This weekend it’s my little boy’s birthday party – he’ll be eight and he wants a cake in the shape of a massive yellow Lego head, so I’ve just done a rushed whiz around the local supermarket to buy yellow fondant icing, eggs and icing sugar and right now I should be slaving away over a hot stove baking a delicious sponge….

With my task clear in my head, before I left the house this morning I checked the recipe: 175g of self-raising flour, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda, 150g of caster sugar, 2 eggs, 150ml sunflower oil, 150ml semi-skimmed milk and 2 tablespoons of golden syrup.

I’ve not made this particular recipe before so will be following these measurements to the letter, because if I just guessed and threw whatever I thought into the mixing bowl, it could end up a soggy mess or a rock-solid biscuit of a cake, and I’d be in big trouble then.

messy cake baking

Major mummy fail.

Measuring stuff matters. It makes it more likely that the results we’re going for are achieved, rather than just winging it and hoping for the best.

The same is true for our marketing. If I just threw a Facebook post out occasionally, posted a short video to YouTube when I felt like it, and published a blog post once in a while, my marketing recipe would be hit and miss with no clear outcome. Unless I measure what works, I can’t finetune the ingredients to get the results I want.

So how can you measure your marketing without having to have a degree in statistical and a computer programmer on hand?

Measuring the performance of your website:

Do you know how many bookings you have for half-term? What about how many bottles of wine you have to give to guests when they arrive? You probably have these figures at-hand because they make a big difference to the day-to-day running of the business.

What about how many people visited your website last month? Or how long they stayed? Do you know which pages of your website are most popular? How many visitors were returning and how many were brand new to your site?

This type of information helps you understand what’s happening behind the scenes. Let’s say you see a spike in web traffic at the weekend – this might suggest you do your e-marketing on a Saturday or Sunday rather than on a week day because your audience is clearly online over the weekend.

To get started with measuring your web traffic, there are five main pieces of data that you should be monitoring:

  • Number of visitors
  • Most popular content
  • Source of visits
  • Time spent on your website
  • What people are searching for on your site

Google analytics is a free tool that gives you all of this information and more and hopefully you already have it installed on your website so you can look back over time to see how people use your website.

But if not, here’s a quick guide to setting up Google Analytics:

Visit http://www.google.co.uk/analytics/ and sign-in. Navigate to the Admin tab and create a new account using the drop-down menu:

Google analytics dashboard

Complete the fields as indicated and click ‘Get tracking ID’

how to set-up google analytics on your wordpress website

Accept the Google terms of service and you will be presented with your tracking code. This needs to be pasted into the header tag of your website – if you are familiar with editing the content of your website, you may be able to do this yourself, or it might be easier to forward it to your web developer to install.

how to get google analytics code

If you use WordPress, you might this short film helpful showing you step by step how to paste the code into the header of yoursite.

Once Analytics is installed on your website, you’re ready to start tracking user behaviour and using it to give your customers a better experience on your site and your business a better return.

What data to track on Google Analytics:

  • Number of visitors

This is the most basic information and it shows you how many web visitors your site is receiving. To view your web traffic, click the ‘Reporting’ tab in the bar along the top and then Audience>Overview in the left navigation panel.

google analytics audience overview

To compare this month’s traffic with the same month the previous year, click the date in the top right hand corner of the screen, select the start and end dates, then tick ‘Compare to’ and click ‘Previous year’ in the dropdown menu.

This shows whether your website traffic is up compared with the same period last year.

In summary, you want this to be increasing rather than dropping, although you also want to be sure that you’re attracting the right type of traffic.

If you’re running Google Adwords and receive a lot of traffic from your ad but those people don’t stay on your site very long and immediately leave, this will affect your bounce rate. This indicates how qualified your traffic is – a low bounce rate means you’re attracting the right type of people and they like what they see on your website and therefore hang around to read more, while a high bounce rate means visitors hit the ‘back button’ almost immediately because your site isn’t relevant or what they were looking for.

A high bounce rate is bad so even if your web traffic is high, if your bounce rate is 90% this will signal that your site isn’t meeting users’ needs and could affect your site’s position in the search engine results.

To check your bounce rate, scroll down to look at the numbers directly below your line graph on the Audience>Overview screen – the bounce rate is in the second row and should be decreasing (i.e. the % is in green):

understanding bounce rate in google analytics

  • Most popular content

Now you know how many visitors your website is receiving and whether they are sticking around to read your content, it’s helpful to know which pages they’re looking at.

For example, the ‘About’ page on a website is often one of the most viewed pages but also the most neglected as companies add it as an afterthought and include very little promotional information.

If this were the case, making just a few changes to your About page, including links to your special offers or inviting visitors to join your mailing list from this page makes the most of the opportunities.

To find out which pages are most viewed, click Behaviour>Site Content>All pages. If you still have the ‘Compare to’ option selected in the date range above the line graph, you will see views per page year on year.

google analytics how to

If you prefer to simply see which pages were most viewed over the last month, untick the ‘Compare to’ box.

Scroll below the chart to see a table of your website’s pages, sorted by most viewed over the last month.

