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Monday, May 16, 2011

Understanding Google Analytics Part I: Traffic Sources

Google Analytics is an excellent (and free) program which offers great insight into traffic statistics for your law firm’s website. The site tracks all traffic to your site, storing a wide array of information on referral sources, visitor information and content. With so much being offered, the Analytics control panel can be a bit overwhelming for beginners and even seasoned site owners. Over the next five weeks, we will explore the five most important statistics to consider when evaluating your website’s success. First up: Traffic Sources.

The Basics of Traffic Sources

There are a number of ways through which a visitor can wind up at your website. They can of course type in the site URL directly, perhaps from a business card or a firm advertisement in the local paper that they stumble across. This type of traffic is referred to as direct traffic as there is no web intermediary.

Alternatively, website visitors may be referred to your site generally through a link on an external site. If a visitor finds you on a local bar association’s member list and clicks in to your site through this listing, the local bar association site would be seen and indexed by Google Analytics as a “Referring Site.”

Finally, a web visitor might come to your site through the good old search engine results page. This generally occurs when an individual is looking for a local service provider and turns to Google or Bing to find a suitable match. If a visitor clicks on your site which appears in the results pages, Google Analytics will acknowledge this as visitor referred by a search engine.

Lastly, if you are running an Adwords campaign for your site, which is a form of search engine marketing, or paid advertising, Google Analytics will also track this information within your account so you can determine the effectiveness of your paid campaigns.

Determining where your visitors are coming from can help you to identify your site’s strengths and weaknesses. This information can be found on the Overview page of the Traffic Sources section of your Google Analytics Control Panel.

Benchmarks & Interpreting Traffic Sources Statistics

Attorneys often ask us, what should my statistics look like? And in most instances, there is no one set of norms that can be used with traffic statistics. Just as law practices vary greatly, so too will benchmarks for traffic to the site.

When a website is first launched, most site owners will find that most of the traffic is direct traffic. This is due in large part to the fact that the site does not yet rank well and that the firm often sends out announcements encouraging contacts to visit the site through a direct link. Overtime, with good SEO, you should find that the percentage of visitors from search engines gradually increases. If the number of visitors from the search engine does not show considerable improvement, you should consider enhancing your optimization strategies.

Statistics on referring sites should also be carefully interpreted as they can tell you what websites have links to your site and effectively drive traffic. This can help you to determine if paid listings in attorney directories are effective and help you to gauge other sites that might bring in similar results.

Traffic sources statistics can also help you determine the success of a marketing campaign, either in print or online, featuring your URL. Although it can generally be difficult to assess print ad success, paying careful attention to any spikes in traffic after the publication can help you to evaluate effectiveness.

While it’s just one small part of the comprehensive Analytics offerings, understanding traffic sources to your site can you give you a better idea of the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and search optimization strategies. Be sure to check on these statistics on a regular basis so you can identify and correct any problems early on.
 


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