How do you know if the time you’re spending on your online presence is worth it? Thankfully, there are ways to track and measure the value of your online presence. Most major social networks provide analytics and statistics for businesses. For your website, Google Analytics is a free and powerful tool for measuring the performance of your website.
Start at the beginning with a communications plan
There’s a lot that can be measured online. Therefore, it’s important that you’re measuring the right thing. To know what you need to measure, it’s important to look at your online communications plan.
Your online communications plan should outline your goals, your measurable objectives and the steps you’ll be taking to achieve those objectives (called strategies and tactics). If you don't already have a communications plan, you can have a look at our example in the article Planning your online communications.
Examples of things you may want measure online are:
- The percentage of people who click a link and then make a booking
- The percentage of people who view certain pages on your website
- How engaging your social media posts are
- An increase in engagement with a specific demographic
- The number of views on a page on your website and the amount of time people spend on that page
- The number of unique people who visit your website and where they’re based geographically
Your organisation may offer a way for people to book online. It’s quick and easy for the user and your administration staff. Encouraging clients to use this tool helps you save time and money. Therefore, you may want to:
- Create a communications campaign that increases the number of bookings you receive online.
- Currently, you receive 15 online bookings a week but you would like to increase that to 30.
- When people book online, they are presented with a confirmation page on the website that can only be seen by people after they have confirmed their booking.
- This means, that you can measure the success of the campaign by monitoring the number (or percentage increase) of views that confirmation has.
- You can also find out from Google Analytics and Facebook how many people have made bookings after a Facebook post.
Once you have determined what you’re going to measure, you need to work out the how.
Measuring your online presence’s health
Your online presence is made up of a suite of different channels such as your website, your social media accounts, online directories and advertising. Each channel (your website, blog, Facebook Page, e-mail etc) needs to be operating at its peak so that when you deliver your call-to-action, they’re ready to provide what you need to achieve your goals.
Every channel is different and will need specific actions taken to improve them. They also have different ways to measure them. It’s also worth mentioning here that unless you have the time and resources to continually improve each channel individually, it may be worth focusing on just two or three that are most important.
One of the most widely used tools to measure traffic and interactions on websites is Google Analytics. It's free to use but there can be a learning curve to understanding it and setting it up beyond the basics. The basic functionality will give you information about how people visit your website, how many pages they visit, and even what part of the world they come from. But if you would like to track more advanced user actions, you will need to investigate setting up goals, events and other trackers.
Although it takes time, properly setting up Google Analytics can give you rich insights into how people use your site and how you can improve it to get the most out of it.
There are many websites and blogs out there that will help you understand Google Analytics. Of course the best place to start is the Google Analytics website.
Each social network will provide you with varying amounts of information. There are also a plethora of tools such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial and Radian6 which allow you to manage your social media from a single source along with powerful insights and analytics tools.
Below is some information on the default analytics you can get from various social networks. It should be noted that social media and social networks are rapidly evolving and it is worth checking with each network to see if new features have been added.
This huge social network is constantly working to provide businesses good tools to use their social network to promote their work. Their advertising platform is powerful and provides detailed insights. But if you're not looking to pay any money, you can still get good data about how well your regular activity is going. Their measurement dashboard named 'Facebook Insights' can give you information about engagement, what times your audience is online, and even limited insights on competitors. For more information on business tools on Facebook, visit the Marketing on Facebook page.
Outside of advertising, it’s hard to pin down Instagram analytics without a third party tool. However, you will be able to gauge your performance by the likes and comments your account receive. There may be cases where your content will be “regramed” by another account however, Instagram doesn’t offer a ‘share’ function like Facebook and this may be rare.
Twitter analytics can be accessed at http://analytics.twitter.com where you’ll be able to see performance information such as impressions, engagement and engagement rate for your tweets. For Twitter, there may also be other tools you can use to track hashtags, provide insight on your followers and more that aren't included in the basic tools provided by Twitter.
Done well, email and e-newsletters are a valuable channel to communicate on. Read our article on email newsletters for some in more depth information, but a few basic things to keep an eye on:
- Open rates: This is the percentage of people who are emailed actually open the email. To improve your open rates, Mailchimp has some tips and industry benchmarks on their website which are worth noting.
- Click rates: How many people who open your email click on links or articles within your email. If there’s a call-to-action or an option to go to your website, you’ll want to know how high this is. If you’re using Google Analytics on your website, you can also try using Tags which help you track individual links or actions coming from your e-mails.
- Bounce rates: This can tell you the quality of your list. If you have a lot of email addresses are 'bouncing', it means that the email no longer works and it's time to remove it from your list. While it may affect your list numbers, it will likely improve your other rates. It's better to have quality data instead of continually sending to dead email addresses.
What adjustments can we make?
To improve your channels, each of them needs to be considered individually. Fine tuning each one by themselves will result in a much healthier and effective online presence as a whole.
If you’re faced with a channel that is underperforming, here are a few ideas on what you can change to test if it has a positive effect on your measurements:
- Time of day (e.g. does out-of-hours posting work best?)
- Type of content (e.g. photos, blogs, videos – try different content to see what gets the most engagement)
- Reduce the sales pitch
- Aim for more engagement on social media
- Catering for your audience
Download a web analytics template
To help you get started with recording you online presence, you can download our web analytics template which includes tabs for different types of campaigns and sources of data. While this template isn't exhaustive and will need to be customised for your organisation, it identifies some of the main ways to measure you online performance.