As we head towards the end of the year, it’s a time when business owners reflect on the previous 12 months and make plans for the next. It’s a time when we will compare performance over previous years and look at how things have improved (or worsened) compared with the past.
We will all look at our records, analyse our sales and look for opportunities to improve our sales.
When doing business online, it’s important not to lump all your internet business activity as part of overall sales. There are tools which can help you measure your online business very effectively.
If you measure your online activity, and compare it with real-world activity, you can deduce a lot that couldn’t otherwise be measured so easily.
The first step to take in measurement is to have a good method of analysis. Thankfully the old days of hit counters are long gone and have largely been replaced by more powerful tools such as Google Analytics. A free-to-use, web-based package that is installed simply by adding a few lines of code to your web pages.
It’s worth noting that Google did not invent its analytical software package, it bought a company called Urchin Technologies, which was already providing a similar service. Google chose to offer its analytics free-of-charge, but prior to the take-over, Urchin Technologies were charging £200 a month.
That goes a long way to demonstrate its value, but any website owner who takes the time to delve into Google Analytics will soon discover the value for themselves. Google has improved it significantly since those early days and it is now the first choice for many businesses wanting to get more insight into their website traffic statistics.
One very important thing to emphasise with any website analysis system is that it only starts collecting data once it is set up. You can’t install it, then expect to look back over your previous year’s traffic. It doen’t work that way.
So if you haven’t yet got any form of traffic monitoring on your website, we suggest that you make it a priority to get it done sooner rather than later.
Measure your email
Let’s take measurement a bit further. If you’re serious about your website, there are more tools to help you measure your online effectiveness.
If you run an email mailing list (and you should be!), web-based services like Mailchimp will allow you to closely measure performance of your newsletter. You will even be able to see who clicked which links and what day and time most people open your email. There’s a phenomenal amount of information to be learned from software like this, and it can be put to profitable use, and unless you have thousands of subscribers, it won’t cost you a penny. Invest your time in it however, and it could be worth a small fortune.
Google Analytics will compare your statistics with its own benchmark, and if your page or site is underperforming, it’s often hard for website owners to understand why. By testing different pages, you can measure which one is most effective and keep tweaking your content until you get it right. This is called A/B testing or split testing and Google also offer this service free of charge. However, there are also some paid services which make this process easy and even more measureable. Optimizely is a great example of another easy-to-use web-based service which can help you get more from your website.
If you use social media to link back to your website, there’s good chance your users will be connecting to your site with a mobile device. This is a figure that will only increase so pay close attention to it. Look in your analytics to see which browsers and OS are accessing your site to identify mobile users, and use URL shortening services, such as bit.ly to provide a further level of measurement though your social media channels.
Also make sure that your site is legible on a mobile device, or even better, mobile-friendly. Most smartphone these days will have the ability to scroll, pan and zoom on a page, but you can avoid that altogether by building a mobile version of your site to provide relevant content without ‘swiping’ and ‘pinching’.