E-MarketingStrategy: 4 Tips and Tools for Tracking Your Web-Marketing Effectiveness
In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, "This is the end." This is the final installment of my six-part series of Book Business columns detailing the steps required to build a strong Web-marketing foundation. I'm going to end the series with four tips that will help you complete your Web-marketing puzzle: tracking your efforts.
One of the obvious advantages of Web marketing over the traditional kind (print, TV, radio, etc.) is that nearly everything anyone does online is trackable and measurable. Each post on Facebook, each tweet fired off at the end of the day, every newsletter sent, and even every inch scrolled down a Web page can be parsed, segmented and measured. Now, of course, this drives privacy advocates nuts—the price of secluded, off-the-grid cabins hidden deep in the woods has risen fast enough to keep pace with Facebook's share price. But, to marketers like you and me, this environment of constant surveillance makes it very easy to know whether the effort you're putting forth is indeed worth it.
The following four tips and tools will help you make informed decisions about whether Facebook is earning you more money than Twitter, or whether videos perform better than podcasts. Your Web-marketing strategies will (and should) evolve over time. But they shouldn't evolve without a strategy. The information you collect will help you craft that strategic path forward.
Google Analytics (Google.com/Analytics) will tell you more than you ever thought you'd want to know about your own website's traffic. If you are not currently tracking your site with Google Analytics, call your IT department and ask them to install it now. We'll wait here …
The first and largest piece of the tracking puzzle is making sure you know exactly what is going on with your own website. As I've said in earlier articles, your website is the hub of your Web-marketing strategy. All of your campaigns, social media profiles, newsletters and tweets should point people to it. Your website is the only place online over which you can exercise complete control of the user experience. It is your conversion point.
Google Analytics will tell you how many visitors are coming to your site from Facebook, from Twitter, from any blogs you've been working with, and from anywhere else on the web. If you're running an e-commerce site, Google's data will tell you how much money each traffic source has earned for you. If you set up a broader conversion goal within Google Analytics—such as a newsletter sign-up, or a request for information, or a visit to your directions page—Google will track those for you as well.
Careful review of the data in your Google Analytics account will help you understand which of your efforts are paying off, and which are not.
Harvest (HarvestApp.com) is time-tracking software I recommend companies use to easily record the amount of time employees spend on certain tasks. Within Harvest you can set up employee accounts, projects and tasks. Set up an account for each of the folks you've got working on your Web marketing. Then, create a project—such as your Weekly Twitter Contest—that you run every week. When your folks sit down to begin running the Twitter contest, they just start their Harvest timer, and then shut it off when they're done.
You can run a simple report at the end of the week comparing the money you spent to pay the employee to run the project versus the money Google Analytics is telling you you've brought in. This is a very crude, but helpful and quick profit-and-loss snapshot for the week's Twitter contest.
Keep in mind when running the numbers that there is more to these social media activities than bringing in immediate sales. While you may see a loss for particular social media activities—the contest for example—you may have gained a great number of new potential customers. View the individual profitability in the context of your larger Web-marketing efforts.
Chartbeat (Chartbeat.com) is a real-time traffic-tracking tool. Whereas Google Analytics will update your traffic information every 24 hours, Chartbeat updates every few seconds—letting you know in real-time who is on your website, what they're reading and how they found you.
This information is particularly important when running real-time social media campaigns. If you're running your contest, for example, you will need to see if the work you're doing on Twitter is working to drive traffic to your site—and if so, if you are driving them to the right places.
We've entered an age of intelligent search engines. In March 2011, Google updated its search engine software to factor social media metrics into its ranking system. This is what Google is calling the Panda Update.
Google still looks at your site to determine the quality of your information, and it still also looks at who is linking to your site from around the Web. But now Google is also looking at how many times your content is shared, tweeted, liked, blogged and so on. Google is also tracking how long people stay on your site after finding you in search, and how many pages they look at once they're there. Google can now actually (fairly closely) determine if people like your site or not—and not in the Facebook way. I mean actually enjoy it. This means that in order to perform well on search engines, you must provide quality content that people enjoy and share.
SEOmoz (SEOmoz.org) is a search engine monitoring tool designed to manage your Web-marketing efforts with an eye on climbing the search engine rankings. Its weekly scan of your site will create weekly reports that can help you determine where your site needs improvement—and where you need to strengthen your efforts with other important sites. It's an indispensable tool.
With these four tools, and the ones mentioned in earlier articles (available at BookBusinessMag.com), you will have everything you need to build, monitor and maximize your Web-marketing efforts. BB
J.S. McDougall is co-owner of Catalyst Webworks (CatalystWebworks.com), a web design and marketing firm specializing in the book industry. He is the author of six books about conducting business online, including "Start Your Own Blogging Business." Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jsmcdougall.