Web Analytics – What’s The Big Deal?
September 11, 2015

It’s all about data. Big data, little data and all minutiae in between. Whatever your digital strategy, doing your utmost to maximise the potential of your web analytics is a really good idea. According to Avinash Kaushik, Google’s co-founder, the truth is that only a ‘small fraction of people who can benefit from data actually use it’, this being ‘especially true for the world of web analytics.’ So what’s the big deal?

Whether your organisation’s analytics are tag based or log based, have a fancy dashboard or just endless lines of numerical mumbo jumbo, we know web data is a Marmite situation. For those of you whose blood runs cold at the mere mention of it, what if you changed your perspective and tried a new approach? The good news is that it doesn’t mean you have to rush out and invest in new software, or sign over your bank balance at the latest flashy data conference. What it does mean is looking a bit closer and remembering that after all, what you are really seeing is the numerical representations of people like you and me. And who doesn’t love to people watch?

To get things started, let’s be clear … Analytics is not a simple log-in, look and log-off process. You have to invest some time and energy at the very least. The Digital Marketing Institute defines analytics as the ‘collection, measurement and analysis of marketing campaigns and website data’. So, if all you do is pat yourself on the back for the number of site visitors you have, then bounce off and tap a figure or two into a spreadsheet, then you are doing yourself and your organisation a serious injustice. To be in any way meaningful analytics needs to be approached as an on-going, dynamic process with mindful objectives and goals, careful and focused management, as well as a commitment to review and iterate your strategies.

If we haven’t quite sold you on it yet check out our quick intro guide to making analytics your friend.

Time to SWOT up

Get to know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats up close and personal. Yeah, that’s right we just threw SWOT at you. Applying this tried and tested method will help you learn to read your data and figure out what’s working for you and more importantly, for your audience. It’s funny to think that a series of digits can tell you so much about human behaviour and interests, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Say you have a particularly important campaign or want to test some content, setting up goals and event triggers can even keep you in ‘the real-time loop’. It’s as close to having your finger on your visitor’s pulse as it gets, meaning while you work-out what’s ticking all the right boxes (strengths) you’re also reacting to flagging figures when something is falling flat (weaknesses). In the course of which you might discover something you didn’t previously know about how your audience engage (opportunity). This absolute wealth of insight is ready and waiting to be a team player and positively align with your digital strategy. In short, helping guide your future iterations and immediate campaign and content revisions.

What about threats? Well poor content, layout or navigation is a threat, and a fairly major one at that, but there are other kinds to be aware of too. Dirty data is one of them. Having an eagle eye on your referral traffic and inbound links can help you eradicate spam traffic and clean up your stats. So can IP exclusions. If you have 200 staff all regularly accessing your website (maybe even have it set as their browser homepage), if you don’t exclude their IPs you could be inadvertently reporting on yourself and developing digital strategies based on what your staff are doing, instead of your potential customers!

99 Problems But a Glitch Ain’t One

Knowing what people are doing online is just one side of the coin. But what about technology behaviour? The list of things that can go wrong with a website is long and wearisome, but there is plenty your web data can diagnose quickly. In some cases, you can think of analytics as your very own symptom checker. Identifying the cause of many site problems is easier than you think.

We recently had a client come to us with concerns over slow page load times on their website. By segmenting their web data, we were able to split the audience by device type showing that desktop sessions were doing well and loading at healthy rate, but that mobile and tablet were having their ups and downs. All in all these mobile devices were muddying the data and making the whole picture look poor by pushing up the page loading times. But why? Through a process of elimination and testing we discovered a number of factors at play, one of which was that, given the nature of their audience, many of their mobile and tablet visitors were accessing the site using slower 3g and 4g connections. However, not being tethered to WiFi wasn’t the whole picture, and wouldn’t really cause that much of a problem with page caching in operation. After running a few tests and looking closely at content reports we discovered that many images being uploaded to the site, particularly in news sections, were simply too large in size. So while the page templates and news stories themselves were loading promptly, the delay was down to image assets struggling to download. We were able to communicate this to our client and guide them in best practice image optimisation and web renditions, not only speeding up a number of key content areas but helping them to optimise future offerings. Costly revisions for the client were avoided by simply paying attention to what the web analytics was telling us.

Something For Everyone

In many cases, seen as the reserve of the ‘I.T guy’, the practice of analysing your web data is a much maligned practice due in large to misunderstanding.

People would rather pull off a finger nail than learn how to leverage their website data. Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Co-Founder

But why? He describes one of the reasons for sub-optimal use as misplaced ‘hype’ about it ‘being useless or messy or full of ‘dirty data’”. So the question is, what can data do for you?

Analytics is more than just a positive snapshot to keep the Board happy for another Quarter. The potential reaches further than a knocked-out report and what’s more, there is something to engage every level of your organisation. Encouraging different departments to take a hands-on approach to data is a unifying and empowering internal strategy.

The Executives among you can track the ROI of online initiatives and identify long term market trends. Avid Marketers can test and optimise advertisements and landing pages while learning to maximise conversions and engagements, all at the lowest possible cost according to region or custom segmentation. And not forgetting the Designers; you can track and demonstrate the value of your site improvements from navigation to split-testing page templates and button placements, as well as proving how that new breadcrumb bar re-engaged your visitors resulting in more time on site.

Starting to sound pretty good isn’t it? Now it’s your turn. Need a little help? Give us a shout and if you missed our last blog on Digital Strategy check it out now and download your free Step by Step Guide!

Sources

  • Occam’s Razor

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