How to Accurately Track Your Website Leads

Guest post by Matt Cannon.

Have you ever wondered whether your PPC or SEO campaign is worth the investment? Are you ever frustrated because no matter how much you test and tweak your campaigns, nothing seems to improve?

How to accurately track website leads from SEO and PPCAt the root of both problems is quite frequently the same thing: incomplete and/or overstated lead tracking. PPC advertising consultants and management companies see this play out time and time again when we dig into why a prospective client has been treading water.

Accurately tracking website leads — phone calls and form submissions — is much more complex and nuanced than one may think. Because Google Analytics is very limited in its phone tracking capabilities, and because form and phone lead numbers are often inflated by spam, sales solicitations and the like, companies have a hard time determining how many true sales leads are being produced as a result of their online marketing campaigns.

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The 29 Best Web Analytics Tools

Revised November 27, 2017
Revised October 6, 2017
Revised September 25, 2017

While chief marketing officers are under increasing pressure to quantitatively demonstrate the ROI of marketing investments, most still struggle with it. Yet as pointed out on Marketing Charts, “What’s interesting to see is that CMOs don’t seem to be pursuing what’s being touted as the solution to the ROI struggle: marketing analytics.”

Best web analytics toolsAnalytics tools can ultimately help measure ROI. But more importantly, they can provide more granular detail on what’s working and what’s not, helping marketers make smart decisions about what to do more of, less of, differently, or not all, and even what to try next. ROI is a financial metric, and vital at a high level to show value to the business. But web analytics tools ideally provide marketers with actionable information.

Put another way, it’s great to be able to demonstrate a positive ROI from content marketing; it’s more essential, particularly at the director level and below, to understand why, in order to continually optimize strategies and tactics.

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Seven Expert Google Analytics Guides

You’ve likely at some point come across the contention that humans only use 10% of our brains’ capacity (which is a myth,  though a popular one). The science fiction thriller Lucy delves into one writer’s imagining of what human beings may be capable of if we were somehow able to use 20%, or 50%, or more of that capability.

Expert guides to Google Analytics

Image credit: iMedia Connection

It’s almost certainly less of a myth that most companies use 10% (or less) of the website visitor data available to them. Google Analytics (GA) is the most popular tool for tracking web visits, used by more than half of all companies, including two-thirds of the Fortune 500.

But, as with (perhaps) our brains, most businesses don’t utilize all of the capabilities of GA. What if they did use 20%, or 50%, or more of what the tool can provide?

It wouldn’t be as exciting as a Scarlett Johansson action movie, but it may help a lot of firms get more out of their web marketing efforts. To help you use more than 10% of your website analytics, here are seven expert guides to GA.

Why you can’t ignore Google’s new Universal Analytics by iMedia Connection

Brandt DainowWhile Universal Analytics is no longer quite “new,” this article from Brandt Dainow is still a worthwhile read. He reviews what Universal Analytics is, how it works with existing GA accounts, and astutely details the strengths (“Universal Analytics can track anything, in pretty much any fashion you want. All you need do is get a signal to an internet-connected device. Hence Universal Analytics could, for example, track RFID tag movement around a trade show or light switches being turned on or off”) and weaknesses of Universal Analytics.

How to Quickly (and Correctly) Track Google Analytics Across Multiple Domains by Moz

Tom CapperWriting that “Out of the box, Google Analytics handles being deployed across multiple domains or subdomains extremely poorly. This is easily the most common critical problem in Google Analytics, despite its being relatively easy to fix,” Tom Capper provides a helpful table showing how to set up Google Analytics for different situations (e.g., multiple subdomains on a single domain which are treated as a single site) as well detailed instructions for properly setting up separate tracking IDs, ignoring self-referrals, prepending hostname to request URIs and more.

How to Setup Google Analytics: 5 Quick Videos That Make it Easy by Orbit Media Studios

Andy CrestodinaDon’t let the title fool you–while some of what’s here is Google Analytics 101, there are also more advanced tips (i.e., how to create dashboards and alerts) because, as Andy Crestodina points out, “Even expert marketers and big blogs often haven’t finished setting up Analytics. It’s very common.”

4 shortcomings of Google’s attribution modeling tool by iMedia Connection

Phil GrossWhile acknowledging it’s “great that Google has recognized that its current conversion tracking is antiquated, and its expanded attribution capabilities can help some advertisers better optimize search spend,” Phil Gross exposes several shortcomings of the tool, such as that it only looks at search (it “It’s great that Google has recognized that its current conversion tracking is antiquated, and its expanded attribution capabilities can help some advertisers better optimize search spend”) and doesn’t even look at all search activity.

