Ever wonder how a guest found your resort? Paper ads can be hard to track and so can highway billboard impressions that result in guest visitations.
Online marketing however is a different animal. You can track how a guest found your website and what they did while they were there, including booking. Most importantly, you can learn where your digital weaknesses are and start protecting your business from gaping holes in your marketing strategy. For this article, we will be speaking specifically about Google Analytics, arguably the best digital analytics platform out there. The best part, it’s free.
First things first. What ways can your website be found by potential guests? Google Analytics has segmented seven “channels” that direct web traffic to your website. They are as follows:
- Display / Search
- Other Campaigns
Each of these channels can be optimized to convert impressions to visitations but you will need to know how to spot weaknesses. Each channel has different ways you can gauge their efficacy.
If you were to segment out the one channel that most digital marketers covet, that’s the “Organic” channel. Organic visitations are free because these online guests essentially find your website through their Google, Bing, AOL or Yahoo searches for terms associated with your campground. There are very specific tactics for ranking for certain terms within the search engine results pages (SERPS) but that is a different topic altogether.
The first step in identifying organic issues is to look at the “Acquisition” section within your Google Analytics and see if organic traffic is being reported at all within the “Overview” section of the Acquisition Tab. If not, be sure to check your Google Analytics tags that they are loaded to all the pages of your website and are properly placed, which should be within the header tag. Once that’s verified, check the primary dimension, “keyword” under the “Organic Search “category, and see what keywords your website is currently ranking for. Some of the terms may not be at all helpful converting searches into meaningful website sessions. For example, if your campground was called Spider Lake RV Resort, Google may rank you for the term, “Lake RV Resort” which could be associated with a multitude of properties that have a similar name and some of these may even be located somewhere else in the country. Sometimes, the only way a searcher can be sure they have the correct website, is to enter it and poke around. Usually however, the searcher will notice on the very first page if they are at the right place or not. If you are consistently receiving mistaken visits from these negative keyword terms, in Google Analytics, it most likely will cause a high “Bounce Rate”, meaning someone visits your website and leaves after only looking at one page of content. Your ideal bounce rate should be under 50% for each keyword term you rank for. So be sure to check the bounce rate for associated keywords listed within the secondary dimension “Keywords” under the “Organic Search” category within the acquisition page of G.A.
Please note, that most of the keywords your website ranks for will not be listed within Google Analytics. Most of your traffic will be categorized as “not provided”. There are a couple of reasons google does this but there are software service providers that have technology that can show you which keywords you rank for and your projected traffic from those phrases. If you aren’t inclined to spend for that technology, do a good old fashioned Google Search on yourself and see if you are ranking for terms that can be associated with your RV Resort or Campground. You can also approximate which pages these terms are falling on by using the secondary dimension of the acquisition page of Google Analytics called, “Landing Page” when searching the “Organic Search” category. If you’re not ranking for terms associated with your campground, there are tactics you can learn to compete for those keywords organically. However sometimes, to appear in an organic search for those terms could take some time. In the meantime, you can compete for those terms NOW through paid search options provided by Google, Bing or Yahoo.
These website visitations are a result of someone placing a URL from your website into their browser and clicking enter. Sometimes however, direct traffic comes through places that Google doesn’t monitor like instant messenger or links within personal emails.
Direct Traffic can be a good gauge of how well your brand is known or how well your offline marketing is performing. If your branding is strong, you should see a low level of direct traffic. People know about you, and frequently visit your website more than once in a two-year timeframe. Strong brands usually have far more “Return Visitors” than “New Visitors”. So, for branding purposes, if you see the opposite, that is, more new visitors than repeat, the good news is you’re getting noticed and the bad news is no one knows who the heck you are.
Learning about Direct Traffic can also help better understand your offline marketing strategy too. Maybe you’re spending thousands of dollars on billboard advertising in Atlanta, Georgia. Perhaps you purchased advertising in a publication in Macon, Georgia. Both advertisements prominently display your URL for viewers to see.
So how can you tell about your offline strategy?
If you go back into the “Acquisition” section of G.A., you will notice a channel, “Direct”. Select that option and you will want to put in a secondary dimension. A drop down will appear when you select secondary dimension and it will give you options. If you scroll down to “Users” and select, it will bring you another list of options. Select “Metro” and BOOM, you can see the city nearest to the user that accessed your website. Google does this by analyzing IP addresses that are associated within certain areas of the country.
It’s not a 100% accurate method of evaluating offline advertising but in theory, if you are advertising on a Billboard in Atlanta, Georgia, you should have users accessing your website from that area. If you bought print advertising in Macon, Georgia, you should see more direct traffic in sessions from this area within Google Analytics too.
Referral traffic is recorded by google when someone accesses your website through links that are placed on separate websites.
Referral links that come from websites directed to yours are counted by Google as a “Vote” of confidence by the referring website administrator essentially telling their online community that your website is a trusted resource for this topic.
There are many different items you need to be aware of in this channel, but I want to touch on a couple of the leading items that can help you optimize your referral traffic and help you build authority within Google.
You can quickly start building your referral traffic by utilizing some of the biggest, most reputable online directories by placing your business information and associated website URL within your profile on their website. Some of these websites have high domain authority which is a gold star for your business. These include, Google My Business, Four Square, Whitepages, MobileRVing.com or local.com to name a few. There are even services that place you in all directories in one fell swoop.
Secondly, connect with websites that cater to the same type of customer that you are looking for. If you work with an RV dealership, RV repair person, campground industry provider, etc. The referral traffic that you receive from them should be more qualified and might yield better conversions.
Stay tuned for points 4-7 next edition of the Southeast Publications Partnership Newsletter…