A version of this article appeared originally on the blog of Bluetrain, Inc., founded by Bryan Smith. Smith is a member of EO Edmonton.
Plan, implement and maintain. These three steps apply to almost any aspect of a business, but they are often overlooked in web analytics. In an increasingly online world, websites are key to running a successful business. Ask yourself if your website is doing what you intended it to do. Can you even determine that with the analytics you have?
Web analytics are technology solutions that enable you to collect and report data on how your customers interact with your website. This information can be used to analyze and improve how your website is helping you meet your business goals.
Businesses put hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into building sites they think are amazing, but they often don’t put enough resources into ongoing tracking to find out if their site actually works. Are they getting the key outcomes they wanted from that massive undertaking?
Here are three steps to drive better business decisions through web analytics and reporting:
1. Plan web analytics
Planning is a key part of any business, and web analytics tools are invaluable for making business decisions. As you design or redesign your website, build an analytics plan that will give you insights into your business performance and inform your decision making.
Look at what your current site tracks as a baseline, and then determine if that information is helping you meet your business goals. Decide what additional or other data you need to measure—and how you want to see it on your reports.
There are great dashboard reporting tools available that allow you and your stakeholders to easily understand the analytics data. Then you can select a web analytics tool that measures everything you want to track, is compatible with your technology and software and falls within your budget.
2. Set up analytics and reporting
Once you have a plan in place and have selected your tool, you can set up the web reporting tools to meet your business intelligence information needs. Perhaps you want to filter out the website visitors that come from within your organization. Maybe it’s important to see data visualizations on specific audiences, such as urban versus rural.
You might want to highlight specific conversion goals. For example, if you have 50 PDFs on a website, but only one of those is an application form, that’s probably the one you’ll want to measure your success by. Keep in mind that information about the other downloads might be helpful for understanding how people use the website.
Your own website data is valuable, but the power of dashboarding is the ability to bring in external data sources. For example, if your business activity is influenced by weather, you can bring in weather data to see how it aligns with the trends in your website activity.
Your dashboards and reports should be more than just statistics. They need to provide business insights and metrics that align with your company’s goals and objectives. They need to be scalable and flexible so that you can use them as business dashboards, marketing dashboards or even executive dashboards.
3. Commit to ongoing web analytics
Analytics is not a “set it and forget it” process. It takes some commitment to maintain a data-driven approach, but the benefits to your business are worth it. Get into a regular rhythm of reviewing and analyzing the reports to get the best value from your investment. Regular reviews are particularly helpful in identifying business issues earlier.
As your business evolves, you’ll probably want to adjust the data you’re collecting. Dump metrics that don’t add value and focus on the ones that inform your business, your key performance indicators (KPIs). Take advantage of these powerful tools to get intelligence on new marketing campaigns or track the influence of new business channels.
If you prefer to make your business decisions based on solid data, a well-planned web analytics structure is worth the time spent building and maintaining it.
Bryan Smith joined EO in 2016. He is the president of Bluetrain, Inc., a digital marketing firm based in Alberta, Canada.