Google Analytics: Unnatural uplift in direct traffic? Chrome 40.0.2214.111 might be the problem…
I noticed recently that I was getting an unnatural spike in direct traffic in Google Analytics across several accounts. To get a sudden uplift in direct traffic is quite unnatural even perhaps if there is offline marketing activity going on.
Here’s a snapshot of direct traffic from one account in the past 6 months (where you can see the uplift in May 2015):
We often see lots of spammy referral traffic but to see an uplift in direct traffic meant I needed to dig down a little further.
At first I looked at direct traffic by country and the uplift was mainly coming from the United States. But blocking traffic from the United States probably isn’t the best option for you if your business operates there.
After searching a bit more on the web it seemed people were talking about IE7 being the culprit but I couldn’t really see anything with IE7 either.
But when looking at what browser the user was using in direct traffic, I noticed there was a large amount of traffic coming from Google Chrome. Maybe Chrome would be around a 30% browser share, but this time it was more like 70%.
You might see in the reports that if you go to “Audience>Technology>Browser & OS>Chrome” you see a similar pattern:
I then plotted the rows of the first result in the table (40.0.2214.111) to see if this roughly followed the line (and as you can see, it did):
So the culprit was Google Chrome and Browser Version 40.0.2214.111.
I don’t know why in particular this is. There could well be something that is trying to exploit this version. Either way we want to get rid of it to stop it affecting the data.
How to get rid of 40.0.2214.111 instantly:
To get rid of this unwanted data (and historical data too) I use segments.
To do this click on “+ Add Segment” and then “+ New Segment” in the report view.
Click on “Conditions” in the left hand tab under Advanced.
Now you want “Sessions” and “Exclude” in the Filter along with “Browser Version” and “Contains”, followed by the number “40.0.2214.111” in the field. Like this:
Then click save. This will get rid of the unwanted and unnatural direct traffic skewing your data!
You might find interesting….
Why SEO is vital to Web Design: 13 Reasons (using a Mexican restaurant)
SEO should be integral to the design of your website. A glossy website may look nice, but is it structurally correct so people can find it, enjoy it & buy from it?
Well, to explain why SEO is so important to web design, let’s dive straight in by making a comparable analogy with a Mexican restaurant (*you could use any restaurant):
Timmy runs a Mexican Restaurant…
✓ The food is great!
The regulars think the fajitas are the best ever.
✓ They pay for local advertising.
They have noticed an increase in people coming to the restaurant.
X BUT, the building, decor and service are very poor.
Some people arrive after seeing the ad but walk away after seeing the state of the building!
Some, after sitting down to eat, don’t like the slow service from the waiter and so leave before getting their nachos.
And others just walk past the restaurant not knowing it’s even there!
And so Timmy’s level of revenue is LOW.
He struggle’s getting new customers and new restaurants are popping up around them all the time.
Of course, what’s missing is the experience. Their customers aren’t just influenced by taste, but also their surroundings: the feel, smell and sound of the place (the rats don’t help either).
All this can be translated into web design:
The design of a website is so important in getting new sales. It needs to look good and portray your business in the right perspective.
BUT, we’re not just talking about having a flashy designed website:
We need it to be structurally sound. That’s important. It can be easy to design a flashy looking website, but underneath that pretty exterior there may be severe structural problems without SEO input.
That’s where the SEO guy can have a say in how the website is designed so to avoid any pitfalls.
Also, a cleverly designed site makes the SEO guy’s job not just easier, but gives them so much more scope to do wonderful things in the future.
You want to avoid any downward spiral:
Bounce rate is a significant Google ranking factor. If people aren’t impressed with your site and are leaving right away, then you increase your chance of getting a lower ranking.
So, here are 13 ways to make your website design more SEO-friendly:
*or your Mexican restaurant more customer-friendly
1. Have clear call to actions
Once a user gets to your site and likes what they see, where do they go or what do they do now? Those big call to action buttons need to be in place so that the user actually has a thought out and explicit path.
What Timmy did: He redesigned the menu to highlight the most popular dishes.
2. Install and use Google Analytics
By installing Google Analytics you can understand your website better. Who’s coming to your site, how many are coming etc. But in particular, you can track those who are converting and enquiring. And if they’re not converting, then you can find out why and alter the website design.
What Timmy did: He made a note of all his orders at the end of the day – then he could tell what the most popular dish was and what wasn’t. Turns out his chocolate and chilli fajita wasn’t a success.
3. Use text!
Your site will benefit having text on it, as this is what can easily be read by search engines. Text is important even if the design brief stated “more imagery, less text!”.
