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.
Andrew Edwards is CEO at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting company he founded in 2002, and Managing Partner at Efectyv Marketing. He is also a founding member of the Web Analytics Association.
At Technology Leaders, Andrew created the firm's web analytics practice and has been involved in rolling out this service to hundreds of different customers worldwide. Technology Leaders provides web analytics and web site user-tracking expertise to leading organizations throughout North America and the world. The firm specializes in providing both business and technical skills to serve the complex digital marketing needs of its customers.
Andrew speaks and writes regularly about the latest trends in digital marketing and web analytics. He's the creator of the "e5o" virtuous digital marketing cycle as well as the "4x5 conversion cube" that compartmentalizes the approach to conversion for different site types in different stages of the customer lifecycle.
Andrew is an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter and his work is in numerous private collections.
June 20, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT