Michael Utley: Hey, welcome to Episode 37 of Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. We're going to talk today about SEO: Using the Primary Tools for Website Tracking and Security. These are the handful of tools, Chris, that we tend to find ourselves opening up and using most often.
Chris Raines: They're foundational tools.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Foundational tools for doing search engine optimization. So let's just talk through these. So we're going to take three minutes on each of these topics and just give an overview of each of these. But, number one, let's talk a little bit about Google Analytics. What's it good for?
Chris Raines: All the things. There's other analytics platforms. Google [Analytics] is just the elephant in the room. It's free.
Michael Utley: It's a free tool that took the space by being free.
Chris Raines: And you can install it... So the first thing is just install Google Analytics, even though there's other platforms, we just recommend that you install Google Analytics. . .even if you're using something else. Go ahead and install as early as possible. Start collecting that data and. . . Analytics is great because not only does it tell you where your traffic is coming from—social, email, direct, search engines, organic—but it also tells you what they do when they get your site. So you can measure things like bounce rate. You can measure time on site, what landing pages are getting the most views, et cetera, et cetera. And then when you take that step further into Google Analytics, you start to really measure things that matter for your business. So how many people are calling you when they go to your website? How many people are filling out a form? How many people are visiting this key page that you want people to visit to, how many people are watching videos? So almost anything.
Michael Utley: And you can integrate your phone number with it, to set up goals and create more comprehensive conversion tracking.
Chris Raines: Sure. So analytics is great, especially when you get to that second or third level, you start measuring goals and you start really knowing what your most important pages are. And you can start making changes to your website, based on the data that you're getting. And so just super valuable and really a foundational piece of any website is to have a Google Analytics installed.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And we use it... So we build our own dashboards. We have a product called Apogee Metrics and we pull data from a number of different sources into these
dashboards. But one of the things that we pull in from Google Analytics is referral traffic, where's it coming from? And it's good because we can see if we're just looking... If we're looking at maybe server logs or something, we might see, oh wow our visits to the website really went up this month and think, oh, that's really great more people are coming to the website. And then, if you're using Google Analytics, you can see if you have maybe some bot traffic that hasn't been filtered out. So you can use Google Analytics for things like filtering out bot traffic.
Michael Utley: And so what we do is we look at the top referring URLs and if we see some bot behavior, we can say, "Oh, whoa, we need to go either use one of the features of Google Analytics to remove bot traffic they've identified." Or if it's a bot they haven't identified in their database. We can manually create a filter to go and squash that bot traffic as one of our indicators of traffic. And so, yeah, Google Analytics is really good for a lot of those things that kind of staging up in a way that a lot of different developers and marketers are used to seeing it stage up and see the data and understand it and work with it.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And the other final thing I'll say about Google Analytics is it serves well as a singular source for truth, especially if you're using a lot of different ad platforms. I run into this all the time in my business where you've got Facebook's Analytics that tell you what conversions or what purchases are happening. And then you've got Google. A lot of times Google has a better [sense]... Because it sees everything. It seems the email, it sees organic, and it can sort of parse out where the activity is happening a little bit better. A lot of times Facebook will take credit for stuff that's not theirs.
Michael Utley: That's right. And this goes back to Web Analytics Demystified, a really old book that I first. . . Looking at my bookshelf. . .but, when is a click not a click? When the page doesn't load, when they don't stay on the page.
Chris Raines: A platform might say it's a click, but if that person didn't register as a landing page view on the site, was it really a click. If a tree falls in the woods. Still paid for it. Analytics is a great singular source of truth. You can still use your platform analytics like your Google Ads and your Facebook or Pinterest or whatever you're advertising on. But looking to Google Analytics as the more canonical, final authority on what's actually happening on your site. That's good.
Michael Utley: Right. Next up, install and use Google Search Console. So Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two totally different things. They sound very similar. And there's even a little bit of crossover features that started in Google Search Console, have been integrated or have made their way into Google Analytics, but really the way I'm... This is going to change over time because these tools are always changing. But the way I'm explaining it to people right now is Google Analytics is a tool for knowing what's going on on your website. Google Search Console is a tool for knowing what's going on for your website in the Google search index. And it can be tricky. It's got some good little features. It's a newer tool. It's not something that everyone is as aware of as Google Analytics, but it's really good for asking questions like, is our website indexed by Google? Typically the way most laypeople, non-SEO professionals, or just clients of ours would know that is if they just go do a search for where they think they should appear and see if they show up.
