If You Already Have the Ruby Slippers, Click

  |  September 28, 2004   |  Comments

You already have the power to improve ROI; you just have to know how to use it.

In "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy and her friends went on a long, frustrating odyssey because they didn't know how to use the powerful "tools" they already had. The same is true for many companies that already possess high-performance analytics tools. At some point, employees may become frustrated because the tools aren't providing the desired results. The reality is they may not know how to use the tool, or the data it produces, to get what they want.

Many companies invest in powerful analytics tools, then only use them to scan top-level metrics. They don't use the gathered information to identify problems, test solutions, and improve site performance.

A Good Carpenter Doesn't Blame His Tools

All too often, the analytics tool is blamed for this lack of success. I hear, "If we only had a better tool we could really get that analytics data we need." In some cases, this may be true. Yet many midsize to large organizations have spent money on a tool that does allow them to get the data needed to improve site performance -- they just aren't using it correctly.

As an analytics advisor, I work with many of the more powerful analytics tools to help companies use Web analytics data better. When we start a new engagement, often our clients believe their current tools are failing them. In most cases, the tools they have really are capable of providing the insight they need to optimize site performance.

This is almost always the case if the company is using one of the higher-end solutions, such as WebTrends 7 Enterprise, Omniture, HBX, or Coremetrics. As the adage goes, a good carpenter doesn't blame his tools. Tools should be viewed not as the answer to analytics, but a means to gather and analyze data.

Work With Tools

Currently, no provider offers a tool that automatically improves site performance right out of the box. It's just not possible. Selecting and configuring the tool is only the start. Once that's done, the real analytics work begins. Unless you commit to doing that work, you can't touch the positive return on investment (ROI) these tools can offer.

Tool vendors don't like to admit this, but at least 95 percent of the data provided by all four products mentioned above is extremely similar. Each has unique offerings that differentiate it a bit. Used correctly, together with a process to analyze the data, any of them can lead to tremendous success.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

The analytics tool you have is most likely not the reason you're unsuccessful with analytics. If it is the case, the reason may be:

  • No methodology for using the data. Some of these tools can provide over 5 million different views of Web site data. Put a methodology in place to analyze the data based on your overall site goals, identify opportunities, and test solutions using analytics. It's imperative a process and team are in place to keep this moving forward.

  • No focus on the right metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs). Unless metrics are clearly defined and prioritized, it's too easy to focus only on the high-level metrics.

  • Poor tool implementation/configuration. If the tool hasn't been set up to provide information on key metrics, it's easy to believe the tool can't do the job.

  • Accuracy issues. If the data isn't accurate, don't act. All too often the tool is blamed for inaccuracies, when it's nothing more than incorrect configuration or misunderstanding the data.

  • Poor communication of site changes/goals. If groups that control or manage the tool don't communicate with the people responsible for the site, it's difficult to be successful.

  • No tool training. Each tool is unique in how it presents data and lets you navigate. Many tools can provide the data you need; you just have to know where to look.

  • Too much data. Focus on important metrics, not just top-line info.

Sometimes there are reasons to switch tools, especially if you aren't using a top-tier product. Remember, a new analytics tool won't solve those non-tool related issues that usually lie at the root of a lack of success.

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Jason Burby

As President of the Americas at POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. With more than 20 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 POSSIBLE's clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works. 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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