While there are many commercial analytics tools available, and many hosting accounts come with free analytics, a tool we highly recommend is Google Analytics, which is easy to install on your site. Some of the key features of Google Analytics that will help you with your marketing include:
- Keywords (under Traffic Sources > Keywords)
While you may have compiled a list of keywords to use in optimizing your site, you don't know how people are really finding you. The Keywords feature in Google Analytics tells you exactly what search terms are bringing people to your site—and which ones stay there.
- Traffic Sources (under Traffic Sources > All Traffic Sources)
Where are your readers finding you? Who is talking about your site and linking to it? Can you use any of these sources to increase your traffic load, perhaps by partnering or advertising on these other sites? Are the people who come from these sources staying around to read additional parts of the site? These are all things you can determine with your Traffic Sources information.
- Activity Over Time
With the Google Analytics Dashboard, you can see your activity for any range of dates. This can tell you what times of year you need to work on generating more traffic, if your marketing campaigns have had any lasting success, and what the average number of pages per visit have been over time.
- Top Content (under Content > Overview)
Here you'll be able to learn what pages on your site are most popular. Do you have many people on your support page? Perhaps you need to create better insert information for your product. Do you have a certain article that has remained popular over time? If so, consider writing another one on a similar topic or expanding the current article.
- Landing Pages (under Content > Top Landing Pages)
How are people arriving at your site? If a page other than your front page is the most popular landing page, how can you alter that page to have all necessary information to make a sale or get the reader's interest in the rest of the site?
- Exit Pages (under Content > Top Exit Pages)
If most of your readers exit on the landing page, you have a problem. On the other hand, if most exit through your contact form or through your store, then you are doing very well!
- Visitor Profiles (under Visitors > Overview)
Who is coming to your site? What browser are they using? How many repeat vs. new readers are you getting? These are all important questions that you can address by studying your visitors. This information helps you design and upgrade your site, create new content, and develop new ways of encouraging your customers to stay a little longer.
- Site Overlay (under Content > Site Overlay)
This is one of the coolest features in the Google Analytics package: the ability to follow your users through your site in a graphical way. It displays your user flow data on top of your site, showing you where people click once they are on your site. This helps you design your site to direct traffic better.
Google Analytics is easy to install, as it's just a simple snippet of code that Google will provide to you. One tip: You might want to install your code at the bottom of every page and template so that it doesn't slow down (or prevent) the loading of the page if Google's servers are having a bad day.
You can learn more about Google Analytics by taking the tour, reading the Official Google Analytics blog, or trying out these 5 things.
Looking for more functionality from your reports, greater support, or a package you can purchase and customize? Try VisiStat, Crystal Reports, or Urchin.
How do you get on Google's good side? Just ask Google! Google provides a web site called Google Webmaster Tools to help you get your site properly listed and indexed regularly. Google Webmaster Tools allow you to claim your site, upload a sitemap for your site, and see how the Google crawlers like your site. There is also a Google Webmaster Central blog and Google Webmaster Help if you need additional information.
Yahoo! doesn't offer tools like Google, but they do have a feature called Yahoo! Site Explorer, where you can claim your site and see how Yahoo! is indexing it, as well as the companion informational site, Yahoo! Search Blog for Site Explorer.
Search Engine Listings
While there are many search engines out on the market today, you really should just start with the some of the top databases: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and DMOZ. Many of the smaller search engines will then pick up the listing from those. For example, Ask.com finds things on its own through links from sites it already crawls and AltaVista is powered by Yahoo!.
While you may get many, many e-mails from companies advertising that they will list your site with all search engines or give you some premium listing options, don't fall for this ploy! If you have additional time, after you've submitted to the top three, feel free to go back and submit to the FREE smaller search engines only. Just be aware of what you are signing up for!
A fun alternative to the search engines is StumbleUpon. With StumbleUpon, users select categories of sites they would like to see, and they are randomly taken to a website according to their preferences and interests. By joining the site and adding your company to the StumbleUpon database, you can get a fair amount of traffic to your site. This is especially true for anyone with a niche blog or a site pertaining to a popular topic.
Paid listings can be a great way to kickstart your search engine results before your site can grow traffic organically. You can also use paid listings for marketing campaigns or traffic maintence. With any paid listing service, a well-done campaign can yield excellent results with a high ROI; a poorly executed campaign can cost thousands of dollars a day with no results. For this reason, it is important to monitor all of your campaigns closely.
Google AdWords are the ads that display when you do a search through Google, in the right sidebar. They also appear in strips and columns on publishing sites that host the ads. (This program is called AdSense.) You create ads that are displayed when certain keywords are searched for or come up in the text on a page. You bid on the keywords to determine your placement, and pay per click (PPC) for your ads. Placement is also determined by the performance of your ads and the quality of your landing page. Local businesses can do local and regional targeting on their ads to decrease their advertising budgets.
Like Google, Yahoo! Search Marketing allows you to bid on keywords for the sponsored and sidebar listings, also giving weight to the ad performance and the quality of the landing page. There are also fee-based options for those who would like to be added to the Yahoo! Directory, Yahoo! Shoping (for products selling online), or Yahoo! Travel (for services like hotels and transportation).
Want to advertise on MSN or Live Search? Try Microsoft AdCenter. It expands the same types of basic services as Google and Yahoo! to the Microsoft Network.
With Yahoo! Local, you can create both free and sponsored Yellow Page listings for your business. They offer a range of basic and enhanced options, depending on your advertising needs.
Craigslist is one of the best free local advertising sources. You can list your small business and your services on your local Craigslist. You can also use the site to announce a promotional event or sale.
Google Maps allows you to add and/or edit your business listing for the Google local results. Google also offers advertising options, which get your business listed beside related map results.
If you have a clearly defined niche market, and you can create a list of niche sites with your same target market, consider purchasing banner advertising space on those sites. Putting banners either in the header or the sidebar on smaller sites in the same market can be a lot less expensive than advertising on larger sites, and drive in more appealing, targeted traffic.
On a larger scale, consider StartupNation as an example. Entrepreneurs need software and hardware, so StartupNation gets ad buys from nameplate companies like Microsoft and Dell. Entrepreneurs need finances, so StartupNation gets sponsorship from major credit card companies like VISA and Discover. These examples can be applied on any scale—a dog trainer can advertise on the local dog park page, and a cake bakery can advertise at a local wedding planning site.