The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming an Analytics Expert

The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming an Analytics Expert

Written by Doug Eldridge | @dougdoesdenver

When I joined my agency, I had dealt with analytics before, as anyone in marketing and communications has, but I’d never been exposed to such an advanced level.

Growing up, my father used to tell me stories of his pilot training in the Air Force where his trainer would wake him up in the middle of the night and ask him to recite checklists. It wouldn’t be beyond my boss to call me up at 3 a.m. to ask me the percentage of organic traffic compared to three months ago — and why it’s up or down.

When I learned of the level of analytics knowlegde that I’d need to know for my job, I had two options: become an expert or quit. Since I’d grown accustomed to eating, I decided to become an analytics pro. It’s a complicated field, but it’s worth just understanding the basics. Clients want numbers, and you need to be able to recite them — and explain why they are up or down.

5 Key Areas to Understand to Become an Analytics Pro

The resources in the post are a great place to start if you are looking to expand your analytics and data skills. I’ve organized these by inbound marketing activity and the corresponding skills or materials that are necessary to understand to analyze results for each tactic.

1) Search Engine Optimization

Keywords, page rankings, search marketing, long tail — these terms are confusing if you have no prior training in online marketing. But SEO is essential for getting found online, and it impacts almost all your online marketing activities.

What you need to know:

SEO is the backbone to your inbound marketing campaign, but it can be an easy thing to ignore or push off until another day. It’s not like launching a big, impressive campaign.

To be an analytics pro, you should read up on these topics:

  • Metadata
  • Duplicate content and how it affects your SEO scores
  • How redirects impact your rankings
  • Technical performance of websites

Where to find help:

First, you should take full advantage of any marketing software you use, which should point you in the right direction for proper use of keywords and metadata on each page. Then check out these resources:

  • Moz
  • Kissmetrics Blog
  • Screaming Frog
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Key elements of site optimization

2) Traffic

You most likely use Google Analytics to analyze traffic. Any marketer who doesn’t have access to this invaluable tool should go ahead and quietly gain access and pretend that you’ve always known about and used it.

Traffic is the most basic part of inbound marketing. Without traffic, there are no leads. No leads equal no customers. No customers equal an unhealthy business.

Knowing the core traffic numbers, such as how many sessions your site saw last month, is just the beginning. A true analytics pro would use Google Analytics with other tools or data points to get a better understanding of the site’s performance.

What you need to know:

  • Where is traffic coming from? i.e., organic, direct, social media, etc.
  • How much traffic are you driving to your site per month and what is your month-over-month target growth rate?
  • What tactics can you use to drive more traffic?

Where to find help:

  • Boost Blog Traffic
  • Inbound Marketing Certification
  • Google Analytics Individual Qualification
  • PR Newswire’s Small Business PR Toolkit

3) Social Media 

A marketer using social media should understand each platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), each platform’s opportunities and weaknesses, and how to analyze results. You should also have an understanding of the paid opportunities and organic ways to drive more traffic to your site via these distribution channels.

What you need to know:

Social media requires a lot of A/B testing and an understanding of the demographics and habits of users on each platform. If you’re marketing for a SaaS company, for example, you’re likely to get better results on LinkedIn. If you’re marketing for a local grocery store, Facebook would be your best bet. It’s imperative that you know:

  • Who your audience is
  • What channels to post to
  • The most optimal times to post

Where to find help:

A Google search about social media will bring up more information than could possibly be absorbed. While social media is tricky and ever-changing, subscribe to the following to keep up with the latest:

  • Social Media Examiner
  • RazorSocial
  • Social Media Today
  • Buffer

4) Blogging

Beyond understanding page views, you should be tracking the types of posts that bring in the most traffic or the subject matter that attracts the most visitors. Do you know which posts performed well on social media or which of your posts are bringing in large amounts of organic traffic? The flip-side of this is to understand what isn’t working — analyze your poor performing posts to see if a quality, subject matter, or format just doesn’t appeal to your audience.

What you need to know:

Blogging is a great tool for improving your search engine results and therefore, your organic search traffic. Understand these key metrics:

  • Traffic
  • Keywords
  • Indexed pages
  • Inbound links
  • Social shares

Where to find help:

To write a great blog, you need to follow great blogs within your industry. For understanding the analytics behind your blog, use the same tools suggested above for traffic and SEO. This is the part of marketing where connecting the dots to the rest of your inbound marketing campaign is vital. You should also check out:

  • ProBlogger
  • Copyblogger
  • QuickSprout
  • Content Marketing in the Trenches Group

5) Lead Conversions

Why are you spending time trying to be an analytics pro if you’re not trying to learn how to generate more leads? Isn’t that why we show up at the office every day? Isn’t that the ultimate goal of every marketing action we take? By cross-referencing all of your analytics, you’ll learn how your traffic is coming in, figure out how to get more, and statistically, you’ll be guaranteed to gain more leads.

What you need to know:

Gaining leads is a key goal of inbound marketing, but the main goal is converting leads to customers. Inbound marketing helps push leads down the sales funnel at their own pace, so nurturing leads is the core of an inbound marketer’s job. Make sure to keep track of the following

  • Lead scoring so you know the level of commitment you need to make for each lead
  • Visit-to-lead%
  • Lead-to-Marketing Qualified Lead%
  • Lead-to-Customer %
  • Predictive lead scoring and why it matters

Where to find help:

  • Online campaign metrics to track
  • How to create an ebook
  • Channels to use to generate more leads

Being an analytics pro doesn’t require you to learn how to use a few tools.  It requires you to learn a few tools and be able to connect them together.  Without one marketing action, the others are useless.  If you’re not going to connect it all together, you might as well tell your clients that you delivered what was contracted and hope they’re satisfied with that answer.