Web Analytics Tools for Small Businesses
Not too long ago, marketing and advertising activities were something of a hit-or-miss proposition for businesses both large and small.
Sure, producing ads for radio, television and newspapers were (and often still are) excellent ways to increase the exposure of your business. Newsletters, catalogs and even brochures certainly helped communicate a brand’s identity and message to current and potential customers the same as they do today.
The problem wasn’t that these techniques weren’t effective or couldn’t produce big returns for the investment. The problem was that in many cases the return they produced was hard to effectively measure.
That’s all changed with the advent of the Internet and digital marketing. Now, it’s relatively easy to understand exactly how effective a newsletter is at converting leads with web analytics.
Now it’s possible to understand how many people look at a particular item in your online catalog and compare that number to how many actually purchase the item. Try that with an old Sears catalog.
This ability to collect and analyze every aspect of a customer’s interaction with your business online is really the heart and soul of digital marketing. And that’s why today’s marketer has much more in common with a research scientist than a character out of Mad Men.
What’s so important about collecting data?
So you can collect data on just about everything a person does when they visit your website or social media profile. But what does that mean, really?
It’s about taking a scientific approach to the digital channels your small business uses to reach customer. That gives you the ability to use the records of events they leave behind to understand how they experience your business.
Most businesses these days create a sales funnel or customer journey map. If you have an online business, you probably already have one defined.
Identifying the key points in a person’s journey, the steps they take from hearing about your business to buying your product or service isn’t a new concept. But in the past, the research needed to back up the assumptions you make when creating your sales funnel was expensive and took a long time to gather.
These days, you have access to all that data (and so much more) as soon as it happens and at a far, far less cost than it would have cost an advertising executive 40 years ago. Anyone can gather the same customer data, whether you’re a giant multinational corporation or a local specialty shop. The only barrier is your ability to collect the data and take action on the data results.
5 Analytics tools that small businesses can afford
Over the past 20 years, scores of online businesses have risen to fill this gap. Thanks to the rise of the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) start-ups, the analytics technology that powers today’s marketing efforts isn’t just powerful, it’s often priced so that even the smallest online businesses can benefit.
Below are five of the best tools and services you can use to track and understand how people interact with your websites and social media profiles. And not only are they among the best, they’re also either completely free or at least offer a free version.
1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the gold standard for tracking website usage among business analysts and web professionals. Its robust suite of web analytics is used by everyone from multi-national corporations to part-time sole proprietors.
If you have a website and aren’t tracking visitors, then you won’t have the insight you need to constantly improve it. If you rely on your website for your small business that could even be the difference between success and failure.
Google Analytics is completely free and easy to install on your website. It provides you with everything you need to track the visits you send to your website from social media accounts, email campaigns, search engines or digital advertising.
Buffer is a popular tool among social media managers who rely on it to manage the large number of tweets, updates, and posts they make on a daily basis to their social media accounts.
And while you can find it praised far and wide for how easy it makes scheduling social media posts, you may not have heard much about the superb social media analytics it provides. You can track engagements and interactions directly from your Buffer queue.
Buffer offers a free version that is quite serviceable if you only have a few social media profiles and don’t post a great deal. Most small businesses with a single social media manager can get away with using the free version or the Awesome plan, which is $10 per month.
You’ve probably heard of Bit.ly, the URL shortening service that lets you take a massive web address and shrink it down to a shareable size. Over the years Bit.ly has grown its services, which now include a suite of detailed analytics that measure the reach of your shortened link.
Bit.ly can give you information about where and when your links are getting clicked. The ability to understand the type of people that are clicking your links with the expanded analytics of the Audience Intel tool is a good addition for email sales and newsletters.
4. SEM Rush
Search engine optimization (SEO) is just as important as it’s ever been to running a successful website. And the most important part of any SEO strategy are the keywords you use to help people find your site.
That means knowing the keywords people actually use to find products or services like yours. Tracking and analyzing the use of keywords is one of the key features of an SEO tool like SEM Rush.
While taking full advantage of SEM Rush’s services isn’t cheap, they offer a limited free version that includes 10 keyword searches a day and one project (website) you can audit and track over time.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for keeping track of social media mentions, website visits, email clicks and a wide variety of other metrics for your small business then Cyfe is may be what you’re looking for.
Rather than collect and store your data directly, Cyfe offers robust tools for creating dashboards using data from other sources. You can integrate your data feeds from sources like Google Analytics and Bit.ly into widgets you arrange to create the perfect dashboard.
Dashboards display the data how you want to see it, so you can mix and match the widgets you create from your data feeds to track everything from sales to brand reputation. You can even create dashboards to keep an eye on the server administration and customer service.
These five tools are just the beginning
Some marketing analytics tools still cost an arm-and-a-leg, but far more offer free and low-cost versions that help even the playing field for businesses of all sizes. There’s never been more opportunity for small business owners to reap the benefit of web analytics.