When you log into Google Analytics (GA) – which seems to be the standard these days – you’re hit in the face with a jumbled mess of options, buttons, drop-down menus and hundreds of data points.
It’s easy to get lost in the options and start measuring things that just don’t provide anything strategically meaningful. The 17 people worldwide who get into the minutiae of analytics are looking to squeeze out another 0.5% improvement in their website performance. For the rest of us, we have to be more effective with our time. Here are just 4 metrics to track that will give you a simple but powerful overview of your digital marketing performance.
[UPDATE] Yesterday (September 23, 2013), Google killed all keyword data, turning a new leaf on SEO. Search section updated below.
(Audience > Overview)
This metric is important because it gives you an idea of your audience size. If, for example, you decided to plunge into content marketing and now blog weekly and submit guest articles to other blogs and websites – you should see a steady increase in unique visitors month over month.
You will also be able to isolate anomalies and improve your marketing efforts. For example, you ran some radio ads in August, but didn’t notice a significant lift in unique visitors in August or September – you may want to reconsider investing in that station again. If, on the other hand, you notice an increase parallel to spending time engaging on LinkedIn – you may want to consider investing in Linked In ads.
Top 10 Pages
(Content > Site Content > All Pages)
This list represents your most visited pages. If you have a blog, these will include individual posts – otherwise you will see just your regular website pages.
Tracking your top 10 pages month over month gives you a great snapshot of what blog articles are attracting traffic as well as what services or products visitors seem to gravitate towards. For me, for example, my about page is consistently in the top 10 – which means I should probably spend some time on improving it.
If you notice a blog article that consistently remains in the top 10, it could be a great example of evergreen content your audience is looking for. Review it and iterate. Consider writing more similar articles and see if you can nail down the specific structure that seems to be a hit with your readers by testing similar headlines, post structure, number of resources and tone, for example.
Top 10 Referrals
(Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals)
Referrals track incoming links from other blogs and websites. For example, if I linked to your website somewhere within a blog post – and one of my readers clicked on it – you would see ernestbarbaric.com as a referral. For social media, you’ll see facebook.com, linkedin.com, pinterest.com, and t.co for twitter.
Reviewing this list is a really simple way to see how effective your various social media, blog outreach and authority building efforts are. This option basically lists traffic in order of link sources. You can pinpoint specific status updates that brought you traffic and keep an eye on which days work better then others, what time of day seems best for your audience and what kind of titles get clicked on the most.
You will also be able to see when someone links to your content and passes a visitor your way. It’s a really great way to notice and engage with bloggers or journalists who may reference you in one of their articles.
As it stands right now, Google is still giving a significant value to relevant backlinks – so the more referrals you see, the better it is for your search engine visibility.
Top 10 Organic Searches
(Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic)
This list will let you know exactly how people find you on search engines. What phrase did they type into the Google search bar, for example, to come across your website or blog.
If you wander over to this area now – you’ll immediately notice one of my major pet peeves. You’ll see a lot of (not provided). Google pretty much screwed us, because it “protects” users who are logged into any google product while searching. Meaning it doesn’t provide you with a search term someone used to come to your website if they’re logged into gmail at the same time.
That aside, this list provides you with invaluable branding and positioning information. Compare the search terms you see and ask: Do these terms match our brand? Are they how we wish to be found? Do they match with how we wish to be perceived?
If you notice mostly terms with your brand name, it likely means that most of the traffic you’re receiving is from people who are already familiar with your organization. So, little to no exposure to new markets. And that means… you better get on the blog train :) Invest some time in content marketing and increase your brand’s visibility to new audiences.
UPDATE: Well, google killed keyword data. As SEO professionals get sweaty and figure out a solution, your other option is to set up Webmaster Tools and look under Search Traffic > Search Queries as an alternative.
These 4 metrics will allow you to make smart strategic decisions without wasting hours sifting through hundreds of data points. While there are many apps and packages offered to brand managers and marketers – to get started all you need is a spreadsheet. Dedicate an hour every first of the month, fill in the above metrics and you’ll be able to track your digital marketing performance and website health with a quick glance.
Hope that helps! If you have any additional suggestions, please post them in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.