We all know how important Google Analytics is in theory, but how many event professionals are actually making the most of their data? A common approach to “evaluating” analytics is to review the reports available and either celebrate a job well done (more visitors!) or get nervous about declining performance (a higher bounce rate!?). In most cases, there is little done to analyze web metrics beyond looking at some numbers and perhaps comparing them to previous data.
Whether or not you feel good about your analytics is largely an emotional response to looking at those out-of-the-box reports. The context is limited, so you naturally look for trends — even without fully understanding what it means. However, the real and impactful insights come from asking the right questions and setting up custom reports to develop campaigns with focus. When business owners focus on analytics rather than campaign management, it’s easy to miss out on key insights that can help turn a basic website into a conversion machine.
Fortunately, being deliberate about what you measure (and how you measure it) can help you to uncover and correct any issues that may come up with your website and marketing efforts. Here are three key reasons your web analytics aren’t showing you what you want.
You aren’t asking the right questions.
It’s easy to take a look at your analytics dashboard, note your traffic and engagement metrics, and give yourself a pat on the back for all of your hard work (or panic when your numbers aren’t up to par). The truth is that it doesn’t quite matter if your numbers are “good” or “bad” if you’re not actively making decisions based upon them. Looking at a bunch of data and making a few general inferences is not going to reveal valuable insight to grow your business.
In order to get the most of your data collection and analysis, you need to ask the right questions. They don’t need to be complicated; in fact, basic questions will do just fine to get you situated. Here are a few to consider:
- Am I getting good, quality traffic to my website?
- Are my web visitors interested in doing business with me, specifically?
- Who are my biggest online referrals?
- Which parts of my website are most valuable to visitors?
Although seemingly simple, these questions can help drive meaningful action to attract more customers and clients through your online presence.
You aren’t looking at the right reports.
You can run all the reports in the world, but if you don’t have one that answers your questions, you’ll find yourself lost in a sea of data. Instead, you need to run reports that will not only help you answer those questions, but also gain powerful insights that drive meaningful action.
As an example, let’s break down the first question listed in the first point: “Am I getting good, quality traffic to my website?”
It seems easy enough. Run a traffic report and find your answer. But, what if you’re getting thousands of sessions each month, but you don’t realize that a majority of that traffic is coming from Russia? High traffic is worthless if the visitors aren’t qualified as real potential leads. In this case, the traffic report isn’t enough — you also have to look at the geography report to see where the traffic is from.
Here’s another example. Perhaps you’re getting a lot of traffic from Pinterest and think it’s a smart move to start paying for ads on the site (or maybe hire a Pinterest expert to optimize your presence). But, what if all of your Pinterest traffic is moving past your website without converting? In order to understand that, you need to cross-reference your referral report with your conversion report to determine the best conversion channel.
You’re not testing.
It’s easy and alluring to think that data serves as some sort of magical oracle that will tell you exactly what to do. Unfortunately, data is just a bunch of numbers — it can only give you insights and spark creative problem-solving. The rest is on you.
In order to get the most out of data, you should set up tests that loosely follow the Scientific Method. Hearken back to your grade school science experiments, or just get a refresher with the steps below:
- Ask a question
- Do some preliminary research
- Craft a hypothesis
- Set a way to test your hypothesis, ensuring you have a plan for measurement
- Draw your conclusions
- See if you can replicate success or fix failures
- Rinse and repeat
It may seem like a lot of effort to experiment with your web analytics, but rest assured that the Scientific Method helps to keep your efforts focused. Too often, people will form a hypothesis and start throwing spaghetti at the wall. They hope to see some type of ill-defined results that may or may not mean anything to them. When things don’t work out as planned, it’s hard to identify the cause because it wasn’t a methodical approach.
Your analytics dashboard is a treasure trove of valuable information, but only if you know where to look. With these evaluation tips up your sleeve, you’ll be well on your way to turning that data into real, meaningful business growth.