TopRank Marketing Editor

Small Business Tips For Reporting Web Metrics

TopRank Marketing Editor     Online Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Web Analytics

web analytics reporting[Last week, we shared some web analytics basics for small businesses or web site owners new to tracking website visitor data. Building on that, this post explores what you should do next to report that data.]

It’s an exciting time to be a small business owner or communications professional. Why? We’ve never had more data and metrics at our fingertips. Actually, we flew past merely having data to having real-time data.

Surprisingly some don’t initially like web metrics. Common concerns I’ve heard over the years include:

  • It’s too confusing
  • Information overload
  • What am I supposed to do with all this data?
  • Won’t all this tracking be expensive?

All understandable to someone new to digital marketing but ultimately unfounded. Web metrics are simple to interpret, can be parsed to provide just the information you need, and provide actionable insights for your products or marketing without requiring an expensive research firm. When introduced and walked through the process, most companies quickly fall in love with the accountability provided.

Getting web analytics setup is step one. Once you’re tracking, the next step is reporting in a way that is meaningful to stakeholders and using the data to provide actionable recommendations at the strategy table.

Beginning the reporting process:

1) Learn the basic and advanced functions of your analytics package

If you’re using Google Analytics and are new, learn both the basic and deeper functionality, such as creating advanced segmentation. It’s critical to understand your tool before you get into creating reports. Inevitably after making reports questions will arise asking for specifics, so you’ll want to know how to answer them. Smashing Magazine has a fleshed out guide to Google Analytics that will give you a crash course in the app.

2) Pull key data from your analytics package and document monthly in your own dashboard

While there’s little concern major web analytics services will lose data, you should (either automated or manually) pull metrics out monthly into a customized dashboard. Now here’s the critical part: just pull out the data relevant to your objectives and defined KPIs. You can always go back into your analytics package for more detailed metrics (and you should be doing that anyway). By pulling out the data relevant to your objectives, you are being your own best friend and making it simple to craft internal reports/memos, create presentations, share metrics with your team and have it in a malleable format.

3) Know the difference between KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and objectives

More traffic to a blog may be nice, but if your goal is to build subscribers traffic is just a KPI. More traffic will logically build more subscribers and it’s something you want to track, but it’s not your success metric. Most web pros are extremely conscious of this difference, however I’ve seen many businesses and marketers either confusing these or not bothering to define them in the first place.

4) Draft detailed insights and an executive summary

If you’re doing something like emailing a report with the monthly web analytics summary, don’t send just the data. It’s up to you to interpret what the data means to recipients. Remember, even though you’re taking the time to learn how to report on web metrics the digital divide is still very real. Many won’t even know basic web analytics definitions. If your company is still new to web reporting, it’s an opportunity for you to become the internal analytics evangelist and educate your team. The more they understand, the more valuable the web reports will become.

In addition to the detailed insights behind the data, create a brief executive summary each month outlining the major trends in a quick to skim format. If the summary is compelling – you may hook team members to read the whole report. With that said, many will never get past the summary no matter how interesting it is. So it’s a critical component to influence decision makers who don’t have time to read a 1,000 word report.

5) Create goals that push you, but are realistic

Great – you’re now not just tracking web analytics, you’re analyzing the data and creating insightful reports. A potential outcome is someone will say: “we want to increase X metric by Y %.” Goals are a good thing and will keep you focused, but make it a policy to keep them realistic. Growing organic web traffic is a long-term process which unless you’re a seasoned digital marketer you may not be able to project realistically (and even then there are too many variables for it to be predicted with 100% accuracy). If you’re new, stay on the conservative side so you don’t set unrealistic expectations.

Now that we’ve gone through some basic tips for web analytics reporting – let’s outline a skeleton of some SEO and social media specific metrics worth reporting on.

Basic KPIs to monitor relating to SEO

A healthy stream of search traffic is vital to the success of any business’ visibility. You’ll want to monitor some specific KPIs to provide insight into your organic search traffic.

With the rise of personalized search, it’s smart to set your objective as organic search engine traffic, not search rankings. In a world where search phrases are getting longer and we all see a different SERP for the same phrases due to personalized search, rankings should just be a KPI.

