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Analytics – What They Are and How to Use Them

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Whether you like it or not, if your business has any kind of online presence, you’re going to have to develop an understanding of web analytics. More than that though, if you really want to succeed you have to take that understanding and apply it productively. Even 5 or 10 years ago for a lot of people building a website, audience was a lot more about blind hope, analytic information was accessible but it might as well have been written in Klingon.

Now a wide range of analytics tools are available for everyday use, some of them just track page stats whilst others are geared more towards social media. Even with that taken into account, making that initial commitment to learning about analytics and using them can be more than a little bit unnerving, which is where we come in. In this post I will outline some basic information about how to use analytics to improve your site’s viewership, which tools are best and the relationship between analytics and social media.

Firstly then, what exactly are web analytics? Simply put, they are the viewer statistics for specific sites. Total site views, page views, shares and how all these spread chronologically and geographically all fall under this umbrella. By looking at your web analytics, you can discern when your views have peaked or troughed, which posts have been more popular, which countries view your site more frequently and plenty more besides. There’s a wealth of information to be gleaned, but how do you take that information and turn it into something productive, something strategic?

At the most basic level, it’s a case of identifying focal points and exploiting them. Say you notice that your page views spike on Tuesday afternoons, post more during that time. Say you notice that posts you’ve shared on Pinterest are getting more activity than all the others, implement Pinterest more. A lot of views coming in from Australia? Put up some Australia related content, if you can make it relevant to your site’s purpose. If a particular page on your site is distinctly popular, get more links on there, turn your site into a better closed circuit, redirecting views between different pages as much as humanly possible.

As well as where your viewers are going, you can also get an idea of where they came from. Analytics tools will show you who found your site via an organic search, actually putting your address in the URL bar or from clicking a link. Better tools will even tell you which site that link came from. This has the added benefit of telling you if anyone is sharing your content, that way you can find out who they are and send them a cake or something as a thank you (or just encourage them to keep sharing your stuff).

So which tools are best? There are so many readily available that there’s no one ‘best’ tool for everyone, or even one that covers all the bases, often it’s better to use a combination of different ones. Here’s a rundown of some of the better options.

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Google Analytics

This is by far the most popular tool available. It’s free, which is a nice jumping off point and it’s directly linked to the most powerful, popular search engine on the planet, also a plus. It’s brilliantly easy to understand and comes jam-packed with features and tools which enable you to tailor it to your specific needs.

Kissmetrics

Perhaps the most popular professional platform, it’s not cheap, running from $149 a month and upwards, but the information you get back is richly detailed. You get a lot more information about keyword performance, email performance and you can track a visitor’s exact path through your site, like some kind of web detective. Visually it’s really straightforward and eye-catching, definitely one to consider if you’re willing to put the cash down.

Mouseflow

The slick, trendy option, Mouseflow will only run you $13 a month at base level, but for that you get an interactive video feed of viewer activity, visually represent every click, keystroke and scroll. Creepy? Kind of. Useful? Very. You also get a kind of ‘heat map’ of overall activity, it’s the same information you get with other tools, but displayed in a much slicker way.


Sprout Social

As much a social media management tool as an analytics one, Sprout Social starts at $59 a month, but also offers a 30 day free trial. You can schedule posts across multiple platforms and accounts just like with any other management tool but it also gives you detailed stats on views and engagements. Competitive insight is a particularly useful feature, it shows you who you’re up against and how to keep up or even get ahead.


SocialRank

Originally optimised specifically for Twitter, SocialRank has now made the expansion over to Instagram as well. This one is best used in tandem with one or more the above, since it’s so social media specific. It takes all your followers and shows you which followers engage with your material the most, which ones are more likely to favourite, which ones have tagged you and much more besides. Currently it’s totally free, but a premium, subscription based iteration is in the works.


Sysomos

By far and away the most comprehensive social media analytics tool on the market. It takes data from just about every platform you care to name as well as forums, news pages, wiki pages and more. It provides more demographical information than just about any other tool, allowing you to pinpoint your target audience with laser focus. If you run a blog or a media site, this is an invaluable resource. To sweeten the deal it also comes outfitted with an arsenal of other, antecedent tools like SysmosMAP, a pheominally detailed keyword data analyst that literally searches all of history. No set pricing for this one, but you can request a demo here.



That’s just a small snapshot of the wealth of different tools out there at your disposal. Once you’ve pinned down the best option for you personally, it’s a case of figuring out exactly how to use the wealth of information at your disposal to build your audience. The key is to document everything, every spike, every slump, every anomaly so that you can build a strategy for getting your site as noticed as possible. Knowing which social media platforms fit your site best is vital and once you’ve figured that out, make sure you’re using the best wrench for that particular bolt. It might seem daunting, but once you actually start, it will immediately start getting easier. Treat it like a game, but play to win.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.
Analytics – What They Are and How to Use Them Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 Rating: 5

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