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If you were an airplane pilot, would you dare fly without all the instruments in the control panel of your cockpit? Of course not.

Yet, many marketers and business owners today are forgetting one important thing as they race to build out their web and social media programs: measuring their success.

Being a data-driven marketer, establishing a culture of measurement within your organization, can’t be understated. Only through measurement can you make the best decisions on which programs should be cut/continued, and how to optimize results.

The great thing about the web, and social media to a lesser degree, is that it’s infinitely track-able. Through web analytics tools, it’s easy to measure – on an anonymous basis – all the millions of electronic footprints that show where visitors came from, where they go on the site, and what paths they take to a “conversion” on your site, i.e., a purchase, the submission of a lead form, a newsletter signup, etc.

Here are some basic strategies for how to track and optimize your marketing efforts:

How to Track: For small and mid-sized businesses, web measurement starts and ends with Google Analytics. It’s free, detailed and easy to use. For social media, you can use Google Analytics combined with a number of tools, from Facebook Insights if you have a fan page, to an array of social media intelligence and influencer-rating tools, such as Radian6, Viralheat and Klout.

What to Track: We could spend many, many column inches (newspaper term) here talking about the specific statistics you can track and measure. Here are some basic guidelines to follow:

• Focus on things relevant to the website goals

If you’re trying to get people interested in a product demo, be sure to set up the “goals” feature in Google Analytics so you can track the number of completed lead forms. Extend your analysis to see which keywords and referring websites are generating the most conversions. If you operate a content site, focus on visitor, loyalty and content reports.

• Focus on actionable data

Don’t look at data for data’s sake. Look for things that enable you to take action. Which keywords and online campaigns are generating the most traffic and conversions? Which should I cut and which should I continue? What are the optimal paths to conversion? What is the impact of my new blog marketing initiative? Who are my best referring traffic sources – are there any partnership opportunities? Focus on actionable data that helps you take action.

• Focus on key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs help you measure how you are doing against your objectives. Depending on your site goals, they could include: “goal” conversions, campaign effectiveness (including paid keywords), visits, page views, search engine traffic, top referrers (websites that send traffic to your site), blog visitors, traffic from social networks, mentions of your brand in social media, basic increases fans and followers, etc.

A note on social measurement: Social media can be difficult to track because the interactions with your brand are happening off your web site, within different networks. Don’t give up. You can configure Google Analytics to track clicks on shared links, as well as the amount of traffic from different social network domains. You can also use some of the tools mentioned earlier.

Who Should Track: If you’re a small-business owner, it’s probably the one reading this article. Larger businesses tend to rely on a combination of online marketing managers, who run the campaigns and distribute reports, and web designers, who handle the implementation. If you are spending heavily on web and social marketing programs, you may want to consider hiring a web analytics consultant who can work with your marketing team.

Web and social measurement takes time and effort, but it’s one of the most important things you can do, especially if you’re spending significant time and resources. Be a data-driven marketer. Get the tools and instruments you need to “fly” your business to greater success.