Anyone who has been doing marketing these days knows that the era of money-no-object advertising and ‘spray and pray’ campaigns is over. Does that mean we stop doing campaigns to raise awareness and generate demand? Heck no! The good news is that online campaigns can be managed with more precision than any traditional campaign, because we know more about campaign outcomes than ever before thanks to all the analytics around us. (If you’re not tracking any web traffic right now, you should start by turning on your statistical software or page-tagging tool. You can figure out what to measure later, but at the very least get the data gathering started.)
There’s a tool that’s the de facto standard here, Google Analytics, so though I’m not promoting it, I’ve geared the examples here toward it so you can jump right from here into Google Analytics and try these tactics out for yourself.

I like to look at what objectives we’re shooting for before deciding what to measure. These objectives can be grouped under the categories Visibility, Conversion, Engagement, Lead Quality. Let’s take a look at each of these broad objectives.

Measuring How Visible your Site is

How can you make your site so it’s readily found by people searching for companies like yours? How visible are you to folks who aren’t already aware of your company? These are all questions that relate to your visibility. We no longer measure this by site rank on Google, but we can quantify visibility by seeing how many of your visitors came from search engines and referral sites.

If you use pay-per-click (PPC) ads, you want to know if those who reach you via PPC are less or more likely to become hot prospects than unpaid visitors who’ve reached your site. You can find this out in Google Analytics’ Content tab, highlighting an important page on your site and selecting medium in the dropdown box. This will show you the percentage that came to that page from PPC. When you link your Adwords & Analytics accounts together, the results will even list in the right-hand columns how much you paid to facilitate those visitors coming to your site, letting you judge whether your PPC investment is worth it.

Got a large social network you can use inbound marketing to drive your network to your site. Want more granularity on which of those Facebook, twitter and Google+ activities drove traffic? analyticsUse Google’s URL Builder to create a tag that accompanies any link going to your site. When prospects click the link, Google Analytics will relate that click back to your specific campaign, so you can see which specific post or tweet did the best job of steering people back to your site. This is where you can start using A/B testing to optimize around the marketing messages that produce the best results.
Want to see if a campaign is bringing in fresh prospects? Under the Visitor tab, go to New vs. Returning and you will see the composition of your site’s visitors. Setting aside Returning Users, who are probably clients hitting your site to find specific information, look to see how much time new visitors spend on your site. See if this time measure goes up or down when you add new content to your site. If they spend much less time, your content might caters too much to clients and you may want to re-write it so it’s more accessible for the new visitor.

In Part II of this series, we will see how analytics help you gauge site engagement and visitor conversion.