Data is everywhere. With the overwhelming data collection abilities of modern online marketing analytics tools, it’s easy to drown yourself in stats.
Luckily, when you know how to analyze the data, you can cut through the noise and pull out the most meaningful and impactful insights.
In digital marketing, there are really only several sources of information that you want to look at when analyzing marketing efforts – These are:
- Onsite Traffic Performance
- Organic Search Traffic
- Paid Search Traffic
- Social Media Performance
- YouTube Performance
Depending on your marketing strategy, only some of these will be relevant to you. There are also sub-categories of each one of these areas such as Google Mybusiness, or some other video platforms that you can get traffic from other than YouTube.
But for brevity’s and simplicity’s sake, this article focuses on the main analytics that you should care about for online marketing.
To create a central hub to analyze and visualize all of your critical online marketing data, checkout this list of the best KPI dashboards.
Step 1: Analyze Onsite Traffic Performance
Onsite traffic performance refers to how user’s interact with your website once they’re on the page. This is super relevant to you as a marketer because you want to know how to improve your site moving forward.
While there are many tools out there that can analyze website traffic, we’re going to focus on a super common and free platform, Google Analytics.
Google Analytics integrates directly onto your website using a tracking tag that is inputted into the site code.
Once the tracking tag is in place, Google Analytics will track every user that uses your site. The data collected includes the number of user’s on the site, where they came from, some demographic information, what user’s are doing on the site, and whether they took any meaningful actions (such as purchasing!)
When looking at web traffic on Google Analytics, you should pay attention to the following metrics:
- Users (how many people came to your site)
- Device (how user’s are browsing your site)
- Channel (where users came to your site from on the internet)
- Bounce Rate (percentage of users that left before doing anything on your site)
- Pages Per Session (average number of pages people browsed once clicking through to the site)
- Session Duration (average amount of time users stay on the site)
- Goal Completions (How many people took a meaningful action on the website such as purchase, submit contact form, or click to email)
- Conversion Rate (percentage of people who took a meaningful action on your site vs. the total number of users)
These metrics are the most important because they reflect the pathway towards your ultimate goal – conversion.
Onsite Acquisition Metrics
You want to know how many users you get and where they came from to ensure that a pipeline of prospects are actually coming to the site.
The browsing device matters a lot because users generally interact differently on mobile than on desktop. You want to make sure you’re serving the right user experience for the user’s device of choice.
The acquisition channel tells you where your traffic is coming from. This is very important to determine which offsite analytics (organic, paid, social, YouTube) are most important to you and which you should be analyzing next.
Onsite Behaviour Metrics
Onsite behaviour tells you if users are, well, using your website the way it is intended. Bounce rate tells you if people find your site intriguing, relevant and engaging. Further, bounce rate is one of the metrics used by google to decide how you rank for certain keywords. So high bounce rate could lead to less organic traffic.
Pages per session tells you how much people are engaging with your site. If users are clicking around and viewing different pages, it stands to reason that they are interested in your content/brand etc.
Session duration can also give you insight into whether people are thoughtfully consuming content or rather browsing and bouncing.
Onsite Conversion Metrics
The conversion metrics are the ones that you really care about. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that your marketing investments are paying off.
Google analytics allows you to setup a “goal event” by putting another tag on your site. The goal event triggers when someone takes the action which you tagged, and it will be recorded in your Google Analytics account – you can consider this a conversion.
Conversions tell you if users are actually following through on the thing you want them to do. Maybe that thing is buy something on the online store, maybe it’s click on an affiliate link, it could be email, call tracking, newsletter signup or really anything you want.
Conversion rates gives you insight into how many conversions you can expect out of the total number of users on your site. This is useful for setting traffic acquisition targets or identifying opportunities for conversion optimizations.
You can even your conversion event data into your sales prospecting system to bring it full circle and optimize your sales processes.
Once you have a grasp on onsite analytics, you can go even further up the funnel and analyze offsite traffic.
Step 2: Analyze Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic refers to the the users that find your content on search engines and click through to your site.
Organic search traffic could come from Google, Bing, Duckduck Go, or really any search engine out there. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on Google as most sites will find that +90% of your search traffic will come from the google search engine.
