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Baseline Website Performance: 5 Things Every Business Must Know - Part 1

From Twin Creek Media's YouTube Channel:

Most companies are always eager to spend on marketing; getting in on the latest trend or the latest platform! But how often do you go back to look at the performance numbers? To evaluate how well your marketing activities worked and to compare what works best?

At Twin Creek Media, we put a lot of effort into understanding and making decisions based on the data. So, how do we analyze this data? In this episode, we are going into detail about our “Analytics” journey. 

Let’s go!

James: Hi everybody! In this episode, let’s talk all about analytics – one of the most… well, boring topics of all time for marketing people (wink wink!). Ariel is here today with us, she's our data analyst at Twin Creek Media and very knowledgeable in the field, so that's why she's our co-host today.

Why Analytics?! Why??

James: Most creative people think that analytics and reporting are kind of like… watching paint dry. Let's actually start with what this is. Why is it so significant to be measuring marketing results, measuring your baseline performance, which is the topic of today's show? Why is it so important? 

Ariel: I think the reason it's significant is we really want to see, first of all, where you are; that’s why we do the baseline reports and look at the metrics there, and just really to understand where you are positioned currently in your business. And then we look at the broad picture and ask, where do you want to be? And unless you're measuring results at the beginning, you're not going to know if you're succeeding once you start your campaign. 

James: You might launch something and then go, “Wow! This thing's going really well,” or “It's not going really well.”... Well, how do you know unless you have a baseline, right?  “Where did you start from”. It's as simple as that, really, and you can't really improve things if you haven't been measuring things along the way. 

To get the most bang for your buck out of your marketing dollars, you really want to be trying to define your goal. You work backward from there. You try to measure along the way and then make adjustments so you can be better and better. And then you're getting a higher ROI (Return On Investment). So, determining the goals is a big deal. You have to know where you're going, so the baseline performance is all about where you are right now. 

But like Ariel said, 

You need to know where you're going and then compare it back to where you were to know how far you improved. Ariel

Ariel: I see it like a pulse check. It's like when you're working out, and you're like, “Okay, where are we at?”. You have got to take the pulse on things and see what you're doing.

James: It's also surprising – people are often surprised when we do this for the first time, and their company has never really taken a pulse check or a health check from the marketing advertising statistics point of view: Is your website healthy? What's it doing for you? Is it working? Is it not working? How do you know? What are these things to measure?

Tools Of The Trade

James: Our agency, Twin Creek Media, has been working with lots and lots of different companies across Canada - We've been through 8 zillion different software tools trying to find the Holy Grail of what's going to measure things the best and what's going to take 9 years of doing manual spreadsheets. Let's talk a little bit about that in 2023 going into 2024. You know, what sort of tools are we using?

Ariel: Definitely. anyone who has a website or has linked up to Google Analytics probably knows that Universal Analytics is gone. It's no more - It stopped gathering data as of last year. And so we moved into GA4 (Google Analytics 4), which, you know, we were a little hesitant about. It's a totally different software and what we realized very quickly is that it's actually sampling on GA4 - which we were a little bit apprehensive of because it's not true results. It's not exact data, it's a guesstimate, which is pretty accurate most of the time, but it's also a huge spam magnet as well.

So we've actually moved into Matomo, which is a third-party data software that we use, and I love it. It's super user-friendly; the interface is similar to Universal Analytics so it's not an entirely new interface to learn either. And the reporting is very thorough and very accurate, so yeah! We're excited about that.

James: In a nutshell, for the non-techies, this tool just makes your data more accurate. We're all about accuracy. Then there's a whole bunch of other tools as well that we use in our research stage, and this is research for marketing analytics and website performance, specifically when it comes to advertising.

Ariel: For sure, with Facebook being a big ad channel for us, Facebook, Instagram or Meta. We obviously go into Meta ads manager and the business account side of things and get a lot of good metrics from there.

James: So, AKA the source. With social media platforms, the source has some really good data that you can't always pull out from other reporting platforms. Most of it you can, with the right kind of hooks and stuff, but some of the data is stuck in there, and you really have to go to the source to find out.

Some of the other tools we've used currently and some of that we've used in the past are more for search engine optimization, tools like ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, and Ubersuggest, which is Neil Patel's tool - he has a neat data suite there and even SpyFu which is used for competitive analysis of ads and to find out who's running what; you know you can do a little bit of reconnaissance work on your competitors and how they're advertising and what they say.

Editors note: To align with GDPR’s transparency regulations, Google and Meta also have their own “Ad Library” platforms where you can see who is running which ad! The Meta Ad Library lets you see advertiser activity on all Meta platforms, and the Google Transparency Centre shows you advertiser activity on Google.

Those are good raw data research tools.

We also have a bunch of reporting tools that are our favourites as well! This is where you live, day in and day out in these tools.

Ariel: Yeah, my corner office is in Agency Analytics. This has been an awesome tool. They have beautiful visualizations of the raw data that I'm pulling directly from the source, which is really neat to compile into a more user friendly and readable report monthly for our clients or even annually. So that's been really useful. And for the most part, it connects to most of the software or, you know, third-party websites that we use. And there are a ton of integrations, which is great!

