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How to Track and Measure Web Analytics

With the right metrics in mind, you can be strategic with data analysis and create a plan that makes your marketing much more effective.

An illustration showing three people around a large computer monitor holding tools. Web analytics.
With the right strategy, you can interpret past data to make effective decisions about the future. [sorbetto / Getty]

Bill Reed is a director of digital strategy at Salesforce, and works with marketers on digital strategy, data, and web analytics.

When I talk to marketers, one of the biggest questions I get is about web analytics. Analytics have become a top priority for business leaders who are looking to build data-driven strategies to identify what’s working and what’s not. 

In the early days of my web career, I would just slap Google Analytics code on a site I was building and think to myself, “Bam! Analytics done!” Raise your hand if you’ve done that (or still do)

Luckily, I learned my lesson about how to be strategic with my data analysis and create a plan that gives insights and can make our online marketing much more effective.

Check out some of my tips and strategies below. 

What are web analytics?

It’s always good to get back to basics. Analytics is a set of tools that answers questions and provides insights. A proper strategy allows you to act like a detective and get to the bottom of what happened and make decisions about what to do next.

If you are thinking about the data in the right way, your web analytics platform isn’t just providing historical data (e.g. 200,000 page views). Instead, you can use the tool to interpret past data to make effective decisions about the future (e.g. prospects are 20% more likely to convert on our guided tour from the Pricing page).

You have to figure out what you care about in order to know how to utilize your analytics to its full potential.

Like most things in marketing, you have to approach your decisions with a goal in mind and a real strategy. You have to figure out what you care about in order to know how to utilize your analytics to its full potential.

How do I develop a web analytics strategy?

One of the challenges with implementing a web analytics strategy is that every business is different, and has different goals, challenges, and metrics. It’s tough to choose a one-size-fits-all answer to tell you what to care about and what to start tracking, but there are some great practices to lead you in the right direction.

First off, what does your business care about:

  • Making money? 
  • Getting a list of email subscribers?
  • People downloading and installing your app?

Figure out what those key metrics should be so that you can work out the value of what makes you successful. 

It boils down to: Find out what information you want to know and then figure out how to track that.

I’d suggest working backward from your end goal. That will lead you to an idea of what data you should care about.

Let’s say our end goal is to sell a marketing automation product. So, thinking backward from that I can come up with this sort of flow:

  • We want to sell our product. How do we go about it? A prospect talks to a sales rep.
  • How do they get connected with a sales rep? Create the opportunity for a conversation.
  • How do you start a conversation? Connect with our prospects and get their contact information.
  • How do you get them to want to give you their contact information? Give them helpful information.

This is super simplified, but it gives me a general idea of what our business cares about and helps me start figuring out what data to track to meet our goals.

Based on the above answers, the things I should care about tracking are:

  • Form conversions
  • CTAs/information that is most useful for our users
  • Finding out which high value CTAs resonate most with our audience and create the opportunity to begin a conversation.

How do I put data analytics into practice?

“Come on, just give me an example of what you’re doing!”

Actually, I’ll give you two examples of how we set up web analytics tracking on our site to help us make more strategic decisions.

Example 1: Audience Tracking

We have two audiences that we care about and want to interact with:

  1. Prospects: people who don’t use our product or are looking for a new solution
  2. Customers: people who have bought our product and want to know how to get the most out of it

We have different business goals depending on whether someone is a prospect or a customer.

We want prospects to visit our product pages, our pricing page, and then go to a high value CTA to convert and begin a conversation with a sales rep.

We want customers to engage with learning content, utilize the search functionality, and be able to self-serve so they can find the information they’re looking for.

So, how do I know if I’m being successful for those two subsets of users? Enter our web analytics platform!

We created a customer dimension in Google Analytics that tracks whether someone is a customer or a prospect, so now I’m able to sort users. Now, I can report on what customers versus prospects are doing on the site.

We’ve been able to make some key decisions on how to position content for different users.

This has given a ton of insight into the usage of the website by customers and prospects. We’ve been able to make some key decisions on how to position content for different users. Plus, we can report more accurately on actual usage of different sections of the site for the type of user it’s created for.

Keeping our goals in mind for each type of user — and being able to track what they’re doing and where the disconnects happen — we’ve been able to build a site that meets the needs for both our customers and prospects. 

Example 2: CTA Metrics

A big part of our business strategy is putting CTAs on our site to give users helpful information and get them to convert on a form.

We really wanted to know which CTAs people are interacting with so we can see which offers are most successful. Hmm, I guess we could use our analytics platform to start figuring that out! We can also use it to see at which point people are clicking on a CTA and if we have points in our user journey that cause a user to bounce.

We’ve created custom event tracking that shows what offers are being clicked and from what pages. We even discovered some CTAs on our site that nobody was clicking (womp womp).

We’ve set up different event categories because our marketing team and customer success teams care about different types of CTAs and want to see how different types of users are interacting with the site.

By setting up these events, we’ve been able to break down which CTAs are the most popular on the site and on which page a user is most likely to interact with each type of offer.

Using our analytics platform, our team can dig deeper into data, segment it based on the type of user, and then see the success of programs on our site.

Since generating form completions is our bread and butter, it’s been great for us to understand how pages are being interacted with. From there, we optimize our form conversion rate and generate more interaction with high-value assets.

Our testing and strategic approach to analytics help us understand the user experience on our site.

Add web analytics to your toolkit

The truth is that web analytics is a super important part of a marketers toolkit. Using our analytics platform, our team can dig deeper into data, segment it based on the type of user, and then see the success of programs on our site.

This is a small view of how we use analytics to dig deeper and make decisions. But I hope it gets your imagination going! Building out custom tracking in your analytics platform is a huge part of being successful and collecting meaningful data.

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