How to Use UTM Tracking Codes in Google Analytics by SEMrush Blog

Marvin RussellMarvin Russell explains that “UTM (Urchin Traffic Monitoring) tracking helps you not only identify the website your clicks and conversions are coming from, they also identify the specific ads or links that are responsible getting you those clicks and conversions. If used properly, UTM tracking codes will double, triple or even quadruple your clicks and conversions without spending another dollar,” then shows step-by-step how to implement and use these.

6 Reasons Why Search Clicks Are Undervalued by ClickZ

Kevin LeeTo make the case that “much of the value of search marketing – and search clicks – isn’t acknowledged at all by most marketers,” Kevin Lee details half a dozen examples of how search clicks can be undervalued, including under-reporting of phone and chat contact: “Even pure-play online businesses (retailers, B2B, lead gen, etc.) have phone numbers on their sites. Highly interested visitors may prefer to engage via phone or chat. Each marketer must decide whether or not to use unique numbers (or extensions) to track phone behavior at a granular level, or simply apply a ratio of phone to online conversions.”

3 Ways Merging Google AdWords & Analytics Can Improve PPC Results by Search Engine Watch

Lisa RaehslerLisa Raehsler steps through three techniques for combining Google AdWords and Analytics to improve the performance of paid search campaigns, such as using matched search queries: “combine query data with behavior, conversions, social, and more…Using Visitors data in the secondary dimension opens to the door to in-depth information including demographic like age, gender, and location. Advertisers can use this information, for example, to build personas or optimize targeting in AdWords.”

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16 Remarkable Web Analytics Guides, Tips and Techniques

There’s no question that web analytics are vital, but even Shakespeare acknowledged that one can have too much of a good thing.  In an environment where nearly everything that happens online can be measured, the challenge for marketers isn’t gaining the ability to measure even more factors, but rather the clarity to focus on measuring what matters.

How can you measure all of the sources that contributed to a conversion–not just the last click? Which Google Analytics (GA) metrics are most important? How can you take action on analytics reports? What can GA tell you (and not tell you) about your sources of website traffic? How can you capitalize on the Advanced Segments feature in GA?

Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 16 remarkable guides to web analytics from the past year.

The SEO’s Guide to GA 5, Part II: Top 3 Features for Setting & Achieving SEO Goals by Search Engine Journal

Dali BurgadoDali Burgado details three key features of Google Analytics 5 (GA5) for SEO professionals: dashboard customization with SEO widgets (e.g., branded vs. non-branded search), custom alerts, and multi-channel funnels (see Pritesh’s post above). This last feature is interesting but would be much more useful if one could customize segment definitions to correct for the way Google gets search traffic wrong.

Using Multi-Channel Funnels to analyse the impact of marketing channels on conversions by Smart Insights

Pritesh PatelWriting that “When conversions take place over multiple visits rather than a single visit to a site, it’s really important to understand the complete customer journey and not use the standard ‘last click wins’ model of attribution,” Pritesh Patel demonstrates how to use Multi-Channel funnel reports in Google Analytics to obtain more detailed insights into the different interactions visitors have with your website before converting to a lead.

Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics: What to Track by Search Engine Watch

Sarah CarlingSarah Carling notes that GA is incredibly powerful–but needs to be set up properly first. Much of it’s potential analytical power can’t be accessed “out of the box.” She then provides examples of and instruction for setting up three types of data you may want to track: customer segments (actually, visitor segments), goal and event tracking, and page categories (“If, for instance, you want to know if product category A or B is more likely to result in a customer creating an account or making a purchase, you can track this data”).

9 Ways to Make Your Marketing Analytics Actionable by HubSpot

Pamela VaughanContending that good marketers use analytics to measure the performance of their marketing initiatives, while “Great marketers use them to adapt, improve, and modify their marketing efforts,” frequent best-of honoree Pamela Vaughan shows to use analytics to improve in areas like focusing on popular blog topics, refining SEO strategies, improving landing pages, and more.

Setting Up Actionable SEO Dasboards in the New Google Analytics by SEO Book

Okay, GA 5 isn’t “new” anymore, but the techniques outlined here are still intriguing. This richly illustrated post shows how to set up actionable dashboards and widgets to monitor a variety of specific custom metrics like non-branded keyword traffic, top actionable social content, page load speed, top converting keywords, top exit/bounce pages and others.