What Timmy did: He improved his menu not only with great photos of burritos but also descriptions underneath so people understood what was in each burrito.
4. Clear descriptive URL structure
So, which URL looks better “/123page” or “/chicken-fajitas-recipe”?
Hopefully you thought the second one.
Now which is better… “/recipes/cheesy-nachos” or “/restaurant/recipes/snacks/not-very-healthy/under-10-pounds/cheesy-nachos/cheesey-nachos-with-extra-cheese”?
Hopefully you thought the first one.
It’s important to have clear descriptive URLs but not too wordy and not with too many sub-folders.
What Timmy did: When Timmy took orders he used the real descriptive names of the dishes so that the chef could understand – he also grouped them between starters, main meals and deserts.
5. Avoid duplicate content
Duplicate content is a big “no” for SEO. And it’s often something that can happen with ecommerce sites. Google won’t know which is the correct page to display in its search engine results so you need to help it out. You can either have only one of those pages or follow point #6 below.
What Timmy did: He removed any repeated dishes from the menu.
6. Canonical URLs for when you need duplicates
This is when you might have 2 pages that are very similar, but perhaps they are in 2 different categories and it’s difficult to remove one page. What you need to do is tell Google which page is the most important one – to do that you add this code to the <head> of the less important one:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”//www.yourwebsite.com/your-more-important-page” />
Read more about canonical URLs and duplicate content at this Google Webmaster blog post.
What Timmy did: He made sure that people knew if they were ordering a starter sized portion of nachos or a main meal sized portion!
7. Super site speed
The speed of your site is a ranking factor in google, so your site needs to be fast.
Take a look at Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your site’s speed.
What Timmy did: He cleaned up all the sticky tomato sauce on the floor – now he could walk around quicker without getting stuck and take orders much faster.
8. Clear navigation with valuable keywords
The primary navigation often reflects your main product/service categories and these need to be carefully thought out. The SEO guy may suggest that some categories are renamed or regrouped to the most appropriate keywords to get the best quality traffic to the site.
What Timmy did: He made sure the menu was grouped into clear categories – fajitas, burritos and enchiladas.
9. Optimise for local search results
Particularly in the case of our restaurant, where local optimisation is really important, we need to ensure that those in the local area can find you. What you can do:
Using schema mark-up or the data highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools you can explicitly tell Google what your address, telephone number, opening hours and company name is (there’s more stuff as well).
You’ll also want to set yourself up with a Google Plus page (with maps listing) and get it verified. You can then get reviews as well as add more local info.
Little extra tip: Place a small Google Map in your footer (make sure it’s linked to your actual listing).
What Timmy did: He made sure that his phone number, address and opening hours were easily visible so anyone could pop by.
10. Give Google access
Make sure Google can actually access your website so it can rank it. Check the pages on your site don’t contain this code…
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX”>
If you can’t find it or it says “CONTENT=”INDEX” (without the “no”) then you’re all good. (If you check your homepage then all other pages will probably follow suit).
What Timmy did: He made sure that critics were allowed into the restaurant to judge his fabulous fajitas and rank the restaurant accordingly.
11. Submit an XML sitemap
Make sure you submit your xml sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools. This gives Google an overview of the structure of your site.
Just do a search for free xml sitemap generators and you’ll find the tools you need to create yours.
What Timmy did: He sent off his menu to critics so they could know a little more about the menu at his restaurant.
12. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
From 21st April 2015, if a user is searching on Google via their mobile, then Google will devalue those web pages which are not mobile-friendly. So having a responsive website design is even more important now. (Note: this update does not include tablets yet).
Read more about this Google update here.
Extra tip: Your robots.txt needs to allow images and other files in order to get a better picture of what your website looks like on a mobile. You can test this all with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Tool.
What Timmy did: He made sure that he gave customers the right menu whether they wanted a take-away meal or to eat in the restaurant.
13. Have a flexible CMS
WordPress is a great CMS as it gives you lots of flexibility, but sometimes you won’t always have that – you might have one that’s better, you might have one that’s worse. Either way, you need to be able to ensure images, page titles, headings and more (all the classic on-page SEO stuff) are labelled up correctly – And this job is much easier with a flexible CMS.
What Timmy did: Timmy used a chalk board for his menu so that he could edit it at any time he wanted.
So there you have it – SEO is vitally important for web design…and for Mexican restaurants.
Want to find out more? Check out our SEO services for your business.
How to exclude Semalt.com from your Google Analytics
What is Semalt.com? Well if you’re reading this you might already know that it’s a very annoying crawler bot that distorts your analytics. And that’s all you want to know about it because you just want to get rid of it!
