Website analytics are a fantastic tool if your organization has the resources to use them. They allow you to see who is using your webpage and how, and enable you to begin making informed design and marketing decisions.

I’ve handled analytics for national organizations, mid-cap companies, and sole proprietorships, so I know my way around the nightmare that is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is an extremely nuanced and sophisticated system—and a valuable one. Some web designers will include “Google Analytics Setup” as one of their included offerings or a recommended add-on.  In either case, the setup provided is usually no more than the bare minimum tagging of each page to record page views.  This is a disservice.

In a few months, or likely a few years, your company will grow to the point where you finally have the time or resources to worry about digital marketing and web traffic.  You’ll hire someone to examine all the juicy analytics data you thought you had gathered, and discover that all that information is practically worthless, because it lacks actionable insights.

When I set up a website, I include a robust Google Analytics installation, which tracks not only the number of page views, but also the performance of every aspect of the site. Are people clicking the donate button, but failing to make a payment? Are visitors reading to the end of your weekly blog post? Do mobile users experience difficulty navigating your product page?

With a proper analytics infrastructure, you can see (in real time) the pain points that frustrate your customers, or you might discover unexpected opportunities to leverage a popular attraction on your site. These actionable insights can greatly affect the success of your website.

Google Tag Manager

A basic analytics setup on a website includes embedding code in the webpages that communicates directly to Google Analytics. This is fine for small companies where you have a single person or team dedicated to all things web related. But if you’re large enough that you have a digital marketing team that is separate from the folks managing your website, there’s Google Tag Manager (GTM).

I’ve found that GTM’s primary utility is that it allows your marketing people to do all sorts of fine tuning of analytics gathering without the danger of interfering with the rest of the code on your website.

Social Media Analytics

I don’t have anything particularly illuminating to say about the baked-in analytics on the major platforms, but it is certainly worth mentioning that I’ve had experience with them. I’ve used the built-in analytics for Facebook (Facebook Insights) and Twitter Analytics in multiple contexts. Back ten years ago, I worked with a team that invented their own reddit analytics software for the purpose of studying the ingredients essential to making content go viral.

(Can we say “go viral” in the pandemic era?)