5 Tools Webmasters Should Use to Track Website Growth

Published by
James Parsons
on November 06, 2014
Posted in Resources

To an entrepreneur, data is an aphrodisiac.  There’s nothing quite as sweet as the scent of data wafting from your analytics.  Nothing says love quite like knowing your website inside and out.  And growth, well, let’s just say it’s good to make things grow.

Of course, a skilled entrepreneur doesn’t approach this relationship unprepared.  You bring tools with you.  You take a clinical approach, learning your baselines, setting your goals, tracking your progress.  It breaks the relationship metaphor, and turns your growth into a science.

1. Content Analytics with BuzzSumo

One problem that many entrepreneurs fall into is the tunnel vision they have for their own site.  You focus on keywords and trends, what works for your site and what doesn’t, and you build off what you’ve been doing.  The problem is, just like following a branching forest trail, what you think may be the main route could very well be an offshoot.

Don’t quite get it?  You’re focusing too much on what works for your site and your audience, while ignoring what works for a larger audience that you could be attracting.

The point of BuzzSumo is to give you wide-angle views on the trends throughout the Internet.  Put in a keyword and the tool will give you a readout of the best content that’s ranking for that keyword, as well as what sort of social shares the content has.  You can tweak your search with advanced tools, you can save your search to run regularly, you can filter your data by date range and you can even export it for use elsewhere.

The best part about BuzzSumo is the ability to filter by specific types of post.  You can, for example, identify the most compelling infographics related to your niche.  You can filter by giveaways, videos, interviews, guest posts and more.

The other side of BuzzSumo is competitor tracking.  Where you run a search for a keyword, you can also run a search for a competitor.  You can see, not what content in general is working for a keyword, but what content is working best for your competition.  This can give you a route to undercut their success by outdoing them at their own game.

2. Website Data Tracking with Google Analytics

Website-Data-Tracking-with-Google-Analytics

It wouldn’t be a complete list of website analytics tools without including Google Analytics somewhere.  GA is just far, far too powerful to leave off.  If you’re not using it, you’re wasting your time.

Rather than expound upon what GA can do for you, consider this a resource guide.

  • Use this guide from Social Media Examiner to get started with Google Analytics, from the basics of the homepage to setting up custom filters.
  • Use this guide from Moz for some of the more clever tricks you can pull with Google Analytics, giving you insight into data you might not otherwise think to parse in the same way.
  • Use this list of custom dashboards from Econsultancy to install some of the more interesting and valuable community-created custom dashboards, if you don’t want to set up custom dashboards for yourself.

3. Split Testing with Optimizely

Split testing is one of the easiest ways to try out changes without committing your full audience to one version or another of a site.  It removes time as a variable; both audiences are simultaneous, both versions of the landing page or product page live at the same time.  Unfortunately, normal split testing can take a lot out of you, in terms of time and resources.

Optimizely plugs a code hook into your site and allows you to set up split tests that go live in minutes.  Essentially, you create a virtual, experimental versions of your site with variations to test.  You can run any number of tests with minor variables changed, and if you opt for their higher tier programs, you can run multivariable tests as well.

Obviously, you should always take such tests with a grain of salt.  You never know whether it’s the novelty of change or a legitimate improvement that spikes your traffic.  Either way, however, any increase in traffic is good.

4. User Experience Optimization with Crazy Egg

User-Experience-Optimization-with-Crazy-Egg

Some of the most interesting data you can’t simulate internally is how your users actually interact with your page.  You never know, for example, if a sizable portion of your users are trying to click an image that looks like a button, only to find it doesn’t do anything.  Imagine if you had a readout of three recently posted blog articles, each with an image and a headline, but only the headline was a link.  You would never know how many people tried to click on that image, and how many of them, when the link didn’t open as they expect, abandoned the destination.

Crazy Egg is one of many heatmap apps you can use, and it’s a pretty good one.  It puts some code into your site and tracks where users click, showing you a nice graphical overlay of how users are interacting with your site.  You can use this data to streamline your user experience.  If there’s anywhere your users are trying to click but isn’t a link to where they want it to go, you can make that link.  If you find your navigation receives most clicks around a certain button, you can swap the order of buttons to cluster the important destinations there.

In any case, it’s a new form of data you can’t get through Google Analytics or any other form of measurement.  Just about everything else tracks time on page and links clicked, but a heatmap is the only reasonable way to track mouse movements and clicks on elements that aren’t links.

5. Social Influence Measurement with SharedCount

SharedCount is exactly as simple as it sounds.  It’s a box you use to put in a URL, to a specific piece of content or to your website as a whole.  When you put in the URL and click analyze, the site produces an instantaneous report of the various social metrics you might have.  You can see your likes, shares and comments in Facebook.  You can see your Twitter presence, your Google+ +1s, your Pins and your shares on LinkedIn.

It’s not exactly the most robust readout, but it gives you access to a wealth of data you can collect and compare over time.  You can use it to monitor your general social growth per piece of content, and all it takes is some time setting up the API.

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James is a content marketing and SEO professional who enjoys the challenge of driving sales through blogging while creating awesome and useful content.

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