How big did your marketing efforts pay off? What return did you receive on that total site redesign? Are you getting any traction from all those Twitter “tweets” and Facebook updates?

It’s impossible to answer those questions (or the thousands like them) without the ability to track where visitors are coming from-and what they’re looking at once on your site.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re using a free tool such as Google Analytics or a paid tool such as WebTrends or ClickTracks; what matters is that you can easily and accurately track your site traffic and user trends.

Are visitors entering your site from a referral click through your press release, or are they coming from your Chamber of Commerce business profile? It’s essential you can answer that question so that you know which efforts are working for you…and which ones aren’t worth your time and money.

The point is you’ve got to measure it. It’s super-simple to set up a free Google Analytics account. Just go to the Google Analytics site, and they’ll walk you through the entire process. You’ll end up with a little snippet of code you have to enter into each page of your Web site, and then you’re off and running. The standard practice is that your JavaScript code from Google goes before the closing body tag. And if you’re powering your site or blog with something like WordPress, there are widgets that will make the setup even easier.

Occasionally, I run across someone in the course of my work who tells me he or she is advertising in the Yellow Pages. I always ask, “So, how’s that working for you?” The typical response I get is something like, “I’m not really sure. I think I get one phone call a year out of it.”

Now, let’s say that person is spending $6,000 a year on advertising. He or she can’t tell me if they’re getting $6,000 worth of business from it? Is that a good investment?

What if we take that $6,000, dump the Yellow Pages and put the money into something we can measure? Now we know if those marketing and advertising efforts paying off because we know exactly how many people are finding the Web site and making purchases. That’s the only way you’re going to know if an investment is worth the money. If you don’t measure it, it’s essentially worthless.

There are even ways to track the success of radio and TV endeavors. When you promote a product or service, don’t have your link point back to your site homepage. Have it point to a “special” page just for visitors seeing or hearing that advertisement or appearance. That’s a stat you can track.

In our Bay Area Search Engine Academy SEO courses, all this falls into our 6-Step Process, specifically Step 5:

Step 1 – Do your keyword research: Find and use highly trafficked keyword phrases that are not competitive.

Step 2 – Write the content for the human reader: It’s easy to get so focused on optimization that you forget someone will be reading the material.

Step 3 – Do a mild re-write for the search engines: Give the keywords a little more prominence utilizing best practices.

Step 4 – Get it on the search engines: Put it into your Web site, press release, etc., and get it indexed by the search engines.

Step 5 – Monitor & benchmark: Measure it. How effective is it?

Step 6 – Work in ranges of pages: Build your themes, add more content and do it all over again.

That’s how you get results. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing press releases, SEO or pay-per-click. It’s all essentially the same process: Find the juicy stuff, get it on the search engines and measure it…then go from there.