It’s no secret that small- to medium-sized companies don’t have the same resources to support data centers and tracking measures that the big conglomerates do. In the past, those businesses could get away with gut-instinct marketing tactics, and when things were working, the owners could “feel it.” Foot traffic was an explicit identifier, as well, and shortcut solutions like social advertising took the guesswork out of targeting an engaged audience.
In 2020, however, when many were staying at home at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses were forced to operate online more than ever. And questions like, “Is my website good enough?” and “How do I know what is working?” became common in many routine C-suite meetings. And, to add salt to the wound, in 2021, Apple released an update that sent the self-serve social advertising industry into a never-ending spiral. Still, to this day, business owners are struggling to identify their audiences and learn how to market themselves like their bigger competitors.
But surely, a small- to medium-sized business can’t track the same level of data as big names, like Coca-Cola, Walmart or BestBuy. So what can you track as the owner of a small- to medium-sized business? And where should you start? Furthermore, what metrics should you be monitoring? Google Analytics, possibly one of the most-used tracking tools out there, is a cluster of hundreds of metrics. The busy dashboard will send your eyes rolling to the back of your head before you feel like you’re learning anything useful about your business.
To be clear, what you should be tracking largely depends on your unique business objectives and current running initiatives. Tracking the leads from social looks very different than tracking the ones from traditional means. That being said, below are some basic tools that every business owner can set up and use, along with some important data points that can be tracked with each.
1 – Google Analytics
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Google Analytics tops the list of important tools for tracking your marketing efforts. Despite the previously mentioned bloated dashboards, it truly is one of the most powerful free tracking tools for monitoring the success of your website. The dashboards are robust because the number of metrics they collect is incomparable to most other tools. As you grow and start using more data metrics to gauge that business growth, you’ll have the historical data you need to hit the ground running. Until then, you likely need to pay attention to only a few metrics.
Users/unique monthly visitors
This represents the total number of unique visitors that use your site each month. Monitoring this metric can help you understand how many individual people you attract.
Total number of sessions
This is the total number of times someone pulled your website up. To clarify, this number is usually larger than the total number of users because the same person can load your site multiple times each month. Looking at your sessions in relation to your total users will help you gauge your audience’s interest in your site.
This rate is the ratio, represented as a percentage, of your engaged sessions to your total sessions. In layman’s terms, this is the presence of your sessions that seemed to be active sessions. Instead of a session where someone opened your page, left it open in a separate tab and forgot about it without ever really interacting with it. If your engagement rate is low, you may be experiencing a lot of fake traffic, which is skewing your other scores; your website may be uninteresting once loaded; or your advertising might be sending you the wrong target audience.
Time spent on page
The total time spent on each page can give you some constructive insights into whether or not your pages are engaging. If people leave in a hurry, your webpage may need more context. Or there may be so much clutter or such a slow load speed that they bounce. Pro tip: The average healthy time on page score is generally 50-60 seconds, though it varies based on industry.
One feature that makes Google Analytics so robust is the customized metrics you can set up within it. Tracking conversions directly inside of GA can be handy to see within the same dashboard of user traffic. Getting this setup frequently takes a little help from a web developer. However, the extent you can go with it is virtually limitless. At first, we recommend basic conversion tracking. So that would be the total number of email list signups, total sales or total times someone filled out your web form. As you grow your data tracking arsenal, you could get this setup to track precisely how many conversions came from all advertising tactics. For instance, your social ads, Google ads and even your direct mail campaign.
2 – Social channels
For most of you, this is probably the one bit of marketing data tracking that’s most intuitive. As many businesses have been experimenting with their online social presence, they have been tracking the performance of each post. If you do that, awesome. But do you ever take the time to reflect on your social channel as a whole?
Number of likes/follows
Likes and follows are a controversial topic. Ultimately, they don’t matter when looking at individual posts’ success. Engagement matters, but for your social channel, this metric is an identifier of how interested consumers are to see more content from you. The more people like and follow you, the more your post reach will expand. If your following is lower than ideal, invest in developing a social strategy to create engaging, fun and valuable content for the audience you already have.
Number of shares/saves
Similar to likes and follows, a high number of shares and saves indicates that your content is valuable enough for people to publish to their inner circles or refer themselves back to. This metric goes hand-in-hand with the above “number of likes” — if you’re investing in a content strategy to boost your likes and follows, this is a key indicator of how you’re doing with the strategy.
This is important when evaluating individual posts, and then establishing an average overtime for benchmarking. Overall, this is a great metric to review for your content appropriateness for each channel. (i.e., Are you creating the right type of content suited for the channel?) It’s important to note that you should know the nature of engagement is unique to each platform — so be sure to know a.) what the most typical engagement on the platform at hand is, and b.) what the low/average/high engagement rates for the platform at hand are.
3 – Google Business listing
Your Google Business listing is No. 1 for SEO. Without it, you’re losing a lot of potential web traffic from people trying to search for you. If you’re unsure of whether or not you have a business listing on Google, I highly recommend that you figure that out ASAP. Once set up, there are only a few key metrics to check on.
Business profile interactions
Interactions are when people call, message, make bookings, ask for directions and more from your business profile on Google.
Business profile views
The total number of people who viewed your business profile. Pro tip: Make sure all of your info and CTAs are up-to-date on your profile! You can even post content on your page highlighting specific products and services.
Searches showed your business profile
It’s good to see the total number of searches that showed your business profile, but even more important here is to review the individual keywords that people were searching for. This can be useful for evaluating the health of your SEO from a basic level or even help you develop an SEO strategy.
Your next step to data-driven marketing…
Though there are many other tools and metrics I could recommend specific to your business and your objectives, this is a solid introductory list for those craving some insights to help direct their marketing efforts.
If you already have these tools set up for your business, how often do you actually review these metrics? From our experience, most businesses tend to ignore them and, frankly, haven’t taken the time to understand them. One of the key problems with all of these tracking tools is that they’re each on their own proprietary platform, seemingly locked away from routine strategy meetings. The best way to start making use of these metrics is to get them all into one centralized location for easy viewing across your entire team. At Creative Cat, we set up custom dashboards and tools for our clients to link all the critical data together.
If you’re handling this in-house/DIY, I recommend setting up an Agency Analytics account. Agency Analytics is a simple tool that helps bring all of your data sources together into one place. That way, you can easily gauge your website, search, social and many other metrics all in one report. You can even have it automatically email the report out to the team every month.
Getting set up takes mere minutes, starts out at only $12/month, and will bring your metrics front-and-center. That accessibility is a game-changer for most business owners who are simply too busy to check all of these completely different online tools. I wish I could say that we get a benefit for recommending Agency Analytics, but we don’t. Internally, we use various other tools to create something a bit more advanced, but you can’t spend $12 more wisely for the DIY small business.
I hope you found this info helpful. Definitely comment on our posts or send us a message if you have questions about data tracking, have suggestions for more topics to cover, or are ready to have some experts help you get set up to make a data-driven marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategist + Operations | CreativeCat.Co