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THE Definitive Guide to Tracking an Internet Business [Part 1]

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

The Importance of Tracking an Internet Business“How do you succeed online?”

This is a simple question that’s been answered a thousand times.

Every Internet entrepreneur has their own opinion.  And each seems to conflict with the other.

If you held a gun to my head, I’d say the key to success is:

Find what works and do more of that.”

It’s a simple philosophy I developed over five years ago.  You won’t find success right away.  It comes by trying a bunch of things and building on the techniques that get results.

How do you know when something is successful?  You learn that with tracking.

I’ve been a tracking fanatic since 2006.  A long time ago, I heard a great quote from Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed.” This is a concept that can be applied to any online business.

My point is this.  Tracking is the only way to know if something works with an online business.  It removes the guesswork and uses statistical evidence to show when a technique produces measurable results.

This is post is titled: THE Definitive Guide to Tracking an Online Business.  It’s the first of a multi-part series where I detail how to effectively implement tracking with ANY online business.

I know this isn’t “sexy” like talking about how to make money online.  But I feel the following information is WAY more important than a post that’s full of rehashed material you’ll find on hundreds of blogs.  Implementing these techniques will have a direct impact on web traffic and the money you make.  Guaranteed.

The Importance of Monthly Tracking Review

In a recent post, I detailed how I use a weekly to-do list.  One thing I mentioned was that I do a review of my business once a month.  This is an important task because it charts the growth of my websites.  I put all this information into a single document which I review on regular basis.

As you’ll see, there are many things to track.  My advice is to identify the key metrics that grow a business.  Then once a month, evaluate these stats to see if your business is improving.

5 Tools to Track an Internet Business

You’ll find countless options when it comes to tracking.  Some provide detailed, statistical analysis.  Others list very basic information.

In the last five years, I’ve tried dozens of different tools.  And I know I’ll continue to test more as they cross my path.

For now, I use five tools to track my Internet business(s):

1) Adminder: I’ve used this tool since 2006.  It’s great for tracking both traffic and conversions.  Unlike some software, this site measures actual visitors; not raw clicks.  This provides a dead-accurate picture of what’s converting on a website.

2) Google Analytics: This is another weapon to include in your tracking arsenal.  It’s great for a content-driven site like a blog.  This tool provides a list of the keywords and entry points; people use to find your site.  Even better – It gives information on an individual page basis.  The best part?  It’s free!

3) Aweber: Most people have already heard about Aweber.  What you might not know is this site provides a wealth of tracking tools to monitor email campaigns.

 

4) Bit.Ly: As tracking tools go, this one is very basic.  It’s best used to shorten URLs and track links that are posted to social media accounts.

5) Pretty Link: This is a new tool I’ve just started using.  What this does is create shortened, “pretty” links for a website.  I’ve played around with this tool in the last week.  It looks like it might be a better solution than Bit.Ly.  However I won’t know till I’ve fully tested it out. (I’ll keep you posted.)

What Should You Track?

There are lots of different things that can be tracked in an online business.

In this section, I’ll cover four.  The rest will be reviewed in the follow-up article which will be posted a week from now.

#1: Email Affiliate Links

I put all of my autoresponder sequences into a publishing schedule.  This tracks what emails I send and the purpose behind each.  One tab I include is the tracking code for each email affiliate link.

Yes, it’s a little OCD.  But I’ve found it’s really important to track every email that’s sent to subscribers.  Every thirty days, I tabulate the sales number.  After a few months, I’ll know which emails produce income and which don’t.

This information is important because it helps with autoresponder sequencing.  The idea here is to put the most profitable messages in the front and then remove the duds.

How do you create a tracking ID?  Watch this video and you’ll see how I do it with Clickbank:

How to Get Started: You can implement this in three steps:

1.       Create a publishing schedule of an entire autoresponder sequence

2.       Add a tracking link to each affiliate link.

3.       On a regular basis, track how much income each email generates

#2: Additional Affiliate Links

The same rule applies here. You track anything that contains an affiliate link.  This could be a blog recommendation, a banner ad, or a review you did on Squidoo.  What’s important is to know what actions are producing income.

