How Well Does Your Online Marketing Strategy Measure Up?
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Q: I use social media, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay per click (PPC) advertising and other online marketing strategies to try to grow my business. The only problem is that I can’t tell which methods are working and which aren’t. How can I measure the success of my efforts?
A: Among the most important facets of an online marketing strategy is a means for gauging its effectiveness. Fortunately, the data is literally there for the asking thanks to the emergence of web analytics.
More than merely “hit counters,” web analytics encompass powerful tools that can help small business owners shape, refine, and monitor the effectiveness of their online messages. You can assess variations in user habits in response targeted marketing campaigns; external drivers such as seasonal, economic, or weather changes; or simply upticks of interest in certain products or services.
Most web analytics tools are extremely user-friendly and, quite often, free. They include Google Analytics, the go-to package that’s as ubiquitous as its namesake; Yahoo Web Analytics; 4Q, which collects direct user feedback; and Clicky, which provides real-time tracking.
Of course, all this data has little value unless you know what to look for. Heather Dougherty, Director of Research for Experian Hitwise, and a leading authority in online commerce and marketing, recommends monitoring these critical reports:
- Sources of traffic. Which ones are driving the majority of traffic to your website? If it’s Google, make sure that you are monitoring your search marketing accordingly. “This can also help you understand the effectiveness of any online advertising and social media,” Dougherty adds.
- Bounce rate. This is the percentage of visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page or only visited one page within your website. “A high bounce rate could point to a relevancy problem where the content on your website is not correct or compelling,” Dougherty says. “Make sure that any landing pages have correct information that was offered in the ad copy.”
- Top keywords. What keywords are most effective in driving traffic to your website? “Monitor which keywords are used most often to measure any uptick in your brand, products and services, or location,” Dougherty says.
Staying abreast with this information may sound time-consuming, but Dougherty insists the effort is worthwhile. She recommends identifying critical reports that need to be run daily (online transactions), weekly (overall traffic and sources of visitors), and monthly. “Any channels that provide a voice to the customer – ratings, Twitter, Facebook, and so forth—should be monitored regularly for both positive and negative feedback,” she adds.
Author and digital media consultant Mike Moran cautions that while web analytics data can be helpful, entrepreneurs should not rely on them exclusively. “Too many people focus on these small numbers while missing the big one—sales,” he says. “Though it’s hard to count sales that result from digital marketing, making decisions off the wrong numbers just because they are easy to collect is not exactly the way to riches.”
To get more recommendations on measuring online marketing effectiveness, contact a SCORE Mentor. SCORE is a non-profit organization that provides business advice and workshops to aspiring and existing small business owners. Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 9 million entrepreneurs. Visit SCORE at www.score.org. Connect with SCORE at www.facebook.com/SCOREFans and www.twitter.com/SCOREMentors.