Put metrics to work for you

If you can’t measure it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. That was Susan Mernit‘s message to the roomful of publishers who gathered for her session on harnessing metrics. “Think about how hard you work,” Mernit went on to say. “If you can’t measure your efforts, you’re in effect working for nothing.”

It was soon apparent that the publishers sitting around the table had a basic understanding of metrics and the tools to analyze them like Google Analytics, but didn’t know how to find all the info they needed, go in-depth on the numbers or make strategic decisions based on them. Luckily, Susan’s presentation (which you should check out in its entirety) answered many questions about how to use metrics to plan and strategize.

TOOLS

There are many tools that can be used for measurement, but Susan recommended three core ones to focus on:

  • Google Analytics for everything site-related,
  • TweetReach for measuring Twitter efficacy,
  • Facebook Insights for measuring Facebook success.

Also mentioned was bit.ly, a link shortener which provides analytics on click rates and more.

WHICH METRICS ARE IMPORTANT?

Some metrics are essential such as time spent on site, pages viewed, referral source, returning vs. new visitors, unique visitors, page views and more.

With a sea of stats to look at though, focus on the ones that are most important to you. This could differ depending on your audience or business goals. A new site for example may want to focus on attracting more new visitors while a more established one may be more concerned with keeping their returning visitors count high.

Above all, remember not to look at any of your stats in isolation. Metrics are most meaningful if you combine them with one another to get a clearer idea of what’s happening. For instance, if a story attracted an exceptionally large number of page views, try to understand where they came from before drawing any conclusions. Use other metrics to get the big picture.

WHY DO METRICS MATTER?

Do you want to grow your audience? Discover new content or advertising opportunities? Determine where to spend your time online promoting your site? Metrics can help you do all this and more.

They can also help you identify and fix mistakes. For instance, one publisher recalled discovering that they got an overwhelming percentage of their pageviews from a national, not a local audience. This was a problem for them as a site with a mission to serve the local community. They knew they had to change their content mix to appeal more to local readers.

MAKING TIME FOR METRICS

If you’re a harried publisher wearing many hats and trying to do the job of two or three people, adding something else to your plate may seem daunting. But like anything else, if you want to devote time to, you have to make analytics part of your normal workflow.

Sharing her approach to this, Susan said she looks at site and social media analytics once a week and creates a brief report she often shares with the rest of her team. She also maintains spreadsheets (you can export data straight from Google Analytics) which allows her to see longer term trend lines over a period of a month or more.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Step one is to teach yourself. Google Anlytics has an entire YouTube channel which will help you master all aspects of the service. And of course as with anything else, the best way to get better is with practice, practice, practice.

Want to learn alongside your fellow publishers? Email Susan at susan (at) oaklandlocal (dot) com and express your interest. If there are enough requests, a monthly webinar will be held..

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