If you are new to web analytics, the key is to start with tracking some basic numbers. Once you get a handle on these key metrics, you can expand your data portfolio and build your expertise.

Here’s my list of the top six metrics you should be looking at on a regular basis:

1. Visitors

Specifically, I like to focus initially on unique visitors. This is the number of people that visited your site during a specific timeframe (e.g., yesterday, last week, last month). Unique visitors represents the count of individual people that visited your site regardless of the number of times they visited your site. So, if person A visits your site once and person B visits your site five times, you will have two unique visitors and six total visits.

In business, good branding creates trust and can make it easier to sell a product to customers. While the brands we choose as customers can be reflections of our beliefs and values, the right kind of branding can steer us toward products or services that we may otherwise not have been looking for.

So, it makes sense that companies that have great branding can generate more sales. You can improve your own startup's branding by following these five tips:

1. Be consistent.

Regardless of what your startup is about, it needs to be consistent for people to recognize it as a brand rather than a product. Especially in the earlier stages of a brand, people's trust is only established once they are confident that they understand what your brand does well and what it stands for.

Not sure what I mean about consistency? Think about Starbucks. When we go there, we've come to expect great service and personalization. When you think of film director Michael Bay, you'd probably think of big-budget movies with lots of explosions and special effects.

This is consistency. This is about branding.

We have these expectations of brands or people who are brands because they have delivered consistently in the past and indirectly promise to continue doing so.

2. Be authentic.

No one likes to be misled. Remember that products become brands when people start to trust what will occur when they interact with your brand. While a small lie may seem necessary, it can have major consequences for a brand if ever exposed.

Being yourself should help your message resonate with people. Radio host Darren "Whackhead" Simpson is an example of authenticity. Lots of people don't agree with what he says or his sense of humor, but he sticks to his guns and produces his show the way he wants to. Because of that, he has droves of loyal listeners.

3. Focus on a niche.

It can be smarter to focus on winning over smaller demographics one at a time rather than trying to appeal to everyone all the time. Focus on building products for different niche groups in order to unite all those groups into one single brand.

Car manufacturers do this by designing cars that appeal to different segments of their clients. While certain elements like reliability, performance or design features remain brand-centric, their approach is niche in exposing new clients to their brands.

4. Be relatable.

People often connect with brands and other people who evoke an emotional response from them. Controversial movies are talked about a lot because they evoke our emotions. Brands are no different. Make sure you are relating to people's emotional values such as sharing in their problems or showing empathy.

Think of brands like Nike, which relates to its customers' understanding that winning is difficult through its slogan "Just Do It."

5. Be extraordinary.

Products don't become brands for nothing, just like people don't become known for being simply ordinary.

While ordinary is safe, recognition and high praise are given to those who step out of the traditional in favor of the unconventional. While trying to be extraordinary, make sure you don't stray too far to the left and lose sight of being authentic.

An example of this is Apple, which entered the computer space with a product that was designed with the user experience in mind and, at least initially, was less susceptible to viruses than the PC. By doing something extraordinary, rather than doing something slightly better, you attract the attention of many. But you will have to keep it up or people will catch on fast and move on just as quickly.

 

Every family has one: Whether it’s your youngest nephew, your oldest daughter, or your third cousin, you probably try to shuffle the dreaded problem child to the end of the table at Thanksgiving. They can be spoiled, attention-starved, or just plain destructive, but the one thing they all have in common is that, sometimes, it’s hard for their parents to see the problem. The same is true for business websites.

All websites have problems—some are simply more serious than others. Just as the problem child will inevitably cause a Christmas blow-up years down the road after one too many eggnogs, a problem website will hurt your profitability in the long run.

The good news is that websites are much easier to fix.

These are the five most common types of problem websites, and advice on how to whip them into shape:

The Evil Stepchild

This is the kid who sets fire to ants with a magnifying glass and throws your neighbor’s cat into the pool. An evil stepchild website is not in step with the rest of your family—it might clash with your organizational culture or core values, and it makes you look bad to customers.

Your website should clearly convey the services and products you offer, while telling your audience who you are and what you care about. Customers want to do business with a person, not an entity, and it’s important that your website is on-message with your company’s brand so you can attract your ideal customers.

If your website is an evil stepchild, make a list of your business’s core values and infuse this information into your website’s content. Look beyond the products or services you offer and focus on what your business is really all about. Holding the evil stepchild accountable to house rules might stop others from shunning your kids at the playground.

The Middle Child

The middle child is sandwiched between the privileged firstborn and the baby of the family, who hogs all the attention. He spends a lot of time trying to get attention, but he has a tough time articulating his needs and identifying what makes him special.

The middle child website has lofty goals and a lot to say, but he lacks direction. As a result, prospective customers have a hard time seeing how the website’s services are relevant to their needs, as well as what the next step is in the purchasing process.

To fix a middle child website, focus on the solution your business can offer prospective customers. Give them a reason to come to you, and put a clear call to action on the site. Whether you’re selling insurance or nail clippers, this is absolutely indispensable because if you don’t tell your customers what you want them to do, they won’t take action.

The Spoiled Child

The spoiled child has the newest toys, the best clothes and the ugliest attitude. He has everything he needs to be successful, but he can’t get past his own ego. The spoiled child website is flashy but fails to convey the value of your business. If your website looks great, but your customers have no context for the product, they aren’t going to buy it.

