Web Analytics Must be Included in Web Strategy
How do you know if your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy is working? Is an increase in traffic to your website necessarily the result of your pay per click (PPC) campaign? Or could it be because a recent press release of yours was picked up by a media outlet? In order to know exactly which components of SEM are working and which are not, you need to have some kind of measuring system in place.
Web analytics are the tools online marketers use to evaluate performance. All of your search engine optimization (SEO) techniques can be measured to see if you are getting the results you want or expect. Remember that acquiring customers is a multi-step process. And you need good data at each step to insure that what is occurring is contributing to customer acquisition. The first step is getting them to discover you online. Then they may quickly visit your site to see if it interests them. If it does, they will interact with you through your site by visiting several pages of your site. Finally, when they make a purchase you have acquired a customer.
Analytics should provide data that details each step so you can clearly see what is producing positive results and what needs to be changed. Examples of data derived from web analytics include the number of ad impressions, clicks on impressions, click-throughs, bounce rate, abandonment rate, and conversion rate, just to name a few. Yes, it can be complicated but there are truths about web analytics that you cannot avoid if you expect to have a successful online business.
1. Data-Driven Marketing is Essential
Just about every business practice today is data-driven in some way. Why should online marketing be any different? In fact, since it is easier to actually get the data you need to make decisions about your online strategies, it seems logical that you would jump at the chance to take advantage of that information. By not doing so, you are simply throwing away money on having a website or implementing a PPC.
2. Identifying Most Popular Keywords is a Science
Keywords are such a critical element of any website’s success. Unfortunately, most site owners still believe that selecting keywords is the simple part of SEO. The reality is that many of the keywords selected are not the best for a particular site. This claim can be supported by analytics. The good news is that you can often use analytic reports to fine-tune your keywords so that you know you are using the ones that will drive traffic to your site.
3. Extrapolation of Information Can Help You Understand User Behavior
Analytics is about more than the numbers. What can you learn about users based on the particular ads they click? What about when they land on your site? This human side of analytics is often overlooked for the pure number and technical elements of SEM. But analytics can do so much to help you drive the right type of traffic to your site so that you have a better chance of selling your products and services to people naturally interested in them. It takes skill and experience to extrapolate data from analytics reports that you can use to develop visitor and customer profiles that you can use to improve your online marketing strategy.
4. Multi-Sourcing May Be a Necessary Evil
Starting out, you will probably select one analytics program to use such as Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics. This makes complete sense when you are getting your feet wet. Since you are learning as you go, familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of analytics is a great way to begin to integrate analytics into your business operations. The more sophisticated you become, you may want to try multiple analytics programs or tools to see if you get different results because they are measuring something the others are not. This doesn’t mean you have to stay with them, but there is value in seeing results from multiple sources.
5. Data Doesn’t Analyze Itself
You have the analytics reports, now what? Sorry to say, but you have to read them now. It may not be fun and exciting, but it is integral to your SEM. The report is just that, a report. It still has to be analyzed by someone who understands the inner workings of your online marketing strategy. You need to see if your PPCs are producing traffic or just draining your budget. If they are sending traffic to your site but you have a high bounce rate because visitors aren’t hanging around, then you need to see what is going on and address the problem.
6. Tracking Conversion Paths Leads to Higher ROI
Analytics, particularly those of PPCs, can show you where your site traffic is coming from. And if you are getting traffic that is converting to sales, you want that information. Knowing the origin of traffic is invaluable. You can adjust your marketing so that more advertising is directed to those sites that are producing the traffic resulting in conversions. And, you can stop publishing your ads on sites that are not producing any traffic results.
7. Bad Data is Not Better than No Data
Web analytics is a major industry in and of itself. That being said, some analytics programs produce bad data. You may have gotten a “free” web analytics tool with the online purchase of software and decided to give it a try. You didn’t want the hassle of deciding which analytics program to go with. Now that you are getting reports, do they make sense? Can you tell if your website is effective? If you are getting bad data and decide to make changes to your site because of that data, you can end up being dropped in search engine ranks. Your unwillingness to approach web analytics in a responsible manner can cause real harm to your business. If you don’t want to take web analytics seriously, then just leave it alone so your business has at least a fighting, albeit a small, chance.
8. Analytics Should Inform Online Business Decisions
The purpose of web analytics is not to get reports on your website. It is to get data about visitors that you can use to make decisions about your online business and marketing strategy. Without applying the information to your business, you are simply getting one more document to add to your “To Review” pile. Even established online businesses use analytics to inform decisions that impact how they communicate with customers, the products they develop, and whether to bring on additional employees.
9. Results Must be Considered in Context
You need to consider web analytics in context of your overarching business goals. Begin by setting benchmarks for your business and develop your online marketing strategy to meet those benchmarks. Benchmarks should be measurable targets that are achievable. Set targets that can be met in short periods of time. There is more incentive to try to meet a target that is achievable in a week than one that takes a month to achieve. Your analytics should then be analyzed based on those benchmarks and targets. You decide how frequently you want to do a “deep” analysis. Based on the size of your company, you can do one weekly or monthly.
10. Analytics Change Constantly (and it is Impossible to Stay Ahead of the Curve)
So don’t try – spend your time on the things within your control. The speed at which the field of analytics changes is directly related to how fast the actual Web itself changes. From search engine algorithms to SEO techniques, you are unable to know about those changes the instant they occur. More importantly, you cannot determine how the changes will impact your site. So, rather than waste energy trying to stay on top of SEO and analytics it makes more sense to dedicate your time to managing your business as best as you can.
11. It Often Takes Outside Help to Get it Right
You can still keep somewhat up-to-date on analytics by hiring a consultant. You want someone who is experienced in both SEO and web analytics, not just a number cruncher. Professional SEO firms will be able to help you make SEO and SEM adjustments you need based on your analytics. Simply getting a question quickly answered will save you time and money. It is extremely challenging for non-technical site owners to get answers online because you just don’t know if the answer is valid or not. Many consultants allow you to place them on retainer so they are available to answer questions or complete minor tasks when needed. Good consultants are fast problem solvers, solution-oriented, and knowledgeable about the analytics “big picture”.
Without analytics, you are gambling with your business success. You can make sure you are delivering value to your customers by using analytics reports. The only way you can measure your overall business performance or a particular online marketing campaign is to get basic information, analyze it, and then use those results to make adjustments that continue to attract traffic to your site where you can then provide quality products and services to customers.