How to Get Started: Create a tracking link for every affiliate link.  At the very least, do one for each web property you own.  So you’ll want links for:

1.       Your blog

2.       Your video channel

3.       Your podcasting channel

4.       Your social media channel

5.       Your article marketing channel

6.       Your Squidoo channel

7.       Your Hubpages channel

8.       Etc, etc

Again, this information identifies the areas where you generate income.   Just do more of those and you’ll make more money.  Pretty easy stuff, right?

#3: Autoresponder Open & Click-Thru Rates

What are my open rates?

How many people are clicking on my affiliate links?

Which emails get the best response rate?

These are questions that can be answered with a sophisticated email marketing program.  One of the reasons I prefer Aweber is it provides statistical analysis of the messages sent to subscribers.  My entire business relies on email marketing, so this information is invaluable.

At the very least, you need to track open and click-thru rates (CTR).  Do this for a few months and you’ll detect a pattern with your email.  This is a great way to build on the success of the emails that get a high response from subscribers.

How to Get Started: On your publishing schedule, add a few tabs next to each email:

1)      Number of opens

2)      Number of clicks

3)      Click-thru ratio (clicks/opens)

Update this information every thirty days.    After a few months you’ll see which emails get the best response from readers.  Then send a message that’s similar to what was successful in the past.  That is my secret to email marketing.

#4: Article Marketing Stats

Many article marketing sites (like EzineArticles.com) provide detailed analysis of the content you’ve created.  You get information like:

  • Views
  • URL Clicks
  • Click Rate
  • How many people have “published” an article

In my opinion, most of this information is useless.  That’s because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict which articles will get a high level of views.

The only metric that concerns me is the Click Rate.  This is important because it identifies a pattern that can be repeated.  All you do is find the articles that get a high-click thru rate and submit that’s similar in style.

How to Get Started: Look at your best articles.  Identify the ones that have a high CTR.  Examine each of the following:

  • How many words are in the article?
  • What is the length of each paragraph?
  • How did you blend the author bio with the content?
  • Did you use any bold or italics

My advice is to write articles that are similar in style to the ones that get a high click-thru ratio.  Keep doing this till you’re consistently getting a 20-30% CTR for any article.

To Be Continued…

When I started this post, I thought it would a single article.  Unfortunately the final result was a 3,000+ word article.  So I’ve decided to break apart the content to make it easy to implement.

At the beginning I gave a quote from Peter Drucker.  Now I’ll close with one from Tony Robbins:

“Success leaves clues.”

This is an excellent summary of why tracking is important.  Success starts by finding something that works and doing more of it.  If you’ve only made one affiliate sale in your life, then figure out how it happened and do more of it!

I think tracking is under utilized by many Internet entrepreneurs.  Hopefully this post provided a little bit of  a *nudge* to implement this technique.

There’s a lot more to cover.  But I’ll save that for another day.

Take Action. Get Results.




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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Brown

Thank you very much for this informative post-although it’s a bit lengthy ;)- If i had to answer the question of how to become successful online I guess my answer would be similar to yours, find out what works best for you and pool all your efforts towards what you are good at. A lot of people try to blindly copy what others are doing and half way realize that they not only lack the knowledge but also the determination. On the other hand people who blog about what they are good at, something they are passionate about, they will definitely be successful online.

Reply

Steve Scott

Ben,

I tend to run-on for these “Monday” posts of mine. I try to pack as much actionable information as I can in the space provided . ;)

Reinforcing what works is certainly a cornerstone for success.

I agree with you that blindly following others is a bad idea. The way I see it is you can use someones success as a “guide” but not a map.

What I mean by that is this: You are not going to become a success by making a “Site like XYZ blogger” but you can be a success if you learn from him and avoid miastakes and pitfalls XYZ blogger made.

It is a good pint that where the rubber hits the road everyone should try there own things and come up with conclusions that work for them.

As for people who are passionate “definitely” being successful. I am not sure I totally agree with that.

I think having a love and passion for what you do is very important. It is hard to be successful without it. But I hesitated the word definitely.

I think this business is too tough to say that just because you love your subject you are definitely going to be a success. There are a lot more variables. You need to check a few more blocks before you have a really good shot at success.

Of course i am not saying that having this passion is not a key… just saying it takes more than that.

