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6 Web Analytics Tools to Level up Your Site

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6 Web Analytics Tools to Level up Your Site

Web analytics tools allow you to collect, analyze, and report website data. If you’re a marketer or a business owner looking to improve your site, these are the kind of tools you need.

There are more website analytics tools than you’ll ever require. So here’s a list of the only six tools you’ll need based on the type of data you should be tracking.

Matomo tells you where your visitors come from, what pages they visit, and what they do on them. Ethically. 

Matomo is a Google Analytics alternative designed with data privacy in mind. It protects your data owner and your visitors’ privacy.

Professionals value Matomo for its lack of data sampling (you can analyze all of your data), open-source code, on-premise hosting, and breadth of features. 

Why you need it 

When visitors come to your site, they perform all sorts of actions that can show you how effective your website is as a marketing tool. 

Matomo will help you answer questions such as these: 

  • Is your website traffic growing or declining? 
  • Where do your visitors come from? 
  • Which navigation paths do your visitors use (i.e., how do they find your most important pages)?
  • How effective are your digital campaigns? 
  • How many visitors perform actions valuable to your business? 
  • What are the biggest bottlenecks for conversions and purchases? 

In other words, Matomo provides fundamental website data that’s hard to do digital marketing without.

You may also need it for legal reasons. Google Analytics is illegal in some EU countries (or at least its default version), in which case you’ll need a GDPR-compliant alternative like Matomo. 

Feature highlight

Some website events are more important than others: sales, form completions, downloads, specific page visits, etc. To monitor them, you can set up the “Goals” feature. 

Matomo allows you to track various data related to your goals. You’ll know how many people completed the goal, where they came from, how performance changes over time, and which channels contribute to the goals the most. You can also assign revenue to your goals for easier ROI tracking. 

"Goals" feature in Matomo

You can visit Matomo’s live demo to get a feel of the product. 

Pricing 

You can use the basic features of Matomo for free if you host it on your server. The cloud-hosted version starts at $23/month and depends on your monthly traffic. 

You can also get premium add-ons such as A/B testing, funnels, or heatmaps. This is something worth comparing to third-party tools that offer the same functionality. 

Ahrefs is a set of tools SEOs and marketers use to outrank the competition and get more organic traffic from search engines. 

Getting a specialized tool for this kind of traffic is crucial because it’s usually one of the biggest sources of traffic to websites. Plus, this source is free, passive, and consistent. 

Why you need it 

SEO requires specialized tools like Ahrefs. You won’t find the right kind of data about your site and your competitors’ sites anywhere else.

Ahrefs uncovers:

  • Keywords your customers are searching for. 
  • Content ideas from your competitors and top-performing content in your niche.
  • Link opportunities that can boost your SEO.
  • Your ranking progress.
  • Technical SEO issues that may hinder your ability to rank.
  • Etc.

On top of organic traffic, Ahrefs will also show you where your competitors funnel paid traffic, which keywords they bid for, and what ads they use. 

Feature highlight

With Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you can get insights into how your competitors and other successful sites drive organic traffic.

For example, the Content Gap report automates the time-consuming process of finding the keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. This way, you can get ideas for new content based on the keyword research your competitors have already done. 

Content Gap report in Ahrefs

Pricing 

Ahrefs starts at $99/month, and you can get two months free if you pay annually. 

If you’re just starting out in SEO, Ahrefs offers a range of free tools to help you take your first steps. A notable one is Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, which allows you to check SEO performance for the sites you own.

Google Search Console (GSC) is another SEO tool on our list. You’ll need it on top of any other SEO tools you’ll use. 

It’s free and allows for integrations with numerous other web analytics tools, including Ahrefs. 

Why you need it 

To get data on your performance in Google search–related products straight from the “bot’s mouth.” GSC is the place where you can get the most accurate data on a handful of SEO metrics like website traffic, click-through rates, and index coverage. 

On top of that, GSC holds a few unique features: 

  • Submitting sitemaps 
  • Finding crawlability issues
  • Inspecting manual actions 

Note

That said, you’ll likely need other SEO tools too. This is because GSC has its limitations when it comes to the availability of keyword and link data. To illustrate, here’s a comparison with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT).

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools vs. Google Search Console

Feature highlight 

One of the popular use cases for GSC is using the click-through rate data, found in the “Search results” report. 

This metric shows the number of clicks that your webpages received divided by the number of times they were shown. So when you see a keyword ranking high but generating poor CTR, you can see the page that ranks for this keyword and try to optimize its title. 

CTR data in Google Search Console

Pricing

Google Search Console is free. 

HubSpot is one of the most popular CRMs in the market and, lately, it’s been expanding on marketing tools. 

One of the main benefits of using HubSpot is that it offers analytics, content creation, and automation functionality “under one roof.” So while you’re analyzing website data, you can easily jump to another tool in the suite to put your insights into action. 

Moreover, some teams value HubSpot’s product family because it offers seamless operations between marketing, sales, and customer service. 

Why you need it 

If you’re doing lead generation and lead nurturing, you probably can’t go wrong with HubSpot. 

