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Analytics may sound like a scary word, especially if you weren’t all that good at computing in school. But with some knowledge and experience analytics can be used by anyone to increase their social media reach and make their website more prominent in search engines, thereby helping to generate views and leads.

Analytics are simply ways of quantifying and measuring success. It requires first deciding what your goals are: do you want to increase traffic to your site, or get more people to buy the products you sell online, or get people talking about your ad campaign on social media? Once you’ve honed in on an objective, you then need to come up with real, measurable indicators that you’re achieving your goal. If your goal is to increase traffic, then an obvious one would be an increase in traffic. But you may want to specify what type of traffic: the pages that people visit the most, where in the world the traffic is coming from, what actions they perform on your site, or something else entirely.

Once you’ve come up with your goals and heuristics (a fancy word for ‘rules of thumb’), you will then need to put these ideas into practice. Using analytics tools, the most useful of which will be showcased below, you can measure your progress over time and use those measurements to experiment with different projects or actions intended to increase your goals. So, for example, if you want to test using particular keywords to increase traffic, you can measure the rate of traffic prior to the use of the keyword and after. This will give you some understanding of the effect the action has on the phenomenon you’re measuring, if there is an effect.

Then it’s just a matter of trying things out, measuring and repeating these steps until you’ve achieved what you want to achieve. If you try multiple actions at a time then it might be difficult to determine what was the cause of any effect, but you can adopt a ‘tinkering’ approach where you change one or a few things at a time to get a more accurate picture of what works. So the steps to using analytics are:

  1. Decide what your measurable goals are
  2. Determine how you’re going to measure them
  3. Formulate a plan to achieve your goals
  4. Measure before and after the plan is implemented to
  5. Change the plan to adapt to the changes measured

There are a wide range of analytics tools online, some paid but many free, which you can use to measure, plot and analyse information about user engagement with your site. Here’s a list of ones that we’ve used or have heard good things about:

Google Analytics

When people think about search engines, they think Google. Google is the search engine you want your website to be prominent in, so why not use the analytics tools Google provides for free as your starting point? Google Analytics is a two tiered online tool with a basic free service and a more manifold premium service. You can use the free service to track page views, online buying behaviour, see what searches lead people to your site, track campaigns in real time, and much more.

HubSpot’s Marketing Grader

Marketing Grader is a free online tool which is easy to use. Just type your website and email account into the tool’s webpage and it will grade you on every aspect of your digital marketing campaign, from social media to SEO and lead generation. It will then grade you based on measures such as popularity, reach, link density and so on. It’s a more general tool than Google Analytics, but is effective in providing you with a fast snapshot at what’s happening on your website.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite not only provides you with analytics (at a price) but also a platform on which to manage your social media. See how your advertising campaigns are doing by finding out who’s liking, replying and subscribing to your social media and its output. Hootsuite is easy to use as it puts all the information analytics generate into easy to understand graphs that track your progress over time. Hootsuite focuses on the hard work so that you can focus on building your online presence.