Guest post from Buddy Scalera, a website content and analytics professional working at a marketing agency in New Jersey. Visit Buddy’s digital marketing blog at Words + Pictures = Web (www.wordspicturesweb.com) or find him on Twitter @MarketingBuddy.
Like many small business owners, you probably rely on your website to be something of a living business card. Potential customers can explore descriptions of your services, view samples of your work, and get to know you better.
Setting up web analytics on your website will give you insights into what people are doing when they get to your website. Additionally, you can get a better handle on which content gets the most views, which may need to be refined (or removed) and what you can do to help get further engagement or a sale.
Setting up basic web analytics is easier and more affordable than ever. In five (mostly) easy steps, you can tap into valuable digital insights.
Step 1. Understand Analytics.
When we talk about “analytics” we’re talking about insights that are captured when users visit your website. It’s data that would be meaningless, if not for software that makes sense of it. For the purpose of clarity and simplicity, I’ll focus on the basics, so you can learn more about how people are finding your website and what they are doing when they get there. It’s a bit more complex than that, but let’s keep it simple in the beginning.
Step 2. Register for Google Analytics.
There are many analytics packages, but you need to watch your budget. The good news is that Google Analytics is (yet another) free service offered by Google. It offers all the basic features you need now and will scale up as your needs grow. Go to Google.com/Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics) to register your free account.
Step 3. Add Code to Your Site.
If you maintain your website with your in-house team, it’ll be relatively easy to add Google Analytics code. Just follow Google’s straightforward instructions for dropping a few lines of code into every page of your website. If you aren’t comfortable with this sort of thing (and, hey, it can be a little intimidating), reach out to a local agency. Just be clear that you only need help placing the code and posting the files to your server. You’ll be analyzing your own data to save money.
Step 4. Begin Analyzing.
After everything is set up, Google Analytics will populate data into a friendly dashboard. Google Analytics does a great job of presenting the information so it makes sense, even to beginners. After a month, you’ll see some interesting trends, all charted in easy-to-understand charts. You can even download the data into Excel.
Step 5. Optimize.
Technically, this step should be one of the first steps in the process. But to streamline things, I skipped the step of identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and conversion goals. Just like your actual business, your website should have some measurable KPIs that help you keep a pulse on things. Your online KPIs may include people registering for your email newsletter or making a purchase. These are called “conversion goals.” You can set a dollar value to them, so you know if you are getting a positive return on investment (ROI) on your website. Google Analytics makes it easy to measure these goals. Sure, you can set it and forget it, but you’ll get more actionable insights if you regularly monitor conversion goals. It’s an optional, but beneficial step.
Admittedly, this is a streamlined view of website analytics. But it’s free and something you can do yourself.
A specialty agency can take you to the next level, if you have a large, complex website or multiple websites. Depending on your needs, the agency may recommend you explore paid packages like Omniture (http://www.omniture.com) or WebTrends (http://www.webtrends.com). Don’t be surprised if the experts suggest that you keep Google Analytics, since it is a scalable solution with outstanding features.
Going forward, you can teach yourself the advanced features. Check out “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day” by Avinash Kaushik (http://amzn.to/qGWWzz), which is available in both print and ebook format. It’s a breezy read tailored to people with modest technology skills.
So there it is. In five (mostly) easy steps, you can get started tracking the activity on your website. This can help you better understand the needs of your customers, based on what they do on your website. Plus, it’ll give you an edge over competitors who don’t tap into this valuable data.
Post any questions below or share any tips you have for using Google Analytics.
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