Tools of the Trade: Analytics and Reporting Metrics
If you dig a little deeper into your available stats beyond how much traffic is coming to your website and other online pages, you’ll soon realize analytics reporting metrics can be a valuable source for a wide range of reliable, and often invaluable, information. As for how much value you actually get from your reporting metrics, it depends on how you tap into your results and what you do with that info. Online visibility and engagement means something different to everyone. It does, however, help to have an understanding of what tools are at your disposal and what you really need to know and how often you need to know it.
Where to Get Your Tools
Google Analytics (GA) is likely to be your go-to source for your reporting metrics. The actual analytics reports are fairly detailed and unique, as is the case with goal flow and funnel visualization reports, which can be tied to specific goals, that track things like loopbacks, or page refreshes, and take you through the sales process. GA alone allows you to track a slew of important data, while also allowing you to observe:
• How much of your traffic is coming from mobile browsers
• Effectiveness of email content based on email providers
• Specific locations where your traffic is coming from
• How long it takes someone to complete a purchase
After you get your tracking code and get set up with the big G, enhance your results by adding some more tools to your arsenal. With Bitly, for instance, you can shorten your links for increased clarity and get access to the tools you’ll need to track how your links are performing, which gets as detailed as mapping out the geographic distribution of your links.
Open Web Analytics is another tool worth considering. First of all, it gives you unlimited storage options, which is a major plus by itself. You’ll also get three unique and useful features. Heat maps make it easier to track where visitors are coming from at a glance. The ability to track mouse movements allows you to track navigation patterns. The Document Object Model allows you to see when visitors are clicking on specific images, links and buttons. Also consider: Piwik (free, but you’ll have to host it on your server), Clicky (free for sites with under 3,000 daily pageviews), SEMrush (excellent for keyword data), and SimiliarWeb (great for competitor comparison).
Analytics Reporting Metrics to Watch
Some websites are designed to primarily generate revenue, some are set up for the purpose of directing browsers elsewhere, and some are primarily meant to gather contact info of future engagements. The analytics you’ll pay attention to most will depend on your marketing goals and what you’re really hoping to accomplish online. While you can fine-tune your analytics based on what matters most to you, I suggest keeping an eye on:
This is the granddaddy of all metrics. Knowing all actions visitors are taking while coming to your site, or what actions aren’t be taken, can give you an idea of what’s working and where you need to focus more of your efforts. The purpose of tracking your visitors is to look for trends and patterns — both positive and negative ones — and take actions based on what you’re observing at any given time. Even campaigns performing well at the moment can have very different results later, so you’ll want to keep a careful eye on your visitor stats. With GA, you’ll get a handy Visitor Overview report with stats on:
• Total visitors
• Bounce rate
• Unique visitors
• Pages viewed per visit
Whether it’s from organic search or paid search efforts, where your traffic is coming from makes a difference in everything from where you spend your online marketing dollars to how you tailor your ads. Sources really matter when you implement your SEO strategy. Monitoring sources also allows you to do some experimentation with both paid and organic search efforts. Preferably, you want a balance of traffic from organic and paid searches, unless you have compelling data to support a shift towards one or the other. Tracking sources also allows you to:
• Show what sources are delivering the most traffic
• Determine whether or not a directory listing will benefit you
• See if your paid advertising investments are justified*
*”Campaigns” within your Search stats is where you’ll go to dive into your PPC account data.
Are you meeting the needs of your visitors? Relevance is more important than ever when it comes to online visibility, so you definitely want to know how your landing pages are performing. Landing page stats are useful for both organic traffic and paid traffic. With PPC, for instance, high bounce rates on your landing pages mean there’s something about your pages preventing visitors from taking the preferred action. High bounce rates for organic results mean browsers aren’t finding what they’re looking for when they arrive. Landing page data can also tell you if:
• There’s something wrong with your page design
• Slow page load times are turning away visitors
• Your keyword choices are really on the mark
Yes, it makes sense to pay attention to conversions — most of the time. If you have other goals beyond generating revenue, however, this metric isn’t going to matter much. When conversions do matter, fixing issues can involve a few tweaks here and there or a top to bottom reassessment of your online marketing efforts.
Why Analytics Reporting Metrics Matter
The reports you’ll get can be for specific traffic-generating campaigns, created based on your cherry-picked metrics, or set up to be delivered via custom alerts at certain times. You’ll need to make a lot of choices with your metrics. However, there’s no doubt info you’ll gather can identify performance issues sooner than later and help you discover new opportunities for growth. As far as how often you need to know your preferred stats, that also depends on your goals; although you can set up your own delivery preferences and reporting schedule and check up on your stats anytime. Your available metrics can also be used for:
• A/B testing to compare page designs/content
• Online campaign planning and launching
• Analysis of keyword performance per page
• An evaluation of traffic patterns
What analytics reporting metrics are you currently monitoring? What tools are you using? What stats matter most to you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.