By John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor
I’ve been doing Internet marketing for 10 years. I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands online to expand their digital marketing reach. My colleagues, their employees and I have found that one of the most important skills needed is an intimate knowledge of web analytics.
Briefly, web analytics is the “measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring web traffic, but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a web site.” (From Wikipedia)
Although I am known for work in SEO, social media, CRO and SEM, web analytics ties it all together. Without this skill set, it is impossible to be a quality marketing professional in any digital sector.
The following is a few core reasons why, if you are going to be the real deal in marketing, you need to have your web analytics skills dialed in.
Understand Seasonal Trends in a Business
Customer trends change dramatically for certain businesses based on seasonality. For example, if you are an ecards site you know that you are going to get spikes in traffic around each holiday. Another example would be an ecommerce website that sells clothing. You can expect to get higher traffic numbers around certain seasons (the holidays) and sales. With knowledge of web analytics, you will be able to see what types of marketing drove the most sales during those periods and if you beat last year’s numbers. One of the most powerful tools in a web analytics program, such as Google Analytics, is the power to look at year-over-year trends, account for seasonal traffic changes, and execute effective marketing plans that align with the numbers.
Accurately Gauge Success of KPIs
KPIs stands for Key Performance Indicators, and they are critical for marketing. In all types of marketing it is important to have ways to measure performance. In the case of KPIs, we select the measurement metrics that will allow us to determine if our program is successful. Now, one of the major issues with KPIs is that you need to be able to measure them. The best analytics programs give you access to a world of KPI possibilities that can be accurately measured and reported on. Not only is this powerful, if you create KPIs, measure them and then outperform, if can be very impressive to a boss, investors or a client.
Report on Success of Marketing Channels
One of my favorite parts of analytics is the ability to look at your success by marketing channel. At its most basic level, Google Analytics allows you to break down reports by types of acquisition, which could include organic search traffic, paid traffic, email traffic, direct traffic, social media traffic and referring site traffic. In addition, you can set up goals and ecommerce tracking to see exactly how much you are making from each of these marketing channels. Once you align this with the dollars you are spending to market in each area, it allows you to create an excellent picture of what is profitable and what is not. It should be noted, that these are the most basic of digital marketing channels. Google Analytics, and many of web analytics programs, allows you to slice and dice data in many powerful ways.
Understand How Consumers Interact with your Website
The audience reports and behavior reports in Google Analytics allow you to see how people interact with your website. It can address questions such as:
How long do they stay on a page?
How do they navigate through the site?
What are your best performing pages?
What are your worst performing pages?
How long does it take a user to make a purchase?
These are very powerful pieces of data to know. With this information, you learn more about your customer. Furthermore, you can improve areas of your website that need help, and as a result, make more sales and create a better online experience for the consumer.
Utilize Analytics to Improve Website Usability
Google Analytics is not the only analytics program out there, but it is one of the best. When it comes to improving usability, there is a report called the behavior flow. It allows you to see how users move through your website. You can also set up something called funnels in Google Analytics. This allows you to see where a user abandons a goal in a checkout process. There is also an amazing report called the in-page analytics report. This report shows you the most clicked-on items on a website page, so you know what users find appealing and what can be removed! There are so many ways to use Google Analytics to improve functionality. That being said, there are other programs that can also help improve usability. Some of the other big ones are Crazy Egg and Optimizely. Using all off these tools together can help take your website to the next level.
Understand Where your Customers Are and How They Use Technology
Customers are different all around the world. Some like to purchase on their phone, others a tablet or a desktop. Two very popular and powerful reports are the location and technology reports. Do you want to know where your best performing customers are from? Or do you want to know where your worst are from? The locations report can tell you this. On the technology report side, you can see which devices users are taking advantage of to make the most and least purchases on the website. In some cases, you can learn a great deal from the technology reports. For example, if you have no sales on mobile phones this can help you make a strong argument to upper management that it is time for a mobile website! As a side note, I recommend all websites move to responsive design or at least have a mobile version. It will be critical for online consumers as we move into 2015.
Knowledge of Web Analytics is Power
Bottom line, knowledge of web analytics is power! At Ignite Visibility Internet Marketing, one of the first things we do is make sure our employees have a Google Analytics (GAIQ) certification. This allows them to understand the breadth of the digital marketing world and better service our clients.
If you are interested in learning more about web analytics, I hope to see you in the UC San Diego Extension “Web Analytics: Techniques, Tools & Tricks” course. I take great pride in teaching an exciting and challenging course that is interactive and enjoys a variety of guest speakers. The next offering is in Fall 2014 and starts on October 6th.
John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor
About John E. Lincoln
John E. Lincoln has been a guest speaking and teaching at UC San Diego Extension for four years. Currently teaching Web Analytics, Lincoln has also taught courses on SEO, social media and pay per click. Outside of UC San Diego Extension, Lincoln is President of Ignite Visibility, a full service digital agency. Lincoln is also a frequent writer for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and Search Engine Journal. During his career, Lincoln has worked with over 200 online businesses and has enjoyed working on national clients such as FOX, Coupons.com, Jacuzzi, Tacori, 1800Dentist and more.