The most important factor in digital marketing for 2009?

webanalytics

It’s not social media, or email marketing, or the family of acronyms that includes SEO, PPC, SEM, SMM, CPA, CPC, ATOS, or any others. It’s really quite simple - the most important thing you as a marketer will do in 2009 is analyze.

This is the year for marketing analytics. We’re in a global recession that is showing no signs of abating, and will get worse before it gets better. It’s been well documented that digital marketing is in a great position to thrive during these economic doldrums, but good marketing still costs money and that money will be harder to come by in '09. As finance departments and C-level executives tighten their fists around marketing budgets, the only way you can be sure of acquiring new funds is with hard, definitive proof of what’s working and why.

Of course most marketers reading this are thinking ‘I already analyze my campaigns to death, I don’t need to change anything’, but A) many other marketers aren’t analyzing at all, and B) you can never have too much (worthwhile) analysis. This is the year of diligent, comprehensive analysis of anything and everything you do as a marketer – not only to adapt to your market forces, but to stave off economic ones.

Why is web analysis good for your business?

Not knowing what’s happening to visitors on your site is like owning a store but wearing a blindfold from behind the counter. Customers walk through your store’s aisles, but you have no idea where they’re going, why, and what they’re having trouble finding (but let’s not imagine them stealing stuff). You need to know what your site visitors are experiencing – good or bad - on your site, and act accordingly. This is all assuming they’ve arrived on your site ‘for free’ via an organic search result, but it’s a whole different ballgame (and a big old waste of money) if you’ve paid for visitors to your site but aren’t tracking what happens after that.

If you have proof that campaign ‘A’ generated XX visitors, XX of which hit goals 1,2 (but not 3), and that XX% of those goals resulted in a sale, then you have the hard numbers your bosses want and need in this shaky economy.

By keeping up-to-date with the analysis of your entire website – everything from keywords to ATOS (average time on site) to bounce rates, goal hits, even browser & resolution, you can be sure that the things you’re doing to market your site aren’t wasted. What’s better, if you find they are a waste, you can adapt and change. Alternatively, if you have proof that campaign ‘A’ generated XX visitors, XX of which hit goals 1,2 (but not 3), and that XX% of those goals resulted in a sale, then you have the hard numbers your bosses want and need in this shaky economy. Remember that conversion stats aren’t the end-all-be-all: using web analytics to know without doubt or intuition what countries outperformed others, what time of day visitors hit your goals, what browser type results in more sales, or which campaign worked best…can all mean the difference between economic success and failure.

So web analysis will save my business in 2009?

No, of course not. Web analytics are crucial in a downturn economy, but won’t save a flagging business or work miracles. Analysis is best used at all times – when any change you do on your site – no matter how big or small – can be tracked, measured, quantified and acted on. If it worked, you continue; if it didn’t work, you try again until it does. This same rule applies to all marketing activities you do in 2009, but no matter what, if you don’t analyze, you might be just another statistic by the end of the year.

What are some tools to help me analyze my efforts in 2009?

Without a doubt, Google Analytics is the best free analytics decision you could make for your business, but here are a few more free or low-cost tools that can help you make of the most of your marketing efforts: