Read the introduction to this series here, read part one on web developers right here, part two on design here, part three on e-commerce here, part four on content management systems here, and part five on social media here.
Whether you’re spending a few hundred—or several thousand—dollars making your new web site, you’re probably interested in a certain three-letter acronym, ROI, or Return On Investment. While every business is a bit different, almost all of them use ROI as a way to determine whether it makes sense—financially and otherwise—to purchase a new building, hire a new employee, or launch a new product line.
With a business, it’s easy to figure out whether you’re doing better or worse than last month, but figuring out why is really difficult. Maybe that new employee increased your sales, or perhaps it was the rising economy. Maybe a new building is attracting more customers, or maybe it was the improvements you made to your product line. You’re constantly making decisions about your business, so determining the ROI on any one investment is often difficult to determine.
Your new website is different. Powerful analytics programs allow you to not just determine who visits your website, but how they get there, what they do when they’re visiting, and what page makes them leave. More sophisticated analytics tools even allow you correlate real world data—like how many customers visit your restaurant daily or use a coupon—with your web data so you can draw relations between your online and offline marketing strategies. While you may never know whether your new business cards were a good idea, you can calculate the effect of almost every change you make to your website. Here’s what you should consider when setting up analytics for your web site at any budget.
One of the best things about web analytics is that the most powerful tool out there—Google Analytics—is free. If you’re not spending very much on your website, it’s better to stick to the free stuff, and wait until you’re ready to upgrade before turning to pricier analytics programs.
If Google Analytics is too difficult to use, or you don’t need all of its features, there are low-cost alternatives. We like Clicky, which provides live information about who’s visiting your website.
If you have a bit more to spend on your site, you still want to prioritize your spending on things other than analytics, as Google Analytics is free. You may ask your web developer to help you establish goals for your website, so you’re measuring information that will actually help you make your website better and more profitable. While producing and analyzing the reports made by Google Analytics isn’t difficult, setting up the targets in the first place can be tricky, which is why you might ask for help on this matter.
Because you’re making a major investment in your website, you want your analytics to help you maximize your efforts. With a larger budget, you have two options. First, you can ask your web developer to set up multiple targets in Google Analytics that will allow you to measure everything about your website. For example, you can set up A/B testing that will allow to determine whether changing the appearance of your shopping cart will increase your sales, or you can locate the web pages that encourage your customers to leave your site and fix them. Google’s recent revision to its analytics program, which it calls Universal Analytics, even allows you incorporate real-world data into your web analytics.
If you don’t want to use Google Analytics, there are a few paid services out there, including Adobe Marketing Cloud and Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud. While these services can be expensive, they’re easy to use and help you integrate social media analytics with web analytics.
Regardless of your site budget, analytics can help you maximize your investment. With free tools out there, it’s easy to get started, and if you need help, there are plenty of ways to pay for attractive, easy-to-use services that will help you know who your customers are and how you can make it easier for them to access your site.
Photo via Paul Jacobson
Start building your site today!