Make Your Website Analytics Work for You
By Lauretta Shokler | Published January 31, 2017
Data: The Missing Ingredient to Smarter Business
Time for a business New Year’s resolution: Start with data! Bigger businesses already know the power of data, but many small and mid-sized businesses are still missing out on this amazing tool.
For this blog, we are talking specifically about web analytics data. If you worked with an agency like Osky Blue to build your website, then you probably have a web analytics account setup. If so, step one is to ask for access to the account, and if not, it’s time to get one.
Many small and mid-sized businesses use the Google Analytics tool, but others, such as Adobe Analytics/Omniture, Clicky, Piwik, IBM Digital Analytics and more, are also available. Most of these options offer similar features at the basic level, but it’s worth taking the time to compare the tools and choose the one that best suits your reporting needs.
You may be thinking, I don’t have time to learn all this, or what good will tracking all this data really do? If you are running a 2-page brochure website that has no interactive features and are overrun with more business than you can handle, then you objections would be valid.
However, if you are doing any marketing, including offline efforts, looking for more customers or to expand your business, or even if you have a website that contains any interactive features (forms to complete, click to call phone numbers, social media icons, email subscriber sign-up, videos, etc.) then tracking these efforts will likely reveal buying trends, ways to become more efficient, and opportunities you never thought were possible.
Phase 1: Set Up Data Correctly
A proper setup of an analytics account can be tricky and requires expertise. Don’t shortcut this step, otherwise you will end up with contaminated and inaccurate data that can lead you down the wrong path during analysis. For example, make sure the spam and internal traffic is being filtered, goals are and user events are being tracked, proper attribution models are being used, etc.
Collecting accurate data is one of the smartest business decisions you can make as it will be the source of many future solid business decisions. Web analytics data specifically allows companies to track visits to the website, the source of those visits, demographic data on the visitors, what the visitors did while they were on the site, transactions and revenue (for ecommerce sites), and much more! Having access to this data to manipulate, filter and segment is the the first step in assessing where your promotional and marketing efforts are working best.
Phase 2: Gather and Monitor the Data
After you have your data collection plugging along, start monitoring your key performance indicators (KPIs) regularly. Determining those KPIs may take a little effort but is worth the time and consideration. Learn more about the process. Once you decide on the data to track, be sure to monitor your KPIs over time. This will provide you with more insight and a clearer picture of your customer’s patterns. For some businesses, it can take 2-3 years of data to determine a clear seasonal pattern in site traffic and other metrics, so be sure to use annotation feature to note major initiatives, key events, website outages, changes in the industry, etc. Learn more about web analytics annotations.
During this phase, you’ll want to be sure you set up and refine goals for your online traffic. Goals allow you assess site traffic for real business objectives. It’s also important to watch for odd traffic patterns and adjust the configuration of your analytics setup to prevent spam and internal traffic from skewing data, to identify tracking errors and to connect other online assets like ad accounts, webmaster tools account, and revenue sources into your analytics tool.
Phase 3: Dig Deep Into that Data
If you are still with me, congratulations! You are ready to take your data to the next level. Now that you have clean, accurate data, KPIs tracked over time, and annotations that provide context to your data, the next step is to dive deep and start the true analysis. This is where the who, what, where, when and why questions take over and start providing fine-tuned insights and real value.
To often the web analytics process stops at step #2, when that’s really just preparation for the main event. Now that you are familiar with your website’s traffic patterns, sources, and engagement metrics, it’s time to build a customer-first strategy by looking at the date in new and eye-opening ways.
This is where adding tactics like multiple dimension reporting, segmentation, and attribution to your process. Before I lose you in the technical nitty-gritty of what might seem like some intimidating topics, stay with me because this is where it gets fun. Start small. I mean really small! In fact, start with just one question and then head over to your analytics tool and figure out where you can get the answer.
For example, let’s say you are promoting a new product that is available on your website, and noticed that your were getting calls from multiple new customers all living in the same town. With a data deep dive, you could head to your analytics tool, drill into your recent web traffic from that town and start looking at the source for those visits. And this is where it gets interesting. You discover it’s mostly coming from visitors on Instagram who are almost all under the age of 25-years-old. This is an opportunity! You’ve found a niche audience for this new product and potential channel for social and possibly even paid traffic if you want to try advertising there. What if you could find out that your repeat customers only represents 25% of all the traffic but 60% of your sales? Or you learned that female visitors to your site, read 4 times more pages and spent 6 times longer on your site than make visitors. How would this insight change your marketing efforts?
Once you play with the data enough you’ll be able to build on the learning and dive deeper so you can look at each marketing effort more granularly. For example, you can track how a single campaign that was run over multiple channels performs overall. You’ll want to know more about how key demographic segments respond. You’ll gain a greater understanding of the pathways your customers take to and around your website, and you’ll spend your marketing/sales efforts and dollars more effectively.
Phase 4: Add Some Bells and Whistles
While you are hanging out in phase 3, consider adding some extra features to your analytics configuration to and processes. The following features are worth checking out:
- Alerts – Set up your analytics data to alert you when key events take place such as a major traffic drop, or a big increase in form completions. The possibilities are endless and can save you a great deal of monitoring time.
- Assisted Conversions and Attribution Models – Learn more about how your customers’ pathways to your site. Did they see your Google Ad, and then search your name next week? Did they read your email newsletter and then come to the site through your Google Business Listing? Find out with these helpful tools.
- Tag Management Tool – Streamline the process of adding tracking tags to your site and use a tag management tool to capture data on everything from mobile-click-to-call, to video views.
- A/B Testing – Want to compare how one version of a website page performs to another version? Want to test multiple versions of your ad language? A/B and multivariate testing is the tool for you.
- Conversion Funnels – This is a great tool for ecommerce sites to determine where in the checkout process clients drop-off, purchase more, or get stuck. Streamline that process by tracking conversion funnels.
- UTM Tagging – Take control of your data and track campaigns across multiple channels. UTM tagging is a simple solution to push campaign information into your analytics tool when people click on links to your website from outside sources.
- Custom Reports – Find yourself running the same reports over and over? Setting up custom reports can save time and provide additional data presentation options.
Phase 5: Wash, Rinse and Repeat
Now that you are are comfortable shaking your Magic 8 Ball of data and getting reliable, useful answers, it’s time to systemize the process. Never stop looking for data anomalies and configuring your analytics setup to limit the impact of bogus data. The spammers don’t sleep, so neither should you. The alerts and custom reports you set-up in Phase 4 should help root those out quickly. Don’t stop monitoring your data and guard it closely. Thinking about moving your website? Make sure ALL your tracking moves with it! Adding a new marketing channel? Don’t forget to add it to your reports. Building an iterative process that keeps your data clean, accurate and up-to-date is a critical step.
Now that you have plan, the most important step is to put it into action. Many digital marketing companies like Osky Blue can help you master your web analytics so you can start utilizing the data that drives your business forward.
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