Information is a precious resource for businesses. With it, a company can understand customer behavior, market trends, and competitors. Yet despite the sheer volume of information available to companies, they still struggle in gathering, synthesizing, and interpreting that data. This is especially true when it comes to web analytics.
The information provided by analytics software is staggering – it can track almost every aspect of user behavior. There are also a lot of software options as well, like Google Analytics and Omniture. However, information and software are useless without intelligent interpretation and utilization of that data to make key conclusions and decisions. How can a small business get the most utility out of its data?
The best approach involves a combination of strong technology, smart analysts, and constant testing. Here are some useful guidelines for getting the most utility out of web analytics data:
1. Invest more in the analyst, not the software: Web analytics is an art just as much as it is a science. Piles of information are useless without smart people to interpret that information into action items. If faced with a choice between technology and talent, always choose the talent.
2. Use two analytics programs: It will be useful when the need to compare data discrepancies arises. Multiple platforms can also protect a company from catastrophic loss. Use complimentary platforms that track and report data differently, such as Mint (hour-by-hour data) and Google Analytics (long-term reporting).
3. Earn an analytics education using blogs: Analytics is a technical subject. A small business owner who has just installed analytics software will find himself or herself overwhelmed by data. Learn the terminology and latest developments by subscribing to analytics blogs. The Google Analytics Blog, Occam’s Razor, and Web Analytics World are good places to start.
4. Set a goal for data collection: What is the desired result? The inquiry seems simple enough, but most business owners don’t ask themselves this question enough. Web analytics can help businesses increase website traffic, hone advertising for a target audience, or increase customer conversions. Having a clear direction and objective will keep a team from performing unnecessary analysis.
5. Constantly test and tweak: Passive data on bounce rates and exit pages is useful, but it means nothing if that data isn’t coupled with testing. Why do visitors bounce from the website? What can be done to decrease exits? This is information only consistently testing every assumption will provide.
6. Implement multivariate testing: Out of all the methods available for web testing, the most accurate tends to be multivariate testing. Multivariate test software will serve users of a website a random version of a webpage. For example, it will change the location of a shopping cart icon or change the font size of a webpage, based on what a company wants to test. The tests record how users react to those changes (i.e. do they stay on the website longer or leave quicker?). A business can then make a decision on how to adjust its website. Google Website Optimizer is a free software for multivariate testing.
7. Track and record social media data: An entire new subset of analytics has emerged; one that tracks the success rates of social networking campaigns, user engagement, and conversation surrounding brands. Track user response and criticism on these platforms and respond accordingly. Read How to Measure Social Media ROI for Business and 10 Free Tools for Monitoring Your Brand’s Reputation for a start.
The big key to getting the most of out any analytics data is to invest time in the analysis and conclusions, rather than fret over the technology. Free analytics programs are sufficient for the needs of most small businesses. Use that money to buy an analytics book or to hire an analytical mind instead.