Integrating Web Analytics and Optimization Into Your Business, Part 2

In part one of this column, we focused on the changing landscape of how companies structure and place their Web teams. More specifically, we discussed the importance and benefits of integrating your Web analytics and site optimization teams into the rest of your business. Some of the important elements of integrating these groups are:

  • Understanding the dynamics of the business.
  • Remembering brand and Web standards.
  • Knowing what’s happening online and offline.
  • Remembering alignment.

Now let’s focus on some of the risks when integration goes too far and you start to lose the power and value of site optimization and Web analytics. These should not be seen as reasons to avoid integration, but rather things to watch out for to ensure long-term success.

Three common problems that can occur with greater integration of these groups into the rest of the business are:

  • Too close to the business. This is often overlooked but becomes an issue more often than not. Someone too integrated and too close to the business might not be able to see different ways of doing things. This can range from very obvious things to small, subtle issues. If you have always described a product a certain way or always asked people to sign up for a whitepaper to collect their information, you might not think of doing it differently. Most likely, you’re surrounded by others who are just as close to the business. You often hear in different industries, “We need someone who really knows our industry.” But having someone who isn’t as close to the business or within the industry can help you break out of the status quo and really try new things. Some of these will work, some of them won’t. But you will at least try some new things.
  • Afraid to take chances. When overly integrated, people are sometimes afraid to take chances and fail. Even though testing is the mission, they can be concerned about disrupting the status quo. The most concerning is when they’re afraid to prove that the new site redesign or update isn’t completely perfect! They don’t want to show the rest of the Web team up or be the one who rains on the parade, enthusiasm, and hard work of a new release. We need to shift that thinking so we immediately look at ways to improve something when it launches and don’t have the unrealistic expectation that everything is perfect.
  • Not allowed to take chances. Another common issue is that the optimization team is instructed to stay within certain — and often very limiting — bounds of what they can test. These limits can be related to site sections, brand standards, or just heavily preconceived notions. This is related to being too close to the business, but is often more than that. It’s often based on internal politics or processes rather than a true focus on improving the business.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of integration and the risks when integration goes too deep, what’s the answer? What does medium or partial integration look like? How do you take advantage of the benefits while not sinking yourself with the risks?

The answer doesn’t necessarily rely on how you integrate but rather on the cultural shift that needs to occur as part of the focus on measurement against goals and ongoing optimization. This means changing the way the organization looks at launching new site content or designs and the goal to constantly improve based not on what seems the easiest or safest but on what has the greatest potential impact to the business.

This often means gaining executive support to help push the new focus through to the remainder of the organization and Web team. You need upper management help you force ongoing improvement and testing and change the attitudes so people aren’t afraid to fail.

Integration is key, but so is changing the culture and the way the team looks at improving the site and Web business. Push for integration and find that executive sponsor that can help you shift the thinking.

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