to all these aspects, in Google Analytics we can even define specific scenarios that we want to count as objectives achieved on our website. A clear example can be the list of steps a visitor takes when visiting a particular page or when making a purchase. Once we define these objectives we can see the conversion rate of our visitors and the conversion funnel (where they come from, at what rate we’re losing them in each step, and how many end up achieving the objective).

Google Analytics Goals URLs
Screenshot of Google Analytics showing a 155% improvement in two months.

The information provided by Google Analytics is both extensive and useful. The main problem is that, for inexperienced users, it can be overwhelming to deal with this flood of data from the start. And if you want to go further and need to create custom reports, the learning curve is even steeper.

Be as it may, Google Analytics is one of the tools we recommend you install on your website if you haven’t already done so.

#2 Matomo

Did you know that there’s an alternative to Google Analytics where you have full control of the data? It’s called Matomo (it was formerly known as Piwik) and it’s an open source alternative (see the code in GitHub) 🤗

Matomo is a complete web analytics suite made in PHP and MySQL that you download and install on your own web server. At the end of the five-minute installation process you get a JavaScript code—copy and paste this code into the websites you want to track and you’ll be able to access Matomo’s analytics reports in real time.

Matomo aims to be a free software alternative to Google Analytics. It is already used on more than 1,000,000 websites.
Matomo aims to be a free software alternative to Google Analytics. It is already used on more than 1,000,000 websites.

Some of the features that make Matomo a different analytics solution are:

  • Real-time reports: In Matomo, reports are generated in real time by default. For high traffic websites, you can choose how often reports are processed.
  • You own the web analytics data: Matomo is installed on your server, so the data is stored in your own database and you can get all the statistics using the Matomo Analytics API.
  • Matomo is free software and you can configure it to respect the privacy of your visitors.
  • Matomo’s features are built as plugins: you can add new features and remove features you don’t need. You can build your own web analytics plugins or hire a consultant to develop what you need. Like in WordPress.
  • There is an open international community of over 200,000 active users supporting and developing the product.

With this in mind, Matomo is an interesting alternative to Google Analytics for anyone who wants Google’s functionalities, but still own all the analytics data. If you’re one of those who don’t want to be controlled by Google, Matomo’s the tool you need.

#3 Jetpack Site Stats

Jetpack is a plugin that adds several additional modules to WordPress. One of these modules is the web analytics module, which will help you to obtain very simple statistics of your WordPress site. And you don’t have to install any JavaScript code or even mess with HTML to get everything up and running. Simply install the plugin from the official WordPress directory and you’re done.

Jetpack Site Stats allows you to have basic control of your WordPress site analytics.
Jetpack Site Stats allows you to have basic control of your WordPress site analytics.

As you can see from the screenshot above, results are rather simple, but I think they’re more than enough for many WordPress administrators. It’s a good way to get started with analytics if getting into Google Analytics scares you a bit. You’ll see clear and concise numbers about the overall traffic of your website at different time periods, for posts and pages. You also have information about when and where you get the most traffic.

#4 Nelio Content Analytics

If you think the other tools are too complex for you and just want to know which content on your blog works best, I recommend you try Nelio Content‘s analytics.

Here we have focused on developing the simplest analytics page, which will let you know which content has more traffic and therefore is working best. We extract the information from your own Google Analytics account, so you don’t have to go through a complex configuration process.

Nelio Content Analytics Screen
Screenshot of the Analytics offered by Nelio Content.

In addition, the main idea of Nelio Content’s analytics is that they are actionable. Select the post you want from the ranking and with just one click you’ll be able to create a new message to promote it again on social media. It couldn’t be easier!

#5 Hotjar Recordings

Hotjar is a complex but very useful web analytics tool. It has many features, including heatmaps, form analysis and conversion funnels, or surveys, to name a few. One of the best things about Hotjar is that it can record the interactions your visitors make on your website. These recordings include clicks, mouse movement and scrolling within the page, navigating to other pages within your website, and other behaviors.

Hotjar Recordings allows you to see the real behavior of your visitors on your website.
Hotjar Recordings allows you to see the real behavior of your visitors on your website.

