Nearly every aspect of marketing has changed in the last generation. Of course, digital advertising has become one of the most dominant game-changers to come along since television. Surprisingly, while most businesses know that they need to advertise digitally, far too many of them invest the money to do so and ignore one of the most valuable returns they receive on that investment: analytics.

The Value of Analytics

If you were to go back 40, 30, or even 20 years, your media mix probably consisted of broadcast television, radio, newspaper, and possibly out-of-home print like billboards. Account executives could offer you some sort of reporting on ratings and impressions, but they were all broad and qualified. Fast forward to today: you can receive, in near-real-time, analytics that tells you real numbers about your customers, audience, lengths of interactions, numbers of conversions, and what kinds of content your audience responds positively too. They are immeasurably valuable as both a report card and a planning tool.

Essential Free Tools

No matter the size of your team, there are a few essential analytics tools available to any digital marketer for free. First, let’s look at Google. Google Analytics who is coming to your sight, and where they’re coming from. That means you can objectively evaluate what sites or social platforms are driving your traffic and sales. You can also set up Google Alerts to track your company’s mentions and notify you of them. Google AdWords is also free, but only as an interface tool. It exists to help you set up PPC (pay per click) ad campaigns. Without spending money, though, you still have access to information about keyword research, which can be very helpful. Google and Bing Webmasters also help you get better SEO from your site without putting cash towards it.

You should also always check the analytics provided by your social media pages. While you don’t need to be on every platform, it’s critical to monitor how you’re performing on the ones you use.

Advantages of Paid Tools

While free tools give you a wealth of information, there is an advantage to paying for analytics: the data is culled from sources, allowing you to not have to check too many sights to correlate it. It will also be sorted in easier to interpret ways and can throw out irrelevant or unclear information.

If you’re advertising digitally, the only way to really measure the return on your investment is to keep a close eye on your data.