One of the nice things about distributing your content online is that it gives you the opportunity to collect all kinds of data about how your audience engages with your content. If you’re smart about it, you can use that data to figure out what people want more of from you, how best to get them to see and share your new content, and to how to convert first-time viewers into long-term fans.
But in order to learn any of this, you need to use a few basic analytics tools that can provide you crucial details about your content and how people engage with it. To help you out with this, I’ve put together a list of six basic analytics tools that are (mostly) free and provide you with lots of great insight. Each of these analytics provide insane amounts of information if you’re a stat porn geek like I am, but they can also be used in a simpler manner to just get an overview of what’s happening with your content.
Here’s the analytics tools I recommend you check out…
1. Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic.
If you’ve got a website of any kind, you should absolutely install Google Analytics. It’s easy to install – you just cut and paste a snippet of code onto your site – and provides you with tons of information about what’s happening on your website. Once it’s installed on your site, you’ll be able to see how many people visit your site, which content they look at, how they found your site, where they live (or at least where they logged on from), and loads of other details.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to track changes in your site over time – for example, do you get more visitors if you write one blog post a day compared to one a week? Are more people checking out your merchandise page since you started promoting it on the front page of your site? Google Analytics allows you to understand exactly what’s happening on your site and why.
Here’s a basic guide to Google Analytics to get you started.
2. Use bit.ly to track how many people click links that you promote on Twitter or Facebook.
You probably already know that bit.ly is a URL shortener t hat saves you some characters when you use it to share links on Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere around the web. What you may not know is that any bit.ly link also comes with back-end analytics that will show you exactly how many people clicked that link and at what times. It will also show you who else shared that link.
All you have to do to see that information is add a “+” sign at the end of the link and it will take you to a page with the click statistics for that link. It will show you how many times that link has been clicked, a breakdown of when it was clicked, and even show you the tweets that referenced that link so you can see who else shared it. For example, here’s the bit.ly stats for a link I sent out a few weeks ago.
Looking at who clicks your links and when can help you figure out what time of day is best to promote your stuff and help you understand which stuff gets shared more than others. For that matter, you could even try to send out the same link twice with two different titles and see which one gets clicked more. This kind of info can really help you hone your marketing skills.
I should also mention that bit.ly isn’t the only URL shortener that offers these kinds of stats – most URL shorteners do at this point so whichever you use, you should take a moment to check out the stats and see what you can learn.
3. Use YouTube’s Video Insights to see how people are finding and sharing your videos.
Another great stats package that you may not know exists is YouTube’s Video Insights tool. When you’re logged into your account on YouTube, you can go to the My Videos option and then select Insights, and what you’ll find is a treasure trove of information. YouTube offers up detailed statistics on all of your videos including information about everything from how people found your videos to how long the average person watched a given video before they stopped watching.
This is powerful information that can help you understand why one video gets more views than another, how titles can impact views because of search traffic, and can tip you off to what other websites may have posted your videos among other things.
4. Use Facebook Page Insights to learn about how people are engaging with your Facebook fan page.
Just like YouTube, Facebook comes equipped with some great built-in analytics for your fan page. This is not available if you’re using your regular profile page as opposed to an actual fan page, and is yet another reason why you should be using a Fan Page.
The Fan Page Insights are available by clicking “View Insights” on the right side of your fan page. Once you do, you’ll see a variety of stats including the demographic and location of the page’s fans as well as details about how engaging each of your individual status updates have been. This is important because understanding your fan page demographic can help you figure out where your audience is, and the engagement numbers impact whether or not your updates get seen in people’s news feeds so this is the place to track your progress in improving that.
5. Use AWeber’s email stats to monitor the effectiveness of your mailing list.
If you followed my previous advice and started to use AWeber to host your mailing list, then you’ll be able to take advantage of the software’s built-in analytics package. Besides the basics like how many people are on your mailing list and where they live, you’ll also be able to check the effectiveness of each email blast you send.
For example, AWeber’s software will show you exactly how many people on your list opened your email, how many clicked links in the email, and which links they clicked. Plus, it will tell you how many unsubscribed from the list. It even allows you to send follow-up emails to just the people who clicked certain links in the email. This stats package is another reason why I so strongly recommend using AWeber to power your mailing list.
6. Use ClickTale to literally watch people surf your site.
Ok, this one’s definitely not a must-have tool, but it is a fascinating one to try out. ClickTale offers “customer experience analytics,” which is a fancy way of saying that they let you figure out how people are using your website by allowing you to literally watch them click around your site.
The way it works is that once you install ClickTale on your site, the software records every visitor to your site and then allows you to watch each visit. That’s right, you get to look up any visit to your site and watch the mouse move as they surf through your site and click different pages and links. It’s pretty educational and completely addictive.
ClickTale is not free (though I believe you can try out a demo version for free), and I wouldn’t really recommend using it unless you have a decent amount of traffic on your site, but if you do it’s about as big a voyeuristic thrill as a stat junkie could hope for.
Looking for a little more help with your projects? Here’s some of the ways I can help.