Even though small businesses and marketers are expected to collect and analyze data, many stop their analytics at the first, easiest step: Pageviews (or likes, or followers). These so-called vanity metrics offer a small view of a website's effectiveness. Google Analytics is a tool that can help marketers dig a little deeper into the numbers. With some extra effort, you can start collecting more actionable data. I interviewed Chris Lucas, the Vice President of Business Development at Formstack, who shared 9 actionable metrics which are all arguably more important than vanity metrics.

1. Customized metrics

Even if your pageviews are through the roof, they don't really help you to take any action. Conversion rate is a much more important metric to track. Bounce rate is another easy statistic to find, but bounce rate by source can indicate how well-qualified your traffic is from an individual source. Determine where you need more information from your analytics.

2. A/B testing

A/B tests can be run through Google Analytics. Performing A/B tests is critical to becoming a data-minded marketer. Only 24% of marketers create and test hypotheses in Google Analytics, which means they are missing out on an important key to understanding their customers. A surprising 40% of marketers make decisions using instinct, not analytics. When you leverage Google Analytics experiments, you can gather data to convert more customers.

3. ROI calculation

Only one-third of marketers calculate ROI, which means most marketers are not sure that their efforts are paying off. With analytics, you can stop crossing your fingers. ROI calculation takes a few steps to set up in Google Analytics, but the payoff is huge. Setting values to your goals will show you which customer actions result in the most revenue. Once you know that, you can optimize your page with ROI in mind.

4. Source attribution

A customer might check you out initially from organic search, come back later via a Twitter post, and make a purchase from an email. If you only track the customer's last interaction, you won't be attributing accurate value to your social or SEO presence. Attribution models, which only 10% of marketers perform, can reveal which sources lead to conversions. This can help you predict which initiatives will be successful in the future.

5. Custom campaign links

Custom campaign links, or UTM parameters, are unique codes that show you which channels are providing you the best traffic. Fifty-two percent of marketers track general, not specific, web referrals in Google Analytics. Using UTMs allows you to track individual referrals to your website. Instead of looking at aggregate referral numbers, you can know precisely how many users clicked on a unique links.

6. Customized reports

Google Analytics offers a robust set of tools, including reporting. However, only 48% of marketers bother to customize reports in Google Analytics. Custom reports can show you the unique data your company needs. For example, analyze traffic and behavior to show where customers come from and what they do when they get to your website.

7. Visitor behavior

User Flow Reports visually display the paths that visitors take through your website. Understanding these paths can help you streamline your conversion process and reduce friction. If you have a lot of drop-offs at your shopping cart, you could offer a coupon code to the visitor in exchange for filling out the form. Just like that, you've captured their information and have an opportunity to nurture the relationship.

8. Conversion goals

Marketers can have trouble valuing actions that do not directly produce revenue. Downloading white papers or subscribing to an email newsletter is great, but how do you assign a dollar amount to those actions? Google Analytics allows you to assign goal values to specific actions. However, only 40% of marketers add goals in Google Analytics. When you calculate values for customer actions, you can prove the success of your campaigns.

9. Commit to the process

While this isn't a feature in Google Analytics, or a metric in and of itself, it's an essential part of being a data-minded marketer. Only 37% of marketers and small business owners say they use analytics on a regular basis. That's shocking! Setting up Google Analytics to collect data is only the first step. No analytics tool can do the work for you. Always build in time to look at the data so you can draw actionable conclusions.

As a marketer turned entrepreneur myself, I know how easily it is to get stuck on vanity metrics. As a CEO, I urge my team to report on KPI's weekly, and measure and use as many actionable metrics as possible.

Which of these metrics do you measure? Which would you add? Tell me in the comments section below.

Published on: Oct 21, 2014