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Web Analytics: What Am I Measuring and Why?

(updated 2020)


Metrics used for management oversight can vary drastically from one organization to the next. However, there are usually a core set of metrics that emerge as vital to monitoring efforts, within a particular industry. Those metrics become the industry standard that enable equitable comparison across all organizations that operate within the industry. The same is true for measuring and monitoring social media efforts.

Initial development and implementation of any comprehensive monitoring program is time intensive; but, it's usually a worthwhile endeavor. And social media, although vast, it’s not rocket science. If you have ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture, you can implement a successful system for measuring and monitoring social media efforts. The mechanics are relatively straightforward, and there are several tools that help to simplify the process. Platforms such as Google Analytics make it easy to capture the data from your social engagement efforts, and to translate the data into meaningful information.

1. Characteristics
1a. Demographics
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests

Observe the segments that value your product/service the most.

Segmented data provides valuable insight for successful targeted marketing efforts by enabling you to focus efforts on the most profitable customers. It also helps in diagnosing failed efforts, as you can observe correlations between the gender, age group, and interests, such as technology, sports, or cooking. Having this information provides context for strategy shifts, such as discontinuing a marketing effort, or targeting the failed target market with a specific product/service.

1b. Traffic Source
Learn the geographic location of your customers, immediately prior to engaging with your site.

With location insights you can not only identify which regions provide the most traffic to your sites, you can also determine what people tend to like about your product/service, based on region. Given this information, you can create region specific campaigns to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts.

2. Behavior
2a. Visitors and Unique Visitors
Learn about your repeat customers, and the level of new interest your efforts have generated.

Instead of knowing general information, e.g. there were10,000 site visitors last month, you are armed with specific visitor details: how many are repeat customers, how many are new customers, and how this compares to prior periods. This is a key to monitoring the effectiveness of your efforts to reach your target audience.

2b.Bounce Rate
Observe how many visitors land on your site, and find it engaging enough to stick around.

Monitoring performance is never an easy task. However, the exercise is well worth the headache - establishing value puts the organization on the right track, and helps to gain stakeholder buy-in.
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The bounce rate measures how many visitors landed on one page, and did not complete any other action on your site. Analytic tools capture this data and enable you to compare results against prior periods, so that you can determine if marketing campaigns are successful, or if efforts to improve site engagement are necessary. It's important to note that for this metric, resolution of poor performance can involve more technical elements such as site metadata and keyword selection, (see 5. Keywords).

2c. Conversion
Learn how many visitors went beyond just visiting your page, and became an actual customer.

This provides proof of the value of your social media campaign efforts to convert visitors into customers. This metric can track any additional action you value, including newsletter sign ups, advertisements, and purchases. This is particularly helpful for e-commerce sites and advertising campaigns, as it provides a direct correlation between revenue and consumer actions, enabling you to determine the degree of success with precision. 

3. Revenue
Observe the revenue generated by each individual visitor or target segment.

Google Analytics refers to this as “Lifetime Value.” They enable you to view total revenue figures for a selected time period for individual customers, or acquisition channels, (e.g. email, social media, or search results). This enables ready identification of the most profitable customers, so that you can adjust marketing efforts, as necessary.

4. Benchmarking
Establish acceptable performance parameters.

Google Analytics has performance data for more than 1600 industry categories across email, social, referral, organic search, paid search, and display advertisement channels. You can compare the number of total visits, the number of new visitors, and the bounce rates to observe industry trends and to establish performance targets.

5. Keywords
Learn the key terms that potential customers use, and align your organization’s meta data accordingly.

This factor is closely related to search engine optimization, and if you have misaligned your meta data, your keywords are useless. Useless keywords increase the likelihood that you will experience increased bounce rates, which negatively impact your search ranking. Beyond the numbers and percentages, misaligned keywords can frustrate current and potential customers, which may mean reduced positive word-of-mouth and general goodwill.

C-Suite Value
Google Analytics is very flexible, assigning you a unique tracking number to use across all platforms of your social media efforts. It also enables management to set daily, weekly, or monthly alerts so that they can be responsive to the positive or negative impacts of any social media communication or campaign. Google Analytics is not the only platform; however it is free, it is flexible, and it is a good way to maintain lowered overhead for small businesses.

For larger organizations, Google Analytics data can be exported and integrated with other platforms such as Salesforce. Google also offers Measurement Partners, which provides a selection of service providers to help you translate the impact of social efforts, for more complex operations.

The output of analytics platforms provides proof of the value for your outreach and campaign efforts via social media. They help management to keep marketing efforts on the right track, to better target and align their efforts, and to use social media as a driver of organizational growth. The capability, potential benefits, and reasonable price of these analytic tools should make for a harmonious adoption of social media analytics by the C-Suite.