Marketing professionals of all ranks and creeds have been exposed to enough web analytics over the past 15 years to be conversant. They’ve read enough blogs and trade publications to understand the basic metrics and their significance. But, like me taking the lead to defuse a bomb in a Barcelona train station with my Dora the Explorer level of Spanish skills, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Well, not dangerous to the level of my example, in the “Someone is going to get killed unless we get this joker away from the bomb and call the police” sense, but dangerous enough to steer an organization’s marketing ship in the wrong direction, potentially wasting significant amounts of time and money by focusing on the wrong metrics for the wrong sites for the wrong campaigns.
“Measure This, Not That” is a common theme in the digital analytics space, and as the disciplines such as social media marketing and mobile marketing mature rapidly and coalesce with web analytics and e-mail analytics, a spate of new metrics and new spins on old metrics bubble to the surface. Articles such as “4 Ways Social Has Changed Success Metrics” and “New Metrics That Matter” serve as valuable food for thought for understanding the state of your business and contemplating the next steps for growth.
However, the fundamental problem that plagues organizations large and small is always learning what makes the most sense to measure — how to report on metrics and analyze the performance that the website, e-mail campaign, mobile app, whatever, plays within the organization. One of the most perilous perils of analytics, ranking just below the groupies, but ahead of the paparazzi, is determining the correct set of goals — or sets of goals — for an organization, because every business has different needs and desired outcomes.
The business requirements and key performance indicators for a bookstore are vastly different from what a hospital is trying to achieve, or a bank, museum, school, television station, OEM battery manufacturer, or any of the myriad of other possibilities. The chances are slim that there are dedicated web analytics professionals within all these types of businesses, and because they are all trying to achieve something online, the web analytics chatter that multitasking marketing professionals in lean organizations have been exposed to over the years may have led to missed opportunities and certainly subpar analysis.
A recent web analytics project with a healthcare company was a stark reminder of the need to focus on the fundamentals, and in the case of this company, the core mission of the website was customer service — to be the place where policy holders can check the status of their claims, find a doctor, and otherwise get their questions answered. The company’s initial web analytics reporting focused on the simple metrics that have been kicked around forever — visitors, page views, and the like. But what really mattered was the numbers of problems solved successfully and the percentage of those for whom the website didn’t solve their problem, forcing them to call customer service — which is frustrating for the customer (and could affect retention) and which is costly for the insurance company.
For this company, a series of qualitative steps: implementing Foresee Results surveys; religiously tracking and responding to the scores of key customer service questions; and aligning web analytics and multichannel marketing initiatives toward adoption of the web among specific segments of their members )based on elements such as their consumption of medical services) proved to be the most valuable initiatives to take.
Another client, a museum, was also focused on metrics more suited to a media website as a gauge for their internet marketing success — the standard web analytics terms that have been talked about for years and which are easy to coax out of Google Analytics. That approach was perfectly fine for their microsites that truly were content-driven showcases for their collections. However, the museum website had two over-arching goals that were the ultimate conversions: 1) Getting actual people to physically arrive at the front gates to pay for admission; and 2) Selling annual memberships online.
The second conversion was the easiest to track since it was an online transaction. You set your goals and your funnels and your landing pages and your segmentation, you figure out what’s what and how to grow it inch by inch. However, since the museum does not sell admission tickets online—and even if it did, that certainly wouldn’t be the complete picture of the site’s contribution to real-world visitor traffic—correlating web activity to the physical offline activity can be trickier. But certainly, a very, very strong view into visitor intent can be gleaned from web analytics data, including areas such as admissions and hours content, or directions and parking pages, and we were able to discover a close relationship between the volume of traffic at these pages and the actual admission figures the museum provided.
Just as web analytics mastermind Avinash Kaushik frames it in his “Excellent Analytics Tips #19: Identify Website Goal [Economic] Values,” it becomes possible to assign a value to a visit to these pages (admission for a family of four, plus a bit extra for snacks and trinkets) and make driving traffic to them into the centerpiece of the web content strategy.
So while the internet marketing landscape changes constantly, as different methods of measurement and attribution come and go, the challenge is rarely in the HOW, the actual act of measurement. Everyone is awash in data. The critical first step is the deep-dive existentialism into the goals of the website and the business and coming up with WHAT to measure that has relevance.
About the Author:
Andrew Lucyszyn is the Director of Web Analytics at SIGMA Marketing Group.