For all of the focus on SEO, SEM, SMM and so many other online marketing strategies, how do marketers actually measure their success? For search engines, which keywords are garnering the most attention? Which social media sites drive the most traffic? And among those, which posts seem the most effective? Our Internet marketing efforts have become quite vast. How does one organize their efforts and measure each venue’s efficacy in a practical manner?
The answer is web analytics. Put simply, this means gathering all of the data previously mentioned, compiling it with more data, and measuring it. It is a concept that encompasses the tools and strategies used to measure the activity on your site and how other sites impact it. In the digital sense, it measures the collaboration between websites, social media networks, smartphone apps and other Internet technologies.
However, analytics is about more than just measuring technology. At the heart of an online marketing endeavor is its interaction with people. It is data from their behavior that analytics tools ultimately measure. And for good reason, as it is the measurement of behaviors that answer not only how and when customers are fulfilling your site’s goals, but why. Why did they purchase a specific product? Did they come from an ad that featured a vibrant graphic? Was the ad featured on the site of a nonprofit they support? Or, if the goal of your site is to provide information, were they drawn by a clever social media post? These are examples of user behaviors, and web analytics provides us with clues as to why visitors behave the way they do.
So, how is this information collected? Most tools begin by inserting code into a website. Google Analytics, arguably the industry standard, features “tracking code” that is integrated into the HTML code of a web page. Web developers can easily copy and paste these snippets into the webpage or, if using a content management system (such as WordPress), insert them using plugins. This snippet of code then connects with the web administrator’s analytics account and begins feeding data.
The tools themselves can become quite complicated. In fact, Google even offers a qualification to those who show mastery of their analytics tools. However, the concepts and goals remain relatively simple. As stated before, we are measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns by studying user behavior. We do this by customizing the analytics tools to focus on specific information and data sets. Once we understand how users are interacting with our marketing campaigns, we can begin to determine which efforts are most effective, those that need improvement, and even which ones should be abandoned.
The measurement of analytical data can be used to direct marketing budgets more effectively online. For example, if the pictures you are posting on Instagram are enough to garner significant website traffic, you’re probably fine sticking with a free account. However, if your Facebook page is lackluster at best, you may benefit by promoting your posts with paid ads. It’s important to know when money should be spent and when it can be saved.
The Growth of Web Analytics
The measurement of web analytics has become so broad that information is collected not only from computers and smartphones, but also video game consoles and even appliances. What does this mean for the business owner? Your customers are interacting with your online presence in new, and even diverse, ways. And as IT companies continue to tease new technologies for consumers, their behaviors will become even more diverse. It is important to implement a robust analytics plan now that. So how have these options altered the digital marketing landscape?
Much of our ability to predict the sequence of user interaction has been foiled by new technologies. At one time, we could expect visitors to find our site (most likely using a search engine), click from a main page to a category page, then find a specific product’s page. At this point, they’d decide whether or not to make a purchase. Of course, depending on the site structure, there may be more or less steps.
As more versatile technologies gain popularity, this process has changed. With the prevalence of social media, users can post links to websites and products they love. Others can then click those links and be taken directly to a site’s product page. With the increased use in gadgets, we can determine which products sell better on one platform than another and better understand why that may be.
Ultimately, web analytics helps us achieve one of the most important goals of marketing: customer behavior. Though the tools are broad, the concept is rather simple: we can finally answer the question of “why” behind the concept of “how”. By measuring user engagement, we have an unparalleled guide to improving the experience of our customers. And since the most comprehensive tools are completely free, we don’t have to expand our budgets significantly to achieve it.