Once you’ve gotten an online home business off the ground, keeping it growing can seem every bit as daunting as the launch – without the excitement of starting something new to add to your motivation. Keeping that motivation up, as well as making good business decisions and coming up with creative ways to drive future growth are all keys to your success.
While different business models have different managing, marketing, and growth strategies, there is one important need that all businesses share – a way to assess the business’ performance to ensure you are on track to meet these business goals and aspirations. This is where analytics come in.
Why Analytics are So Important to Success
Analytics are like the black box in an airplane: they quietly record data in the background so that if there is a business event, good or bad, you can look at the data and make a determination about the cause and effect to help guide your decision making in the future.
Without that data being recorded, you may be hard-pressed to understand the intricacies of events affecting the trajectory of your business and may even find yourself blind-sided to the problem.
Analytics are also critical in assessing marketing efforts. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know exactly how effective an expensive marketing push was? Or to look back on what has been driving your current business and focus your efforts there where your resources are being put to better use? Without analytics, you are basically “flying blind”.
Owning Your Data is Imperative
So now that you are convinced that analytics are important, it’s imperative that you don’t make the critical mistake of handing all your data over to a third-party service who is basically keeping it captive for a monthly fee. A lot of “analytics services” do just that by recording and presenting your data through a proprietary platform that only they can provide. The truth is that there are many platforms out there that can provide a similar service for free – and your data is not held hostage by a monthly fee.
Even if you do end up choosing a paid third-party analytics service, we always recommend keeping Google Analytics and Google Search Console (we’ll talk more about these below) running on your site. We also encourage you to protect your access and ownership of the Google accounts associated with these services.
Web Analytics for Online Businesses
If you are starting an online business, especially from home, keeping costs down is probably pretty high on your priorities. The great news is that there are a lot of great free resources available that can provide all the web analytics you should need to have a deep grasp on the trajectory of your online business. Even if you do hire someone to set up the services and/or help you understand what it all means, you will save a tremendous amount of money in the long run – not only from avoiding third-party service fees, but also from being able to make educated decisions about your business.
At the heart of every online home business web analytics strategy should be Google Analytics. This industry standard offers most every critical data point for traffic assessment, a wide variety of marketing features, and it easily integrates with Google Ads and Google Search Console. While there may be other analytics platforms out there that may be more user friendly and feature rich, Google Analytics is both free and universally known. As we mentioned above, even if you do go with a paid third-party service, install Google Analytics and let it run quietly in the background.
Search Statistics are Critical to Your Success
Some critical data that is lacking in most every web analytics platform is search data. This is data about how your website shows up in search and gives you a good sense on what search engines perceive your website to be about. The main reason not many services can provide accurate data about search is quite simply that they don’t have access to it – they would have to be Google to have that!
The great news is that not only can you get this data about your website from Google, but it too is free! Google Search Console is a simple yet critical component to any online business analytics strategy that relies on search for even a small part of their business revenue.
Properly Evaluating Your Social Media Efforts
One of the most difficult aspects of online marketing to properly assess is organic social media marketing. The reason is twofold: First of all, it can be difficult (and costly) to pull the analytics data from the backend of social media accounts into other analytics dashboards for accurate comparisons. Secondly, the data you see in your social media accounts isn’t always as reliable or meaningful in the world of conversions. Yes, social media advertising data may give you a good indication of what you are getting for your ad dollars, but where the rubber hits the road is conversions and your best bet there is to see those social media followers make the jump to your website where you can more accurately assess the effectiveness of your social marketing efforts. In most cases, you’ll really start to see what a pay-to-play world social media marketing is.
The TL;DR here is to take the analytics from your social media accounts with a grain of salt. Don’t just assume Likes and Follows are adding a lot to your bottom line and if you need to, seek the help of a competent marketing expert with a handle on the bigger picture to help you properly wade through your social analytics.
Getting All Your Data in One Place
Now that we’ve touched on social media, you are probably seeing one of the biggest challenges in monitoring and interpreting your overall web analytics – getting all that data in one place. This is where those expensive third-party analytics services can sometimes shine. Because we’ve had a lot of experience working with small online and real-world business startups, we’ve seen these third-party services come and go (this is why we are not recommending one). We’ve also seen new businesses find themselves in financial bind from signing too many contracts with third-party vendors while still finding out they weren’t getting the hands on help they needed.
But there is a better solution for small online startups who need an easy-to-understand analytics dashboard that puts all of their most critical data in one place and doesn’t break the bank: Google Data Studio. Yes, another free Google product, and no, we are not necessarily big proponents of either Google or putting all your eggs in one basket. However, this is another Google platform that hits it out of the park in terms of bringing value to new small businesses like yours.
There is a big caveat with Google Data Studio however: unless you have had years of experience with Google Analytics and some familiarity with data visualization programs, this is something you want to get help with in order to implement for your business. But look at it this way – you could either spend a lot of money to have access to an expensive program which you still might need help with, or spend no money on the program and direct your resources to a professional person or team who can not only set Data Studio up for you, but tailor it for your needs, and help you understand how to leverage it.
In the end, our advice on analytics for your online business boils down to one basic premise: utilize every free resource you can and reserve your money for industry professionals who can offer a hands-on approach to helping your business attain the heights it was destined for.
If you need help with your online business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team can not only help you get your business off the ground and on the web, but also help you build and manage the marketing infrastructure it takes to be successful. Call us at (941) 548-9950 or drop us a note!