However if you want to find out more here are a couple of good resources:
Now, here are 3 ways you can get rid of this:
1. Create a new segment
+ Amends your historical data!
– Have to remember to add the segment each time you login
Below are the steps you can take on how to add this segment. HOWEVER, if you want to cheat, click this link to add the segment I have already setup and add it to your analytics in a couple of clicks.
But if you want to know how it’s done, here you go:
- Go to Admin and click on ‘Segments’ under the ‘View’ column on the right
- Click on ‘+New Segment’
- Give your new segment a name such as ‘Semalt Exclusion Segment’
- On the left side click on ‘Traffic Sources’
- Select ‘Filter Sessions’
- Then under ‘source’ in the drop-down select ‘does not contain’
- In the text box here type in ‘semalt.com’
- Click Save!
2. Add a filter
+ No need to add the filter each time you login
– Does not amend historical data
Adding a filter will not alter your historical data but it should stop the problem in future. Here’s what you need to do:
- Go to admin
- When adding the filter in the admin section, you can add it to the ‘View(column on the right)’ under ‘Filters’ which means it will just affect this profile. Alternatively you can add the filter to ‘Account (column on the left)’ under ‘All Filters’ which means all the profiles under that account will be affected
- Next click ‘+new filter’
- Under ‘Filter name’ write Semalt Exclusion
- For Filter type choose ‘custom’
- Then choose the ‘Exclude’ option
- The ‘Filter field’ needs to be ‘referral’
- Enter the filter pattern as semalt.com (don’t worry about sub domains such as semalt.semalt.com, this will get them as well)
- Click Save and you’re done!
3. Bot filtering
+ Should do anyway!
– Does not affect historical data
– May not stop the problem
Google Analytics added a Bot Filtering option in the settings, which as it says “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders”. It’s a simple tick box and here’s how you get to it:
- Click Admin
- Select you account, property and view
- Under the View column on the right click ‘View Settings’
- Tick the Bot Filtering box
However, I have found that this may not stop the problem. You’d have thought it would have worked and maybe it will do eventually, but I found that this did not get rid of the problem. However you should tick this bot in any case to stop any other bots and spiders from distorting your Google Analytics.
“Facebook Fraud (Video)” Response – Time to give up on Facebook?
This is an update from my previous post which explored the benefits of Facebook advertising for small businesses.
Now watch the video just below by the Veritasium Channel. It’s great. It explores why Facebook Likes and Facebook Advertising are, put simply, a “fraud”. The findings are explored very well and overall it holds a very strong argument.
Now this might sound like a complete contradiction against my previous post – to an extent it is! But, in my view it’s a case of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. More on that below after the video:
So you’re probably thinking either “Damn you Facebook!” perhaps in more aggressive language, or you might just be feeling confused. Here’s what the video is saying:
If you are trying to get more likes through Facebook Advertising then this might not be a great tactic. This is the main concern, however there are further underlining arguments like ‘what about the future of Facebook?’. So, according to the video, why isn’t Facebook Advertising a great tactic?
- Why? Because those liking the page might not be real people.
- How come? Because those fake people are generated by click farms.
- But Facebook Advertising doesn’t use click farms? No, BUT, the click farms are clicking on the ads so they make it harder for Facebook to see that they are fake accounts.
Now, there’s actually still 2 sides of the story here:
This is bad because…
- You’re paying for irrelevant Likes.
- When you target a post now, it doesn’t go to very many of your fans. If your post starts gain engagement, then it will start to be seen by more people. However ‘fake fans’ do not engage.
- This means your future posts do not get seen by real people.
In a way, it can also be good (but only for some)…
- The larger number of Facebook Fans is very impressive to potential clients and customers.
So there’s still an argument there – Which is why people use click farms in the first place. But it’s quite a sour argument at that and one that I wouldn’t advise. So then the next question is, ‘why does Facebook not take further action against these spammy fake accounts’?
1.) It’s too difficult.
2.) They’re still making money.
3.) If they change it back, then the stats won’t sound as impressive.
The evidence in this video is very strong and the experiences I have had with Facebook Advertising do partly back up what is being said. But, I am not saying “stop everything now”.
My main point would be this: Don’t use Facebook Advertising just to solely gain new fans. Facebook Advertising can indeed still be a very effective tool if used correctly and with specific targeting.
My experience of using Facebook Advertising just to get new fans has had mixed results. But why do this in the first place? Well, the number of fans can be impressive particularly to bosses and marketing managers do like to chase good stats! Also, previously you could have got that new fan and continued to post more messages to them. (Now however as we’ve seen, posts only get seen by a few of your fans).
