Using Website Analytics and Research to assist in Marketing Decisions

April
20
2011

by

Last week, I had the complete and total pleasure of speaking at the Florida Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus “2011 Destination Marketing Summit“. You can visit their web site to learn more about who they are and what they do. The conference was held at the Plantation Golf Resort & Spa, roughly an hour north of Tampa, FL.

The title of this blog post was the title of my presentation to this great organization of marketers and IT folks. Clocking in at just under one hour, my presentation was divided into four parts:

A. Preliminary Steps to Take
B. Things to Avoid at All Costs
C. Researching
D. Making Decisions

The first two parts have very little to do with using web analytics at all. Before a marketer even starts doing anything with web analytics, it’s critical to have a proper foundation set. Otherwise, marketers will quickly find themselves in a tailspin of useless reports, meaningless statistics, and possibly, unable to perform necessary technical tasks (like, implementing marketing tags on an Email marketing effort).

The last two parts have everything to do with web analytics and the measurement industry. While we are a Google Analytics Certified Partner and love our Google Analytics platform, I made it clear during my presentation that the platform itself is of little consequence. Users of Adobe’s Omniture SiteCatalyst, WebTrends, Yahoo! Web Analytics, or even those who use server logs and nothing but Excel spreadsheets will all benefit from insights on how to do research and how to make informed decisions based on your research.

Below are the individual slides:

A. Preliminary Steps to Take

1. Find the Right Person – Every company, every organization has that “right person” to champion the web analytics crusade. In all likelihood, that person is you, reading this blog post.

2. Collaborate – Collaboration is huge, because if you are that “right person” who will take over the reins of your company’s web analytics efforts, you will find that you can’t do it alone. Make friends and get buy-in from others in your organization.

3. Tech Check – Are all of your web site pages tagged for your web analytics program? All pay-per-click landing pages tagged, too? What about your marketing URLs – are those carrying referral data? Are your PDF files tagged for inclusion in your tracking tool? Performing routine sanity checks on all things “tech” forces you to collaborate with your friendly, neighborhood IT administrator, and helps avoid post-marketing launch head-scratching.

B. Things to Avoid at All Costs

1. Meaningless Reports – Reports that do not provide context, insights, or do not solve a problem are most likely meaningless reports. Take a long, hard, critical look at the reports you’re generating, and ask yourself if they are doing anything at all for you. If they’re not, stop running them.

2. Lacking Insight – Insight is awesome because it adds such a nice flavor to any statistic or any report you generate. Google Analytics lets you insert insight using Annotations. Omniture SiteCatalyst and WebTrends let you do it via inserting notes into a report. Find a way to incorporate your own analysis and insights.

3. Your Conversion Rate – Please, do not throw anything at me! Your conversion rate is a paradox – a very evil one at that. It’s the metric that we all chase and strive for, yet it is the most harmful and unfair metric of all-time. Got a 2% conversion rate? Good for you – what about the other 98% of your visitors who you’ve neglected, who have most likely performed other important actions? Conversion rate is conversions divided by the number of visits (visitors), and it, by default, pushes aside the overwhelming majority of your online audience.

C. Researching

1. In Your Tool – Great research doesn’t mean great expense. In Google Analytics, you can create custom dashboards and perform a seemingly unlimited number of operations with your website data. You can literally invent your own statistics and computations with Omniture SiteCatalyst. You don’t have to spend any more than you already have spent by researching within your own platform.

2. Not in Your Tool - One of the best, free tools out there right now is called Google Insights for Search. With a few clicks of your mouse and a few keystrokes, you can get trending data, regional interest data, and also a bit of forecasting analysis on what Google thinks will happen, volume and interest wise, on the search terms you insert into the tool. It’s fascinating – and extremely helpful.

3. Design Your Own Tool – Eventually, your web analytics efforts will mature to the point that you’ll need to start creating Custom Reports. Every major web analytics platform allows you to customize your reporting needs based upon what you see fit. Don’t settle for what the web analytics vendors show you by default – crack open their custom reporting solution and pave your own road to wisdom and intelligence.

D. Making Decisions

1. What to Change – Example: Suppose you moved your home page’s main call-to-action from the bottom of the fold to the top-right corner. How did that change impact your bottom line? Using a visual overlay tool, you can clearly see where visitors are clicking around on your web site, and where they are converting from. Google Analytics has the In-Page Analytics report, Omniture SiteCatalyst has the ClickMap report / browser plug-in, and if your tool doesn’t let you see click-stream data on top of your web site, request a free trial from CrazyEgg.

2. What to Invest In – Web analytics tools have gotten so good that they’re starting to become human. WebTrends gives you a few sentences on your dashboard of what’s important and what’s happening with your data. Google Analytics has the Intelligence section, where you can review all significant events that happened on your web site. Use these highly-specialized features to know where to place your marketing dollars (and, where to not place your marketing dollars).

3. What They’re Saying – What people are saying to you in the form of surveys and voice-of-customer tools, and what people are saying on social media is more important and more critical than ever before. Some of the ways that you can evaluate what your visitors / customers are saying is to scan your Twitter and Facebook accounts for certain keywords and hashtags. You can use free tools like Klout and Twitalyzer to evaluate how influential you are to those who may be talking about you. Heck, even your URL shortening tool like Bit.ly or Goo.gl has its own analytics for every URL you shorten, which again can put you “in the know” in terms of your social / brand influence. Who doesn’t like knowing how influential one really is, based upon what is being said?

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