Gauging the value of your online presence, in particular efforts around a web site, social networking and blogging, can be a moving target. One of the top questions heard regularly is “How do I know if this is working for me?” The answer lies in large part in analytics.
Measuring your digital presence is easier than it has ever been. The ability to review statistics and engagement data as a result of your online activity can be accomplished quite economically. Before we consider the platforms available, let's think through the structure of establishing a digital presence.
Like your office (or headquarters) in the analog world, the digital presence requires a hub from which to operate. Logically this is the web site. From the web site, a blog can anchor content publishing, which will naturally progress to e-mail campaigning and ultimately to the social media channels you are using.
To achieve optimal analytics, it is essential to coordinate among these properties, not only to ensure brand consistency (correct information, graphics and naming conventions, et al.) but also to ensure you can connect (or even integrate) them to track the movement of traffic, sharing and connectivity between those destinations.
Some simple steps you can use here:
• When creating links you specifically want to track, use Google's Campaign URL builder
• Get to know Google Authorship, which is an important tool for linking website(s) to your Google+ profiles, and more importantly, affecting search results positively.
This leads us to some key tools and best practices for maximizing your analytics.
GET THE NUMBERS FOR YOUR WEB SITE
Like the web site as hub of your digital presence, Google Analytics serves as the central reporting solution. Perhaps more rewarding is its free price tag. One can open an Analytics account with a Google account (easiest is through a Gmail address).
This is an incredibly powerful tool that tells you about visits to your web site, where they arrived from and how those visitors interacted with your content. More compelling though is its ability to clearly define the details of those visits.
How did your visitors find you?
• Was it organic search, via a query on a search engine?
• Did they click through from your e-mail campaigns?
• Was it a result of your online advertising?
• Did they arrive from a social network, and which ones?
• Or did they directly type in your address?
Those are just the surface level metrics you can uncover, but as you can see, they contain valuable information.
There are some basic best practices when using Google Analytics that will improve the quality of information you do receive.
1. Perhaps it's obvious, but make sure your web site provider supports the use of Google Analytics. This generally enables you to put in your Google Analytics ID (looks like UA-123456) and send traffic data from your site to Analytics.
2. This is also a good time to connect your web site to Google's Webmaster Tools. This enables you (or your technical staff) to affirm that your site is being properly indexed by Google, and lets you know if there are errors. This tool also will show which keyword traffic resulted in clicks to your site.
3. As you can see, just from these two free tools, much can be learned about the results of your online activity. Moreover, understanding where visitors arrive from and what content (or keywords in search) sent them, will inform your future editorial pursuits.
4. Finally, to tie your digital properties together for the benefit of analytics, ensure the e-mail marketing package you select also supports the integration of Google Analytics. This will ensure you capture any links you distribute back into your overall reporting.
SEEING SOCIAL ANALYTICS
This is a younger, emerging field in digital analytics. There are no clear front-runners (yet) like Google Analytics is to websites. However, there are some opportune ways to track your social-media efforts and initiatives.
It starts within your social profiles themselves. Each major social network offers some basic elements of analytics, from engagement (such as re-tweets, mentions or re-shares of your content) to more specific measurements of activity (such as LinkedIn Company Page Insights).
However, this can quickly become unruly or at least a bit of a burden if you are curating multiple social-media channels. This leads us to some tools designed to behave more like Google Analytics for measuring your social activity and potential return on investment for those efforts. They fall into three relative groups explored below.
TRACKING YOUR CONTENT PUBLISHER
The tools here will monitor the results of your content publishing activity — from clicks and shares to direct engagement. This category includes Buffer, HootSuite and SproutSocial.
Both HootSuite and SproutSocial also offer more premium features that open up sophisticated reporting across your social profiles.
TRACKING YOUR BRAND AND BUSINESS
When you need to cast a wider net than just looking deeper into your active social profiles, this calls for a specialty beyond content publishing solutions. Providers in this space can track keywords, phrases and names along with those existing authorized social channels. This enables you to find out what you don't know.
The economics vary widely in this category from Social Mention (free) to relatively inexpensive solutions like Mention and Brandify, to the heavyweights (both in client base and price) in this space such as Salesforce's Radian6 and Sysomos.
CAN YOU MEASURE INFLUENCE?
The last category is still largely new frontier, focusing on trying to calculate your influence and provide some level of peer ranking based on known and unknown factors. Perhaps you could coin it the FICO score of social. However, not much foundational research has been done here, and some fear this simply further provides opportunity for more targeted advertising versus educational advice to the users being measured.
To explore this segment of analytics, you can connect a social profile (or more for a complete examination) to Klout, Kred or PeerIndex. Here you will find the fascination many have with these services, by getting a personalized view into your networks. You'll also find the problem — you get differing results from each service. So the scores remain largely subjective while being interesting.
If you're serious about measuring your digital presence, once you've optimized those online properties, it makes sense to settle on Google Analytics plus one (or two) additional solutions. Then you can establish the framework for analytics. Having to make too many stops or manually collate data will create more of a time burden than needed.
By selecting and then maximizing the automation capabilities you should quickly get a much clearer view into your digital efforts, with the data to make decisions for how to tune and improve those results.
Blane Warrene speaks and writes frequently on technology and the intersection of marketing and compliance in financial services. He co-founded Arkovi and QuonWarrene, and produces the Digital Well podcast. He is focused on helping financial advisers and institutions explore and define what being a digital business means to them.