Photo by squacco on Flickr.com.
To compose our quarterly new media report I rely heavily on online (free) analytics tools. Their numbers and some proficiency make nice graphs about ups and downs of our online presence. As much for you as for me, here’s a list of the analytics tools I use most often. Maybe they can help you in your reporting.
Do you use other tools that you find particularly useful? Please add them.
Also, remember that bare numbers hardly say anything and should only be used to impress management. Much more important are trends and comparisons. See point 10 and 11.
- Google Analytics
A tool I use almost daily, for all our websites. Some of the stats, such as referring sites, keywords and popular content, are directly useful. Most of GA’s strength, however, is in its advanced segments, custom reports and the perpetually beta intelligence reports. Combinations of advanced segments can give an insight in things as complex as engagement, etc.
- Google Advanced Search
Google’s search options are getting richer by the day. I especially use the option to limit results to a certain date range. For instance, to see how often a press release was republished online. Usually, I pick the publish date + 6 days and search for the title to do so. Remember that although Google’s great at the first 10 results, the total number of results is usually far off. Click to the last result page (or try to) and you will get a more accurate number.
- Twitter counter
This tool keeps track of your (anyone’s) followers, following and tweets. I use it so see the impact of certain events, such as #askacurator or the opening of an exposition, on our follower count. (See also point 9.)
- Tweet reach
This little tool gives the total reach of a link you tweet and that gets retweeted a couple of times. The number of “impressions” is the number of times your link showed up in a timeline. Although the number (easily reaching incredible heights) says little in my opinion, it’s a good way to compare the impact of individual tweets.
- Bit.ly’s “+”
Add a “+” to any bit.ly link and you get detailed stats of the numbers of clicks the link received. More than impressions, it’s the number of clicks that counts. By keeping track of the time when you post links, how the tweets are composed, which hashtags you use, etc. you can get an idea about how to increase CTR for your tweets (etc.).
Keeps track of hashtags and other terms used on Twitter. If enough people tweet about you, even historical data is available.
- Flickr statistics
Obviously. I use it in combination with the Flickrstats plugin to get a long-term overview of the statistics on Flickr.
- Facebook Insights
Obviously. Make sure you add your admin code to all websites of your institution. And if you can’t, widgets such as the Activity feed and Recommendations give an insight in what Facebook users do on your website as well.
Klout is probably the most popular tool at the moment and although I’m still discovering the full potential, I especially find its “influencers” tool useful. Also, comparing the impact on Klout score of different online strategies (see point 3) is useful for future online planning.
- Excel or other spreadsheet software
Not necessarily online, unless you use Google Docs, but indispensible. Almost none of the tools above seriously show long-term trends and other stuff you definitely want to know about when you take web metrics seriously. Google Analytics is easily exportable to XML to do magic, but sometimes this means copy pasting numbers and combining data from different sources. Boring work, but worth the effort.
Sometimes, it’s easy to know what you should look for in web metrics, such as when comparing the impact of press release A versus B. Yet, in my experience, the greatest stuff is hidden in the piles of data. I believe it’s indispensible to have a certain understanding of statistics and numbers when you work with web metrics. Such as immediately feeling the difference between 122/841 and 16% and recognizing patterns. Fortunately, the internet is full of websites where you can stay in analytical shape.
Which tools do you use? And how do you use them?