By Laura Haight
How do you know if your digital efforts are paying off?
Every management process has some kind of evaluation tool. If a product isn’t selling, there’s a new strategy or action based on a detailed sales and marketing analysis. Eventually, the product is either sustainable or gone.
But in our social media and digital forays, it’s often less Wall Street and more Field of Dreams. If we build it, they will come. Right?
Not necessarily. But using readily accessible data you can get quite a bit of information about what’s working and what’s not. To a point, you can do a lot for free, but to take it to the next level, you may want to consider professional help, better tools or services that usually aren’t free.
A lot of small businesses create their own websites from free templates that came with the hosting account, but don’t take the time to set up analytics. One accessible and free tools that provides a great deal of information is Google Analytics.
If you have a gmail account, setup is a few clicks away. If not, you’ll need that too. You have to plug a small bit of script into your website (most services like Wordpress, Squarespace and GoDaddy make it easy to find the spot to put this code without having to know HTML). If you aren’t comfortable with that, this is where hiring a professional does make good business sense.
Once the code is in, Google Analytics starts tracking tons of info about your site. There are a couple of key metrics to understand.
Unique visitors vs Page Views. It’s fun to look at the page views and be impressed with yourself. Don’t be. One person who roams around a lot through your site - either because they are fascinated by your content or they can’t find what they’re looking for - can create a lot of page views. Unique visitors is the actual number of people who came to your site.
Bounce rate. The percentage of people who leave your site without going to any pages other than the one they entered at. A high bounce rate is usually a negative; but much depends on the page they came into. If they’re coming to your home page and leaving immediately, that’s bad. But if they are following a link to a blog post, spending 5 minutes reading it, that’s not so bad.
Top Content and Traffic Sources. What are the most viewed pages on your website? If you spent two days writing a blog post and no one visited it, you have something to think about. And where are people coming from? If you get a lot of direct traffic - people who type your url into their browser - they may have your business card or a referral. You want to watch traffic that comes from search engines (if it is rising as a percentage you know you are getting seen more in rankings). And see what your big referral pages are. For example, to see if your Facebook business page is driving any traffic to your website.
Sometimes you shake your head and just need a laugh. In the hysterical videos linked to this page, Google explains its analytics: http://goo.gl/IwaCb
Without spending money, buying a tool or hiring an analyst , you can get a lot of data about your efforts on Facebook using the Insights available in the admin panel on your business page. Look for:
Reach: This is the total number of people on Facebook who saw a post. You can see this information aggregated for a time period or get down to the post level. You can also drill down to find out how many were Organic (they are likers who came to the page or saw the post in their news feed) and how many were Viral (the content was shared with them by someone else).
Engaged Users: The number of people who clicked on your post during the first 28 days it was available. Engagement has long been the buzz word of social media.
Talking about this: This is the holy grail: people who interact with you by liking, commenting on a post or sharing it with others. The last two are what you really want to grow reach.
You may be accustomed to looking at your individual posts to see how many people liked it or saw it, but by exporting the Insight data, you can analyze the bigger picture. What kind of posts get the most attention, what gets shared, what is the age-gender group I’m reaching and is it the right demographic?
Seeing the data and understanding what it’s telling you, are two different things. But this blog post (http://goo.gl/cqtVW) on Mashable offers 5 (free) spreadsheets to help you make sense of things.
Regularly evaluating your results can help you to direct your efforts better. The answer probably isn’t to stop posting on Facebook, or to throw your website out, but to find out what is really working for you and capitalize on it.