How to maximise your web analytics
- 02 September 2015
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One powerful question about web analytics could help you consistently deliver value for your business, says David Lindop.
Despite being freely available, easy to set up and one of the most powerful tools for revenue growth, web analytics is woefully underused by SMEs. It’s all too easy to set it up and forget about it, perhaps only dipping into the top-level reports each month, or frantically relearning the interface each time a blip in the sales figures needs further analysis.
Those businesses that do consistently extract powerful, actionable value from their web analytics tend to have a few things in common: time set aside for staff training and self-learning; clarity on which metrics matter to various teams and departments; and a culture of using analytics regularly and frequently.
Time set aside for staff training and self-learning
Almost every major web analytics solution has a training programme available for staff to become more adept and comfortable finding and understanding the reports and metrics. Google offers free Google Analytics IQ lessons and the Google Analytics certification test.
Many SMEs do encourage their staff to develop skills relevant to their job, but that is usually where the professional development fizzles out.
True understanding of the many applications of web analytics only comes by setting aside time for putting new knowledge into practice. This involves playing with real data, dimensions and reports in an attempt to answer real business questions.
Companies that encourage this type of guided discovery immediately after traditional training courses are rare. Furthermore, staff are also more likely to engage with the training if they know they are expected to immediately use their new skills.
Clarity on which metrics matter to various teams and departments
Aside from visits by channel, page views and conversions, few other metrics are reviewed by the majority of SMEs – and it’s easy to see why.
Browsing through Google Analytics reveals more than 400 different metrics and dimensions. Reports can be displayed using tables (pivot or vanilla), pie charts, period comparisons, bubble charts, trendlines etc.; this is an overwhelming flood of information for any employee whose sole job is not that of a data analyst.
So how should you address this? Start by considering which metrics might be more useful to sales staff (conversions, top-selling products, trending categories etc.) versus the web development team (page load speed, visits by browser type etc.). By first identifying the metrics that matter, individuals and teams can create dashboards containing only what they need. It’s also simple to set up automatic reports via email to those who will benefit.
A culture of using web analytics regularly and frequently
Many SMEs dive into analytics only when there’s a problem, using it to reactively diagnose fallen sales rather than proactively identify opportunities. After all, who has the time to step away from their core job responsibilities and peruse scores of reports?
However, I’m advocating a better solution: if stakeholders from across each department arranged a short, monthly meeting to discuss and answer one powerful question, they would see an immediate increase in value.
The question is: “What are the three things we’re going to do this month, as a result of what the analytics are telling us?”
Just three things
They could be as simple as swapping out or renaming unclicked menu items, optimising images to reduce page load speed or reviewing internal search queries for product ideas to share with the buying team.
Or they could be more involved, such as contacting the top 10 traffic referrers to arrange guest posts or offer affiliate commissions, A/B testing a lead-capture form or planning design changes for mobile devices.
Of course, this approach still requires an allocation of time and yet another meeting in the diary. However, the clarity and purpose that results from this activity, as well as the steady and constant business improvements, make the investment well worthwhile.
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