Top 5 Analytics Resolutions for 2009

Forget dieting and exercise. When it comes to analytics for your web site or online marketing campaign, it’s time to make 2009 resolutions you can really keep.

Analytics Resolution #1: Who’s in charge here?

The first step in any organization’s web analytics plan is to assign someone to be responsible for implementing, monitoring, tracking and analyzing the metrics, then reporting to key decision makers.

Large and/or forward-thinking companies have dedicated, professional web analysts who live and breathe web metrics. But if your company is like many (including ours), this role is a secondary task for someone with another primary job. Not all organizations have the luxury of supporting a full-time staff position for analytics, but that doesn’t mean it has to take a back seat.

First, make sure someone is assigned to the role, whether a few hours a month, or a few days a week. Then give analytics a priority during their dedicated hours to it. Finally, support your analyst with training — webinars, books, or membership in the Web Analytics Association (http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org/).

Analytics Resolution #2: How are we measuring?

Your next resolution is to take a fresh look at the web metrics software you are using to gather information. Is it collecting all of the data you need? Can your analyst retrieve what she needs? If your organization requires daily reporting, does it provide real-time tracking? Can it follow your marketing campaigns from advertising channel through to purchase path and conversion?

And if you don’t know what you need from your analytics package, read on to the next 2 resolutions.

Analytics Resolution #3: What are we measuring (and why)?

Too often, analytics reporting consists of pulling the standard metrics: page views, visitors, unique visitors, top exit pages, and maybe a bounce rate or two. If you’re lucky, conversion rates are tossed in, too.

But what do these numbers mean? Is it really a good thing if page views are up — or does it mean users can’t find what they’re looking for right away? Is it a bad thing if visitors are down — or does it mean you’re marketing more effectively in targeted channels and reducing the number of unqualified leads?

To generate meaningful metrics, you first need to choose the Key Performance Indicators that matter to your organization, and then match the metrics that will allow you to track your performance against them.

“How do I do this?” you may ask, a tremble in your voice. Start with this article by the analytics oracle, Avinash Kaushik, author of Web Analytics: An Hour a Day.

Analytics Resolution #4: What do we do about it?

Quite possibly the most difficult aspect of analytics, this is the part that puts the “analyze” in “analysis.” (Analysts analyzing analytics. Say it 5 times fast.) If the third resolution is about determining the “so what?” (So what if our visitors dropped?), then this resolution is about determining “now what?”

That is, you’re tracking your visitor numbers, you know based on your KPIs that you want them to rise, and now you see that they’re dropping. Now what? What are the specific action items that arise from knowing this information?

Maybe it’s a seasonal drop and you can compare data with last year’s trends to identify this. Or maybe you ended a Google Adwords campaign that was driving traffic and you need to consider restarting it.

For each KPI metric, you should have an action item, even if it’s only to continue monitoring the metric. And all this nice, rich data and exciting, actionable tasks should be packaged up for reading by others in the organization, which leads us to …

Analytics Resolution #5: Whom do we tell? And how?

Or, reporting up the food chain. After all, what good is this wonderful data if nobody knows about it?

The key to successful reporting is to determine

  • To whom to send it. Is it the analyst’s immediate supervisor? The CEO? Who needs to know this data, and who can actually act on the action items in the report? Keep in mind it may be a combination of all of these.
  • The right format for the report. This is partly determined by who’s receiving it. The CEO most likely only needs a 1-page summary. The folks in the trenches may need more of the supporting data.
  • The frequency. Again, this is a factor of who is getting the report. Does the CEO want a weekly report, or is a monthly executive summary enough? If a major marketing campaign is underway, does the Director of Marketing need a weekly report — or even daily?

Bonus Analytics Resolution: Don’t Panic

If these 5 resolutions seem like a lot to tackle, don’t panic. Like your New Year’s diet, they can be implemented over time. Spend the first quarter putting the right person and software in place. Move on to KPIs and tracking in Q2, and spend the rest of the year reporting and refining.

Then next January, you can look back on your year of progress, and get ready to do it all again!

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