I used to run websites for a living.
I was responsible for the performance of those sites, and I was the de facto “web analytics guy” within my company. But I wasn’t a full-time Web Analyst, and I had lots of other strategic and operational things to do.
When I did look at my web analytics, I often skimmed the information contained in my default “dashboard,” and rarely dove into the real data unless someone came to me with a specific question, or I had to produce a report.
There’s an obvious downside to that approach: The data in the dashboard is very “averaged out” and may lead us to miss more specific data points that we can leverage to do a better job. But how do we get at the juicy money making data, while not spending too much time getting buried in minutia?
The solution? Scheduling in regular, recurring “data dives” to make sure you are not getting addicted to the dashboard view of your website. Maybe start with once a week, and put it in your calendar. (If you don’t you’ll likely never find the time ☺)
Note: I am using Google Analytics in these examples because of its ubiquity, but they should all be applicable to any modern web analytics system:
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
- Instead of the default “last 30 days” view of your analytics, try exploring different extended date ranges. For example, I used to keep a rolling, 90-day dashboard. Using the “timeline” function in the date selector tool is good for this. So is selecting “date range” in the comparison dropdown menu; that way you can compare the same date range in the prior year, for example.
- Make sure you assign goals and dollar amounts to every conversion on your site. Most sites have a primary conversion like becoming a lead, subscribing, or purchasing, but micro-conversions are important, too. Tag your primary conversion goal with your average order value, your lead conversions with a value per lead, etc. For micro-conversions, figure out what percentage of your visitors that take that action eventually leads to sales. If 1% of blog subscribers turn into deals, and the average deal is worth $500, then that micro-conversion goal value should be $5.
- Explore the Traffic Sources reports to get a better understanding of your traffic “mix.” Segmenting by traffic source can often yield quick, actionable insights. Try looking at your organic traffic over the last 6 months, or your referral traffic over the last 3 months. What does the traffic graph look like? How well or poorly are they converting? Has that KPI remained consistent?
- Dive into your Top Content reports, and try sorting by “$Index.” Note: This value is only calculated if you’ve assigned goal values and e-commerce revenue values across your site. And believe it or not, there are ways to assign e-commerce values to your site pages even if you’re not running an e-commerce site. $Index calculates the values of pages according to how often they’re accessed en route to a conversion. It works kind of like the plus/minus point system used in the NHL. If a player is on the ice when a goal is scored, they’re “+1,” and if they’re on the ice when a goal is scored against, they’re “-1.” So if a page is very regularly visited by customers who convert, it will have a high $Index value. It’s a great way to figure out which high-impact pages you should start testing and optimizing.
- If you have site search, spend some time hooking your web analytics up to your in-site search, then dive headfirst into the very valuable data the Site Search reports can provide. Are you able to see which keywords are delivering “zero results”? What keywords are being used most often in search? Are visitors who search more likely to convert? Do they spend more per transaction? Are there products are services your visitors ask for that you don’t offer? Should you?
I know there are more handy tips around, but I limited this to 5 because I’m sure our readership has some brilliant ways they can share on how to do healthy and productive “data dives.”
And if this was useful, let us know, and maybe we’ll do a part two.
One final note: Data diving is healthy and fun, but just remember to come up for air once in a while . Even more important, don’t let the stuff you learn from your analytics just sit there, turn your learnings into action and let’s move our conversion needles together.