When you post content on the internet, search engines will automatically “crawl” your site, and index the content so people can find it. The advantage of this process is that it is automatic and free. The downside is that it can be very competitive.
In analyzing organic search traffic, you want to look at two different areas:
- How your own search traffic is performing
- The competitive landscape
You can see how your traffic is performing by looking at the Google Search Console.
The two main metrics to track for your own search performance are:
The impressions will tell you if your content is showing up for keyword searches with adequate search volume, and high enough in the search engine results to actually be seen. The more impressions you get, the better your search rankings tend to be.
Clicks indicate whether people actually click through to your website from the search engine result. This is ultimately the result that you want as impressions are only as good as the number of clicks that they generate.
To get more impressions and clicks, you will have to dig a little deeper to see how your content stacks up against your competitors. You can do a competitive analysis on your content topic by using a tool called Ahrefs.
To do a competitive search analysis, pick a search term that you are trying to rank for and look at these key metrics:
- Search Volume
- Average page position
- Total sites that are ranking for the search term with relevant content
Search volume is relatively straight-forward: the average number of times that a term is searched for on Google in a month. This metric will give you an idea of how much potential traffic could come from a particular search term. Generally speaking, the highly searched search-terms will be the most competitive.
The average position of a given page on the search engine results page will tell you how much google favours that content for that search term. You can see how your page is stacking up against all the other pages that rank for that term, or you can see how a competitor’s page is stacking up against yours.
When you take the search volume and the average position of all the pages that rank for that search term, you can get a better idea of the total number of relevant sites that are ranking for that search term. This can give you an idea of how how “competitive” a search term really is.
By “relevant”, I mean that the pages indexed on the search engine results have:
- titles that answer the user search intent
- meta descriptions that answer the user search intent
- the actual content on the page answer the user search intent
As you can see, the user search intent is the guiding force in all of this.
Content that best answers the user’s search intent will end the user’s search journey and perform well in the search rankings.
To get the competitive analysis down, you have to do a little bit of reasoning to see how hard it will be to rank for a given search term. For example, if pages 1 through 5 on the google search results are all providing super relevant and well written articles in response to that search query, it may be very hard to get your page in the mix.
On the contrary, if only a handful of search results are really on topic, google is looking for more relevant content to rank – and it might as well be yours!
Analyzing the search performance of your pages and the competitive search landscape together, you can start to get a picture of where your opportunities lie for increasing your organic search traffic.
The next step is to dive into the organic search traffic’s close cousin – paid search traffic.
Step 3: Analyze Paid Search Traffic
Paid search traffic refers to the traffic that you can get from taking out ads on search engines. Like organic traffic, there is a competitive process to rank your listing higher than your competitors for given keywords. However, the difference is that paid search involves an additional bidding process for each key term.
Again, for the purposes of this article we’re going to look at Google Search Ads (although there are other search engine advertising platforms such as Bing which operate on similar principles).
Here’s the quick and dirty of how google search ads work:
How Google Search Ads Work
Advertisers can take out a listing for their products and services on Google’s ad network. The ads show up on the search results page when a user searches for a keyword that is relevant to the ad. A bidding process determines which ads show up on the top of the search results (or if they even show up at all).
Google’s algorithm serves the ads that have a combination of the highest bid and the most “relevant” result for the given search term. This means that, as an advertiser, you have a vested interest in both bidding for an appropriate amount on the keywords associated with your product or service, but also to make sure your ads, landing pages, and user experience are google-friendly and highly relevant to the user’s search intent.
When analyzing paid search traffic, here are the most relevant stats:
- Cost per Click
- Cost per conversion
You can find these stats directly in the Google Ads platform.
Impressions tell you how many times your ad was served on the search results page. Clicks tell you how many times people were compelled enough by your ad copy to actually click through. If you’re getting lots of impressions but no clicks, maybe your ad copy needs revamping or the keywords you’re showing for aren’t quite relevant to your product or service.
Cost per click refers to the average amount you pay every time someone clicks on an ad. This is a reflection of your bidding strategy and the “relevancy” of your ads in the eyes of google. Less relevant ads will cost more to out bid competitors in the search results auction.
Conversions are especially important to track for paid search because of the capability to feed conversion data back into the ad algorithm.
