Two Approaches to Measuring Your Website’s Success
Question: What’s the best way to measure the success of my website, and whether I’m getting a sufficient return on my investment?
We all spend time and money marketing our work, online and off, and nagging questions always remain: How do I know whether any of this is working? What works best? What should I do more of and what should I abandon? Is any of this actually producing enough income to justify the time and money I spend?
These are all really important questions. Analyzing your “return on investment” – known to web-marketers and bean-counters as “ROI” – is a crucial part of an effective web-marketing strategy.
Effectively measuring your marketing ROI is accomplished by combining two contradictory ideas: The first is that the answers you seek are in the data. The second is that, to find the answer, you can’t rely on data. It’s rather mind-bending.
The Answer is in the Data
This way of measuring ROI goes like this: Marketing on the web has the distinct advantage of producing lots of data that can immediately correlate to what is working and what isn’t. We all have free and immediate access to zillions of dollars worth of free statistics via Google Analytics, bitly and similar services. Each marketing activity can be tracked and its success can be measured. And it works.
Get to know Google Analytics. Look at the sources of your traffic and how the spikes in activity correlate with your marketing pushes. Look at where traffic is coming from, and when. Look at what visitors are looking at, and for how long. Really get in there. Look for patterns. Determine how you can encourage more good activity.
Also, get and use a bitly account. Track all the links you post to your social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (even track links to other websites beyond your own). You can even track the activity on other people’s bitly links – just add a “+” symbol to the end of any bitly link and you can see heaps of data about that link. What are you and others saying that people find interesting?
Many other common websites offer activity statistics. Facebook offers great “Insights for Pages.” Twitter offers information on your “Interactions.” Try to get into the mentality of looking for correlation – what actions on your part lead to good outcomes? The data is free and everywhere, so use it: You have free and immediate access to information that eluded marketers for decades.
Ignore the Data!
Then there’s the other side of ROI analysis: “The answer ignores the data.” In this analysis method, the sum is more than the parts. In other words, paying too much attention to the minutia has little bearing, because marketing is a cumulative endeavor.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that a marketing message has to be repeated 17 times before it’s consciously accepted by the viewer. Let’s look at Coca-Cola advertising. You see dozens of Coke ads in many different formats every day. At some point, you go to the store and buy a Coke. Does it matter at all which of those ads finally triggered your purchase? Does Coke even care? The value of marketing comes not in identifying which exact ad leads to the final sale, but in knowing that the sale came from the accumulation of all the ads over time.
In the midst of being eyeball-deep in measuring Dripbook’s marketing data, I shared my experience with a creative director friend. I mentioned how much data there is to measure web marketing and I imagined that his job of producing large television campaigns must be tough, because there’s no way to measure the success of expensive 30-second spots.
He replied, “What are you talking about? We spend $12 million in a television market and then measure the percentage increase in our client’s cereal sales in the following week. It’s easy to measure.”
And he’s correct – the whole campaign’s effectiveness can be successfully measured even without knowing which exact ad worked for which exact person at which time. Marketing is cumulative, and no one part of a marketing campaign tells the full story.
The ROI Combo
As small business owners, we can’t afford to rely on just one of these two completely valid methods of measuring our marketing ROI.
We must pay attention to the data, because our time and money are just too valuable to ignore it, and we live in an amazing age with huge amounts of free data analysis tools at the ready. And we need to remember that just like it is for Coca-Cola, marketing is cumulative for us, too. An art director may click on an email campaign of yours not just because of that exact campaign, but because of a prior campaign or some other marketing effort.
To effectively measure ROI, be sure to pay great attention to the details – but know when to keep an eye on the big picture.
What about you? How do you measure your ROI?
Alex Wright is a creator and the Creative Director of Dripbook – a sourcebook and web-based portfolio management tool for commercial artists. Alex spends his days working to make technology help people. Alex lives in Austin, Texas. Dripbook
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