ROI: Tracking Your Pain-in-the-Ass Best Friend

Would you say it’s your closest ally for running your online business? No? You hate it? Yes, of course you do.


ROI: Tracking Your Pain-in-the-Ass Best Friend

How chummy are you with Return on Investment (ROI)? Would you say it’s your closest ally for running your online business? No? You hate it? Yes, of course you do. Just look at this dry and groan-inducing definition: “ROI is the measurement of the value that an investment provides; the amount of return on a particular investment, relative to the investment’s cost.” Wait, it gets worse because there’s even a formula:  

ROI = (Current Value of Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment

Yeah, you’re about to click away from this page. We’ve lost you already, haven’t we? Wait! Resist the urge to click away and just bear with us because ROI should be one of your best friends. It’s popular because its versatile and simple, and interpreting your findings as a result of the formula above is pretty easy once you get the hang of it…But, unfortunately, like dealing with a best friend who wants to give you way more information than you need to know so you can help them work through a problem, tracking ROI can feel like a draining task that requires a Herculean effort to navigate and understand.

So, what to do? You need to track ROI, that’s a given, but where and how do you start? Which company or analytic option is right for you? To answer these questions, you’ll need to think about what it is you want to assess and then go from there. For example, are you measuring how much money you made (i.e. content ROI) or the success of your content (i.e. number of shares, likes, brand exposure, etc.)? Are you unsure of what exactly you want to assess? That’s fine if you are! As it turns out, answering a couple of questions and setting up a goal or two is all you need to do to get started with ROI tracking.

Setting Goals

Setting and understanding your goals will help narrow down your options and help you choose the best way to track ROI on your website. According to Kara Burney with, at its core, tracking ROI requires a commitment to measurement. This means setting goals so that you can more easily identify areas that need improvement.

Figuring out your goals is no easy task, either. Of course your main goal is to “make money, damn it!” But, to figure out your specific goals, you need to consider a few questions regarding who knows about you and what they’re doing. According to Kara Burney with TrackMaven, marketing goals can be boiled down to three easy questions:

Who knows about you?

Who’s talking about you?

Who’s buying from you?

Attempting to answer these three questions will direct you to which areas of your website need the most attention, which, in turn helps you to hone in on goals you should be setting for yourself. When it comes to ROI tracking, your goals pretty much come down to four basic topics:

Content Exposure

Traffic, social shares, and brand mentions

Content Engagement

Click-through and bounce rates, time on page, scroll depth, and social engagement

Search Engine Optimization

Rankings, keywords, and links

Content Conversion

Leads, sales, and subscriptions

Luckily, if your goal is engagement and exposure, you’ve got some free options to choose from; if you’re interested in content conversion and SEO then you may be better off paying a company for tracking. However, don’t be dismayed about having to purchase help with ROI tracking! According to a 2017 study done by Millward Brown, 75 percent of marketers would increase their spending for a greater ability to track ROI. So, don’t be afraid to spend some money to make more money!

Let’s now look at the four main goals and some of the options that are available for each.

Google Analytics (free)

Google Analytics measures traffic, bounce rates, and assesses ROI statistics—and can easily help you with any of your goals. It seriously is one of the best tools for understanding user behavior.

Twitter Analytics (free)

Twitter Analytics allows you to track your impressions, results, and cost-per-result, use their online conversion tracking to understand what your customers want, and learn how to analyze your Tweets for tips on what your customers want.

Facebook Analytics (free)

Facebook Analytics allows you to use funnels to see your viewers’ progress and actions through your page, measure retention time, and learn about the lifetime value of viewers to increase revenue.

YouTube Analytics (free)

Youtube Analytics helps better understand your audience to grow your viewers and create a video strategy, measure audience retention, learn top strategies to measure your performance and view reports such as the Estimated Earnings Report, Overview Report, and more.

Stat Counter ($9 per month)

Stat Counter is a more simplified version of Google Analytics and may be a great place to start so you’re not too overwhelmed by all of the statistics coming at you (as you might be with some of the other analytic options available to you).

As of 2018, Instagram still doesn’t have its own free analytics, but don’t let that dissuade you from tracking ROI for your Instagram account! If you’re wanting to track Instagram, you’ll want to use Google Analytics or check out some of the options for Content Engagement below.

Content Engagement

Tracking content engagement means measuring all that wonky seemingly-indecipherable human behavior on your site, including click through and bounce rates, time spent on pages/videos, scroll depth, and engagement. Luckily, there are a few companies you can look to for help:

Crazy Egg ($29 per month)

Crazy Egg measures user activity with a really cool heat mapping tool that provides you with a visual of everywhere users click and hover with their mouse.

Hootsuite ($9.99–$100 per month)

Hootsuite measures social engagement for you. They help you keep super up to date by tracking social engagement in real-time.

Buzzsumo ($79 per month)

Buzzsumo is simple and functional: it measures engagement, tracks mentions, and monitors links.

Hotjar ($29–$589 per month)

Hotjar is a fast and visual way to understand your users by actually watching their sessions on your website. While it may seem a bit voyeuristic, it’s helpful in that it helps track time on page and conversions, and measure scroll depth.

Content Conversion

Content Conversion is all about chasing those leads, sales, and subscriptions—or, how your marketing efforts translate into that sweet bacon. Here are three great options to help you in this regard:

HubSpot ($200 per month)

Hubspot tracks SEO, and monitors brand mentions and leads. But before you’re scared away by the price tag, note that it’s doing more for you than tracking ROI: it’s also generating leads, automating marketing, and increasing your sales—so the price tag may be worth it.

KissMetrics ($220 per month)

KissMetrics is similar to Hotjar and Hubspot but it focuses on increasing conversions, driving engagement, and growing retention.

Ahrefs ($99 per month)

Ahrefs lets you research top content, such as social shares, organic search traffic, and referring domains. You can also sort your list of metrics with specific filters like domain rating, backlinks, traffic, etc.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you improve your site by monitoring rankings, driving traffic, and increasing awareness in search engines. Or, put another way, this is the nerdy deep dive into how search engines make you money and help you understand the behavior of your customers…some might call this spying. Luckily, there are a few companies that will do the spying for you:

SEMRush ($99.95–$399.95 per month)

SEMRush is used by heavy hitters like eBay, HP, and for good reason: they can provide solutions and SEO audits, intelligence, and ideas for gaining more traffic, especially if you advertise on Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. Oh, and did we mention that they can also help you spy on your competitor and monitor their campaigns and keywords?

MOZ ($99 per month)

MOZ provides information about sites that link to both yours and your competitors’ sites, along with data to improve your social media presence.

SpyFu ($44-$299 per month)

SpyFu is pretty much exactly how it sounds: it helps you download (ahem, spy on) your competitor’s most profitable keywords and ads for paid and organic search. They can help you increase your website traffic and track your keyword rankings.

Make a Commitment

So, there you have it: tracking ROI is everyone’s least favorite thing but damn, if it isn’t one of the most important aspects of running your online business. As should be clear by now, tracking ROI requires a commitment to taking time to understand the issues you may be having and what your goals are but it’s also about opportunities for improvement. So, work on dedicating time to this all-important commitment and look into some of these options that may be right for you. You wouldn’t leave that pain-in-the-ass best friend hanging, so don’t do the same with ROI tracking. It’ll get you back in the long run, just like that friend will.