What action should you to take?
You should still be posting messages that aim to be engaging and valuable. But I wouldn’t get caught up so much on stats.
Don’t use Facebook advertising solely to get fans, as this will distort your true fan base.
You can still use Facebook advertising! Instead of gearing it towards getting likes, instead gear it towards getting people to your website. Make sure you use real specific targeting – perhaps by location by town and by friends of fans.
And of course, use Facebook as part of your overall marketing tools such as Twitter, Google+ and Email Marketing (which I’ll come onto later). I would definitely think of using Twitter more, as all messages are shown. And use Google + particularly from an SEO perspective.
The real value of a Facebook Fan
Facebook Fans are expensive. You can pay to get them. You can pay to try and target them. But Facebook could go down tomorrow. And actually, you are renting that data – nothing’s actually yours.
Instead, think of the old fashioned way: email marketing. Capture an email address, and you’ve officially got their consent to send them information. Yes, sending emails still has a price (although if you’re a small business or have a small email list, then it’s probably going to be free with mailchimp!). Now that’s your data to keep. And we know, email has been around a while and won’t be going away anytime soon.
I’ll be keeping a close eye
The video above is great – it presents strong evidence that has been found very well. However it’s not a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Not just yet anyway! The campaigns in the video used very broad targeting – for small businesses you may be targeting by niche locations and interests, and that’s what you should be doing. But, things can change rapidly and I’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s going to happen next!
Should I use Facebook Advertising for my small business?
Simply put, you should look at Facebook Advertising for your small business because your competitors might not be.
But, here’s further analysis on that simple answer…
Advertising on Facebook is now even easier to set up with improvements made to keyword targeting and its interface. Comparisons might be drawn between Facebook’s advertising module and Google Adwords but actually it can be used quite differently, or in conjunction with, but significantly Facebook is a lot more user-friendly.
Here’s some further points:
Ideally it’s better to use Facebook Advertising if you have a Facebook Fan/Business page set up (and it’s a well-looked-after page too).
Ads can be very cheap. You can set up an advert for £20 which could last 5-7 days.
Page Posts that are placed in the news feeds are the best option.
The size of audience on Google Adwords may be much larger but on Facebook they may be more responsive. However this isn’t a post about which one is best, but merely more about the benefits of Facebook Advertising on its own.
With Facebook you have the option of selecting keyword interests. For example if someone has an interest in Italian sports cars you can target those who specifically like Ferrari’s. Facebook’s keyword targeting has become a lot easier recently so now is a great chance to get started.
When you are looking at keyword targeting it’s better to be as specific as possible to achieve the best results. But if your audience size is too small or you wanted to think about a broader range then brainstorm some further options. For example if I was looking at a campaign for the popular music group Queen then there are other related interests as well such as the below:
Facebook Advertising Screenshot Example
But then I might look to go further and target those who have an interest in similar bands e.g. T-Rex, Abba.
Let’s look at another example – A local florist and it’s coming up to Mothers Day. The florist can target those living in the local town and within a 5 mile radius. They could also select those with an age range of 20-50.
In this example I’d advise that there’s no need for specific keyword targeting. Do they need to target those who have stated they have an interest in flowers or Mothers Day? No – Me personally, I have shown no interest in flowers on my profile but I’d sure be interested in sending my mum flowers on Mother’s Day if I’d like to see the light of day again!
Aren’t Facebook Adverts a bit spammy?
Facebook Ads can appear to look quite spammy and unrelated at times. This can actually be down to your own profile – If you have specific information up there about you, (where you live, your age, your interests etc) then adverts are likely to be more related.
However despite this some ads may appear quite unrelated anyway – but, here is where the opportunity lies. Say I live in the city of Bath and advert comes up near Mother’s Day saying “Flowers for Mother’s Day from your local Florist in Bath” this has a far greater chance of catching my eye as it’s more related to me.
Do it because your competitors might not be
Recently a friend of mine who plays in a modern country band asked me whether it was worth spending a little on Facebook Advertising to promote a new album. Now, country music is probably associated with typically older, male-orientated traditionalists, but that’s not to say there isn’t a large audience on Facebook.
As with many ideas of marketing, being the first mover, or being different to your competitors and taking advantage of an opportunity can give you an extra step up.
With the example above there’s a large audience on Facebook who have an interest in country music, but because country may be seen as rather traditional there aren’t as many groups advertising – Therefore there’s an opportunity there to be one of the first to take this.
