Making Analytics Worth Your Time
We’ve all stared at a Google Analytics dashboard and had no idea what was even remotely interesting about it. Okay, we know our bounce rate and how many people visited our site compared to last month — so what?
It’s also pretty likely that you’ve been in a meeting where someone has thrown out the questions, “Well, what do the analytics say?” or “Can we get some analytics data on this?” Have you ever heard these well-meaning suggestions and inwardly rolled your eyes? If you feel deep down that there has to be something more to site analytics, some way to make them more useful, this post is for you.
Enter, the Measurement Strategy
If your organization has a website, you should have a measurement strategy. The purpose of a measurement strategy is to connect business and site experience goals to observable and quantifiable metrics to track progress and guide changes. In other words, a measurement strategy is the key to exiting the world of stumbling through Google Analytics with no real direction or purpose.
A measurement strategy helps you take your disparate data points and give them meaning so you can make decisions. Analytics are only as good as the decisions they inform. Creating a measurement strategy will help you see more clearly how your site is or isn’t helping achieve your organization’s goals. Measurement may not be the most exciting part of your work but it doesn’t have to be confusing or meaningless.
Tell Me How to Build One
We typically build our measurement strategies with four parts: business goals, measurement objectives, KPIs and signals.
Business Goals: The things your organization is working to achieve. These aren’t necessarily specific to your website — think of the broader goals you’re focused on. Your organization might have a few, or it may be focused on one singular goal. Some examples include:
- “Improve our brand perception.”
- “Increase loyalty among existing customers.”
- “Increase donations from new audiences.”
Measurement Objectives: High-level objectives specifically for your website to ensure it’s contributing to your business goals. You’ll probably have a few of these. Some examples include:
- “Increase traffic to pages that tell our users about our brand.”
- “Increase repeat transactions.”
- “Increase traffic from first-time visitors.”
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): These are the north-star goals you use to track performance over time for a specific measurement objective. A KPI should be a target to shoot for, not just a metric to keep track of. Any major changes you make to your website should be in service of one of your KPIs. Here are some examples:
- “Increase brand-focused page views by 5% year-over-year.”
- “Increase repeat site traffic by 10% year-over-year.”
- “Increase first-time sales by 20% year-over-year.”
Signals: These are the individual metrics that provide insight into what drives change. They paint a picture to help you understand the situation around why you are or aren’t reaching your KPIs. You probably want to focus on several signals for each KPI to understand why your KPI progress is what it is. Here are some examples:
- Unique site sessions
- New visitor / returning visitor sessions
- Time on site
- Bounce rate
- Conversion rate
- Scroll depth
If you’re going to make a regular analytics report, these four categories should form the backbone of what you report on. Each of the four parts should build on the one above it. This should also narrow the scope of what you need to worry about when you look at Google Analytics. If a signal isn’t directly related to your KPIs, don’t worry about tracking it too closely.
Once you have these four pieces written out, it’s important to get buy-in from your team. Everyone who has a stake in your website — whether they’re a content writer or your CMO — should be on board with your measurement strategy. They all should be tailoring their work to hit those KPIs.
Actually Using Your Strategy
Remember, analytics are only as good as the decisions they inform. Your measurement strategy is a waste if you never revisit it. We recommend regularly checking your site performance against your strategy — whether that’s monthly, quarterly or every six months, it doesn’t matter, as long as you actually do it.
When you’re looking at your signals, it’s easy to get lost or feel like it doesn’t tell you anything. We recommend looking at the bigger picture — pay attention to trends over the course of a year, or from month to month. Look for outliers — data points that are higher or lower than others. Don’t stress over a couple percentage points or the exact number of views an article received. If you’re using Google Analytics, it only uses a sample of your actual site data anyway, so the exact numbers are less important. Use your measurement strategy to more thoughtfully shape your view of your website’s performance. You need to understand the larger story more than you need to know the minutiae of your site data.
Here’s the part that really matters. After you review your metrics and know where you’re at with your KPIs, do something! Make a change to your site design, your content or your overall marketing. If you’ve already nailed your KPIs, you have a few options: keep doing what you’re doing, make a change to do even better and/or set more audacious KPIs. Get your whole team involved so everyone can see how the work they do is impacting your goals. The more people get used to thinking about the measurement strategy, the less you’ll have to field random requests to find patterns in your data.
Tessa Thorne is a Senior Creative Strategist at Mediacurrent.
The most influential work in her life (thus far) has been getting her entire family (in-laws included) hooked on the Wordle.