Top 10: Web Analytics Platforms You Should Know

I was invited to speak at the College Media Association conference in New York City by my good friend Colin Donohue.  The CMA is similar to any other professional media consortium, but focuses exclusively on college and university media organizations. This year, I was asked to speak about the importance of web analytics platforms.  One of my sessions featured my Top 10 web analytics platforms that I believe everyone should know.

The Top 10 Web Analytics Platforms are in no particular order.  Also, it is important to note that I do not think that you should use all of them.  Instead, you should pick your favorites, and go with it.  But make sure you know a little about all of them.

#1 - Google Analytics

google.com/analytics

Shockingly obvious, yes.  However, the analytics beginner may not fully appreciate the power of this platform since it is ubiquitous to the industry.  This fall, we saw GA release realtime analytics (finally!).  Realtime analysis makes the platform more appealing to "newsroom" style publishers.

#2 - GetClicky

getclicky.com

Still my favorite all around analytics platform.  I've used it for years, and it has never let me down.  GetClicky has offered realtime analytics since virtually day one.  The platform has continued to evolve including rich extensions such as an app for iPhone and iPad.  For "newsroom" applications, they have released a big screen mode that basically takes over the full screen of your machine with realtime site traffic.  Also has a robust solution for advertising and marketing tracking with no-fuss reporting.  

#3 - Chartbeat

chartbeat.com

The undisputed leader in realtime traffic analytics.  Since its debut, Chartbeat showed the power of understanding how your content was being consumed at the very moment it is consumed.  With the release of Newsbeat (for newsrooms), Chartbeat positions itself squarely as the homepage of digital news directors everywhere.  No other platform will help you to make data driven changes to your group of lead stories like Chartbeat can.  A must for news, gossip, and "immediacy" focused content publishers.

#4 - Klout

klout.com

Today's digital ninjas need to go beyond the data provided by their owned and operated domains.  Understanding you and your brands social influence is critical for successful digital professionals.  Klout will help you understand, track, and grow your digital influence in any number of categories.  Anyone with a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Four Square account has a Klout Score.  At the time of this posting, mine is a healthy 48 (of 100). One of the most impressive social media products launched to date.

#5 - Quantcast

quantcast.com

In keeping with the natural evolution of digital data geeks everywhere, you want to know how your site ranks compared to its peers.  Quantcast acts as one of the Internet's premier "freemium" ratings and ranking services.  All sites with statistically significant traffic find their way into the Quantcast database.  Proactive webmasters can place a free Quantcast script on their site to allow direct measurement.  In addition to tracking and publicly reporting your site's overall reach, Quantcast breaks your traffic down demographically and geographically.  Publishers can quickly and easily see what mix of gender, race, incomes, and education levels visit their sites.  And so can potential advertisers.

#6 - Compete

Compete.com

At its core, Compete is similar to Quantcast in its tracking and audience aggregation methodology.  However, it focuses more on being a resource for advertisers to looking to target specific audiences with their ads.  Compete offers a suite of advertising planning tools to its customers that help evaluate overall campaign efficiency.  The focus is no surprise since it is owned by Kantar Media, the data geek nerve center for worldwide advertising conglomerate WPP.  Both Quantcast and Compete are important reference points for publishers because these are the tools that your advertisers (aka the ones keeping the lights on) use to evaluate your site.

#7 - Sitemeter

Sitemeter.com

Ahhh Sitemeter.  Ohh how those of us that have been in the industry since the dawn of blogging love you.  You were there for us when there was nothing else [free] available.  Sitemeter is one of the older free analytics services.  It offers a standard but thorough analytics dashboard that provides everything the startup publisher would ever need.  They also aggregate and rank publishers that use the service.  Your Sitemeter ranking used to be something that bloggers bragged about.  Those were the days...

#8 - Sprout Social

sproutsocial.com

As mentioned earlier, social media now finds its home in the wheelhouse of every serious publisher.  When publishing content, you must now understand how to market it in the social graph, and analyze what comes back.  In addition to providing a truly comprehensive suite of social publishing tools, Sprout Social also analyzes every aspect of every tweet and status update.  Keep track of every new follower, every retweet, and Facebook share with Sprout.  You'll quickly be able to track what content you publish gets shared the most.  Before long, you'll be a viral publishing machine.