What should I do then?
Facebook Advertising can be fast and easy, and you might want to think about setting up a trial budget of just £20 for a promotion about your business.
Page Posts are the better Facebook Advertising method in my experience – I’ve seen higher click-through rates, they are quicker to set up, they appear more natural in the news feed and they take up more space too.
If you’re a small business think about how your competitors are using social media, if at all. If they are not, then maybe you could be the first mover and take advantage of the potential large market available.
If you’d like further help or advice in setting up Facebook Advertising then feel free to contact us.
Writing Topical Posts On Facebook To Gain A Larger Reach
The idea of this is such a simple one for big and small businesses alike and is essentially marketing techniques 101. But with Facebook’s ‘edge rank’ (Facebook’s equivalent of Google’s ranking algorithms) there is a slight twist and further emphasis.
Simply put, it’s about writing a post on Facebook based around topical situations happening that day e.g. Bonfire night, Olympics, the Royal baby etc. This is a very traditional advertising method to catch onto what’s currently happening to relate to the viewer.
I manage a few Facebook pages varying in sizes and recently I posted an image with a caption about Halloween on 31st October. It reached an audience 50% larger than my fan base and had about 70% more engagement (likes and comments) than my usual posts. This also helped get me some new fans too.
It’s worth mentioning there is an argument for correlation and causation here:
I may have received more ‘likes’ just because I was posting something humorous and topical that people were already talking about regardless of Facebook’s Edge Rank. This is correlation.
However my reach and engagement may have been caused by Facebook’s Edge Rank and specifically by the fact I was talking about Halloween. In other words because I was talking about something topical, Facebook gave me more visibility in news feeds.
It’s more than likely that it’s a combination of the 2.
AND, not forgetting that the more engagement (likes and comments) you get, then the higher the edge ranking and so the further more engagement you get after that! (I hope you’re still with me.)
Either way, the main thing here is that posting on topical subjects can give you a much wider audience reach, promoting your brand out to more people and potentially gaining more fans. Therefore you may want to plan out your posts and see how you can promote your brand based around the calendar year.
SEO Tips for small businesses
Choose a good domain name
If you are starting your online business, then try and select a domain name which includes your primary keyword.
Define your keywords
Try to focus on 10 main keywords, and then these can be expanded over time. It will make it much easier to achieve your SEO objectives.
Analyse your competitiors
Check out their keywords and search rankings, and plan how to beat them! If you are not sure how to do this, you can order a Competitor SEO Report and everything you need will be provided.
Design your website with SEO in mind
Ensure that your web designer is aware of your keywords and SEO strategy and that this is factored in to the web build.
Consider SEO in your site structure
Try to structure your website with key themes and topics. Your pages will need to include your keywords in your titles, meta descriptions and headings (H1’s & H2’s in particular)
Content is King
You can’t beat relevant, good quality SEO copywriting, rich in your keywords. Remember, keep your content fresh and updated through the use of blogs and news sections
Link your keywords with relevant content within your website – this helps the both the search engines and users navigate your website.
In order for your website to perform to it’s best and to gain authority with Google, you need good quality back links (ie one way links to your website on your keywords). Think quality over quantity and do not be seduced by companies selling bulk backlinks – as a way to fast track your website’s organic ranking.
Search Engine Submission
Ensure you submit your XML sitemap to both Google and Bing, along with your RSS Feeds to ensure that the search engines are aware of your site updates and changes.
Benefits of Organic SEO
If you’ve been pondering the benefits of organic SEO, here’s a few pointers as to why it pays to invest in ensuring your website becomes (and stays) top of the search results for your chosen keywords.
- High ROI – SEO offers the highest level of ROI (return on investment) than any other form of marketing.
- Targeted traffic – With SEO the visitors you bring to your site are more likely to be actively searching for your products and services.
- Long Term Results – Once implemented ethical SEO can leave you with long term positions and rankings on the search engines as opposed to PPC which often provides short term results.
- Cost Effective – SEO is recognised as one of the most cost effective marketing channels.
- 24/7 Promotion – The internet never sleeps and by investing in SEO you can ensure you have brand exposure all day, every day.
- Increased Brand Awareness – With online marketing and SEO you can improve your brand visibility.
- Increased Sales – SEO can help boost your sales, enquiries and prospect lists.
- Cross Browser Compatibility – SEO can ensure that your website looks great no matter which web browser you view it in.
- Increased Accessibility – SEO techniques can help to make your website more accessible.
If you’d like to discuss how our search engine optimisation services can help your business achieve significant results within organic search, please contact us.