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'Google it' means more to Ohio dealer

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“With limited marketing dollars available, we want to know we’re putting them in the right places,” says Jen Keefer, marketing coordinator for South Shore Marine in Huron, Ohio. “The retail boating industry isn’t really on top of data mining like, for example, the auto industry. But here at South Shore, we’re using it to better forecast where we should spend our money,” she explained.

There’s no mystery to it, Keefer insists. It’s simply taking advantage of Google Analytics, Google’s popular add-on that’s easily incorporated into the coding of any dealer’s website. What’s more, it’s free. It allows access to general statistics - like how many visitors and when - and a lot more detailed information about those visitors.

“Knowing how many visitors we get to our website is only the start,” explains Keefer. “We also know where they’re from. For example, in our case we know if they’re in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana or Pennsylvania. We know whether they used a search engine to find us or came through a manufacturer’s website, like Scout (South Shore also has Pursuit, Regal, Carolina Classic and Rampage.)

“Add to that,” Keefer continued, “we know whether they visited our site before, how many times, what pages they viewed and for how long and much more. It’s kinda creepy to be seeing what people are doing,” she says with a laugh, “but its information that’s getting us where we need to be with our marketing decisions.”

Considering only the free services Google Analytics offers (Google also has sophisticated fee-based analytics), here are some more things one can learn, as South Shore is doing:

Likes and dislikes: You can tell what page(s) viewers are looking at, and for how long. You know when they decide to click and exit your site. That’s an indicator of what parts of your site need to be improved or even scraped. “Knowing it allows us to change this or that and, then, we can watch how people respond to our changes,” Keefer points out.

What’s drawing viewers: Keywords reports list the words and phrases that are the main drivers of traffic to your site. Knowing what is pointing visitors allows you to slant material toward the subject matter that’s drawing them in, not to mention beefing up pages with information and features that would keep them navigating in your site longer.

But are they interested: Big numbers of hits on the website is something we get excited about. We probably shouldn’t. Truth is, if visitors don’t stay, all we really have is a fat first-timer number. That’s why you want Google Analytics to provide you with the “bounce rate” – the number of people that visit the site but abandon ship by clicking away before exploring other pages. It’s important to know how many pages visitors actually view. A high “bounce rate” is bad. A good rule-of-thumb might be, if visitors aren’t looking at a couple of pages when they visit, it’s a pretty clear indication the site isn’t making a strong impact and could use a face lift and/or better content.

Stay up with technology: Is your website mobile friendly? Seems like technology changes every time the tide goes out . . . say smartphones, and millions of them! Google Analytics can tell you how many visitors are finding you via their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets with their high resolution touchscreens and browsers. It can take special redesigning and apps to make the most of mobile devices.

Well, you get the idea. You can learn a lot and there’s a lot more to learn. If reading today’s blog has captured your interest, and it should, I urge you to take another step. Go to www.google.com, click on Business Solutions and you’ll find great information including more about Google Analytics. And, as Jen Keefer says: “All the free stuff is getting us where we need to be right now.”

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