not the only number that matters. "What?!" I hear you say... sales aren't everything?
In a word... no.
Of course sales are the ultimate goal - but the problem with only worrying about the number of sales is that if something changes - the number of sales suddenly decreases, or even increases - people have absolutely no clue why!
So they guess and make assumptions. The trouble is with guessing is you're putting an awful lot of faith in your own ability to understand what the market is doing without any empirical evidence or data. Trust me - you're not that good.
Don't worry though because neither am I, and neither is virtually any other marketer in the world. Sure some have really good instincts - but usually those instincts are have been honed on reams of data. They weren't born with them, and neither were you.
You need data.
That's where analytics comes in. Now I've used Google Analytics as the example for a few really simple reasons. It's free, it's easy to use, it's Google (which means it's pretty damn reliable) and did I mention it's free?
Google Analytics is a program that allows you to not only collect a bunch of data about everyone who visits your site and what they do when they get there, but it also allows you to process that data and make deductions from the data - which is actually the important part.
So for starters, let's have a quick look at the data that Google Analytics gives you.
For each page, Google Analytics tells you
- The number of page views
- The number of unique visitors
- The bounce rate (number that arrives on the page and immediately leaves)
- % that are new visitors (never been to your site before)
- Where the visitor has come from - e.g. search engine, ppc or another website
- Where the visitor clicks on the page
- Where the visitor is (down to city) including map overlay
- Information about the user's computer including browser, operating system, screen size and colors, Java and Flash support.
With that data in aggregate over your whole site you can see:
- The number of visits to your website
- The number of pageviews of your site
- What your most popular pages are
- What your biggest sources of traffic are - including what sites are sending you traffic
Google Analytics also allows you to set up to 4 ‘goals' for each website - this can be something like buying something, signing up for a newsletter, and with a bit of fiddling around - clicking on an affiliate link. Goals represent the objective of your website - you don't want people to just arrive and then hang out - you want them to do something. This allows you to measure it.
So what does it all mean?
Essentially the data from Google Analytics can be divided into:
- Who your visitors are
- Where they come from
- Where they enter your site; and
- What they do when they get there
From there it's about interpreting the data. You see information on its own is useless without understanding it in a context - and the best context is a question.
What is the country that most of my sales (or clicks on your affiliate link)?
What is the most common page that people arrive at when they find my site in Google?
How likely are people who arrive on a specific page on my website to buy something or click my affiliate link?
As you can see these questions take in data from multiple different parts of the data - who they are, where they came from and what they do when they get here.
Google Analytics allows you to segment the data by a bunch of characteristics by creating what is called an "Advanced Segment". This involved pulling out all the data that contains a common attribute or excluding all data with a specific attribute in order to more clearly see the data you want to. For example, do you want to just see how people who come to your site from PPC navigate your site? Selecting this segment removes all non-paid traffic from your analytics - you can look at each page and each goal separately like you normally would, just with a ‘filter' applied.
So what does this mean for an affiliate?
I've tried to give you a taste of the kind of data G.A collects and what kind of things you can find out from that data - but you might still be thinking... "so what? I just want to make sales - I don't care who to."
We've talked a lot before about knowing your customer - how the more you understand about who you're trying to sell to, the more effective you'll be. But what's the point of knowing your customer if you don't understand what they do on your website? You could be missing big opportunities.
What if you find that one page on your site happens to be getting a lot of traffic, but that particular page doesn't sell anything? If you have analytics you can identify this page and put in some kind of monetization.
Or have you put a lot of work into maintaining a Twitter account that you hope will bring people back to your site? Wouldn't you like to know exactly how many people that is, and if they're actually buying anything when they get there?
Because analytics collects such broad range of data, there is a broad range of applications for it. Everyone will find different uses for it depending on what it is exactly they're trying to achieve with their site. While it's true that some will find more use for it than others - given that it is free and take about 5 minutes to set up if you're using a Wordpress site - really, what do you have to lose?
You can get Google Analytics at www.google.com/analytics