Over the years, we've structured the teams within our agency a few different ways and have also seen how other companies structure their Web teams. Some worked really well, while others failed miserably.
In the early days, many Web teams sat within the IT department because it was considered purely technology magic to have a Web site. Over time, many companies experimented with breaking the Web team out altogether; some went as far as creating a separate company to house these organizations.
Many businesses figured out that the Web is an important marketing tool and decided it should be integrated into the marketing group. While it's still a significant marketing outreach tool, companies now realize the Web touches many other parts of their organization and, as such, should be an integrated part of multiple departments.
Different approaches can be taken to integrate Web operations. Under one scenario, the Web team can exist as a separate group within marketing, with its strategies and initiatives determined by a steering committee representing different parts of the organization.
Today, let's examine the importance of integration of your Web analytics and site optimization teams. Keep in mind, this is relevant whether you have dedicated employees, have people with fractional responsibilities, or work with an outside agency.
Understand the Dynamics of the Business
If the analytics and optimization teams sit in silos and only focus on looking at the data and testing ways to improve individual pages, there's significant risk they won't understand how the rest of the business works. They must understand why customers buy, why they defect, why they repeat, what sets the company's offerings apart from competitors, and what the key sales points are and why. If they're only called into a meeting to present their findings and aren't part of overall discussions, they will have limited value.
Remember Brand and Web Standards
This pertains more to the optimization group than the analytics group and it revolves around a company's brand standards on the Web. This can be specific wording, a design element, fonts, etc.
The optimization team must understand brand standards so they can maintain consistency when needed and can pull the right people in when they want to test changes. A team should know in advance what those standards are. The team shouldn't be put in a position to defend itself after it tests something that might be a breach of documented standards; the team should instead be aware of the standards and able to make a case to test changes to them.
Bottom line: Unless you know what those standards are, you aren't going to be able to effectively work with them and fight them when needed.
Know What's Happening Online and Offline
Too often, Web analytics and optimization teams can be so focused in the online channel that they aren't looking at what's happening offline (or offsite). This can include other media campaigns, offline promotions, PR, social initiatives, or the industry in general.
All of these things can impact what people are doing on your site or what they're thinking when they come. Without this insight, things can be misinterpreted or opportunities can be lost.
Analytics and optimization efforts should be aligned with overall business goals, Web goals, key initiatives, etc. The analytics team should be focused on analyzing the most important initiatives and the areas of the site that can help the Web team and company reach their defined goals. Without this, you can have a lot of analysis focused on less-than-key areas. The same goes for optimization.
Because all resources are limited, ensure optimization efforts are focused on testing and improving the site's most impactful areas and are tied to key goals and initiatives.
Integration and alignment can occur no matter where analytics and optimization teams sit in your organization. How? By getting the teams involved with the more holistic picture; don't rely on them just to present data findings and put tests together.
For these teams to truly impact your business, they must be considered a part of the core team (Web and beyond) in order to get the needed holistic view.
In part two, I'll examine some of the risks when integration goes too far and you start to lose the power and value of site optimization and Web analytics.
Shoot me a note (or comment below) and let me know some of the other benefits you've seen around integration of these two practice areas as well.
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As president of the Americas regions for the digital agency POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. Jason has 20-plus years experience in digital strategy. He is a long-time advocate of using data to inform digital strategies to help clients attract, convert, and retain customers. Jason supports our clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works.
Jason speaks frequently about helping marketers take advantage of data to make smarter business decisions and improve the success of their organizations. He is the co-author of Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions.
Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.
March 19, 2014