Thanks for the comment!
-S

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Jane@Blogging Tips

Steve,

This is definitely definitive. There is so much information here and you have another post?! Sounds like I can’t stay away from linking you this week too :)

I mostly use Analytics and Bit.ly to track my clicks. Have to lookup the others.

Cheers,
Jane.

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Steve Scott

Jane,

Love the link-love, so I would be glad if you were forced to make linking the minday posts a regular thing. ;)

Glad you liked it! I hope the info is of some use to you. The important thing is that you ARE tracking your results, but playing around with tools some can help you find your best results.

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Lesley@ how to write

Steve, thanks for including me in your Saturday post. I’ve only recently started measuring everything I do, but I am convinced it will help my online efforts go in the right direction.
Like you, Ive also started using Pretty Link, but perhaps not in the same way you are. When I write a useful post which is a lot longer than usual, I create a pretty link to it though keywords and this makes sure that all my other posts link to the same place. I think this will be useful to the readers.

Reply

Steve Scott

Lesley,

I use pretty-link for that purpose too. Or I will be. I will likely pare many articles down to 1 word. Even though I usually to to keep the url’s short anyhow by adjusting the slug for the main keyword and taking out the inaction words, there are certinaly advantages of prettylink over bit.ly (or other shorteners) it doesn’t get it AS short, but lets people know where they are going (and tracks pretty well)

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jasmine@anniversary gifts personalized

Hi Steve Scott, I’ve been doing research on how to start, manage, and succeed at blogging. I’m thinking I’ve got a great basis for my theme. Plenty of topics to choose from for years. So, now i’m collecting information on technique and delivery. From this article, I’ve picked up the importance of tracking, and measuring traffic. I’m so new at this, that I’m just taking in piece by piece what steps to take. Thank you!

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Jasmine,

Learning things “piece-by-piece” is the way to go. I am a fan of “on-time”learning where you study and learn things as you utilize them.

Anyhow thanks for the comment and dropping by.

Reply

Steve Scott

Yes!

I will never say passion “isn’t important”. It is. But desire alone is not enough to “make it happen. There is a real need to do more of what works and jetison what doesn’t. SPeciifcally as there are more and greater constraints put upon your time.

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Jens P. Berget

Hey Steve,

I use AWeber, Google Analytics and Bit.Ly (but I don’t use Adminder). I never do any split-testing, do you?

Jens

Reply

Steve Scott

Jens,

LOL, I am not sure if you are being sarcastic or not.

Suffice to say I have talked about split testing here more than a few times. I not only do it. I constantly do it. Once I get the results from one split test… I start another.

This results in what (I Hope) are constantly improving messages.

-The split test can be something small… Like font… and you need to let the test run long enough for the results to be statistically significant. (somewhere close to a thousand opens) Starting out this can obviously take a huge chunk of time to complete the split test.

But every time you do one, you know 1 thing which works better for your message

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Jens P. Berget

Hey Steve,

I’m actually not being sarcastic, but I sure understand why you are asking the question :)

I haven’t been that involved in affiliate marketing, and to me it seems to be a lot work and time consuming to be doing the split-testing. But it’s probably an easy way to do it. I haven’t been subscribed to your blog that long, and I haven’t had the time (since I’m writing a novel) to digg deep into your content (but I will soon) :)

Jens

Reply

Steve Scott

Jens,

LOl,

I figured you weren’t being sarcastic was just making sure. :)
It would have been a pretty funny comment if you were.

I like dry humor, it is just so hard to translate it into test

Once you get an email list rolling split testing is something you certainly want to try. At first it may take a LONG time to run a specific test (like I said above) but worth it.

All those .256 differences in CTR add up over time and lead to nice improvements in conversion

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Jens P. Berget

My next comment will be a sarcastic one :)

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Adam

Steve;

Great insights here brother – Building on the techniques that brings in the results. Yes indeed!

You know just couple of months ago, I wasn’t tracking anything about my online ventures besides my traffic stats and how much money I made through AdSense.

Your post on turning the To do list into a To done list gave me a lot of inspiration on revamping my own weekly to do list.

Thanks Steve
You so rock brother!

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Steve Scott

Awesome Adam!

That is the type of stuff I love to hear. (People making powerful changes for the better.)

