Sniffing out how visitors use your website can yield remarkably rich results, provided you know how to analyze their digital footprints. With thorough analysis that focuses on longer-term trends and patterns, digital marketers can prove campaigns are working – and over time, improve ones that aren’t.
Your website and digital marketing campaign should be aligned with the strategic desires of your business (Stokes, 2013). If you’re a travel agency, for example, your marketing objective could be to have clients book online, or to provide information so you can entice them with great package deals via email. But how do you ensure visitors make this conversion to action?
Analytics is “the science of analysis using data to understand historical patterns with an eye to improving performance and predicting the future (Digital Analytics Association, 2017).” Unlike scientists, digital marketers don’t have to create their own data through experiments. Thanks to the Internet’s inherent traceability, the data is already there.
By measuring information, also known as metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can be created to determine if these objectives are being met (Stokes, 2013). In non-virtual media, action data was scarce, but online, information is everywhere; at times, it can be overwhelming. KPI helps sift through this data glut for what’s important. As in the travel agency example above, a KPI indicator could be the number of site visitors who choose to sign up for newsletters.
It then becomes a matter of massaging the campaign to its maximum potential with data-driven decisions.
Just as a scientist would draw conclusions from statistics, so should a digital marketer. There are two ways to track and collect data. Both have their benefits and drawbacks:
- Cookies: are most common. They are a piece of code attached to each page of a site, which sends information to a third-party server (such as Google Analytics), that requires a log in. Problematically, cookies can be blocked and mobile devices – whose use is ever-increasing – don’t’ use them.
- Server-based tracking: review log files created by the servers which store websites. They are easy to access, provided you have access to the server. They record every click, including failed page requests, but cannot record events like Java interactions and filled forms.
No matter which tracking method you choose, both can capture a variety of useful information. Basic site traffic counts can be segmented into returning and new users, for example, to see how specific groups interact with your site. Views of a specific page can be counted, and a user’s “click path” – i.e. the journey they take through your site – can be tracked and timed (Stokes, 2013). Referring websites can be tracked, as well as the clickthrough rate, which is the number of times a link is clicked on by a visitor.
But analytics go beyond simple tallies. By determining referring URLs and search terms, you can learn how users find your site. You can also discover what kind of device users are viewing your site on. Internal search queries can also suggest how well your site is delivering content.
Deeply mining analytics can reveal surprising results that affect your KPI – and your business’ bottom line. If users with a slower connection speed spend less time on your site, it may be because your site takes too long to load, for example. If users begin to fill out a form (known as an “event”) but then stop, a conversion funnel can help determine why (Stokes, 2013).
Analyzing user behavior shows the intent behind their visits to your site; analyzing the outcome – if events and conversions are made – shows if your site is meeting its objective and goals.
By looking at user experience, you can determine how to influence visitors to make conversions.
Despite all the potential data – and data’s potential – analytics are fundamentally quite simple. Users should be tracked and analyzed to determine whether their online habits line up with your business’ goals and objectives. If they don’t, the nature of the digital world allows for perpetual content optimization and the testing to ensure they do.
With these three actions in mind – Track, Analyze, and Optimize – your campaign will surely have your customers squarely within your desired crosshairs.
Questions? Shoot them to me in the comments!
Digital Analytics Association (2017). What is Digital Analytics? Retrieved from http://www.digitalanalyticsassociation.org/
Stokes, Rob (2013). eMarketing: the essential guide to marketing in a digital world, fifth edition. Retrieved from https://www.redandyellow.co.za/courses/textbook-digital/