The latest news and our thoughts on the ever changing world of analytics, ppc and digital strategy.

404 Error Pages & What You Can Do About Them

404 error pages are default error pages that occur when a page requested doesn't exist (or has moved).

404 Errors are frequently disruptive.  Very often, their lack of specificity disrupts a visitors use of a site. Research by the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) suggests that 404 Errors reduce site usage by as much as 10%, impacting significantly upon your performance.  

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Setting Website Goals - An Introduction

It is common for many organisations to measure their online "success" largely via the number of visitors their website receives with the focus of many organisations being to get as many people as possible to view their website.

If your website traffic is growing it can indeed often be good news. However if you are paying to advertise on other sites, using Google Adwords or participating in any other paid for promotion then more traffic is not necessarily good. It depends on what those visitors go on to do.

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Bounce Rates - What Are They?

When someone visits your website the first page they look at - be it your home page or another page they were directed to for example by a search or Google Adwords - is called a "landing page".  If the visitor then leaves your site after looking at only that page this is referred to as a "bounce". The overall bounce rate for your site is the percentage of people that arrive at your website and then leave without going any deeper into your site content.

Is bounce rate the same as exit rate?

Bounce rate only refers to landing pages on your site.  If a visitor arrives at your site, look at a few pages and then after looking at e.g. a "services overview" page leaves your site then they would have exited your site at the services page (and not bounced).  Only if the "services overview" page was the first page they saw on your site which they then left would it be a bounce.

Exit rates from pages are important but bounce rates deserve significant attention.  Bounce rates provide an indication of how engaging your content is and how well tuned your marketing campaigns are.  Landing page optimisation and focusing on reducing your bounce rate can often pay dividends and forms an important element of any conversion rate optimisation campaign.

Trends in Keyword Search Frequency

If you have noticed that your performance for a particular keyword has been improving in terms of the search traffic it generates - how can you tell whether this is down to your marketing efforts or due to an increased interest in a particular topic over time?

There are obviously a number of ways to track rankings and keyword performance in Analytics but sometimes it is useful to look to see whether there has been a change in the level of interest for a particular topic over time.  This can also be helpful to identify seasonal changes in search patterns.

Google Trends aggregates search data and enables you to analyse levels of interest in a topic over time.  (See http://www.google.com/trends ).

For example - go to Google Trends and type in swine flu and you will see a dramatic peak in interest in April 2009.

You can then use the drop down fields at the top right hand side of the screen to look at trends in specific countries and alter the time period looked at.  For example - changing the region from worldwide to the UK and looking at the last 12 months it can be seen that there was a separate peak in interest in July 2009.

Google Sitemaps - An Introduction

Google Sitemaps are "XML" files that contain a list of all the web pages on your site, provide an indication of how often they are updated and the importance of each. Once created you upload them to your website - to the "root directory". By root directory it means that the sitemap is available from e.g. www.yoursite.org/sitemap.xml and NOT from a subfolder such as www.yoursite.org/foldername/sitemap.xml

If you don't already use Google Webmaster sign up for it, add and verify your site and register the sitemap with Google. This will ensure that as many pages as possible get indexed.

For smaller sites under 500 pages there a range of free tools that will generate a sitemap for you  (e.g.  http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ ).

Sitemaps need to be updated as content on your site changes - for example as you add or remove pages (it doesn't matter if you just update content within pages). To update your sitemap simply generate another and upload it to your site to replace the old one. You don't need to tell Google Webmaster about this.

For larger or more dynamic sites such as those run by content management systems your sitemap should ideally be updated automatically whenever content on your site changes.  Many open source CMS solutions - e.g. Wordpress or Joomla - have plug ins that you can upload that will do this for you.

Hacked Site Notifications in Search Results

Google has recently added a new notification in its search results to let people know if a site has been hacked.

If a site has been hacked, often for spamming purposes, the message "This site may have been compromised" will appear under the page title in search results.

Webmaster will need to address such alerts promptly or there is likely to be an impact on search traffic.  Once resolved the message should automatically go away but it is also possible to request a review of your site to accelerate removal of the notice.

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London WC1A 2HH
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Telephone: +44 (0)207 788 7798
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