As a small business owner or entrepreneur, how do you know whether or not a new strategy or tactic is working? If a month from now, you look at your Google Analytics and you see a significant change to your website traffic, will you know the cause? How do we know whether or not a new strategy or tactic is working? Which social media sites should we maintain our presence on? When is it time to cut our losses and stop doing something that isn’t producing the results that we desire?
Documentation: a Necessity for Businesses
Let’s face it. There’s a lot to keep track of and it can be time consuming to maintain documentation and to track what we’re doing. Whether we’re building a new blog/website or publishing a new article on our blog, there are steps that we follow. Hopefully, you have documented these processes and you only need to access a document to quickly know how to proceed. If you’re also tracking the key steps that you take, you will have the necessary insight to make informed decisions on which tactics you should continue and which ones you should stop.
Tracking Routine Steps in an Excel (Open Office or Google Docs) Spreadsheet
Maintaining spreadsheets to track the steps that we take can seem time consuming and it may be tempting to take a shortcut but I can think of three reasons for doing it:
#1 – Spreadsheets can be a simple way of ensuring that you don’t forget steps.
#2 -Spreadsheets can be used to pinpoint exactly what caused something to go awry.
#3 - Spreadsheets can be used to help make informed decisions.
I recommend creating a minimum of one spreadsheet for every website/blog you maintain and using that spreadsheet to track changes. If you regularly post articles, create a second worksheet for that. After publishing your post, use this worksheet to track the sites that you regularly submit your articles to (sites that you can’t subscribe your RSS feed to). After posting, copy and paste the list of sites that you submit to. Then update your spreadsheet with the new information such as the category you submit it to, the description, keywords and any other important information.
So what should you keep track of? Here are a few of the things that I keep track of using Excel spreadsheets:
Changes to Your Website/Blog:
- New or Updated Themes
- New Home Pages (for example, if your blog is your home page now and you change it to a static page)
- Changes to Individual Pages
- Changes to Your Navigation Menu
- Changes to Graphics, Logo, Colors, Branding
Changes to WordPress Plugins, Joomla Extensions or Code:
- Upgrades to Existing Plugins/Extensions
- Adding Plugins/Extensions to Help with Social Engagement
- Changes to Sharing or Follow Me Buttons
- Changes to your commenting system (CommentLuv, Intense Debate, Disqus)
- Adding Badges
New Opportunities and Strategies
- Public speaking, events or workshops
- Actively Participating on Groups or Forums
- Guest Blogging
- Being Featured on Sites such as BizSugar or Blog Engage
Something as simple as adding a new plugin or code can impact your traffic. For example, originally I had a simple follow me on Facebook button on my blog. When I switched to using the Facebook social plugin, (the box in my sidebar with the pictures of the people who “liked” my KeepUpWeb fan page) the number of people who engaged with me on Facebook nearly doubled (from 118 in September to 230 in March). A similar thing happened to my Alexa ranking. Adding the Traffic Rank badge from Alexa helped my ranking improve dramatically (from 129,557 in December to 85,494 in March).
One of my favorite statistics to compare in Google Analytics is my referral traffic. By looking at the sources of my traffic on a monthly basis, I get a quick snapshot of which social media sites are driving the most traffic to my website/blog. Whereas at one time Twitter was my number one source of referral traffic, it now ranks much lower. The number of visitors are relatively the same but the overall percentage has dropped. This is due to my efforts on other sites such as my involvement on LinkedIn and BizSugar. Since those sites are now driving more traffic, I can make an informed decision to spend the bulk of my time there and automate more of my tweeting.
What have you learned from Google Analytics? Do you track similar data? Are you collecting other information? We’d love to hear from you.