It’s a lot of fun to actually see what our visitors are doing. This type of analysis, somewhat different from what you are used to, can be a great help to detect usability problems on your website and improve them.

Give it a try by simply installing Hotjar’s JavaScript code on your website and take a look at the results you get. The personal plan is free and, although limited, can be used to test the product and run your first analysis.

#6 SEMrush

If you’re more concerned about the SEO analytics of your website, one of the tools you should try is SEMrush. SEMrush offers you a lot of information about your competitors’ ad strategies, organic and paid search, and backlinks.

SEMrush analyzes your website and your competitors' from an SEO perspective.
SEMrush analyzes your website and your competitors’ from an SEO perspective.

In addition, SEMrush includes a keyword analyzer that you should use in your content to reach the level of your competition. And if you have no idea who your (online) competitors are, SEMrush will show you a list of websites that are in your niche. Nice!

The paid version of SEMrush might be too expensive if you’re just getting started, but don’t hesitate to check out the free report you can get by simply typing your website’s domain name on SEMrush’s homepage. I’m sure you’ll get ideas with all the information you’ll find there.

Final Remarks

The tool you choose for your analytics should be the one you feel most comfortable with and that will help you measure what you think is important for your business. Whichever one you choose, don’t forget to make decisions based on data and not opinions.

It doesn’t really matter the tool you use, the important thing is that you get real data about the performance of your site so you can see how well you’re doing. Oh! And don’t get obsessed with your results and change everything from one day to the next: look at the trends that the results show and keep in mind that the impact of any changes you apply will take a little time to be reflected in the numbers.

Featured image by Patricia Serna on Unsplash.

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Everybody Lies—What Online Searches Reveal About Us

Published in Online Marketing.

A student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year. Mike Adams (source: The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome).

My experience as a University lecturer for more than 10 years corroborates the study of Mike Adams, a biology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, which shows that grandmothers are 10 times more likely to die before a midterm exam, and 19 times more likely to die before a final exam. And bad students are 50 times more likely to lose their grandmother than good students.

I hope that, if ever become a grandma, I’ll be fortunate enough to have the exams eliminated from the learning assessment system.

The Book “Everybody Lies”

Today I would like to share my first thoughts on my recent reading of Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Reveals About Who We Really Are.

Everybody Lies cover
Everybody Lies cover by Seth Stepehens-Davidowitz.

And I said “first thoughts” because this book deserves many re-readings and later reflections. I highly recommend the book to anyone who likes analytics and human nature. It’s a book full of many truths. Including some of thosethat hurt.

The author, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, received his BA in Philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, and his PhD in Economics from Harvard. He worked as a data scientist at Google and is currently a contributing op-ed writer for he New York Times. And last year, after five years of research with large volumes of data, he published this book where he maintains the idea that we lie about our hidden thoughts, our desires, and basically any other subject you can think of.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Photograph by Christopher Lane for the Observer.

Not only do some students lie about their grandma’s death. As Seth says, we lie about how many drinks we had overnight, how often we go to the gym, play sports, or have sex. About what a new pair of shoes or pants cost us. We say that we will keep in touch when we don’t, or that it’s not about you when it is, or that I love you when it’s not true. We say we’re happy when we are on the verge of depression, or attracted to people of the opposite sex when we prefer our own. We lie to friends, bosses, children, parents, doctors, our partners… and ourselves.

However, when we are more transparent and tell the truth is when we’re alone with our computer and interact with search engines. In those moments we feel comfortable and look for what really we want and think.

In other words, people’s search for information is, in itself, information. When and where they search for facts, quotes, jokes, places, persons, things, or help, it turns out, can tell us a lot more about what they really think, really desire, really fear, and really do than anyone might have guessed. This is especially true since people sometimes don’t so much query Google as confide in it: “I hate my boss.” “I am drunk.” “My dad hit me.”

(Source: Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. Everybody Lies: The New York Times Bestseller. Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

It’s sad but we all sense that it’s much easier for a child to tell Google “my dad hit me” than to tell anyone else around them. The author researches racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, mafias, humor, sexual preferences and insecurities, politics and sports, among many other topics.

