How to track your ROI on service based websites

How to track your ROI on a service-based website

We're going to show you the basic set-up for tracking your ROI (or Return on Investment) for a service-based website.  Before we get into the nitty gritty let's set the scene.

Why Do I Need This?

We're presuming you have a service-based business website.  Many companies do after all.  This site is service-based in that we provide web based services to other companies.  Now let's presume we want to market this website.  We might throw a bunch of money at Facebook, Google Google Ads or we might do some work to help promote our website in organic listings.  Let's also now presume that this worked and we had some enquiries and of course those enquiries have now turned into new business leads thanks to our top-notch sales team.

All good so far.

All business owners will should next ask the following questions:

  • Where did the enquiries come from?
  • On average, how much did each enquiry cost my business?
  • Knowing which enquiries led to sales, did I make any profit?

Well, Duh!

You might think it's just common sense to ask these questions and that everyone does this as standard.  But I am afraid to say that most service based sites that we inherit here don't do this in any way, shape, or form.

When we have asked business owners where their enquiries come from, their answer is usually "I have no idea!".  Instead, we find that most companies operate on a "gut feel" and an aggregated calculation which is really based on whether the company is making a profit and can they afford to carry on advertising in their arbitrary way.

Now that we have covered the what and why let's get into the how.

Step 1 - Get a Google Analytics account

If your website is not already hooked up with Google Analytics, get your developer to sort this out for you pronto.  If you're not familiar with Google Analytics then take 30 minutes to log in and get familiar with the basic reports and data that's available to you.

Step 2 - List all contact points on your website

Using this website as an example we have the following contact points (at the time of writing this post)

  • A form on our Contact Us page
  • A form for recruitment opportunities
  • The Contact page also has a phone number 
  • The Contact page also has a contact email address
  • Our footer area contains a phone number
  • Our footer also contains an email address

So, for a new visitor to contact us they are going to go through one of these points above. We just need to track it.

The eagle-eyed reader may be wondering about our postal address, which is also mentioned on our Contact Us page and in our footer.  I can't think of any new enquiry coming in by post in perhaps the last 15 years.  We did get the odd postal enquiry way back in 1998 when we were first founded but those days are long, long gone.  Safe to say I would think 99.99% of business can forget about tracking on a postal address.

Step 3 - Add tracking code to each contact point

The tracking code will have three main data points to add:

  • Category - Typically the object that was interacted with, e.g. 'Form' or 'Link'
  • Action - Typically the type of interaction e.g. 'Submit' or 'Click'
  • Label - Useful for categorising the form elements e.g. 'Contact Us Form' or 'Contact Us Sales Email'

For our customers, this is easily done in the admin panel of their Content Management System.  If they want to add tracking to a form they just edit the form and add the required data points. 

Add tracking to forms in the Kontrolit CMS

To add tracking to links, they just edit the link and again, easily add the required data points. customers will need to ask their developer how to add the tracking code. They might need to add some code or install a plugin to your site to get you up and running, but the basic principle will be the same.  Where possible, try to avoid situations where you can't edit the data directly, i.e. your developer has to always make changes for you, as you may need to tweak this info a few times to get to the right end point.

When the tracking code is working properly, each time someone on your website successfully submits a contact form, or clicks on a link to email or phone you, it will trigger an Event, which is recorded in Google Analytics.  

There are a few little gotchas/limitations to consider:

  1. The form should only fire the Events when the form is successfully submitted.  We have seen a few examples recently where the code was just on the "submit" button and of course this fired even if the form had errors.  Thus one visitor could send multiple data entries which can lead to errors in the analysis later on.
  2. You need to make sure all your labels are unique, or it can be difficult to work out exactly what is going on.  For example, if you had a sales@ email address listed twice on the same page then you could have the following labels "Contact Us Sales Email Top" and "Contact Us Sales Email Bottom".
  3. You need to wrap link code around your phone numbers to track them (but you were doing that already so the phone number auto-dialled on smartphones, weren't you?)

