Analytics?? Sounds like something only techno-geeks would be interested in, right? Even though you’re not “selling” directly from your web site, analytics is an important component of your overall marketing strategy. So let’s take a look at the basic concept and what it can do for you.
Simply defined, analytics collects and measures traffic to your web site. It not only tells you where your visitors come from, it tells you what they do once they arrive, and how long the spend doing it. So how do you make effective use of analytics? Here are four steps you need to take.
- Define your goals
- Choose a provider
- Create a funnel
- Apply what you learn
Define your goals
Before you put analytics to use, you need to know what you’re looking for. Start by defining your goals. Do you want to get new listings? Attract out of town buyers? Get people to contact you? Get subscriptions to your newsletter? Get repeat visitors? Once you know what you want, you can make better use of the information analytics gives you. Analytics can help you refine your marketing messages on a daily basis. It can also provide valuable information you can use if you decide to redesign your web site or even create a new one.
Choose a provider
Google and Yahoo are two of the most widely used analytics platforms. They are easy to use, allowing you to decide what data you need to see and then customizing your reports with just a few mouse clicks. Many web hosting services provide their own analytics. Most have varied levels of service, offering the basic level for free, and charging a fee for more sophisticated, in-depth reports.
Whatever provider you choose should give you both content and social media reports. Content reports help you see which parts of your website are attracting the most readers so you can capitalize on what’s working and create a better outcome for your clients. Social media reports help you analyze how visitors are interacting with the sharing links on your site (like Twitter and Facebook). These reports help you measure the impact of social media on your marketing goals. Integrating your web site and social data provides a comprehensive picture of your site’s effectiveness.
Create a funnel
Picture all your visitors entering your site at the wide-mouth end of a large funnel. Your goal is to get them to stay in the funnel as long as possible. Here’s how that works:
- Level 1: How many visits are you getting?
- Level 2: How many of those visitors go to another page?
- Level 3: How many visitors enter a keyword search?
- Level 4: How many of those visitors clicked through to your MLS listings?
- Level 5: How many visitors took action (left a comment, asked you to contact them, subscribed to your newsletter)?
You also need to know where most of your visitors are dropping off (leaving the funnel). Are visitors looking at your information or reading your blog and then not clicking through to your listings or requesting more information? That tells you what needs work.
Put it all together
Now that you’ve got all this valuable information, what are you going to do with it? It’s pretty easy to click on your analytics page and watch the trend lines go up and down (hopefully more up than down!). But if you’re only using analytics as a feel-good experience, you’re missing the point.
First, find out which pages are getting the most views on your site. Take a good look at this list and ask yourself:
- When was the last time I edited (or even looked at) these pages?
- Is the content on them still fresh and correct?
Your answers to questions should offer some obvious content upgrade ideas. While you’re looking at the existing pages, start thinking about what’s missing. Do you have a call to action (if you want comments or subscribers, for example)? Have you inserted obvious links to other content on your site? Is there a natural flow that encourages people to navigate from one page or area to another?
Once you’ve reviewed your content, take a look at your traffic sources. Analytics will show you a percentage breakdown of your traffic, telling you whether it is direct, referred, or via search engines. Direct means the visitor clicked a bookmark or typed your URL into their browser. Referring means other sites are linking to you. And search engines of course means they found you via Google, Yahoo, or some other search engine.
You might be wise to try out the free version of more than one analytics provider, to determine the format and level of information that meets your needs. Once you’ve made your choice, use analytics regularly to be sure your web site provides the optimal experience that will keep your clients coming back for more.