Big Picture Analytics
The Web analytics industry has been steadily moving away from analyzing Web site data for its own sake and moving toward marketing optimization. This "big picture" approach means Web analytics aren't just about clickthroughs and page views. They're a window into the hearts and minds of the marketplace - a kind of market research that has never been available before. When you apply the captured measurement data across channels to overall business improvement, you begin to gain a better understanding of your customers and how your marketing strategies work together to achieve common goals. This information is the key to unlocking maximum return on online investments.
Due to tough economic times, CEOs and upper management are keeping a closer eye on ROI associated with all marketing and especially online marketing efforts, where they are still uncomfortable. Marketers must be able to prove the value of each channel and defend its role in the marketing mix.
Big picture analytics can tell us not only what's working and what's not, but they also can point out areas for improvements and quick fixes that can boost the performance of online campaigns. Integrating data between marketing channels, however, is easier said than done.
The various data streams from search, e-mail, advertising, social media and Web site performance can be overwhelming. So much so that a lot of marketers resort to keeping track of the topline metrics alone (clickthroughs, open rates, page views, etc.) without ever digging deeper to determine what's driving those actions.
Marketers analyzing these reports side by side easily can become confused over the most effective ways to integrate data across channels. A recent survey from the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit revealed that more than 80 percent of respondents who are doing active analysis are using manual methods, like re-entering data into Excel. Aside from taking hours of precious, limited time, manual methods are usually more prone to human error.
The Web analytics field is evolving to meet this growing need, and more and more tool vendors are incorporating data integration into their solutions. The tools are out there, but there is an industry-wide shortage of people who understand Web analytics and their impact on marketing optimization.
Even the savviest of marketers cannot just dive into big picture analytics headfirst. Before you embark on your quest for marketing enlightenment, the first step is to define your goals. After all, if you don't know where you're headed, you can't chart a course to get there.
Your ultimate goal is never just a page visit or a click. These are just pieces of the puzzle that lead to the desired outcome. Whether you want people to buy your product, visit your store or sign up for your newsletter, there are dozens of factors that drive Web site visitors to that point. Along the same lines, if your goals are based on page visits and clicks, you begin thinking of your customers as page visits and clicks. Remember that your goal is to give customers a positive experience so that they will, in turn, reward you with their loyalty.
The great thing about Web analytics reports is that they can give you insight into just about anything and everything that goes on with your Web site or marketing campaigns. Coincidentally, that's also the bad thing about Web analytics reports.
To avoid data overload, narrow down what you measure by identifying those metrics that have a direct impact on your goals. On your Web site, which links/buttons/images are leading visitors to the desired action? Does time of day or time of year impact the desired action? Does moving the link above the fold have an impact? You should constantly ask yourself questions like these, and never stop testing different strategies, content and designs.
Look at the big picture
This requires a deeper look into how each channel is working toward your goals. You might ask yourself:
- Visitor Segment A completed the desired action, but Visitor Segment B did not. Did they get to my site in different ways? What else differentiates them?
- Which text-based search ads get more visitors to take the desired action? Which banner ads? Do those high-performing keywords and images appear on my site?
- Which e-mail newsletters are customers forwarding to friends? Which are deleted due to irrelevant content or broken images? Why are my customers opting out?
- Are messages, keywords and special offers aligned across marketing campaigns and my Web site?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of questions, but it can be a helpful guide to get you started. Once you know what to measure, you can weed out unnecessary information and focus more time and resources on analyzing the data that matters and taking action to optimize each channel and achieve business goals.
Now that you are on the path toward better data integration and big picture analytics, you need an easy way to analyze the metrics and measure against your goals. Consulting services like ZAAZ and ZeroDash1 -- no, they all don't start with Z -- will pull data in from all your marketing channels and, instead of just giving you a report, will give you insightful analysis and consultation to help you optimize your marketing and achieve your goals.
One of the most effective things you can do is talk to your peers. You can learn the basic tricks of the trade or advanced tactics for marketing optimization by reading the top analytics bloggers, participating in the Yahoo Web analytics group, joining associations, attending conferences, and talking to other people who share your challenges and goals. Our industry is evolving at a rapid pace, and the opportunity to learn something new is ever-present.
Reach Jim Sterne at firstname.lastname@example.org