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The Web Analytics Dilemma (for Small Business Owners)
Attention small business owners: Your website is one of the most powerful weapons in your sales and marketing arsenal. You already knew this, right? Although this seems obvious, it is amazing how few small business owners actively use web analytics in an effort to improve the performance of their website as a sales and marketing tool.
High performing sales reps have quotas and systems to measure and track their progress. High performing websites have a web analytics tool and at least one person asking and answering questions about the site on a regular basis. Notice – I didn’t say “looking at the data” on a regular basis. In a nutshell, this is the web analytics dilemma for many small business owners – too much data and not enough asking/answering questions.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the web is how information can be gleaned about your customers and prospective customers. It’s such a refreshing change from most traditional forms of advertising and marketing that many people rush out to gather and review every bit of data they can. But, inevitably they become frustrated when no epiphany arises even after staring aimlessly at a computer screen and spreadsheet after spreadsheet, chart after chart. At this point, some business owners hire a web analytics consultant. Others simply stop looking at the data. When you run a small business, the focus is often on getting things done. Who can afford to stare at a computer screen for a few hours hoping something magical will appear.
Let me save you the time – no matter how long you stare at your web analytics tool or the dashboard that a consultant has created for you, nothing magical is going to happen. Just like there is no Santa Claus (sorry), there is no web analytics genie. But great insights can be gained if you take the right approach.
Instead of staring at your analytics data or your dashboard and waiting for that “ah hah moment”, think of 3-5 business questions related to your website before looking at your data. Then use your web analytics tool, your dashboard or your consultant to try and answer them and take action on those answers. The questions you ask obviously depend on the business you are in, so we won’t go into too much detail on them here. But you have to start the web analytics process with questions. When you do, you’ll finally start to see the value of the data and how cool it can be to have it.
Mark Richardson, President of Case Design and author of the new book, How Fit is Your Business, talks about the importance of knowing your numbers.
If you are a small business owner interested in growing, what website related numbers might be of interest to you? How about:
-# of new visitors per month
-Conversion rate of visitor to lead or sale
-Revenue per month
Wouldn’t these be valuable to know and track over time? Of course they would!
What questions might you ask about your website? For starters, what about:
-How many unique visitors visit your website each month?
-Is that number going up, down or staying the same?
-How many new visitors do you get vs. returning visitors?
-How long does a new visitor stay on your site?
-How does this compare to a returning visitor?
-Which pages of your site are most popular?
-Which keywords do people use to find you?
-What marketing strategy drives the most new visitors to your site?
Just like the web analytics data itself, your list of questions also has the potential to become overwhelming. Instead of trying for perfection the first time around, start small. Think Nike and “JUST DO IT.”
You could start by trying to find the marketing strategy that drives the most new visitors to your website. How does the quality of those visits compare to the rest of your site (metrics you might use to determine this include: bounce rate, avg time on site, avg page views, etc.)? If the quality of the visitors from this marketing strategy seem comparable to the rest of your site, you might ask – how can I increase it? Can you spend more on this strategy? If you increased your budget for this strategy by 20%, what would happen? Is there something else about the strategy that you could change to further improve the quality of the traffic? Again, the list goes on and on.
Which search engine marketing strategy delivers the best ROI – SEO or Pay Per Click? Some readers of this blog will swear that SEO trumps PPC every time. With good web analytics tool and the right mind(s) asking it questions, you have the ability to answer this question. Should you invest in SEO – you can answer that!
Sometimes you can only appreciate the information provided by a good web analytics program when you consider a scenario where none of the data is available and/or it is more difficult to get – retail. I have a friend that owns a high-end retail store.
When asked questions like:
-How many people visit your store each day?
-What % of them buy something?
-What is the value of one new customer?
My friend cannot give an answer. “How would I ever get that info – do you suggest I count each person that enters the store!? And how can I determine what one new customer is worth when some people spend $10 and others spend $1,000?” Well, if I owned the store, I would try to count and track the traffic entering my store – even if it meant installing a laser counter! I would calculate the % of visitors that make a purchase and I would “bucket” the sales into groups to try and figure out what % of my customers fall into each category – “A” vs. “B” vs. “C”.
Then I would use averages to determine – how much can I afford to pay for a new “A” customer? I’d try and figure out how much I could pay to get a new set of feet through the doors of my store. Think of the marketing and sales strategies you could test if you had this data (if you can’t think of any – call us ASAP)!
What’s the purpose of this tangent?
A good web analytics tool and analyst can provide all of this information and far more – and no fancy lasers or manual counting is required! But the data is worthless unless you a) ask questions relevant to your business and b) take action based on the answers to the questions you ask.
Of course, you can also brush it all off as unimportant – just like my retail business owning friend…
Do what you’ve always done, get what you always got.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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