Step 4 - Test each contact point

Umm, we shouldn't need to spell this step out but just in case you're an eager beaver lets just do some testing for five minutes to save us the problem of incorrect data later on.  

  1. Fire an Event on each contact point on your website.  Fill in your forms, click your phone numbers and email addresses and any other link that you have added event tracking code to.
  2. Look into your Analytics account and under "Behavior > Events > Overview" we should see all our new Events showing up.
  3. Click on "Event Label" in the Overview page and check that all the labels are making sense.  If not get them adjusted now.

Step 5 - Run your advertising

Turn on your Facebook, Google Ads or anything else that you are running to promote your site and wait.  Remember that you may need to add in some campaign parameters to your Facebook Advertising to get the correct data passed through.

Step 6 - Now to the good bit - analyse your data

There are two ways you can look at the data. My preferred method is to look at my channels and see what Events have been fired.  Or you can do the reverse and look at the Events and see which channels they came in on. 

To view your events based on your advertising channels in Google Analytics go to "Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels".  Next select the secondary dimension tab, go to Behaviour and select either "Event Category", "Event Action" or my favourite, "Event Label".

Anlaysis of events in Google Anlaytics

By looking at this data you can already make some important decisions.  For example, if there are  zero Events, or even if the Events were low for Paid Search, you may question if it is worth doing paid search at all (Google Ads in our example).  But before you bin your Google Ads campaign, check:

Another report that can be very useful is "Acquisition > All Traffic > Source Medium", again setting the secondary dimension to show the Event label.  This would tell us more specifically what the sources of the Event were, for example, Facebook. 

The other way of looking at this would be to look at the Events data in Google Analytics and see where they came from via "Behaviour > Events > Overview > (Pick a category) > (Add a secondary dimension of default channel grouping or medium).

Special consideration for low volume, service-based companies

Many service-based companies can be dealing with very low volumes, i.e. just a few enquiries or sales per month (which is absolutely fine if that is all you need!).  Thus you may want to look at the very fine detail of the data you have by drawing up a list of enquiries or sales in a spreadsheet.  Ask your sales department to include the value of the sale and then use the date ranges in Google Analytics to work out the source of each specific enquiry.

To do this correctly you need to be very careful to correctly work out when the Events were fired.  For forms and emails, this should be easy: you simply take the time stamp of the form being filled in or when the email was received.  However, phone calls need some due diligence in that you should look to manually record when the call was made.  With phone numbers, you may want to consider call forwarding to help do this.  See next section.

One small gremlin to consider

There is one area where this tracking can break down and that is phone calls.  For visitors using a smartphone, this is nearly fully resolved in that most will tap the phone number on your website to auto-dial it (if you have put the right code on the page to allow auto-dial!).  However, for desktop and tablet users, they will often see the phone number and then physically type it into their handset, thus evading the the tracking process. You won't know if this person came to your site as a result of a Google advert, Facebook advertising, organic search etc.

There are a few things you can do to improve on this situation:

  1. Get a phone number forwarding service which will then log when calls were made.  Only use this number on your website; armed with a call log you can cross reference with your Sales team which calls were successful sales or leads.  The only drawback to this will be that existing customers will often use your website to call you, and it will still be very difficult to pin the phone number to a channel.
  2. In low volume scenarios, you might be able to use Google Analytics and a call log from above to "guesstimate" which channel the call was made from.
  3. Always remember to ask the person on the phone how they found you. Beware answers such as "Google" as this could be from paid or organic channels.
  4. Don't use phone numbers!  Ok, this would be a disaster for many businesses, but still, it's an option for those few whose business model works mostly on other communication channels.

Final Thoughts

In the short term, your Google Analytics Events data should underpin how you spend your advertising budget online. There is no  need for any business owner to spend money based on "gut feel".  In the medium term you can divert your funds to the most effective channels and in the long term you should find you have a more profitable company.

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