Recently I surveyed the online presence of allied health professionals within a geographic area near me, starting with a sample who showed up in Google local listings (aka Google My Business).

What did I find? 88% of these businesses had websites, 35% of those with websites appeared to have used Google Search Ads in the last year, 81% of businesses had Facebook accounts and 59% had Instagram accounts. About two thirds of the websites had some kind of analytics installed. It won’t surprise you to hear that there was a huge variation in online activity and traffic across these businesses.

It’s easy to understand why some business owners have chosen not to go all in with online marketing. Although it is relatively easy to get started with a website, a social media page or an email subscriber list, it is more complex to maximise the effectiveness of these. People can be discouraged when they try a new online marketing tactic and are not really sure whether it gave the result they were hoping for.

Some of this uncertainty can be eased by using data and analytics as cornerstones of marketing strategy. All of your online activity generates data – you may be familiar with (or perhaps overwhelmed by!) Google Analytics, Facebook and Instagram Insights, Facebook Ad Centre reports, Google Ads data and reports from your email service provider.

You might be seeing all of this data but wondering how it translates into answers.

The information ecosystem

Think of your marketing channels as an information ecosystem.

data-driven online marketing decisions

Everything is interdependent, and measurement and reporting are equally important as everything else. What are the indicators and goals you want to measure? Asking this question up front ensures that you are collecting the right data. The data that you need will not always be available by default, hence a well-thought-out analytics implementation is key.

You’ll also need to make sure that things are connected up to get the most from your ecosystem:

  • Link Google Search Console to Google Analytics
  • Link Google Ads to Google Analytics
  • Adopt a system of link tagging for email and social media campaigns, so that individual campaigns can be differentiated in analytics reports
    Set up website goals in Google Analytics (these will be different for every website)
  • Set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics if purchases can be made on your website
  • Implement conversion tracking in your Google Ads account and social media accounts, to provide information on how these channels contributed to goals and purchases on your website.

I want to mention two tools that, in my opinion, are ‘must haves’ alongside Google Analytics in the web analytics and reporting space. Google Tag Manager makes it much easier to track goals, ecommerce and conversions without needing your web developer every time you want to track something new. Google Data Studio lets you create really nice reports in one place, drawing data from all your systems. The other things I like about Google Data Studio reports are that they can be automated, interactive and are easily shared. Both tools are free, like Google Analytics.

Why conversion tracking is important

Data becomes much more meaningful when you have set goals to indicate success or ‘not there yet’.
The term ‘conversions’ is generally used to encompass both online purchases and other measurable goals of online marketing. A goal can be any action on your website that provides value to your business. For example, if someone completes a form to subscribe to your email newsletter, this should be tracked as a goal. Conversions that don’t have an explicit dollar value can be assigned an assumed dollar value for the purposes of reporting in Google Analytics. When boiled down, conversion tracking allows you to see what’s working and what isn’t:

online marketing conversion tracking

Answers, not just data

Once your information ecosystem is collecting the information you need, you will have a direct line into the answers that are relevant for your business. Questions such as:

  • What are the search queries that are bringing most people to your website? How do you rank against your competitors for those search queries?
  • What channels are best at bringing people who go on to become your customers?
  • What return are you getting on your advertising or promotional spend?

With answers to your own questions, you will be empowered to make online marketing decisions confidently.

If you are fairly new to Google Analytics, my article ‘How to read Google Analytics‘ offers some suggestions for where to look to make connections between data and business value.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like help with your information ecosystem.