Coming up with clever, profitable, insightful marketing campaigns is only the beginning of a marketer’s job. The other part is figuring out if those clever campaigns actually worked. Back in the old days, you didn’t have much recourse in that area. You put an ad in the newspaper or on a billboard, and if sales went up, then it worked!
But it’s a different world today. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to get in touch with your potential customers, and most of them will be using more than one. A simple idea can be incredibly complex to execute and even more difficult to evaluate.
Luckily, as the marketing landscape has gotten infinitely more complicated, so have the tools to analyze your work. At or near the top of the list for most marketers is Google Analytics, which provides so many tools that it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are some of our favorites.
Going Beyond Pageviews
We’ve talked before about the concept of “vanity metrics” — numbers that look good, but don’t really tell you much about how successful your content or campaigns are. Pageviews isn’t a completely useless metric, since traffic to your website is still a good sign that your campaigns are doing their job, but they don’t tell you much on their own.
For one thing, a huge amount of web traffic isn’t from people — it’s from bots. There are millions of bots that crawl websites for any number of reasons, good and bad. By some metrics, they account for more than half of all web traffic worldwide, artificially inflating your traffic numbers.
Instead, focus on what your visitors are doing after they arrive at your site. This includes:
1. Traffic Sources
You need to know where your web traffic is coming from in order to assess the effectiveness of your marketing. If people are pouring in from one channel, it might be worth pouring money into that channel. If another channel isn’t driving any traffic at all, you should probably rethink your approach.
2. Bounce Rate
If someone ends up on your site, then closes the page without doing anything else on the site, they’ve “bounced.” Bounce rate won’t tell you why your visitors are leaving, but it’s a good metric to keep an eye on.
3. Top Pages
Which pages are people visiting the most? Some of them will be obvious — the home page, for example — but your top pages can be a good indicator of what kind of content appeals to your visitors the most.
Most of your pages will have some sort of CTA, driving visitors to another page on the site. This might be from one blog post to the next, from an information page to a purchase page, or from a help page to a contact page. Determining how many people click through a CTA can help you craft content strategies going forward.
5. Learning About Your Audience
Another useful insight into your marketing efforts is who your audience consists of. If you don’t have a buyer persona or three built out for your company, you should. These personas will help you tailor your messaging to the right audiences — and they’ll help you see whether or not you’re talking to the right people in the first place!
Google can also tell you about your audience’s location. You can sort by country, city, region, continent, or sub-continent. You’re probably targeting your marketing by location already, and knowing where your audience lives can help you do so more precisely.
6. New vs. Returning Visitors
When a web user visits your site, Google places a small piece of code into their browser. The next time they visit, Google checks for that code. That allows you to see whether your visitors are new or returning.
New visitors are a good thing! They indicate that your message is spreading, which means your marketing is working. But you don’t want the ratio of new to returning visitors to be too high — failing to retain visitors might indicate a deeper issue with your ability to keep customers.
Turning Data Into Action
The more you can learn about the way your marketing campaigns work, the better you can adapt your marketing strategies to evolve along with your audience. There are a lot of tools you can use to assess the success of your marketing, but when it comes to your website, Google is one of the most powerful.