Capturing The Value Of Social Media Using Google Analytics by Google Analytics Blog

Phil MuiNoting that “Since social media is often an upper funnel player in a shopper’s journey, it’s not always easy to determine which social channels actually drive value for your business and which tactics are most effective,” Phil Mui steps through five different ways to gauge “social value” in GA, such as the Conversions Report, with which “marketers can now measure the value of each individual social channel by seeing the conversion rates of each social network and the monetary value they drive to your business.” Both goals and goal values need to be defined in order to use this report.

The Ultimate Guide to the New Google Analytics Social Reports by KISSmetrics

Lars LofgrenExpanding on the post above, Lars Lofgren steps through each of the six social reports provided by GA, explains how traffic gets tagged as social media, and shows how to use GA’s Social Source Graphs. He cautions in his conclusion though to “be careful. These reports only use the referring URL when assigning traffic to a social media site. So if the referrer gets corrupted in any way, your traffic won’t get assigned to the right network and all your data will be skewed. If you commonly use URL shorteners, it’s very easy for the data in your social reports to be incomplete.”

4 Google Analytics updates you should know by iMedia Connection

Dan BrooksDan Brooks discusses four components of GA 5, including real-time data reporting (one of the primary benefits of which is, as notes, that it’s “just kind of fun to watch”), search engine optimization insights (which requires integration with Google Webmaster Tools) and Google+ integration (useful for organizations getting traction on G+).

What Google Analytics New Social Reports Offer & What They Can’t by Search Engine Watch

Marshall SponderMarshall Sponder points out that, though the newest iteration of Google Analytics does offer some useful advantages over older versions, it doesn’t always live up to expectations. For example, “Traffic networks are mixed up with traffic tools…Twitter and Facebook are termed networks while HootSuite, which is a tool, and WordPress, which is a blogging platform, are treated identically by Google, as being the same type of traffic—social media. While technically true, it’s incorrect to place these sources on equal footing.” In addition, custom configuration is required to take advantage of many of the more granular features.

Google Analytics: Understanding Traffic Sources by iMedia Connection

Arden KaleyArden Kaley steps through the details behind the high-level traffic sources reported by Google Analytics (direct, referral, and search), then explains the importance of using Google’s URL Builder to create custom, trackable URLs for different digital marketing activities, and how to use the tool.

3 Steps to Measuring Your Social Marketing Campaign with Google Analytics by Social Media Club

Yola BlakeSimilar to the post above, Yola Blake supplies detailed instructions on how to create custom UTM codes (including medium, source, campaign name, etc.) for tracking specific marketing campaigns, concluding “Now, you are able to track the performance of the marketing message and pinpoint each sale (or other type of conversion) as a result of the tweet directly in Google Analytics.”

4 Shortcuts for Analyzing Social Media Traffic in Record Time by Social Media Sun

Eugen OpreaEugen Oprea details four “shortcuts” for efficiently analyzing social media activity using GA, including instructions for building custom dashboards (“Dashboards are really important because they can provide you information at a glance, without spending hours digging through reports. In Google Analytics you can setup up to 20 dashboards that can provide insights about your visitors”).

Measuring a Mobile World: Introducing Mobile App Analytics by Google Analytics Blog

JiaJing Wang outlines three GA tools for mobile app analytics: Acquisition (and user metrics such as downloads and new users); Engagement (metrics such as retention, crashes and conversions); and Outcome (metrics such as app sales and in-app purchases). While not likely to be needed by most b2b marketers, these new tools may be valuable to b2c brand marketers investing in mobile app development.

8 ways to use Google Analytics beyond keywords by iMedia Connection

Casie-GilletteCasie Gillette recommends eight ways for marketers to act on GA data, among them: generating blog ideas (“Take a look at which posts drove the most visits and engagement, had the lowest bounce rates, and (of course) which posts were shared the most”), social targeting and attribution, and landing page testing.

3 Hidden Optimization Tips in Google Analytics by Conversation Marketing

Aviva JorstadAviva Jorstad offers step-by-step instructions for using “three advanced tips that will help you unearth hidden optimization opportunities with Google Analytics,” such as seven “simple” (though your definition of that term may vary) steps to increase conversions from organic search traffic.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments Comprehensive Template Collection by Penguin Initiatives
***** 5 STARS

Andy ForsbergContending that “Advanced segments in Google Analytics are one of the most powerful tools for gaining immense insight into your visitors,” Andy Forsberg provides more than two dozen copy-able advanced segment definitions, for everything from tracking searches of different keyword lengths to “user behavior” segments like Explorers (new visitors who viewed more than three pages) vs. Fans (returning visitors who viewed multiple pages).