#9 - SEO Moz

SEOMoz.org

Arguably the best one-stop-shop for every SEO tool you could ever need.  In addition to understanding visitor site traffic and social media, great publishers understand how the Google overlords view their content.  Publishing great content is the most important thing you will ever do in this game.  Sadly, that does not always bring the eyeballs.  SEO Moz will give you actionable advice on how to structure your site overall as well as analyze the Google-mojo of every content post.

#10 - comScore

comscore.com

It is with mixed emotions that we place comScore on this list.  For most publishers, comScore will never factor into their day-to-day activities directly.  However, it will be the bane of your career every time your advertising sales managers come down to your office to discuss this month's comScore ranking.  comScore is the default advertising rating service that the vast majority of online marketers utilize.  With billions of dollars being spent advertising online, the industry needs a common set of benchmark evaluations.  comScore will rank your site's traffic, reach, page views, and demographic makeup in order to provide a rating".  Your site's comScore profile will often mean the difference between gaining or losing advertisers.  Again, it will not factor into the day-to-day activities of publishing your content.  However, a positive comScore story can mean serious revenue wins.

That's not all...

There are dozens of other great services that did not make this list.  By no means would I consider this list to mean anything other a grouping of services I have grown to respect, and in some cases, cannot live without.

If you feel I've made an egregious mistake by leaving a certain platform off of this list, please post it in the comments below.  Let's start a discussion!

How to Track Who's Linking to You

For most experienced bloggers, this is not news. However, for you beginners out there, this can be a very valuable skill/tool. Website StatsBlog pros usually spend up to an hour a day digging through their website analytics. I know, that sounds absolutely insane, but it's true. Pro bloggers are blogging for a living, so it is very important that they understand every heartbeat of their site.

One (of many) ways to track the success of your site is to see how many other sites are linking to you. Google and other search engines actually look at these links as implicit endorsements of your content. Them more links to your site there are, the more "important" search engines believe your site to be.

Naturally, you'll want to have as many high quality sites link to you as possible. When they do, a quick "thank you" note back is always appreciated. Also, linking back is encouraged if you find thier site valuable as well, however it is not required.

Also, when a site links to yours, one way to digitally thank them is to head over to their site, browse, and comment where appropriate.

So how do you know how many sites are linking back to you?

Look at your site analytics. Hopefully, you have some sort of system set up to track your site usage. This allows you to see how many individuals are coming to your site, and how many pages they look at. It also allows you to see how they reached your site. If they clicked a link on a site to get to yours, it should show up in your analytics. If you don't have a stats package on your site, Google offers a good system, and it's free. Your web host probably offers pre-installed systems as well such as AWStats.

Technorati. After your site has been kicking around the web for a month or more, it will likely be crawled by Technorati.com, especially if it has been linked to by another blog. You can go there and do a search for your site. Technorati will then show you your "Authority" rank. That number represents the number of blogs that currently contain links back to your site. Technorati updates their numbers regularly so you can accurately track the links back.

Technorati also shows you a brief excerpt of each post where your site was linked. This allows you to quickly and easily browse the context in which your site is being talked about. You can also compare your rank to others blogging on the same topic.

Google Blog Search. Blogsearch also crawls blogs constantly, and will tell you how many sites link to your blog if you know how to ask. Simply log onto Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com) and do a search like this:

Type this into the search field

link:http://www.YOUR-BLOG-DOMAIN.com

By typing "link:" in front of your site address in the google search engine, Google will return all of the sites that link to that address.

What if your site doesn't show up at all in Technorati or Google?

Perhaps it is too soon. If you've only been blogging for a few days or weeks, your site may not have been ingested into the index just yet. Or, perhaps no on has linked to your site yet. You can speed your inclusion up a little bit if you can get an established site(s) to link to your blog. That will draw the search spiders into your site.