How many people visit your site? What do they do or not do on its pages? Most importantly, do they finally decide to purchase from you? If not, why? These are the questions that digital analytics attempts to answer.
Fiona De Brabanter is an independent digital analytics consultant and explains in seven steps how companies go about approaching their online presence as efficiently as possible.
There are many reasons to invest in digital analytics. As a company, you want to know whether you score well in Google’s search results, if your articles are shared on social media, and if your organisation succeeds in establishing itself as an authority in its field. These are all important assets to reach your target audience online. It starts with ensuring that the public finds your website attractive. This creates added value for a company at all levels: a well-organized and user-friendly website is like a business card, it contributes to your public image and makes it easier to find prospects and/or to drive sales. This is where digital analytics comes into play. Obeying the mantra ‘measuring, analyzing, optimizing, repeat’ you can constantly improve your website. These are my favourite tips and tricks to measure your actions and results, and to investigate whether your online marketing efforts work.
1. Clearly determine the goals of your site
The very first step is to set goals. It is important that these objectives are measurable, for example more online sales or more subscriptions to the newsletter. If an objective is met, then we speak of ‘conversion’ as the visitor has purchased, signed up for a newsletter or whatever the relevant target maybe. If you have not set goals or have only a few, then I advise you to take the time to list them in detail and find the right way to measure them. There are many different types of goals and what you measure depends on your business objectives. For example, if you have a clothing website, then your goal is to drive an online purchase; if you have a gym, the goal is to register for a membership, and if you have a publication site (a blog, an information portal, a news website), your goal may be the number of pages viewed. Here are some examples of what you can measure:
- How often a ‘contact us’ form is filled in.
- How many people subscribe to your newsletter.
- How many people buy your product.
- How many people click on a social media icon (a like or a share)
2. Use traffic as the starting point of your measurement
To measure the success of your online marketing efforts, the traffic source (where your website traffic comes from) is a good starting point. This traffic source can be anything: a URL typed directly into the navigation bar, a search engine, a link on a blog, a paid campaign with banners or on social media, and so on. If you are only just starting out with online marketing or are only just starting to expand, I advise you to set benchmarks or targets. For example: you want your organic traffic (via search engines) or social traffic (via social media) to grow by 5% and you want new users to grow by 10%. This percentage of desired growth is a good measure, or target, of what you want to achieve with your online marketing.
3. This is how you analyse your social media
Online marketing and social media go hand in hand, because after you have written and published an article or blog on your site, you want to take this global via channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
Digital analytics also provides social analytics reports, so that you get insights into your social media:
- Social analytics makes clear which social channel gives your website the most sessions and conversions. It is important to take into account the goals you have set to reach through social media. You should set these goals as realistic as possible: for example, visitors clicking on the share button or filling in the online form ‘updates via e-mail’. These are ‘soft’ objectives that are certainly achievable via social media. Do not expect that you will make too many sales via social media: that objective is too ‘hard’ or too high.
- These reports can also determine which article or blog performed best on your social channel. For this you have to dig a bit deeper during the analysis, because blog articles that do well on one channel sometimes perform less well on other channels. For example, a blog article about best practices in social media will perform better on Facebook and Twitter, while a blog article on careers will do a lot better on LinkedIn. You may also get a higher level of conversions via LinkedIn, because Linkedin serves a different target audience with a different intent than Facebook or Twitter, which in turn are more recreational platforms.
4. Create online marketing campaigns
Online marketing campaigns, for example banners or SEA, are your best bet to ensure that your website gets an extra boost in online sales or that you achieve your other online objectives. As a digital analyst I ensure that your campaigns are set up in such a way that you, as a company, can accurately keep track of how users discover your website. If everything is set correctly, you should see the following:
- Whether users come to your website via paid or organic social media (as opposed to a regular social channel, such as LinkedIn or Facebook).
- Whether users clicked on one of your EDM links (Electronic Direct Mail). Measuring and following your online marketing campaigns accurately is very important to know if your investment is profitable.
5. Keep track of bounce rate
Bounce rate is a digital analytics unit that represents the percentage of visits where only one page is viewed on your website, without further interaction. It is therefore about the number of visitors who leave your website (immediately). Although many online marketers focus on bounce rate, it is not a good indication whether your website performs well or not. Because a high bounce rate can indicate different things:
- Visitors who read one page on your website might find what they need and then leave.
- Visitors who read your content, find it interesting, but do not see anything else that interests them (they do not click on one of your other links) and then leave.
- Visitors who do not like your website and no longer want to stay on the page. If you simply make the judgment that a high bounce rate is equal to low interest and low quality, you sometimes lack valuable insights. Therefore: some tips when measuring your bounce rate:
- Do not measure averages, but absolute numbers. When looking at a bounce rate of 100%, it makes a big difference whether the surveyed population consists of 2 or 2,000 people. In the first case there is probably no problem with the page in question, in the second case of course there is.
- Always look at context: are there sufficient elements on the page to encourage people to discover more of your website? For example, on a blog article you can make distinct links to other interesting content on your website. On an e-commerce website you can ensure that your products are displayed clearly, as well as the button to purchase those products online. In short, does your page contain enough initiative to continue.
- Benchmark the bounce rate of individual pages or parts of your website. If your business grows (hopefully as a result of your online marketing), it is also good to have an indication of historical reports. So you can compare with last month, last quarter, last year, and so on. This is important because seasonality can play a role in certain sectors.
6. Take a look at the internal searches on your website
One of the best ways to understand what your audience wants to see from your business is by looking at the searches that visitors enter on your site. This can also be investigated with digital analytics. At the same time, it is a good way to determine whether your information architecture is optimal and to take action accordingly. If, for example, it appears that many people look up something about a certain subject, you can make sure this topic gets more visibility on important pages.
7. Report on online behavior and content viewed
Digital analytics can show you a long list of individual pages that people have viewed on your website. This makes it possible to determine what the most popular pages of your website are. If you want to know which topics or categories people are most interested in, for example to gather ideas to further develop the site, digital analytics is useful.
Through my measurements I provide you with data such as:
- The results of your best performing topics and categories.
- A ranking of your most read / viewed topics and categories.
- A grouping of data, for example a top 10 of the best performing pages.
Fiona De Brabanter is a self-employed digital analytics consultant and online marketer. She developsdigital analytics strategies and improves the efficiency of online activities for companies. Fiona also provides training and writes for blogs. In her free time she practices yoga and travels around the world with her three children.