The first sign that you're getting mature about analytics is that you have stopped calling it "web analytics."
Actually that isn’t going to be one of the three signs.
I call it web analytics because that’s what most folks recognize. Talk about Digital Analytics or Marketing Analytics or a new breed of data crunch-and-display tools that service a new market I have called "Convergence Analytics," and you may get more than a few blank stares. Beyond those who market to marketers and those marketers who don't need to be marketed to, these are concepts not so much beyond understanding as beyond current capabilities.
So if your organization is still compartmentalizing web analytics away from other marketing measurement, you may have some catching up to do. As you start on that process, look for three signs.
1. You Believe Your Numbers
Talk to a web analytics specialist and they are likely to tell you not to think about raw numbers, but to look at trends and relationships. They might say, "Yes, your numbers may be somewhat inaccurate but at least they are inaccurate in a consistent manner." It's hard to swallow but there is something useful about the observation.
Fact is, unless your numbers are hopelessly incorrect and wildly inconsistent, you probably should ignore the raw numbers and look at trends and relationships instead.
That said, many practitioners continue to suspect their numbers. Many of them have good reason, even if it's less than optimal to focus on it.
You can say you really do believe your numbers once your organization has adopted a mature approach to data trends and relationshipsor audited your tagging and reporting to the point where even Annie Accuracy can stop interrupting meetings with questions about the raw number of "uniques."
2. People Listen
Let's say you put together a plan to create reports that fuel insight. Maybe you've inherited a template from your vendor and tweaked it. Maybe you defined KPIs internally and mapped them to reports available in Google Analytics. Maybe you had web analytics consultants perform specialized work at your request. In any case, there's a plan, and somebody paid for it either in effort or dollars.
There are two steps that qualify as "listening":
If you hear the words "I hear you", it means they aren’t listening. If you hear the words "I am going to change that conversion funnel," it means they are listening.
3. You Test Your Assumptions
Once the listening takes place, important things can happen. Content can change. Designs can change. Campaign dollar allocations can change.
Making change based on new circumstance is the foundation of evolutionary success. Your organization's ability to change is not an exception.
There is, however, a "however." It's that making a change is, in scientific terms, the hypothesis.
If you haul out your old science textbook, you will note that the hypothesis has only one purpose in the road to "actual findings": to be tested. The result of the first test needs to be tested. As new test results come in, they also need to be tested. And so on.
They don't call publishing digital content "going live" for nothing. It's a living cycle of launch, contribution, and retirement. Static analytics in a live environment is almost an oxymoron.
So: test, even if the campaign hasn't changed. Test your assumptions. Call it A/B, multivariate; use a tool or none. But don't be satisfied with "the result" because it isn't one. It's just an indicator in an evolving environment.
We shouldn't limit the list to three, but these seem the most universal. Notice they have nothing to do with tools or technology. They have to do with behavior and mindfulness. And since we are talking about "maturity," that is fitting.
Despite the format of this article, there really is just one truly meaningful sign of maturity, and it can be stated as follows: Methods don't mature. People do.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Andrew is a digital marketing executive with 20 years' experience servicing the enterprise customer. Currently he is Managing Partner at Efectyv Digital, a digital marketing consulting company, and Managing Partner at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting firm he founded in 2002. He combines extensive technical knowledge with a broad strategic understanding of digital marketing and especially digital measurement, plus hands-on creative in the form of the written word, user-experience and traditional design.
His practice is dedicated to building customers' digital marketing success and helping them save money during the process.
He is a writer, a public speaker and a visual artist as well.
His book "Digital is Destroying Everything—and What Comes Next" will be published by Pearson in the Spring of 2014. He writes a regular column about Analytics for ClickZ, the 2013 Online Publisher of the Year. He wrote the groundbreaking "Dawn of Convergence Analytics" report which was featured at the SES show in New York, and the second report in the series will be featured at the same show in San Francisco.
In addition to speaking at SES, he has presented at eMetrics; and his session was voted one of the top ten presentations at the DMA show in Las Vegas. He is speaking again at the DMA in Chicago in the fall of 2013.
In 2004 Andrew co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a Director Emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.
He was also an Adjunct Professor at The Pratt Institute where he taught Advanced Computer Graphics for 3 years. Andrew is also an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter.
March 19, 2014