Web analytics data is only one of many pieces needed to understand your audience. Here's a look at other data needed to improve Web site and business performance.
To date there has been a lot of attention give to using Web analytics data to understand site performance. You can use these data to understand your visitors and look for ways to improve site performance. A number of companies have grown incredibly by continuing and building on this belief. It is now commonly thought that anyone with a significant Web presence needs to step up and invest in a strong Web analytics tool.
You need to invest not only in the right tool but also in the right people and internal processes to make the tool successful and put the data to work. And Web analytics is just one piece of the puzzle in understanding your visitors and your audience in general, though it is the one with the loudest voice. What this means is other equally important aspects are often overlooked or forgotten about.
All this matters because too many companies only understand one aspect of what happens on their sites. Let's look at two examples.
Web analytics helps you identify a few weak calls to action to get people to convert on your site. Let's say only about 2 percent of all your sales occur online. You set up a test hoping to increase your online conversion rate through an A/B test improving a call to action. You run the test and are ecstatic that you increase it to 2.3 percent. It is seen as a huge success, and people move onto the next project.
But what if you had included an attitudinal study to understand the difference in how visitors are feeling when exposed to the new calls to action or content? You might have found that while there was a significant increase in the online conversion, you were turning off many visitors and doing something that would cause them not to interact with you again. You basically increased your online conversion rate by 0.3 percentage points but turned off the other 97.7 percent of the people who visited; depending on the level of negative feeling, that could have a 100-fold impact on overall sales. Again, if you only look at the behavioral data, you wouldn't understand the negative impact you may be having on the bulk of your audience.
For our second example, let's say you are thrilled to see that traffic to your site has been increasing 10 percent per quarter for the last three quarters and your conversion rate is staying the same. But when you look at your top five competitors' online performance, you find that they have been growing at a much faster clip over the last few months and you aren't keeping up. They are pulling away from you in terms of attracting visitors to their sites. Now you just went from feeling great about your growth to realizing that you're missing out on a significant growth opportunity. If you had looked at the behavioral data, you would have made an incorrect assessment and lost an opportunity.
So what types of data should site owners be considering? It depends on your business, company size, potential upside in improving site performance, and many other factors. Our most serious clients that have the greatest upside in their online performance typically look at data in the following areas to better understand their audience. It should be noted that these are the data they use to understand and improve the online channel. Obviously there is a ton of other data that can be considered when wanting to understand your audience offline.
Let's start by looking at the different types of data:
Challenge yourself to think about what type of data you could use if your Web analytics data wasn't there. What are the gaps in your understanding based on over-focusing on the behavioral data just on your Web site? None of this is to say that the Web analytics data isn't valuable, but it must be considered one of many pieces needed to understand your audience. Remember, the entire focus of this work is to identify areas of your business you can improve based on your overall business goals. If you aren't acting on the data, you're simply looking in the rearview mirror.
Look for ways to integrate the different types of data based on what you are analyzing and trying to solve. Ensure you see the full story to drive your decisions to maximize your Web channel and overall business.
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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.
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