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The ‘Second’ Most Essential Online Marketing Tool?

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This is the second installment in Anthill’s The 10 Essential Tools of Online Marketing eSeries. To register, click here.

In the Pantheon of Online Marketing Tools, there is one that dwarfs the rest.

Its Herculean reputation isn’t born from social media flamboyancy. It doesn’t grandstand. It doesn’t rouse hype. It simply gets the job done.

And the job it does is far more important than every twittering, squarking and bleating online tool to ever grace the homepage of techcrunch.

Of course, I’m talking about Google Analytics.

And while this tool appears as our ‘second’ in the series, in terms of importance, it ranks as our number one.

What’s the big deal about Google Analytics?

In the first installment in this series, I talked up the ‘success’ or ‘confirmation’ page (the page used to indicate the conclusion of any online transaction).

I emphasised its importance as an ‘upsell’ trigger and its importance as a tool for tracking the success of a campaign. The latter is the focus of this second installment.

This is because, in the world of online marketing, nothing is more important than measurement.

It was once said with humour, “I know that half my marketing works. I just don’t know which half.” Today, such an approach to marketing is hardly likely to raise a smile.

In the online world, every slight change, tweak or permutation can be tracked to generate incrementally (and sometimes exponentially) better results.

This seems obvious to most sensible business builders. Yet, too many marketers (and excitable small business owners) get distracted by the endless creative possibilities of online marketing (and the exciting range of tools, essential and otherwise, at our disposal) without first establishing why they should be pursuing this option in the first place.

And that is the main function of Google Analytics. It allows a marketer, business owner or anyone with a website to track the performance of their online activities — in particular, the path from traffic to transactions.

Three ways to get beyond the surface of Google Analytics

If you own or run a website, I’m going to assume that you are already familiar with Google Analytics. But, I am also going to assume, even if you are using it, that you are not using it to its full-capacity.

(If you are not already using this tool… shame on you! Actually, that wasn’t fair. Shame on your developer for not suggesting it! Here’s a helpful link to get you started.)

This is because, for most people, Google Analytics is understood to be the colourful little dashboard that shows traffic going up and traffic going down. That’s the extent of sophistication to which most people apply the tool.

Here are three ways to actually get below the surface of Google Analytics.

1. Measuring traffic sources

One of my personal favourite features of the Google Analytics Dashboard is ‘Traffic Sources’. Why? Because it reveals the source of a particular website’s traffic and tells web owners where they should be directing their online attention.

For example, if the chart right related to your business, how would you use this information to inform your own online behaviour?

1. You would probably come to appreciate the importance of Google to your business. In the context of this business (above right), Google represents 47% of traffic and, therefore, 47% of its web business. I’m sure that if one customer was responsible for 47% of your business, you would do all you could to keep that customer happy.

2. You would probably observe the growing importance of social media, such as Facebook. In this instance, this source represents around 8% of traffic (and, therefore, trade). As a business owner, you already know that the greatest source of new business is your existing customers. This example presents an opportunity to grow an ‘existing client’ into a larger source of trade.

3. You would probably wonder why ‘direct traffic’ represents such a significant source (25%). In this instance, direct traffic largely describes click-throughs from an emaill newsletter. If this were your business, you would immediately appreciate the importance of your company newsletter as a source of trade.

Do you know who and what sources are responsible for the trade on your website?

2. Measuring site activity

But what use is traffic if it can’t be converted into commercial goals?

This generally requires a funnel approach (more on ‘funnels’ will be revealed in future installments). However, how can you start a funnel if you don’t know where on your site people are ‘playing’?

Check out this example (top right). What you might be surprised to notice is that only 9.7% of site activity is occurring on the homepage.

What the!?

If you are like most website owners, you probably spend an irrationally large amount of your development attention on the homepage. However, what this example (above right) tells me is that most of the site ‘action’ is happening elsewhere.

If my goal is to convert this traffic into customers, for example, I have just learnt that the rightsidebar is probably more important to my web-business than the homepage. Check your own statistics. You might find your circumstances to be not so different.

3. Measuring goals

In the first installment in this eSeries, I outlined the following common online goals:

  • Web Traffic / Visitors
  • Email Sign-ups
  • eBook Downloads
  • Voucher / Coupon Downloads
  • Completed Surveys
  • Information Requests

And don’t forget:

  • Sales! (Cha-ching!)

As discussed, each of these transactions will often conclude in a ‘success’ page. And, not coincidentally, the ‘success’ page is also what Google Analytics uses to measure goals.

Quite simply, by submitting the URL of your ‘success’ page (like: http://anthillonline.wpengine.com/success-this-is-a-success-page/) as the end ‘goal’ of any online campaign using Analytics, Google can track how many people visit your success page and, therefore, the success of that element of your campaign.

Once you get familiar with Google Analytics Goals and Funnel tools, you may also wish to add dollar values to the completion of your goals.

This is a simple process if you are tracking visits to a success page after a financial transaction has occurred (you use the margin as the value of the transaction).

For example, if your margin is $10 and Google Analytics tracks 10 visits to your success page in one day, at the end of that day you can quickly glance at your goals and exclaim, “Our website netted $100 today!” (This is because $10 x 10 = $100, capice?)

(Can you perhaps see a sales ‘funnel’ emerging?)

Pulling this together

The main purpose of any website should be to achieve a commercial goal.

This might be a commercial transaction online, like the sale of a product or a subscription. It might culminate in the collection of a lead, so that the commercial transaction can be completed offline (this is partiicularly appropriate for consultants and enterprise level products and solutions). It might conclude in a download of a voucher that can be redeemed, again, offline.

Whatever your business, your online activities should be measured against their ability to achieve a commercial goal like one of these. And that is the main reason why Google Analytics is so important.

It can be used to measure the effectiveness of all your online activities by tieing them back to the main reason that you are in business in the first place — to sell more things, to more people, more often, for more margin.

How to get Google Analytics (if you are not using it already)

If you are pretty familiar with the backend of your website, you can probably install Analytics yourself. It usually involves the addition of some code somewhere, like in your footer (click here to get set up Google Analytics).

If you are not particularly adept at manipulating the backend of websites, ask your developer. It should take them less than an hour to set it up. If they tell your otherwise, get another developer. (They already let you down by not setting you up with Analytics in the first place.)

TOOL #2: Google Analytics

In summary, measuring the outcomes of your online activities is very, very important.

It’s no longer good enough to claim, “I know that half my marketing works. I just don’t know which half.”

Online marketing is built around goals. And Google Analytics allows website owners to track these goals and measure the broader functions of the site and the effectiveness of their role in the pursuit of commercial outcomes.

This was the second article in the 10-part eSeries. Check your inbox for future installments.

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