One of the biggest criticisms of web analytics in general is that the data are not in alignment with organizational strategy and insight. Folks wrestling with Big Data often hear similar criticisms. The concerns stem from the same root, which is that the ability to track granular, behavior-based information is not useful without tying that behavior to organizational goals and objectives.
Three Principles of Useful Analytics
Whenever I teach a course on Google Analytics, the first thing I do is walk through how those objectives ultimately reach the level of web analysis data. My approach is organized around three major principles of analytics-driven organizational management:
1. Develop and revisit a clearly described list of strategies and objectives. A strategy is a description of how you intend to use your website to help your business. An objective is the specific action that users will have to take on the website to satisfy that strategy.
2. Choose, at most, three strategies and five objectives to examine. The reason for this is that there is a real limit to how much your organization to report on, react to, and address at any given point in time. In fact five objectives may be too much, but it’s a good baseline to start with.
If you find that you are trying to create too many objectives, then you haven’t zeroed in on the core goals for your organization in that period. If you are struggling to identify enough objectives, then you may need to redefine or expand your strategies.
3. Create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be used to assess your objectives. These KPIs have two specific characteristics:
– they are derived from separate and distinct inputs
– the underlying inputs are actionable
A classic KPI for search engine marketing is conversion rate. Conversion rate is the derivation of conversions divided by visits. Why use derivations? Largely because they are very sensitive to changes, yet can track those changes for multiple reasons. For example, if the conversion rate for a website changes, we can examine the underlying inputs to determine if the change is due to change in traffic or change in conversions.
Actionable metrics are just that: inputs that the organization can change by taking some action. In our example of conversion rate, an SEM company would know that they can address traffic by increasing budget, or address conversions by improving their landing pages.
Applying These Principles Takes Time
Most organizations that commit to a metrics-based success system spend an entire full day every quarter and a two days every fiscal year with their executive team to review and develop their strategies, objectives, and key performance indicators. Also, don’t worry too much, initially, about whether or not the KPIs are available in Google Analytics. Try to determine what you want to measure first, and as you learn more about the analytics tools that are available to you, the organization will either modify their KPIs to reflect those tools’ capabilities or acquire better tools and training to fill in the gaps.
Once you have identified your KPIs, you can establish an analytics process to manage the delivery and reporting on them. That approach should follow these guidelines:
1. Establish an analytics process based on your KPIs.
2. Decide how much time you can devote to analysis (and resulting action items) within a given period (week, month, etc).
3. Stick to this schedule, incrementally making changes to your marketing strategy and website based on analysis of your reports.
If you take this approach, your reports in Google Analytics will be relevant, actionable, and in alignment with your organization’s core needs.
Sound too daunting? Contact us today to request a class tailored to your company!