Make sure to let me know if you see any specifically positive results from it.

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Edgar@project management

I think tracking is the line that separates a successful from a non successful business. If you don’t track your actions, then what’s the benefit of doing them in the first place. I definitely use Google Analytics a lot and everyone should do the same thing too.

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Steve Scott

Edgar,

Definitely! You -can- achieve success without tracking, just like you “could” make it through your house blindfolded if someone re-arranged the furniture.

But you get to get it done that way takes a lot of extra time and likely ends with you having a lot of unnecessary bumps and bruises.

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Matthew

“How do you succeed online?”. This is the million dollar question. My answer is pretty much similar to yours: “Find what other successful online entrepreneurs are doing and do the same”. As you reminded all of us: “Success leaves clues.”

Steve, you are making some excellent points here and I am looking forward to the second part in this series. I use Google Analytics daily. It is an invaluable tool for me.

Reply

Steve Scott

Yeah, I am never for “copying” what people have done, but learning from, “examples” is perfect.

If I have any complaint for traking is that I (like you likely) look at it too frequently.

I strive to look at it “in depth” 1X a month. But I often find myself sneaking peaks far more freqeuntly

Reply

Rohan

This is definitely not OCD ! Infact good analytics skills is the only thing that differentiates a successful internet entrepreneur from a ‘let me try my hand at it’ guy !

You have listed solid metrics and also the corresponding tools to measure ROI and this is what every internet marketer must be actually doing… I know there are people who are ecstatic by only the number of comments their blog is getting , not realizing that it is only a means of displaying social proof but not a metric to track conversions……

Great tips here…

Reply

Steve Scott

Rohan,

Thanks for backing me up. I do think I agree, but it is nice to hear someone else say I am not just being a little OCD.

I agree, I like comments, and think it has …well “some” bearing on traffic and quality. But really little to do with the space where the “rubber hits the road”

There are sites (I even own one) that have a ton less comments. Perhaps even none. Yet still do brisk business.

If you do not track what works and what doesn’t and use the Pareto Principle to do more of what works chances are the business will not be nearly as sucessful as it could/should be

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TheInfoPreneur

S,
Hey bud, how goes it?
Funny you have this post up…I just signed up for Adwatcher today to start being able to do some hard core monitoring of some email/banner campaigns I’m getting ready to roll out. How does Adminder compare to it? Any thoughts?

Brandon

Ps…I’m way with you on the tracking thing. As I roll my blog out more…it’s like I’m just looking for better tracking to see what really works to create the conversions, etc. Looking forward to the rest of your info.

Reply

Steve Scott

Brandon,

Nice to see you again, my man!

Glad you are with me on the tracking thing. The things that have given me the biggest boost over the last few years have been being aggressive with my tracking and highlighting email marketing.

Sometimes I almost feel preachy, because I try to get others who just give these ideas “lip service” to see how important these things are.

As for Adwatcher. I am not sure. I haven’t used that one, so I cannot compare really. Like I said I have been using the adminder since 2006 and I am very comfortable with it.

I assume adwatcher may be just as good and likely very similar, but I scouldn’t say for sure until i have given it a run.

Reply

Andrew Walker

Wow.. It’s an interesting guide here, Steve. And I can say I’m learning few new things from it, and eager to see what I could learn from the next part. Thanks for the sharing anyway.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Andrew,

I appreciate your stopping by and leaving a nice comment

Reply

Valerie

Hey Steve,
What a post I really enjoyed reading it. It contain a lot of information and some tips I was not aware of. I like the different way of tracking that way you know exactly what is working so you can spend more time in these aspects and get rid of the things that are not doing you any goo.

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Daniel M. Wood

Hey Steve.

I have gotten the advice to link to my reviews on my blog from the aweber emails I send. It looks like I have an almost 50% clickthrough rate from my emails to the affiliate page, but I cannot be 100% sure.

How would you measure this when it goes through the review page?

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Bob Probin

I find Google Analytics to be a very useful tool although it can be tempting to check every aspect of it and there is potential to spend hours looking at it! I find the referrals and keywords that people find the website for to be fascinating. I also like looking at the stats relating to traffic such as number of pages viewed and bounce rate.

Reply

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