Let’s face it – some people are just naturally good with numbers and geek out on mountain loads of data, while the rest of us seem to like shiny, distracting objects like flashy websites and brightly colored ad campaigns. Far too many small business owners get distracted by the flash and stop focusing on the cash that comes in as result.
For most small businesses, your key success metrics might be questions like this:
That’s all pretty important stuff. Certainly more worthwhile than counting the number of Likes you had on Facebook or number of Followers on Twitter.
The reality is, though, if you’re going to be undertaking any online marketing, you need to have a good methodology for assigning and tracking ROI to any marketing activity you spend time or budget on. And that even includes giving some value to increasing your number of social media followers – if they ultimately result in an increase in revenue for your company.
The good news, as many of you already know, is that Google Analytics is freeware – allowing you track website activity once it’s set up properly in your website code. If you’re not hands on with your own website development, you’ll want to make sure that you work with an online business consultant and/or web developer who can help get you set up with proper goal tracking and e-commerce/sales reporting if you have an online store.
Of course, in the online marketing world, it’s both a blessing and a curse that you can track nearly anything and everything, so you might want to start small at first.
Getting started with the basics is relatively simple, and there are loads of online guides to help beginners walk through reporting.
According to small business and analytics expert Carrie Hill of consulting firm Key Relevance, there are four main areas every beginner should pay attention to:
Once you’ve become more comfortable with the basics, Google Analytics has many sophisticated reporting options, as well as “experiments” and A/B testing to help improve conversions and overall revenue. Depending on the complexity of your business, you may want assign/budget for an internal or external resource to manage your success metrics closely.
One caveat about tracking SEO metrics via analytics – for organic search referrals, Google has been delivering ‘not provided’ values in place of keywords actually used by customers who found your site in search. There are several workarounds to extrapolate this data from Google Analytics or Google Webmaster tools. In contrast, you can see every keyword which Google Adwords sends traffic, if you are paying for ads by the click. You can often use this data to craft content that results in higher conversion rates.
As noted above, one of the success metrics many small businesses use is number of inbound calls, which can be driven through several marketing channels. Most small business owners are fairly comfortable with the idea of having a 1-800 number attached to their business. Some may also already be familiar with call tracking services that allow you to place a different 1-800 number into offline or print advertising campaigns to track the number of calls or sales as a result.
Online has brought this a step further, as you can append a special 800 number to search advertising (in Google Adwords Extensions) or include different numbers in display (banner) ads.
There are now even some services which can dynamically generate a different phone number (preferably displayed in a graphic that search engines can’t read) on certain pages of your website based on the referral source the visitor came from. This call-in data is important to track if you’re investing significant advertising dollars with multiple sources; you’ll want to know which ones are resulting in sales.
While these type of call tracking solutions may be the perfect solution for many businesses, be aware that if your business has a local focus, you will absolutely want your local area code number to be displayed and readable to search engines, as well as using that number in locally focused business directories (including Google+ Local) which return proximity and map-based results.