There are many analytic tools on the market, but the most accessible is Google Analytics because it's free and very comprehensive.
Many small businesses have set up Google Analytics on their website to collect visitor data, but they often don’t know how to make the information actionable. Again, if your content isn't strategically aligned with your sales and marketing goals, the data collected won't be either. Business goals are at the heart of the functionality of a good website. In order to track these conversions using web analytics, you first have to clarify those business goals and list them in your Key Performance Indicators. (KPIs)
One of the leading authorities on web analytics, Avinash Kaushik, segments conversions into two types: macro and micro. The macro would be the dollars. The micro would be things like getting people to register on your site or downloading a white paper. These conversions are track-able, measurable, and like any good statistic, slice and dice-able--but only if you have already included them in your list of Key Performance Indicators in your analytics tool. And more importantly, the success of your website is only measurable if you’ve set up your analytics architecture correctly.
Andrew Edwards of ClickZ suggests the following check list:
You’ve planned your analytics environment advantageously.
You’ve gone through a stringent KPI definition exercise and know what your site goals are.
Your KPIs are logical and match your business needs.
Your tagging and reporting reflects the choices you’ve made.
This will require mapping business requirements to actual possible reports that can actually be achieved within the tool. It’s a bit harder than it sounds, and should be placed squarely in the hands of folks who understand how analytics really work.
So mapping out macro and micro business goals are a must before you implement an analytics tool. Similarly, you must come up with your benchmarks of success. Is 100 white paper downloads per month success? Is $100,000 per month of sales your goal? Defining the targets for each KPI is foundational to your analytics strategy.
This may sound ridiculously simple, but it’s not easy. Once you get the pages and pages of data from your analytics tool in front of you, having those very clearly defined parameters will help you sort through what is important and what is just nice to know. All the data in the world will not help you if you are not clear about your goals and you do not understand how to make that data actionable.
Your small business may not have the IT resources of Amazon or Walmart, but you can still use analytics to compete more successfully. Just remember, before you can make use of analytics, you have to first decide what you want to measure.