Without any coding skills, you can set up a site, start blogging, and create landing pages for lead magnets. Then you can engage your leads in email workflows without the need for another tool. 

The analytic capabilities you get in the package aren’t the most advanced on the market, but they’re enough to get a decent insight into your performance. 

What’s more, as the company has been adding more free tools and features, HubSpot may be a good choice for small businesses. 

Feature highlight 

While testing the analytics features in the free version, I found the dashboard feature super useful. With different features on board, you certainly don’t want to click through the entire tool to find the right report. A customizable dashboard solves that because you get all your important reports in one place.

Dashboard in HubSpot
A quick dashboard I created. Shows data from different tools in one place.

Pricing

You can start with the basic functionality of HubSpot for free. Premium plans start at $18/month (for an annual subscription) and largely depend on your contact list size. 

Visual Web Optimizer offers everything you’d need to launch experiments on your website:

  • A/B and multivariate testing 
  • Heatmaps
  • Session recordings 
  • Page personalization for audience segments 
  • On-site surveys 
  • Form filling analysis 

Why you need it 

VWO takes the guesswork out of web design and copywriting. It allows you to test out ideas for virtually every element of your website to see how they impact clicks, signups, and other goals. No coding skills required. 

Feature highlight 

VWO allows you to quickly hop in and test pretty much any kind of idea for improving your website—and that’s obviously great. 

But what made an impression on me is how VWO enables you to be scientific and organized about your experiments (which is great for collaboration too). 

I could document observations as they happened, regardless of any ongoing tests. When I got an idea of how to address my observations, I could create a hypothesis and link it to any kind of experiment. 

"Hypothesis" feature in Visual Web Optimizer

VWO also provides a neat planning tool (kanban). I can just leave my hypotheses in the backlog and let someone pick the one that should be tested. 

Pricing

VWO offers a free plan. Premium plans start at $173/month for the core tool and depend on the number of users you want to track per month and optional tools.

How fast does your website load? This is the question best answered by GTMetrix. 

It’s one of the most feature-rich site speed tools on the market, offering crucial metrics (such as Core Web Vitals) and automated monitoring.

Why you need it 

Starting from the top, why do you even need to monitor your site speed? There are a couple of reasons:

  • User experience – Nobody likes slow sites. This can translate into lost users and customers, especially when access to content needs to be quick (e.g., news sites).
  • SEO – Site speed is one of the Page Experience signals. If your site is sluggish, that can hurt your rankings.
  • Optimization – Chances are, your site could work even faster if you knew where the bottlenecks were. 

Now, why this tool and not just any site speed tool? Here are some good reasons:

  • Access to multiple testing locations (so you know how fast your site is in the country/city where your most important users are)
  • Simulating different device types 
  • Simulating mobile internet and various connection speeds 
  • Regular monitoring with alerts 

By the way, you can test any site with this tool—useful for agency-side marketers. 

Feature highlight 

Even a free GTMetrix plan allows for automated performance monitoring. You can also set specific conditions for an email alert to trigger. 

Setting up alerts in GTMetrix

Pricing

GTMetrix offers a free plan. Premium plans are offered on a monthly and annual basis, starting at $10.67/month if you go for an annual subscription. 

Frequently asked questions about tools used for web analysis.

What are the benefits of using web analytics?

The main benefit is improving website performance. Thanks to the data made available by web analytics tools, you can identify areas that need improvement, such as conversion rates, speed, or search engine optimization.

Web analytics also provide valuable market data: who your visitors are, where they are coming from, and what content interests them. 

Are web analytics tools easy to use?

Generally speaking, yes. They usually don’t require coding skills and can be set up without effort. 

That said, there may be some learning curve regarding different types of data and how to use them. 

What type of data can you collect with web analytics tools? 

Here are some of the most actionable data types:

  • Website traffic (with sources)
  • Search engine ranking 
  • Organic keywords 
  • Backlink profile
  • Funnel conversion and goal completion
  • Campaign performance
  • Top/underperforming pages
  • Page speed 

How do I use web analytics data to improve my website?

Good web analytics tools offer functionality based on the most important aspects of site performance. They make it easy to spot things that need improvements, such as organic traffic.  

Improvements are usually made to the content, design, or technical aspects of the website. 

What about data privacy? 

When it comes to the privacy of visitor data, find a tool that is compliant with the laws in your country (e.g., GDPR, CCPA). 

Some tools offer two-step authentication and SSO to further protect your data.

In the case of general website performance tools, there is sometimes the option to host them on your server. This is considered a good way to make sure only you can access your data.

How to choose the right tool? 

Identify areas where web analytics tools can help your business, consider reviews and preferences in your team, and get tools that fit within your budget.

If you’re not sure how web analytics can help, consider trying out free tools first. 

Final thoughts

There are some helpful additions to web analytics tools, e.g., aggregators like Klipfolio, Cyfe, or Google Data Studio. They will allow you to get a quick overview of the key web metrics and see them next to other important data your company tracks.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter or Mastodon



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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