Online Analytics – Measuring The Right Thing

All new online initiatives require time, resources and budgets. The more unconventional they may be, the harder it is to tie them to definitive metrics and attribute ROI. Even harder to quantify are the long term benefits of content marketing and social media – for example.

One simple measure of success is qualified leads or sales conversions but there are many more metrics to monitor. Some useful, some easy to game and others more correlation than causation.

When setting targets and trying to quantify results using website Analytics, there’s a few tips I would recommend.

Set your tracking and conversion URLs up correctly

I’ve only done this with Google Analytics, which is relatively straight forward for single language simple URL website. But be wary of multiple language or dynamic (query string) URLs.

I have also experienced the pain of adding extra code and parameters for Webtrends and Omniture so am very aware that this is a measure twice cut once job. But, done correctly you should be able to track most activity and define ‘conversions’ and goals for the important events on your website.

As an example, using campaign tracking, you can tell which tweets led traffic to your site. You can then flag those that then went on to subscribe to your newsletter or submitted a request to be contacted. With a good – connected – CRM you should then ultimately be able to tell if a tweet or email brought you sales or business.

Understand your base metrics

Müller Lyer illusion: shows that every measurement can be challenged by perspective
Müller Lyer illusion: shows that every measurement can be challenged by perspective

Analytics are always open to interpretation by the presenter and their recipient so be wary to establish a scale and base. Comparative values are far more useful than chronological increases.

For example two weeks ago was the hottest Saturday of the year. Sounds exciting until you realise where we were starting from this year. By comparison, this has been the coldest spring in many years. Also, understanding the contributing factors is key. We were at the beach in the wind so it felt colder than inland.

Likewise, reaching for an improvement of X% for the quarter needs to factor in all efforts, both on your website, in content marketing, social media and your business in general. Pre merger or big announcement days will see overall traffic spike, and certain conversion metrics to inflate.

Think offline too, like customer support

A few years back I attended a round table event. I remember one of the bigger retail chains mentioning their main metric for Twitter was the reduction in customer support or help minutes at their call centre.

They only gave support

  • via Twitter, directing clients to a wiki FAQ page
  • or over the phone via their call centre

He had a historic trend line for how the call centre was improving, and they made no significant changes to the call centre for two years. He attributes the halving of call times to his efforts on Twitter and the wiki, amassing indexed accessible answers.

Focus on solid metrics

Web conversions such as subscribing to a newsletter, year on year e-commerce figures or new business via web are solid metrics. Comparisons to previous months and years can give good insights.

Of less use in a summary but very much worth a daily, even real time focus are: traffic, average time on site, average of pages visited, bounce rate and exit rate. Trends are often of more interesting to analyse than seasonal or daily blips.

Likewise with social media, comments and shares or retweets are useful to measure. But followers as a metric or page likes on Facebook need to be taken with a grain of salt. Trends are of more value here than exact numbers. I think Twitter followers and ‘likes’ are 1000 for £5 if not less and ‘quality real followers’ if you believe the spam…

The Joneses and their numbers
To wrap this up one of you most valuable tools may be participating in industry surveys.

Taken with a grain of salt as most will inflate their figures you can get an understanding of: traffic from social media, QR code visits (all single figures I’m sure), email open rates, click thru rates and roughly how you compare to peers. Some broad extrapolation could also be done from Alexa traffic comparisons.

I’d still fall back to the number of quality leads that resulted in sales and their source. It is a number that you can easily compare across all marketing efforts too.

Image source:üller-Lyer_illusion

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