What does yours show? Which pages are getting the most views? As well as looking at this figure in the first column, entitled ‘Page views’ look to the right and you will see how long users are staying on each page, the bounce rate for that page, and even how many people exit your website from this page.

google analytics list of popular site content

If you see one of your most viewed pages also has a high ‘Exit’ rate, it would be worth looking at how you could keep people engaged on this page. Perhaps add more internal links to keep them on the site for longer, or invite them to take action from this page, perhaps calling you for more information or submitting an online enquiry form.

  • Source of visits

This data, found within Acquisition>Overview tells you exactly where your website visitors are coming from.

where is my web traffic coming from in google analytics

If you’ve paid to have a listing on a directory site, you can see here whether that listing is bringing you any traffic. You can also evaluate any paid advertising, e-marketing and social media activity here to see where most of your visits are coming from.

For more information on any of the sources, simply click the heading in the table:

traffic sources in google analytics

  • Search terms bringing you traffic

Until relatively recently this information was freely available from within Google Analytics, but in 2015 the keywords which brought users to your website are mostly shown as ‘Not provided’.

keywords in google analytics

This information is gold-dust and provides valuable insights to help improve your SEO, so it’s worth taking this next step to ensure you get a full list of search terms bringing you traffic.

To get the full list, you need to connect a Google Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) account to your Analytics account.

To set your account up, visit the Google Console login page and set-up an account.

This useful guide gives you a full walk-through of Google Console if you want to know more.

Once you’re set-up in Google Console, you need to link your accounts – to do this, simply navigate to Acquisition>Search Engine Optimization>Queries and click Set up Search Console Data Sharing at the top and follow the steps:

connecting google search console with analytics

Once your accounts are linked you will see a full list of search queries showing how people are finding your website through organic search.

  • Whether your site performs well on mobile

In 2015 Google officially confirmed that the number of searches being performed on mobile devices outnumbered those on computers. The change to the search algorithm in 2015 which favoured sites which were mobile responsive reinforced this, making it increasingly important to have a website that not only worked on a mobile device but which also gave a good user experience.

There is even a free mobile-friendly test you can take to check whether your site is seen as mobile friendly by the search engines – simply enter your URL and click ‘ANALYZE’ to see how your site stacks up.

google mobile friendly test

As well as using Google mobile-friendly test, it’s worth looking at how the behaviour of users differs depending on which device they’re using.

From within your Google Analytics Reporting tab, click Audience>Mobile>Overview to see which devices your visitors are using to view your website.

google analytics which device visitors use

You should also look at the other columns hereto get a broader picture (bounce rate, average session duration and pages per session) .

If you can see your site has a high bounce rate for users accessing via a mobile device, you should take a look at the user experience and see whether it’s as good as it can be on mobile. Slow load times, poor visibility and tricky navigation will all impact your bounce rate.

Google analytics is an absolute goldmine for data about your website so take some time to get familiar with the dashboard, and regularly reviewing your site’s performance and user behaviour.

Facebook

The number of people seeing posts in their newsfeeds shared by business pages has never been so low – from a buoyant 16% just a couple of years ago the average is now just 1-2%, which can be disheartening for businesses looking to tap into the huge potential of the world’s largest social network.

But don’t despair. Even with generally low organic reach, there are ways to monitor your posts and increase the number of people seeing them using what you learn.

To get started tracking your Facebook activity, navigate to the ‘Insights’ tab on your page:

how to use Facebook insights

Let’s start with something simple but hugely valuable – click ‘Posts’ on the left and you will see when you ‘fans’ are on Facebook.

when are my fans on facebook?

Why is this valuable? Because if you publish all your posts first thing in the morning when you first switch your computer on, you’re potentially missing a massive audience if your fans are actually mostly on Facebook after 9pm when the kids are in bed.

This page also shows you which days your fans are most active on Facebook, so you may want to change your publishing schedule to fit with them.

Scroll below this chart and you will see all posts that you’ve published in the past, with a little orange bar next to each indicating how many people have seen them.

Hopefully there are some big chunky bars showing that your post really resonated with people – look closely at these posts, and click the title of those you want to explore further to find out more.

This brings up your post, with all the analytics information right there:

Facebook individual post analytics

The basic lesson is to do more of what’s working – identify which posts are reaching most people and try and create more content like that.

Right now, videos have the highest organic reach on Facebook, but a couple of years ago it was all about including images with posts. By keeping an eye on your own Facebook insights, you can identify any changes and react accordingly.

Before we move onto more detailed analytics, take a quick look at the types of people reading your Facebook content. Click the ‘People’ heading within your Insights dashboard:

understanding Facebook user demographics

Here we can see the gender of your ‘fans’, their ages, and even where they’re from. This detail can help you hone your message so it resonates more with your audience, or it can flag up any issues with attracting the wrong type of customer. If you sell the latest cutting edge tech and your Insights data suggests your audience are all aged over 65, you may need to work on attracting the right type of audience who is most likely to purchase from you.