Yes, it’s important to have attractive website design—but not at the expense of effectively communicating your product’s value to your customer. Think less about how amazing you are and instead focus on developing good, substantial content that shows why your product is relevant to your customer. If the spoiled child can’t think about others for a change, he might need a timeout.

The Baby

The baby of the family is adorable. Everyone thinks she’s cute and fun, but nobody takes her seriously. This type of website is a feel-good site that makes people smile, but it’s so preoccupied with being liked that it downplays the value of the product or service or lacks substantial content.

Don’t rely on charm alone to make a sale, and don’t assume customers know you’re great at what you do. You have to tell people what you offer, why it’s valuable and why you’re good at it. Don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers, either; this is not a dinner party, and business is not about being liked. In fact, most people would rather hire a strong, effective businessperson than a likable pushover without substance. If you let the baby of the family skate by and make her siblings pick up the slack, she will have a rude awakening later in life.<?p>

The Well-Behaved Child

On the surface, the well-behaved child does everything right, and that’s precisely the problem. The well-behaved website tries to be all things to all people and, the truth is, it’s just plain boring.

These websites don’t take risks, aren’t remotely fun and no one really wants to buy from them. The only customers well-behaved websites attract are people who play it too safe to actually make a purchase. When you have a great idea or a strong service, you need to draw a line in the sand and be willing to excite people. Becoming more polarizing means you may lose some people along the way, but you need to be okay with that. Encourage the well-behaved child to articulate his opinions, say what excites him, and explain what bores him—just let his personality shine!

Unfortunately, great ideas, brilliant products and dedicated employees are not enough to make a business thrive. Often, businesses believe their struggles are the result of a big problem when, in reality, they just aren’t communicating the right message to their ideal audience. Luckily, once you figure out what kind of problem child your website is, it’s relatively easy to mold it into the “model” child that will increase profits and bring in customers.

This year is speeding by and 2014 is just around the corner. While many people wait until New Year's to get their personal and professional lives in order and create the change that they know was long overdue, you shouldn't have to. It is, after all, true that delay is the greatest form of denial.

Make changes early so that you're way ahead of the game next year with these five easy steps to prepare for dominating in business:

1. Set action-oriented goals early, not on New Year's Eve.

Goal setting should be part of your daily and weekly routines, and should not be based on a calendar year or month. In 2014, don't make New Year's resolutions based on what you promise to stop doing or a change in your behaviors. Instead, set goals today as to what new actions you will make to get you closer to your desired outcome.

By setting actionable goals that move you forward, you move toward your goals rather than simply stopping behaviors that leave you at a standstill.

2. Understand the plan to disrupt your industry.

Before you can change your industry positively, you need to understand how to go about doing so. One of the benefits of starting early is the opportunity to look ahead and finish your planning before 2014 actually begins.

Look for ways to stand out next year from your competitors. Reflect back on 2013 and see what lessons you learned that you could leverage today to prepare you for a strong disruption of your competitors in 2014.

Consider what everyone in the industry is saying or, more importantly, how they are saying it. Is it coming across too lightly or maybe too strong? Is there a way you can get ultra targeted with your audience so they feel and hear your message over any of your competitors?

Disruption starts with committing to excellence and taking a stand for your customer.

3. Leverage partnerships.

Partnerships matter, even more so if you plan to dominate your market. Creating the right partnerships takes time and requires multiple conversations before formalizing. Why not use the rest of this year to solidify three partnerships that can help you take over in 2014?

There are literally hundreds of companies waiting for you to contact them, because your product or service can add some extra value to their clientele. Greatness in business is about blowing your customers' expectations away. How can you position your business to partner with a company that can help them wow their customers?

4. Create immense value for others.

Before the year is over, there is still time to ensure that everyone in your life who has invested in your success in 2013 gets a refresher on how important they are in your life. Take the next two months to create immense value for those closest to you by ensuring they themselves are prepared for 2014.

Here is a little secret: If there is something that you truly want next year -- such as more money, more support or an amazing mentor -- go out and give it away. If you want an amazing mentor, be a mentor for someone else. You would be surprised how much you learn from giving and be surprised how the laws of reciprocity eventually work in your favor.

By taking initiative and creating value for them, you are almost guaranteed that they will create even more value for your support in 2014.

5. Leave your doubts behind.

Next year could be the very best year of life. It's up to you to make it so.

Use these next couple of months to reflect upon and eliminate any doubts you have left, to conquer in 2014. Your belief needs to be stronger than ever and your proactive approach needs to be solidified now. This means being able to be honest with yourself today and face your fears by preparing even more.

The more confident you are, the less doubt you will have and the more likely your success will be.

Each year that comes and goes is only going to be as great as you make it. Don't confine yourself to the boundaries of a calendar or preoccupy yourself with the idea that you have to beat your competitor. Focus now and into next year on making sure each day is better than the previous one.

 

No matter what your profession or business category, you must optimize your Web site(s) in order to compete. 

Although there are many additional important strategies for optimizing your presence on Google, this is by far one of the most important.

No matter what size business you have, you need to be thinking “local” because that’s where your customers come from. If you do not already promote your business on Google Maps (and Yahoo! Local), then you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Google Maps will assist in getting you high search engine visibility for competitive locally oriented keywords and phrases like "SEO Marketing Johannesburg", "SEO Marketing Johannesburg, South Africa", or "Digital Marketing Johannesburg, South Africa." As you will see, I am using Marketing for my examples throughout this report because BrandMedia is our local Marketing business.