For example, he tries to answer questions like how:

  • How much sex do people really have?
  • How many Americans are actually racist?
  • What should you say on a first date if you want a second?
  • Is America experiencing a hidden back-alley abortion crisis?
  • Where is the best place to raise kids?
  • Can you game the stock market?
  • Do parents treat sons differently from daughters?
  • How many men are gay?
  • What symptoms do people look for before finding pancreatic cancer?
  • Do violent movies increase violent crime?
  • How many people actually read the books they buy?

To answer these and many more questions, he uses large volumes of data extracted from Google Trends, Google Adwords, Wikipedia, Facebook, PornHub, Ignoble, and Prospect, among other sources of information. Precisely at the beginning of the book he explains the variety of information that can be extracted from texts, words, or images.

And then in the book, he goes on to explain the different types of analysis carried out. Some of the results obtained are really surprising, some are amusing, some are touching, and some are downright depressing. And what is most surprising about the book is Seth’s ability to formulate the questions in a very different way from what we are usually used to, as he adds a sense of humor to the whole book that gets you hooked on reading right from the start.

Some Excertps

I share below some of the excerpts that I have highlighted from the book because they caught my attention, made me think, or made me laugh.

We tend to exaggerate the relevance of our own experience.

In any analysis, we tend to give much more weight to any point related to ourselves or our experience and ignore other aspects that may also be relevant. We already knew that we are self-centered, but keep this in mind when analyzing any situation.

He made me laugh at the analogy he uses to highlight the importance of never stopping looking for and analyzing more and more information in the data and never believing that you already have them all:

One theory I am working on: Big Data just confirms everything the late Leonard Cohen ever said. For example, Leonard Cohen once gave his nephew the following advice for wooing women: “Listen well. Then listen some more. And when you think you are done listening, listen some more.” That seems to be roughly similar to what these scientists found.

A surprising piece of information from certain searches that hardly anyone would confess in public:

Adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision than are adults without children.

There is an entire chapter devoted to the truth about sex. And among the many curiosities that he comments, I was struck by the doubts women have about their husbands when they make searches starting with “Is my husband…”.

“Is my husband gay?” “Gay” is 10 percent more likely to complete searches that begin “Is my husband . . .” than the second-place word, “cheating.” It is eight times more common than “an alcoholic” and ten times more common than “depressed.”

One chapter is devoted primarily to hatred and racial or gender prejudices. The author notes that parents query search engines 1.5 times more often if their daughter is pretty than if her son is handsome. And three times more if your daughter is ugly than if her son is ugly. But I loved the phrase added by the author in parentheses:

(How Google is expected to know whether a child is beautiful or ugly is hard to say.)

He also discusses the concerns of pregnant women and what they can do during pregnancy. The most popular searches in the United States are whether they can “eat shrimp,” “drink wine,” “drink coffee,” or “drink Tylenol.” But by conducting the same study in other countries, the searches are different. And, guess what are two of the top five concerns that a pregnant woman in our country, Spain, has but not the women of other countries? If she can “eat jamón” and “sunbathe” 😇.

There’s plenty of anecdotes and curiosities such as these in the book and make it very amusing.

Handling the Truth

But there are also some particularly hard truths. Part of the book is dedicated to thinking about just how far we can endure the truth.

Digital truth serum has revealed an abiding interest in judging people based on their looks; the continued existence of millions of closeted gay men; a meaningful percentage of women fantasizing about rape; widespread animus against African-Americans; a hidden child abuse and self-induced abortion crisis; and an outbreak of violent Islamophobic rage that only got worse when the president appealed for tolerance. Not exactly cheery stuff.

Seth suggests that instead of depressing us, all this information should serve to better understand the complexity of human nature and at the same time be able to improve the current situation. For example, searches showed that Obama’s speech after the San Bernardino attacks worsened Islamophobia. This information has served to confirm that when we teach lessons to outraged people, their anger can grow. But instead, as discussed after a second speech, subtly provoking people’s curiosity, giving new information and offering new images of those who provoke their anger can change the thoughts of the offended ones in different and more positive directions.