Obviously, Google Data Studio brings in live embeds, and that's been awesome - even just to pull in some stuff from ahrefs and any of those others

James: When you need a custom graph or chart or a pie chart or some sort of this versus that, that's not a normal comparison, but you want to make your own with a data set, so that's for really custom stuff, I would say.

And then the other tools we used in the past are whatagraph, which is another kind of integration that plugs in all the data - It visualizes it for people nicely. Clipfolio is another one as well, so there are different software platforms out there that are pretty good at reporting - they all have pros and cons.

Reporting Checklist: What should we be including in our reports?

James: But everyone's probably wondering, “What should we be including in our reports?”

We have a little checklist. And this is really high level but it includes some critical elements that you should be including in your baseline report and, really, in your ongoing reports. So what would some of those things be? 

Ariel: So we want to know “Total Sessions”: How many people are hitting the site - How many sessions versus users versus new users. We like to keep a pulse on that, so website visitors obviously have a huge part to play in that report. And then we also need to know where they are coming from, and separate the humans from the bots too.

James: I know it's a big job finding out who is a real living, breathing being on your website and who is just a spam bot or a Google bot or something, and you try to separate that so you don't include that in your report, so it's not inflated numbers. We've had reports in the past where half of the website traffic that month, and it's like thousands or even tens of thousands, is spam bots from Russia! It's like, why do we have so many Russians on our website? It's probably not “people” from Russia. 

Ariel: So that's definitely all part of “where are they coming from.” “What devices are they using?” is another huge one. We want to make sure that the user experience on site is optimized as to what our goal is, in terms of “Are we trying to get a lot of mobile users?”, “Are they able to use a site properly?” “Is it loading really well?”. We have different metrics you want to see there. 

Time on site is huge. Bot traffic is generally a bounce. They generally don't spend a lot of time on the site, so that's an easy way to see whether it's a real person.

James: Interestingly enough, “time on site” is becoming less of a deal because there's so much information on the first page.

Some of these pages are long, and there are people scrolling them on their phones, and then they find what they're looking for, and they fill out the form, or they hit the “Click to Call” button, and they're a legitimate user, and they turn into a lead, like convert into a lead or a sale or something and time on site would be recorded as 0 seconds because they haven't left the homepage. 

Ariel: But they're also engaging with the website. This is the other thing that we like to look at; Did they engage in any way? Did they click around? Did they navigate? 

James: But, If they didn't leave the homepage and they did what they wanted to do, time on site would be recorded as 0 seconds because they didn't leave the first page.

Ariel: I see what you're saying.

James: When they leave the landing page and go to another page, like the about page or services or products, they click on a product page if it's an e-commerce or contact page; like any of those, really. They've now left page one, and they've gone to the second page, and now the timer is like, “Oh yeah! Your session started!”. It's really like a quirk of Google Analytics. Time on site, especially with long pages and people on their phones, depends on how websites are set up.

Integrations are another thing we're going to look at. So not only what did they do on the site but then what was feeding all the traffic in the first place? 

So, what do they do on the site? What would be some of the most important goals?

Ariel:  Are they filling out a form? Often, we will set up contact forms, service forms, request forms or learn more forms on the sites. It's easy for us to filter once we're able to download those forms and say okay, this is obviously spam because spam bots will fill out forms once in a while, depending on the site and depending on your URL. 

But you know it's super valuable if we're to see a lead - for example, in an installation company’s website, someone's asking for a new installation in the Attic or whatnot. That's a real lead, and that's a huge one versus lead messages like “Are you hiring?”. 

James: You want to separate goals. Goals are so important. Goals, ultimately, are your potential customers. Lead generation, conversions from visitors to inquiries…

But you can't get better at something you're not measuring right. James

So when we're measuring, it's “Oh! We have ten people phoning through or 100 people phoning through, great!”. And in the future now you've doubled that again. You have to be measuring it in the first, and, this is a trick question, but how do you measure phone calls?  

Ariel: Yeah, It's tricky. So many people have no idea how this is done! 

So we use Call Rail. Where we basically purchase a number, and the back end of the website will actually pick up however that person is entering the site (From Google, Facebook, through a Press Release etc), and swap the number to the number that was purchased and will display that number. 

So when someone calls through and says, “Hey! I'm interested in your services!”, based on the number that rings through to the phone at the office or at the business, it'll actually get logged in a report, which we take at the end of the month and pop into a monthly report.

James: Exactly, so someone's scrolling their phone, they're on Facebook, and they're like, “Oh man, I'm interested in that!”. They hit the ad, and it goes to the site, then they hit the phone number on the top of the page, and they call, and the thing is, they're calling a specific number that the social media ad told the website to swap out and display when the person got to the website. If they came from a Google ad, they would see a different number, and they click that number.

So all these different numbers, it doesn't matter what they are because they're just display numbers. They all forward to the business's actual landline or, you know, their real business number. But it's that go-between number that is tracking all those different calls; where they came from, and categorizing how many calls came through Google search, how many were organic, and then trying to understand what's working exactly… The whole point of measuring stuff is to get more optimized with your marketing dollars and get more bang for your buck!

Check out our previous episode: Biggest Wins In Our Marketing & Advertising Careers - Part 2

“Between Two Creeks” is Twin Creek Media’s weekly podcast series. You can find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify. If you enjoy listening to the latest and wonkiest in marketing every week, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button! If you want us to amp up your marketing, click here to contact us and let’s chat!