Michael Utley: Well, that might tell you yes or no, but it doesn't tell you the why. Google Search Console can give you a little bit more of the why. And it's got something really cool. You can actually put in a single URL for a page and make sure that that page is being indexed. So there's some tools that are there. I think, Chris, that Google Search Console is going to expand in the future. That's my theory. I think it's going to become as robust of a set of tools and capabilities as Google Analytics. I think it's just a little bit behind GA in its evolution, but I think it's going to be really valuable. We had something happen this week. We have a client and they have a new website and it has tens of thousands of pages. And they had some pages that were just clearly not being indexed.
Michael Utley: And we couldn't find anything in their robots.TXT file. We couldn't find anything in the header of the page that was saying don't index me. We were clearly able to confirm that it was not indexed and then went to Google Search Console. And we were able to just get one of the sample pages, one of the URLs, and put it in and inspect it. And it said, "Hey, this page is telling us not to index the page in the header of the page. It's giving us a do not index meta-tag." And what we found was, since mobile-first indexing happened, that Google was using a mobile version of the website. We were going to the desktop version on our computers because that's where we're working. We're not doing SEO work on our phones, we're using computers, but we were looking at the source code and saying, "Yeah, there's nothing wrong here."
Michael Utley: Well, we were kind of tricking ourselves because we were being served a version of the website for desktop. We really would have had to look at the source code for mobile. So we got that little error message in search console, and we're able to go and set the client on the right course for inspecting their code that's generating the mobile version. Basically, when they were developing the site, they probably had a switch flip that said, do not index these pages. And then they flipped it live for desktop, but not for mobile. And so now they'll be able to go and probably troubleshoot that. And hopefully, that fixes the problem, but we were able to use search console to go in and just see exactly what wasn't being indexed.
Michael Utley: All right. Chris, let's talk about what do you know and what do you hear about Bing Webmaster Tools.
Chris Raines: Well, I'll tell you, I spend a lot of time in Bing Webmaster Tools as an advertising professional.
Michael Utley: Have you really? Are you kidding?
Chris Raines: No. Yes, I'm kidding. So here's the deal. This is kind of one of those. . . Our third one is install and use Bing Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools is, of course, Bing/Yahoo's version of Google Search Console. It's a way where you can see what's happening inside the search, look at click-through rate from different search terms. The way I look at this is, this is probably something that you install once, leave it there, maybe check it once every couple months. It's not going to give you as much information as Google Search Console, because not as many people use the search engine, but that might not always be the case. In five years, maybe Bing has 50% market share. Unlikely, but you know. So it's good to go ahead and deploy that, have it installed, check it periodically to make sure it's still working, make sure it doesn't have any errors. And then in the future, if Bing/Yahoo becomes a part of more of your traffic, if user behavior changes, then you have it.
Michael Utley: Yeah. If they got bought by Apple or something.
Chris Raines: So it's just foundational. I would still spend the vast majority of your time, 98% of your time, in Google Search Console, Google Analytics, trying to figure out what people are doing. But it's good to install, it's a good foundational thing. Install it once, check it periodically. And then as users increase, you might pay a little more attention to it.
Michael Utley: That's good. And I'll add one more kind of note. And if you're watching this as a whole episode, this will be a little more helpful, but if you're watching it as clips, this is something to explore and think about. Think of Google Analytics as an area where there's a lot of capability that you can use in Google Analytics to craft goals and objectives and to think about how Google Analytics can be set up for your business. There's a lot of creativity available to you with Google Analytics. With Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, and having both of these running, it's really more of a check for alerts, check for problems.
Chris Raines: It's more of a data feed. You can't really manipulate it or control it.
Michael Utley: There's not really any customization, but it's more of a place to go and see what are the little pips showing you in terms of alerts or things to look at and resolve? Because if you do have any errors, Bing is a little bit different, it's a different animal. And so generally with SEO we'll say, if you optimize for Google, you're automatically optimizing for Bing, and that's true for 90% of what's going on, but it is a good tool to have in there to monitor and resolve any alerts or any index problems.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Perfect. Yeah. So that's Bing Webmaster Tools, Michael, won't you take the fourth one here about SSL.
Michael Utley: Yeah. So next item is purchase and update SSL as needed. And this is a tricky one. One of the factors with SEO, a few years ago was, is our website secure? And we tended to think of that as being really important when any payment methods were being transacted or being shared. So an SSL Certificate was really important for an ecommerce website and a lot of websites were more informational and it didn't really matter if there was SSL. Well, Google did something pretty aggressive. They said, "Hey, we really favor sites that are secure over sites that are not secure. We don't want to drive people to websites where their email may be getting picked up and added to a database if they complete a form." So SSL became a standard, good best practice for doing SEO. The downside of SSL is there's a little bit of cost. You have to pay for it. It's another sort of tax on doing business. It's small, you can get, I mean what are we paying now? Maybe 100 a month for SSL or 100 a year for SSL certificates.
Chris Raines: I think I got one for my website and paid less than that. 50 or 60 bucks a year.
Michael Utley: Okay, good. So the price has come down in these. But the reason it's also a little bit of a tax is you've got to go and make sure that all of your website experience is being forced through this SSL connection. So this is typically a function of your domain settings, but you have to go and test. And speaking of testing, we wanted to know how much SSL has become a dominant feature of highly ranking websites. And we did a number of searches in preparing for this episode, and everything in the top 20 pages of Google for the tests that I did, was an SSL-enabled site.
Michael Utley: This has happened a lot because platforms like Wix, and I don't know the other ones, but these kind of DIY website platforms, a lot of them have gone to SSL all the time. And so SSL has become kind of a standard, a given. But it's something to look for, not just, do we have SSL? Because your web developer could show you your website functioning through an HTTPS connection, but you should also ask your website dev or your marketing team, "Are we forcing all traffic to go through SSL?" And they should say, "Yeah, yeah, boss, we are." And if they don't, if they say, "Well, I don't know." Then make an action for them to check on it.
Chris Raines: And the other thing too here that relates to, and we covered number five here in terms of force all traffic to the SSL version, HTTPS. But the final thing to say about that is that it's really a signal of trust to users and because most of the web browsers now are creating little warnings at the top where the URL shows, or maybe even on the website itself, that this site may be unsafe. So they're getting more, especially Google, is getting more amped up at telling users that... Putting a little exclamation mark inside the URL. And that's a signal to users like, oh, is this not a safe area? Is this a weird part of the internet that I shouldn't be in? Are they going to steal my information? Things like that. So because of the behavior of the browsers that are doing that and warning people when it's not SSL, you really need to get it to communicate to your audience, we're a safe website.
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right. I kind of jumped the gun on this topic, but force all traffic to HTTPS, number five. So you've got Chrome browsers are showing, "Red alert, the website you're trying to go to, it may not be safe." And it's a graduated threat level with Chrome. It's interesting. They don't show the same message, or they didn't... The last time I thought about this, maybe six months ago, with the Chrome message, they don't show the exact same level of threat. It seems to have something to do, or it did for a while, with the amount of interactivity. But not having a user have to deal with that is a trust factor.
Michael Utley: And then I'll add one more thing to this on forcing all traffic through HTTPS, Chris. I think that that SSL, we're certified, we're safe, is something you could even show visually as a seal. Seals and are a good way, in a checkout process, to show that we're following, if you do an ecommerce, I think it would be worth it to add a little trusted seal. Even if it's just something that you have a graphic designer put together or using the lock icon, I think that's another touchpoint you can use. But to do that, you've got to be sure that you've forced all traffic to connect through the secure connection. So you're not saying that it's HTTPS when it isn't
Michael Utley: Excellent.
Chris Raines: All right. That's all we have. Primary tools, this is really foundational stuff to put on your website for tracking and security. Hope it was helpful.
Michael Utley: Excellent. Thanks, everybody.