Analysis in Companies

One part of the book is devoted to the importance of customer analysis within the professional context. On the one hand, he points out that one of the best ways to do so is by performing A/B tests, and that’s why Google or Facebook carry out thousands of experiments during a year.

For instance, he shows the example of how Obama used A/B testing in his campaign. The first version on his home page was the one shown below:

Original Obama campaign website
Original homepage of the Obama campaign website.

His campaign team decided to experiment with the video image of the page and the call-to-action button text to support his campaign.

A/B test conducted on Obama's website.
A/B test conducted on Obama’s website.

The A/B test experiment included 4 variations of the image and 4 variations of the call-to-action button. The outcome? The winning version of the A/B test on Obama’s website is estimated to have garnered an estimated 40% more people involved and an additional $60 million in campaign support.

Obama winner variation
Winning variation of the A/B test in Obama’s campaign.

Seth points out in this chapter that:

A fundamental reason for A/B testing’s importance is that people are unpredictable. Our intuition often fails to predict how they will respond.

Our intuition is not enough to predict how people will respond. And for this reason, the best way to understand people’s behavior is by performing A/B tests. He quotes Clark Benson, the CEO of ranker.com: “At the end of the day, you can’t assume anything. Test literally everything.” And here I add my contribution with our experience in Nelio: every time we tried to analyze the A/B tests that our customers perform with Nelio A/B Testing, the only general truth we could find was: the more tests you perform, the better.

Seth says the A/B tests help us fill in some gaps in our understanding of human nature. And their usefulness is not only useful for testing a website. It’s also applicable to many other environments. Specifically, he explains an experiment by Benjamin F. Jones to analyze the impact on learning lessons in schools. The result, and here I’m not going to make a spoiler, it’s not the one you’d expect.

I also found it comforting to read that in many situations it’s very complex to measure the causality between any marketing campaign and its impact on sales. There’s plenty of articles commenting on the importance of clearly defining your marketing goals, measure your campaigns, and finally compare the two. The problem? I think this is more difficult than it seems…

For example, in LinkedIn I shared the image of the news published in the print edition La Vanguardia (a Spanish daily newspaper): Los reyes del WordPress.

Los reyes del WordPress on La Vanguardia
Partial capture of the article Los reyes del WordPress published in the printed edition of La Vanguardia on January 7,2018 in the section “Money.”

My LinkedIn informed me that my publication had more than thirteen thousand visits and more than 100 likes. Now you might be wondering: Does this had an impact on our sales? Honestly, I have no idea. I mean, I can see that there was an increase in visits to our website coming from LinkedIn. But I can’t be sure whether just that publication or any other LinkedIn publication is the one that has caused a reader to become a customer.

One of the problems that companies have is that “the things we can often measure are not the things that interest us”. And in particular:

We can’t easily measure critical thinking, curiosity, or personal development.

So, analyze as much as you can, but don’t get desperate when you find out there are a lot of things you won’t be able to know. But also keep Seth’s question in mind when deciding what to track:

Do corporations have the right to judge our fitness for their services based on abstract but statistically predictive criteria not directly related to those services?

This is illustrated by the example of how a bank can determine in an interview whether to grant a loan based on answers to questions asked to other customers and their subsequent behavior. In particular, they found out that clients who said “I promise I will pay back, so help me God” were less likely to pay the loan back. Can a bank, if you say this or a similar sentence in the interview, not grant you a loan?

Conclusion

This book is an absolute gem and I could talk about the findings it contains for hours… What I liked the most about it is how it ends up showing you the most human side of us all. Even if it’s slightly darker than expected:

Yeah. I think I had a dark view of human nature to begin with, and I think now it’s gotten even darker. I think the degree to which people are self-absorbed is pretty shocking.

(Source: Everybody lies: how Google search reveals our darkest secrets)

Seth hopes the book might have the same effect on others than Levitt’s Freakonomics had on him when he was younger, which motivated him to pursue his doctorate by discovering that:

a combination of curiosity, creativity, and data could dramatically improve our understanding of the world. There were stories hidden in data that were ready to be told and this has been proven right over and over again.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz‘s book will make you become passionate about the data analysis business. It’s a book that won’t leave you indifferent. And, for that, I have to congratulate him.

Featured Image by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash.

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