Not that people aged over 65 never buy tech, but it’s about the numbers – we’re looking for people most likely to buy from us so we need to be engaging with our ‘ideal customer’ on Facebook, not just anyone.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand who is seeing your posts – click the ‘Reach’ heading on the left to see a quick snapshot. You’ll most likely see some peaks and troughs here, depending on what you’ve published recently, but this doesn’t tell us a lot. We need to know exactly which posts are working and with whom.

It’s never as easy as simply presenting us with exactly what we want just from one place is it? Of course not, so instead we need to download a quick spreadsheet showing exactly what we need to know.

Click ‘Export’ at the top of this page:

how to export insights data from Facebook

Then select the date range of your choice – I normally do the previous month so from the 1st to the 31st (or whatever) – and click ‘Post data’ before hitting ‘OK’ and ‘Export Data’.

exporting insights from Facebook

Now to make sense of all that data. The Key Metrics worksheet along the bottom should give you everything you need, starting with Post Reach by People who Like Your Page:

facebook insights in excel spreadsheet

This shows the number of people who like your page and who have seen or engaged with a post. Why does this matter? It tells you not only who’s seen you post, but also shows you the quality of your audience – if most of your audience isn’t engaging with your content, then you need to look at attracting more quality likes, but if the number of fans seeing your content is high, this suggests your audience is interested in what you have to say.

Good news.

Another key metric to look at here is the Negative Feedback. You’re always going to get people hiding your posts and ‘unliking’ your page – their preferences and circumstances change and there’s not much you can do about it.

But if a lot of people react negatively to one of your posts, you may want to review why and learn from it – Facebook uses it as a ranking factor for future posts so it’s worth reviewing.

The ‘Lifetime Negative Feedback’ metric is hidden in your spreadsheet (where else?!) in column S here:

how to understand negative feedback in facebook insights

Don’t look at this figure in isolation – if your post reached 100k people and received ten negative reactions it’s not as bad as it reaching 100 people and receiving ten negative reactions, so look at this figure in relation to lifetime reach.

Email marketing

Still with me? Before I get back to my cake-baking and fondant icing, let’s take a look at tracking the performance of your email marketing.

We know that email marketing is one of the most effective ways to build loyalty, drive sales and grow your market, but how do you evaluate whether your weekly emails are hitting the spot or being lost in the wasteland of a trash bin, or worse, spam folder?

Having a large database isn’t enough to guarantee success – you need to know your messages are getting read and generating results, otherwise your time and effort is wasted.

What to measure in email marketing?

The most basic metric is the open rate as this shows how many people are opening your email, and this is influenced mostly by what you choose to put in your subject line so test different approaches and measure the open rate to see how each performs.

The open rate is normally very easy to see in your email marketing platform, whether you use Mailchimp, AWeber, Constant Contact or something else.

In Mailchimp, the open rate is provided in your Campaigns dashboard:

Mailchimp open rate and click through rate

Here you can also see your click through rate. If you would like to know more, and I hope you do, you can click ‘View report’ to see more information about exactly who is opening your emails and what they’re clicking.

One of my favourite features of Mailchimp is the clickmap which shows the email you sent, with annotations showing which links were clicked the most.

This makes it really easy to see which links are resonating most with your readers – is it the offer links that get the best response? Or the blog posts? Maybe it’s videos that you share in your email that get the highest click through rate.

Whatever the data shows, this can be used to improve future email marketing by giving your audience more of what they enjoy reading about.

As well as the performance of each individual email, it’s also an idea to track the size of your list. Some unsubscribes are inevitable with each email you send, and these are a good thing as they clear out the people who would never buy from you anyway and make your list more representative of your customers.

But if you’re not constantly building your list, you will see a gradual decline in subscribers over time which is going to influence the results you get from each e-marketing campaign.

To see how your list is performing in Mailchimp, click the ‘Lists’ tab in the header, then the title of the list you’d like view, then Stats>Overview:

tracking list growth in mailchimp

Scroll down on this page to see how the size of your list has changed over time, whether your subscribers are accessing your email via mobile or desktop, and even where your subscribers live.

list demographics in mailchimp

Conclusion:

Not regularly checking the effectiveness of your marketing activity is like trying to bake a cake without a recipe and a set of scales – it’s completely random whether it’s going to deliver the results you want or a complete mess. You might get lucky and see some good results, but you will rarely know how you achieved them or be able to recreate them.

More likely you will continue to sporadically produce content and get sales, without having any idea where they came from or why they converted.

Give yourself an unfair advantage and start monitoring the outcomes of your marketing – get to know which keywords are bringing your traffic to your website and focus on growing content around these areas, or developing content around new target phrases.

Investigate which posts are most popular with your fans on Facebook and publish more of them. Keep an eye on your email open and click-through rates to fine-tune your content in line with what your customers more enjoy.

I just wish that creating a giant Lego head cake was as simple… wish me luck.

What are the biggest insights you have gained from looking more closely at your marketing? What discoveries have you made that have improved your marketing for the better? Share in the comments.

And if you find this post helpful, please share on your social networks and leave a comment – thank you x

PS Here’s the finished birthday cake – ahem. Stop laughing.

lego head cake