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!

Why isn't anyone reading my diary blog?

Because no one wants to read that. No seriously.  That's why.

No one cares that you got stuck in traffic, the dog made a poop in the living room, or that your kid made a funny face today.  There's nothing more boring than that kind of site.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't write it.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  Some people just like to keep a diary, and if others want to read it, fine!  However, you shouldn't expect people to come flying to your site in droves.

If you DO want to have a high traffic site with this format, it better be damn good.  The writing and stories better be phenomenal.  You had better have me falling off my chair with laughter each and every time.  Then, maybe you have a shot.

Otherwise, just be happy with what little traffic you have.

ShareThis

ShareThis LogoEveryone seems to be into the snazzy little sharing buttons lately.  It's one of the first addons people decided to put on their blogs after they are up and running. The theory is that adding these buttons will encourage people to bookmark and share your post with others if they think it is especially noteworthy.  Great concecept in theory.

In reality, the clicks on these buttons are fairly low.  However, every little bit of incremental traffic generated from them helps, right?  So why not.  Plus, you never know if a whale will bookmark you and bring a ton of traffic.

Anyway, the last thing you want to do is litter the bottom of your site with 100 little bookmark chicklets.  It looks bad and makes your site load slower.  So what's the alternative?  ShareThis

ShareThis is a bookmarking tool for your blog or website that also does a simple "Email This to a Friend" function.

Right out of the box, it comes with all the most popular social networking sites and bookmarking sites.  In about 5 minutes, you can have this configured and launched on your blog.  It also comes with a handy little plugin for Wordpress that makes the implementation slightly easier.  However, you don't need the plugin portion if you are compfortable with it on your own.

You are left with a clean, small button on the bottom of your posts that says ShareThis with a little icon.  That's it.  Nice and clean.  When clicked, it pops open to reveal your sharing options.

For you as the site owner, you can track the usage of these networking tools through the ShareThis website.  That way, you can see if people are actually using it!

Managing Ads on Your Blog or Website

OpenX LogoOne of the issues that always arises when your site starts to take off is managing ad inventory. With Wordpress, managing ad placement is fairly simple. You just create a widget, drop in your code, place the widget, and you're done. But what if you need to change it often? Or, what if you have sold your own clients and want to traffic your own ads?

Well, you are in need of an ad management system. There are some basic ones (in the form of plugins) available through Wordpress, but they are not terribly sophisticated.

Until Google opens its new ad management system up to the public, I recommend using OpenX (formerly known as phpadsnew) to serve your ads. It's a free system you can download and install on your own server. I also recommend putting it on it's own box if you plan on serving a lot of ads, or you site gets a lot of traffic. The system itself is pretty resource intensive.

OpenX will allow you to traffic all of your ads including Google Adsense ads and other ad networks like Commission Junction, Azoogle, ClickBooth, etc.

You can then set impression levels, goals, and weights for all your campaigns. This makes it especially valuable when evaluating new ads or campaigns.

Let's say you want to test some new ads. Upload them all into OpenX and give them equal rotation. Wait a few ways, and check back into OpenX to see how many clicks each ad received. Then up the weighting or impression level of the one that converts the most, and lower the under performing ones. Test a few days more, then evaluate the results.

You can adjust your ad formula/mix all from within OpenX without having to constantly change or swap out code on your site.

This platform becomes even more useful if you run more than one site or have affiliate sites. You can provide your affiliates with code to drop on their site, and your ads will display. Then you can control what ads feed in there without your affiliate needing to change the code.

So, if you're at that stage where ad management is becoming a chore, think about making the jump to OpenX, or wait for Google's Admanager to come out of beta.

Boost Your Site Traffic in 30 Days

I stumbled upon a an old post on ProBlogger about increasing your traffic in just 30 days. At first, I didn't notice the date it was published, but I really believed in what it was saying. Then I noticed the date, and it made me laugh because the tips still hold true today. Tip 3 was worth highlighting:

Finally, I made effective use of trackback links to popular sites. If I commented on a post on another site I would make sure that I set up the appropriate trackback for it. The results from this are varied depending on the site and post that you are linking to but since I liked to comment and interact with the wider blogosphere anyway, it was free traffic!

Even though this is from 2005, it is still true today. If you want to gain respect in the blogosphere, you have to earn it. Just writing your posts and sitting around waiting for the readers to flock in doesn't work. You need to proactively get out there and make your name known.

However, I caution you against belatedly plugging yourself where ever you go. Don't just comment on someone else's post because you are looking to get clicks back to your site. And don't make your comments into a big advertisement for yourself.

Instead, actually contribute something worthwhile to the conversation. That will gain you more blogging street cred