When you set up a tracking tag that records conversions for specific action on the website (ex. e-commerce purchase) google’s algorithm can use that conversion to connect the ad that led to the conversion. It will then automatically adjust ad-serving settings to serve more winning ads to relevant audiences to maximize conversions.
Therefore, conversion tracking is more than a diagnostic tool and can directly impact the overall effectiveness of your ad campaign.
Cost per conversion shows you the total cost of clicks that eventually led to a conversion. As not everyone that clicks on an ad will convert, this metric can show you the cost of generating leads. In the final analysis, you want to make sure that advertising costs aren’t eating too much margin on each sale.
If your cost per conversion is too high, you could optimize the sales funnel for increased conversions, or try to reduce your cost per click by adjusting the bidding strategy.
Once you have your paid traffic channels dialed in for high margin sales, you can take a look at your social media stats.
Step 4: Analyze Social Media Traffic
Social media platforms all have their own metrics, jargon, and unique way of analyzing data. However, they mostly all come down to the same metrics:
Social media posts are served on people’s feeds as they’re scrolling down the list. When your post shows up on someone else’s feed, that is recorded as an impression.
When someone stops on the post and interacts with it somehow, that is recorded as an engagement. Engagements are typically the interactions that are possible on any given platform – likes, comments etc. On the surface, engagements seem like vanity metrics (only existing to boost your morale) but some of them can play into the algorithm’s tendency to serve your posts higher up and more frequently on people’s feeds.
If your social post includes a link of some sort, the user’s interaction with that link will be recorded as a click. This metric indicates your post’s ability to inspire action and drive traffic to your website. In contrast to engagements, clicks drive actual momentum towards conversion and boost the post’s position in people’s feeds.
Follows are imperative to growing your social media presence. When someone follows your page, they have subscribed to have your posts show up in their feed. This is the most reliable way of getting your content in front of their face organically.
Shares mean that someone liked your post so much that they decided to propagate it onto their own feed. This is another great way to spread the reach of your content beyond the feeds of your subscription base. One good share on a high-profile social media account could mean tons of exposure and new followers for your page.
Step 5: Analyze YouTube Performance
YouTube is now one of the main ways that people consume content. The platform is sort of an amalgamation between social media and a search engine. Because of its rich-content format, people can use it to both find the answers to their problems and consume entertainment.
Because of its dual-pronged nature, its important to look at both the competitive landscape of the search terms you’re going after, as well as looking at the performance of your videos.
Like google search, YouTube’s algorithm pushes videos to the top of recommended video feeds that have the most engagement. Engagement is mainly measured by these metrics:
- Click Through Rate
- Audience Retention
You can find these stats directly within the YouTube Studio Dashboard.
Views are the total number of people that clicked through to your video and watched it for a length of time. This will give you a idea of the absolute volume potential that your videos have.
The click through rate indicates how many people click through to your video when they see your thumbnail. Click throughs are an important indication to YouTube that your content is relevant to the user.
Audience retention is also a huge algorithm driver for YouTube. The videos that can keep people watching longer will be pushed higher in the search and recommended video feeds.
Likes are another way for people to show their appreciation for your content and it also influences YouTube to push your content higher in the feed.
Your subscribers are key to your overall YouTube strategy. This is the number of people that like your content so much that they decided to intentionally throw your channel into the mix of content that is pushed to the top of their feeds. In a way, subscribers denote the potential reach that your videos have for a given audience.
By analyzing these stats, you can start to get an idea of how “healthy” your YouTube channel is and how much traffic you can expect to generate.
There you have it, focus on these 5 main areas of online marketing traffic and you can start to see how well your entire mix is performing. Like I mentioned, you don’t need all of these traffic sources to have a successful online marketing strategy, but the more hooks you have in the water, the more fish you’re able to catch.
Additionally, other sources of traffic are out there. However, these are the main ones so organic search traffic, paid search traffic, social media performance and YouTube performance are good places to start. Once you’re driving traffic to your website, take a look at onsite analytics for the full picture.
With consistent effort, a basic understanding of the stats you’re looking at, and a little reasoning, you can start to analyze your online marketing for increased traffic, viewership, and ultimately revenue.