Research on marketing decision makers consistently shows that about 80% of marketing decisions are made on the basis of gut feelings or the opinions of the highest ranking people in the conversation. With digital marketing, though, data-driven website decisions are a realistic option, and that’s good news.
Making decisions on the basis of actual information allows you to avoid or at least reduce costly trial and error efforts. You can measure your results more accurately now than you could in the past, and you can use the data you collect to make strategic decisions that help you reach your goals.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself as you work toward making data-driven website decisions:
Are you collecting data?
You must have web analytics installed to get accurate information about your website. Automatic website graders can be handy, but they’re just estimating. A web analytics tool like Google Analytics actually collects information about your web visitors. It does so using computer code which you or your webmaster installs in your website. Any tool that claims to give you traffic data but doesn’t have any software installed at your website is just guessing.
We use Google Analytics for all our clients, but there are alternatives. We use Clicky for our lab site, and Parse.ly is another option. The key is, you should use one analytics program. Each one works somewhat differently, so you can’t usefully compare data from one to data from another. Pick one and watch changes over time.
Google Analytics has free and paid options. The free option provides very robust data.
We also use SproutSocial for social media data. Again, there are other options. For Pinterest, the native analytics at Pinterest is the only program we’re aware of.
Even if you’re not yet ready to use your data, make sure you’re collecting it. You can’t go back later and collect data from the past.
Are you collecting trustworthy data?
If you don’t collect data, you can’t analyze it an get actionable insights. But once you’ve gathered some information, you must make sure that it’s clean, trustworthy data. For example, you should filter out spambots from sites like semalt.com and sharelock.com by checking the “Exclude known bots and spiders” button in your view settings at Google Analytics.
You should also use filters to screen out your internal traffic. If your website is open in your reception area all day or your salespeople open it up frequently for presentations (and both of those things are good), then you want to make sure that you don’t confuse that traffic with consumer web visitors. You also don’t want to count your intranet traffic or people logging in for work purposes together with your regular visitors. Segmenting in analytics can help with this, but it’s wise to configure your analytics as cleanly as possible in the first place.
Check your analytics to be sure that you’re collecting the data you need for your marketing efforts.
Are you considering physical-world facts?
We have one client who saw a drop in traffic last quarter. We’re working with some new strategies now and have seen a 35% increase in traffic over the past couple of weeks. Do we take this data and break out the champagne? No, because we know that Christmas and New Year’s Day affect most websites’ traffic. We can’t say that the site is getting more visitors now than it did during the holidays and assume that our strategy is working. We have to collect enough data to be confident that the holidays aren’t involved.
When you check your data, be sure to consider any seasonal patterns that are common in your industry. Notice one-time spikes connected with world events or with special off-line events in your business. A new baby in the company, with a picture at the company blog? Ignore your Facebook data for a while.
Do you understand your data?
Google Analytics offers easy-to-read basic dashboards and reports that show you whether your traffic is increasing or decreasing. But there’s much more to it than that. Make sure that someone on your team is fully conversant with the analytics tools you use, or bring in someone (like Haden Interactive) to help you interpret the data.
Custom dashboard and goal configuration can help you identify the most useful reports and keep an eye on the overall performance of your website. Google Analytics offers online training for its tools if you want to improve your analytics skills.
Once you have good data and know how to work with it, you can take business goal questions and find useful answers in your website’s data. Using this information to plan your strategy is a smart move.