I’m an admitted digital marketing generalist. I love to write, sketch up ideas, and come up with creative strategies. But I also love me some numbers! In the past week it seems I’ve been living in web analytics tools helping current clients, training new ones, participating in The Analysis Exchange and sifting through analytics data for a Fortune 500 company I am verboten to identify.
A common question I get when helping clients for the first time is, “so.. where do I start?” Depending upon the popularity of a site, there can be massive amounts of data to mine through. Here’s a list of three items to help you on your way – all of them just happen to start with the letter “B”.
1. Business Goals
Keep this at the forefront: your site has a purpose. What is it? Some websites are built to sell, and others are designed to collect valuable information from customers. Many websites are constructed merely to inform. Identify your business goals and attempt to allow analytics tell you whether you are on track. Are people buying, submitting or finding the information you want to share? How well do relevant, action-oriented statistics align with your objectives?
Ultimately, don’t get caught up in the minutiae. Entrance paths, bounces, referral traffic sources, etc. all have relative degrees of importance, but focus first on what moves the needle from a business standpoint.
Just as your site has a specific purpose, your visitors have a reason for coming to your site. Analytics allow you to quantify behavior. The numbers always tell a story about where they come from, what they did once they arrived and where they were when they left.
Digging deeper, you can determine what kinds of content people find to be most relevant. You can uncover the methods in which they go about finding that content (navigation, content links, site search, etc.). Further, analytics will show, in many cases, whether each visitor was successful in their specific task(s).
3. Because Why?
After solidifying website objectives and examining visitor behavior, the next step is to derive meaning. “Actionable analysis” is a term that is thrown around quite often in digital marketing circles, but it is important. Too often numbers are tracked and reported as a routine. The act of recording history without interpretation and activity almost guarantees that you will repeat it.
Use analytics data to translate site performance, evaluate marketing programs and learn more about audience behaviors and interests, but don’t stop there. Make positive changes based on these findings or create tests to validate your hypotheses. Once you have done so, start the process again. Analytics is not a beginning or an end, it’s just a turn in the cycle.