I have some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news: Your web analytics tool can’t answer all of your questions for you.
Now, the good news: There’s something that you can do about it!
As the marketing manager, the research analyst, the IT administrator, or simply the person who has been tasked with all things “web”, you need answers, ratios, percentages, KPI’s, AOV’s, CPA’s, and many other three-letter acronyms and important-sounding phrases. And, you need them now!
So, you log-in to Google Analytics / SiteCatalyst / WebTrends to get this critical data, and the inevitable happens. Your eyes open wide, your eyebrows nearly pop off your forehead, and you say “What happened on that day?!?!?” You thought you were going to sneak in to your web analytics account and tip-toe your way out with everything you needed, only to find yourself smack in the middle of a mystery – why are you staring at an incomprehensible large spike, a puzzling large recess, or drastic change in your report’s line graphs?
No, your tool is not broken.
And no, you didn’t forget to tag your marketing URLs.
Oh, and by the way, your tool can’t help you decipher this riddle because it is not Rain Man, nor does it have the advanced heuristics of Lieutenant Commander Data.
So, where’s the answer? It’s found within the four walls of your office building. Someone decided to send out a marketing newsletter, causing a large spike in visits. The pay-per-click campaign was paused for a day, leading to a big drop in conversions. Your web site’s homepage had a facelift, so your bounce rate decreased to a new low.
Now that you know the answer, or, at least, where to find it, you can most likely deduce what I’m about to say next – integrate the knowledge that has been stored in your company’s HQ with your web analytics platform using annotations, notes, or whatever the equivalent is in your web analytics platform.
Advantages of using annotations / notes are:
1. Non web analytics (yet highly relevant) information becomes a part of your click stream data
2. Everyone in the organization who uses web analytics can stay in-the-loop on what directly or indirectly impacts the web
3. Eliminates the need for guesswork, frustration, and all those wasted hours of trying to solve a problem with no solution
Annotations or notes are always easy to do, and they are usually available for any user that has even the most basic access to your web analytics account.
The following screen shots show you what annotations look like in Google Analytics, and what notes look like in both Omniture SiteCatalyst and WebTrends. Don’t wait until the mystery presents itself – solve the mystery of your data spikes, dips, and shifts before they happen!
Annotations in Google Analytics:
Notes in Omniture SiteCatalyst:
Notes in WebTrends: