Are you overdoing it with Web Analytics?
In an interesting article named “Wasting your time with Web Analytics“, Manoj Jasra states that many analysts, business owners and marketers waste their time with poorly constructed analytics implementations, marketing campaigns, and meaningless granularity. We must be on the same thought pattern, because I’ve been thinking of writing on this subject for quite some time, except focusing on the goals of web analytics and avoiding the pitfalls – such as overdoing it.
With all the analytics packages out there, it’s difficult not to get carried away with digging into the nitty-gritty details of each and every marketing campaign, scrutinizing minute details such as individual visitor site paths, and measuring significance up to four decimals deep. At some point, you have to draw the line and determine what the goals of your organization, department, or stakeholders really are.
Nobody I know wants to wade through a 12 page analytics each week. And I certainly don’t want to write it.
So what numbers should you focus on? That depends on your clients. Of course, I’m assuming you’re reading between the lines and equating the word “clients” with anyone that happens to care about your analytics metrics. Another important concept to grasp is whether your clients really care or whether they just find the capability for sheer information overload sexy. It’s important to know for sure.
Dissection of a Typical Executive-Level Report
From a search marketing perspective, executives typically like to see comparative numbers showing trends, overall spend, areas of interest, areas for improvement, and forecasts. It’s best to keep data simplistic and straightforward, with complementary images, graphs, and notes. Some characteristic elements of an executive-level report might include:
- A roll-up pie chart of incoming visitor traffic by direct request, referring sites, natural search, and paid search.
- Forecast spend, actual spend, forecast revenue, actual revenue, and order volume.
- Metrics change by percentage week over week, month over month, and year over year.
- Graphical funnel data showing visitors, segments, product purchases and revenue.
Needless to say, if you’re making up reports you may have to gauge how tech-savvy your executives are, and how much detail they’ll want to see in reports.
Behind the Scenes Reporting (aka your arsenal)
The search marketer or web analyst’s best friend is information, nut not overwhelming information that takes days to digest. We need streamlined numbers that will make significant statistical diversions pop-out and scream, “hey you! look at me!”. When we have those red flags, we also need the nitty-gritty details with fine granularity to decipher what happened and why.
A few strategies I use when collecting information in my arsenal include:
- Keeping an “event log” of some kind, highlighting any changes I make to campaigns, creative elements, bids, day-parting rules, geo-targeting options, site exclusions (on the content network), and even statutory holidays.
- Having the ability to investigate spikes and irregularities for any given metric on a very granular level, perhaps by the day or even by the hour in a day.
- Setting up logical segments to my pages, breaking down large sections of the site into increasingly finer channels, or setting up predefined optimal pathways, measuring deviations on a routine basis.
- Tag every page, call to action, product, graphic, or promotion with tracking code of some kind. If someone clicks an external link on a graphic to a partner site, I want to be able to track which graphic, what page, and what destination URL that visitor went to.
Of course, the information you collect has to be readily available, and you shouldn’t have to wade too deep in other reports to find what you need. I definitely recommend taking a few days to a week to setup dashboards, campaign templates, tagging nomenclature, site segments, and visitor funnels well ahead of time. It can save you serious grief down the road.