  • Branded to non-branded keyword mix – if all you’re getting is branded search traffic, you’ll want to conduct a technical and content SEO audit of your site as something is probably not in order. A well optimized site (unless it’s a brand with strong marketing prowess or has broad terms in their name) should see a majority of traffic from non-branded terms.
  • Total organic traffic – increases in search traffic can potentially impact your other organic referral sources as well (for example, more people find the site via search engines, share via social channels, which spawns more referral traffic).
  • Search engine rankings – they still matter to keep an eye on. An unbiased report of rankings in search engines for priority terms is something to monitor as it relates to the SEO health of your site.
  • Most popular phrases – keeping track of the popular phrases sending you traffic is important – this data allows you to show correlation between rankings and web traffic.
  • Unique pages on your site – if you’re interested in more search traffic, you should be adding content to your site over time. By adding fresh content at regular intervals, you’re creating signals to the engines to crawl more often and also create more potential search phrases users can find your site for.
  • Depth/length of visit – if you’re optimized for certain terms but traffic from those terms is bouncing or leaving the site quickly, you may want to adjust your glossary.

More advanced users will want to track things like conversion rate per keyword, most popular pages, backlink volume and quantity, etc. But don’t become a victim of KPI creep – start simple and add more as you get comfortable.

Basic KPIs to monitor relating to social media

Along with your small business website, do you have a blog or forum where you’re nurturing a community? Below are some social-media specific metrics to monitor.

Your objectives could vary quite a bit (and may even be one of the KPIs listed below) as social media application is as open as your creativity.

  • Number of subscribers – how many people are reading your blog through RSS or email every month? You’ll want to pay attention to this, as subscribers are a vital element of an online marketing growth strategy.
  • Branded searches/non-branded – again, it’s important to know how many people are actively seeking out a community or blog you are monitoring/marketing. This number should grow over time as a byproduct of all marketing activity, digital or otherwise.
  • Overall unique visitors – how much traffic does your community generate?
  • Search engine traffic – search traffic to a blog or web forum should increase month over month as more content is added, links are acquired and authority is gained. If you execute properly increased search traffic is a by product of your social destination.
  • Visitor to subscriber conversion ratios – how many people are coming to your blog but not bothering to subscribe? Might it be worthwhile to experiment moving around the subscription CTAs or adding another below content? You can’t know unless you’re tracking this data. Just compare unique visitors monthly to new subscribers and reduce. I.E. – if your blog had 1,000 visitors last month and 10 new subscribers, you’re converting roughly 1 subscriber per 100 visitors. It’s a rough number because certain referral sources will send better traffic but over time you’ll see the trend emerge.
  • Followers/fans in outposts – Chris Brogan talked about using outposts in his social media strategy. Darren Rowse went ahead and fleshed out a visualization behind this. Outpost is the perfect word to describe how many of us leverage social sites to feed self-hosted communities that live in the open web. Track the growth of these monthly, and remember to do things that actively bridge the connections between them to strengthen your presence.
  • Referral traffic – is StumbleUpon your #1 referral source month over month but you’re not calling it out specifically as a sharing button on your site? Are certain types of blogs sending you highly relevant traffic you can form deeper relationships with? A social program should be extremely sensitive to referral traffic.
  • Number and quality of conversations/posts inspired externally – as your blog starts to grow in popularity it will spawn organic conversations/posts externally. You’ll want to know both how many have been inspired and if they were high quality (score them). Knowing this data, you can line it up next to your blog posts published each month and see trends in the the kind of content that resonates.
  • Number of shares of content across platforms – in addition to conversations/posts inspired externally, you’ll want to know how many people Dugg, Stumbled, Tweeted or otherwise shared your content. Same process – line this up with content and you’ll start to see what is resonating vs. falling flat.

Wrapping up

Web analytics reporting is a requirement for modern businesses.  It allows your marketing to be more accountable and enables you to support key decisions with data – a powerful selling tool.  If you’re new, don’t let perceived complexity or jargon scare you off:  start simple and get into a rhythm with reporting on the basics.  Over time as your team becomes fluent the process, then you can add additional depth.

As many of you reading are extremely savvy in web analytics – what advice would you add to help those who are new?

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  1. Between this post and the one Thomas did last week, you guys cover a lot of tips that can be performed easily by most. But do small business owners have the time to set up all of these goals and customer reports, some of which requires semi-technical tasks like tweaking html with event tracking code and learning the basics of regular expressions?

    Ultimately I agree web analytics is becoming as important as essentials like keeping the books balanced. But is web analytics a future small business owner core competency or a growing niche for consultants/agencies?

    • Small business owners may not have time – however certainly team members within every company (large or small) can make the time to report on web metrics. It's far too valuable to ignore. Setting up goals/custom reports isn't too difficult and can be learned fairly quick – however if something is too complex for a company it's worth getting outside help at least to set things up.

  2. Fantastic post. We just wrote a related post on the Post-Click Marketing blog on 10 things you can start testing…. It seems like like a good prologue to this post on what to start analyzing!

    -Kristina, @ion_interactive

  3. This is a great primer for small businesses. Another resource for those wanting to dive deeper into the data is Avinash Kaushik's Occam's Razor blog, a must-read for analysis ninjas everywhere ( He's especially good at talking ROI and KPI. 🙂

  4. Great article, Adam!

    In addition to Occam's Razor which Heidi mentions below, I also recommend Web Analytics Demystified ( Eric Peterson and crew offer some solid information for profs at all levels.

  5. A good summary of some KPIs here. I find that a common problem for non-techie small business owners is firstly to understand how the Analytics data is being recorded (and how it interacts with the way the site works) and then interpreting that data correctly to really understand what it means.

    Tracking the KPIs should then lead to assumptions and tests on an ongoing basis. However, common issues for small businesses might be having a sample size that's big enough to be useful and also having the ability or willingness to make the changes to the site.

  6. Each tip appear to be smaller but on a whole there is a big bunch!! I think this info would be specially appeal to those who organize their work systematically!

  7. It's an exciting time to be a small business owner or communications professional. Thanks!

  8. everyone needs to be …. Small Business Tips For Reporting Web Metrics.and it can solve many confutation…………

  9. Thanks for your comments on the value of search engine page rank. After giving it a lot of thought, that is my conclusion also but I was looking for confirmation from an expert.

    I did not know that spiders crawl at a variable frequency. I knew updating was important but I didn't know the frequency would change.

    I've gotta go. I need to check my social network plugin.

  10. Small Business Tips for Reporting Web Metrics It's an exciting time to be a small business owner or communications professional.

  11. This is really useful! It might sound a little too tech-heavy for a small business, but it's really important if you're a small business that wants to become a big business. And shouldn't that be the goal of any small-business owner?

    P.S. Don't get stuck with the small-business mindset, because everyone has the opportunity to grow if they know what to do. I've learned a lot from this article about how I can run my small business so that it can compete with the bigger players.

  12. It’s an exciting time to be a small business owner or communications professional. Why? We’ve never had more data and metrics at our fingertips. Actually, we flew past merely having data to having real-time data.

    Surprisingly some don’t initially like web metrics. Common concerns I’ve heard over the years include:

    * It’s too confusing
    * Information overload
    * What am I supposed to do with all this data?
    * Won’t all this tracking be expensive?

  13. Avatar marieselby says

    Thanks for the post. Good stuff! Has anyone ever tried outsourced business development? We have been using for our needs…they pretty much do it all or point us in the right direction to help grow our business. They have a lot of references and recommendations.

  14. All in all a nice complete article about reporting processs and Basic KPIs to monitor relating to social media. Thanks for nice post.

  15. I am new to google analytics. I setup a blog that is meant to advertise my business. I am excited with the google analytics reports; location of the visitor, article most visited, etc. I still do not know exactly how I would use these metrics, I am still learning. Thank you for the comprehensive explanation. As a newbie what metric should I focus on that would give me the most significant results? Does it work that way? Just wanna simplify things a bit.

  16. Every small business should be monitoring their growth in the online space. Even if they take a look once a week it is better than nothing. Watching how your website is growing and where you are starting to become visible online important for future growth.

  17. Every small business should be monitoring their growth in the online space. Even if they take a look once a week it is better than nothing. Watching how your website is growing and where you are starting to become visible online important for future growth.