Are you looking for a reporting tool or actionable user analysis? Here we will take a look at both and see why you need both!
When most people think of website analytics, they think of the reporting side of analytics which benchmark historic and real-time trends and changes. For instance this is provided from a page view report from Google Analytics. If this is where you stop, your missing the proverbial boat! The issue with reports and simple metrics like page views is that they only tell what happened in the past, not why or how to improve it. To truly empower your website you need to analyze users with advanced techniques such as with segmented user stories, website optimization, and ROI.
The difference is simple, you can passively collect and report data, then generates simple reports of traffic, page views and sources. On the other hand, power users actively analyze behavior and revenue by tracking additional data and segmenting results, maximizing the power of analytics. Reporting and analysis have their place, and most everyone typically start with reporting and then begin to analyze as the need arises. Below we discuss the differences and how moving beyond just reports can increase you goals.
This is where almost everyone starts with analytics and should be one of the first things added to any website. Passive collection involves adding tracking code to each web page and no more. This is very simple to setup and most sites that share a wrapper function can do this easily. WordPress and similar platforms have plug-ins to take care of this.
Do not overlook the power of passively collecting data. Some advantages include:
- Traffic data shows which pages are popular
- Provides a baseline for more advanced analytics techniques
- List most popular keywords that generated traffic
- List most popular referring URLs
- Simple to setup
The distinction between passive analytics and active analytics is that data is collected and reported, but it is unclear what is happening on the site.
The power of analytics grows exponentially when you interactively work with collected data and website users. With some advanced knowledge, techniques, and tools, the behavior of visitors between pages (funnels), user segments (PPC visitors, Organic visitors, 1st/returning visitors, etc.) and other metrics can be explored. There are two parts of analytics: the data gathering phase and the data analysis phase.
With today’s analytics tools such as Google Analytics (GA), gathering data is straight forward, not entirely copy and paste. For some advanced analtyics analysis, GA and other tools need to integrate into your site. For instance, GA can track internal searches to find out what users are searching for. On E-commerce sites GA can integrate shopping carts and purchases such that revenue can be tracked hourly and by segment (Are your ads making you money?). These require custom configuration, see Installing Advanced Google Analytics Tags to set this up.
Once you have your tracking code setup properly to collect actionable data (rather than just page views!), the next task is to analyze your site and data to create actionable analysis. An actionable plan can be any of the following:
- After segmenting Pay Per Click (PPC) users and calculating ROI, you can determine to increase increase/decrease your advertising budget. You can also reallocate efforts on keywords generating higher ROI. This makes business sense, but some people chose to ignore it!
- Looking at internal searches, do they make sense? Do you have what they are looking for? Can you add a page if it does not exist? Are you using your customer’s language in your site? An example would be if you sell laptops, but use the word “Ultrabook” exclusively in your navigation. Do your customers know what an Ultrabook is? If you get a lot of “laptop” searches, perhaps they are confused. With this approach, you can do something about it.
- Add a qualitative feedback component to your website. Unlike nearly all other forms of business, with websites you may never hear the voice of your “consumer”. Are they happy? Are they frustrated? Do they have ideas to help you improve? While it seems obvious, getting direct feedback is the most powerful tool within analytics, where you can focus on all or certain parts of the user experience. Given comments, you can form plans on what to improve, keep doing, or expand into.
There just provide you a glimpse into actionable analytics, but the key is to create identify an issue, improve it, then remeasure to gauge success. While this may seem like a lot of work, there are many tools to streamline this process. Successful actionable analytics requires a ground-up rethinking of what analytics means to you, but it is worthwhile and pays for itself.
What is right for your site?
My suggestion is to work your way up. If you are new to analytics, you are probably relatively new to websites in general, so start with getting your tracking configured, then sequentially add more layers as the need arises. If you are relatively familiar with traditional Analytics, it is time to stop and gauge what you are doing. Read Setting Up Actionable Analytics. Remember, analytics gives out only as much as you ask of it.
Question about actionable analytics or how to gauge something specific? Ask below.