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New Breed of Web Metrics Can Help Marketing Executives Make Better Decisions

As online marketing processes have evolved, the number and sophistication of software tools to support specific functions has exploded. Every discipline within marketing and PR has its own tools, among them:

Most Web Marketing Tools are TacticalContent development: CMS tools (WordPress, Joomla, HubSpot, 100s of others), Adobe CS, tools for creating infographics, etc.

SEO: backlink tools (Backlink Watch, SEOmoz, Majestic), keyword research tools, page optimization tools, SEO plugins.

Social media: social media monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, SM2), social media management (HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer), Twitter tools, etc.

Web analytics: Omniture, WebTrends, Google Analytics, Clicky, and more.

All are very helpful, even essential, but most are designed for practitioners, that is: they help a specialist in a particular discipline do his or her job more effectively. Not only are they tactical, each focuses on supporting one functional silo or another. Not surprising, since this is how digital marketing is managed today—as a set of largely disconnected specialties. So much so, companies utilize different tools, resources, and in some cases, even different agencies to manage web visibility for brand, SEO, social media, PR, and paid advertising.

And of course, search has evolved—it’s no longer just 10 blue links. Today, web presence goes way beyond a company’s website. News and social links are as vital as are other points of visibility. What’s missing is the larger strategic picture needed for top-level decision-making and for managing digital marketing and PR in a coordinated manner. We’re all missing this because there aren’t tools to help us do it. Or are there?

A “Eureka” Moment

A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework. This model (evolved from a 2010 post) came about from KC Associates’ (KCA) client consulting projects. Operating as a cross-functional team, each consultant knew that a framework for optimization is useless unless there’s a way to track and measure gaiting factors that can be adjusted in order to move the optimization needle. So the group took a long, hard look at the tactical tools each consultant uses with a more creative mind of how they might be repurposed for WPO.

For example, SEO backlink tools can provide detailed lists of the precise backlinks to a competitor’s website. This can be quite valuable to an SEO consultant, but it’s mind-numbing overkill for a VP of marketing.

However, a graphical comparison of the type and quantity of backlinks pointing to the firm’s website and the sites of close competitors may be very enlightening (e.g., discovering that competitor A has twice as many media links and three times as many social links pointing to them)—particularly if these measures have changed significantly in a short period of time.

This simple change in thinking was truly eye-opening.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

First and foremost, the WPO framework provides the strategic and structural approach to the unified management of web visibility. And WPO metrics that support this framework provide the critical measurement necessary to enable the overall coordination of these disciplines to improve presence optimization and performance.

The set of 100+ WPO metrics that the group developed for KCA clients is driven by data collected by a host of off-the-shelf tools as well as some custom developed sources. As a collection, the attributes of these metrics differ from what most other tracking and measurement tools are set up to provide in six distinct ways:

  • • Focus on management, not execution. WPO metrics are designed to support management decision-making (e.g., where should we devote more resources) rather than tweaks to specific tactics. Put another way, they are about the “what” rather than the “how.”
  • • Provide a unified view of results. They provide leaders and team members with an overall picture of press (media outlets), social, website (organic search), industry (e.g. associations, research organizations) and paid web presence. The tactical tools available tend to focus on one or two of these areas.
  • • Include competitor metrics. An organization’s digital marketing results don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to view results in the context of competitive activities. Competitive benchmarking is vital to developing strategy and allocating resources.
  • • Reflect the value of owned, earned and paid presence, not just the company website. What customers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and others have to say about you is sometimes more important than your own content. WPO metrics show the value of all of your points of web presence, whether it’s your content or something produced by a third party.
  • • Are actionable and NOT “everything but kitchen sink.” Too many tools try to report every possible detail, rather than just what’s important. The result is data overload and analysis paralysis. It’s confusing and too much to absorb, and therefore doesn’t get acted upon. Best-practice WPO metrics focus only on measures that support concrete action.
  • • Identify clear priorities. While WPO metrics cover a lot of ground, not every measure matters all the time. For example, if your media share-of-voice remains about the same from one month to the next, but your AdWords conversion rate drops by half, WPO metrics focus on the latter result.

WPO metrics won’t replace tactical, execution-level tools, but they will help guide decisions about which functional tools to use and how to coordinate the tasks of different disciplines for a larger purpose. They fill a critical gap by giving marketing executives, and everyone on digital marketing and PR teams, a unified view of web presence that reflects a more integrated optimization effort.

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