Actionable Information vs. Raw Data
Wouldn’t you agree that, as a business leader, you’d rather have actionable information than raw data? Unless you are an analyst, my guess is you would resound with, “Yes!” And I would, too. As a businessperson, it is much easier to drive my business forward when I have data that is meaningful, relevant and immediate. But, how can I wade through mounds of meaningless metrics in order to ascertain whether my Web site is serving its intended function or not? Enter the web analytics tools.
In my earlier post, I encouraged my blog followers to start using the web analytics platform, Google Analytics, for even as little as 20 minutes per day because it is the cheapest and most readily-available web analytics tool on the market, and I believe it can yield great returns in the efficiency and revenue-generation-capability of your Web site. Building upon last week, let’s use Google Analytics as an example platform to gather actionable information from your Web site. Within any web analytics software, three tools will help you gain actionable data: goals, funnels, and filters. Today we will focus on the first of these – goals – so and how to implement and track them. So, get ready to start working because after this you’ll have the eyes to see what needs to be done to make your web site perform its intended role.
How Web Analytics Goals Work:
At first glance, web analytics goals sound very similar to the goals of any other business endeavor:
“specific strategies you’ll leverage to accomplish your business objectives,” as Avinash Kaushik defines them in his blog post “Web Analytics 101: Definitions: Goals, Metrics, KPIs, Dimensions and Targets.”
However, web analytics goals are much more specific and much more immediately measurable. According to Piwik, a web analytics software provider and competitor of Google Analytics, web analytics goals are “priorities” a company wishes to fulfill with its Web site, such as – sell an item, obtain a new customer, download a brochure, obtain a donation, or register for an event.
Take a moment and ask yourself, “What are my ‘priorities’ for my Web site?”
I’ll tell you what mine are. For this blog, my priorities are – get a new follower, get a comment, get a post “liked” or “shared” on a social media channel, and obtain a new client. Once you’ve defined your goals, you can identify what success looks like. To do this, think about what, on your Web site, would indicate that this goal has been fulfilled. According to my current course Web Analytics and SEO, Lesson 6, there are four different type of goals companies tend to have for their websites:
- URL Destination – which web page do you want people to end up on?
- Visit Duration – how long do you want people to spend on your site?
- Pages/Visit – how many pages do you want them to go to on their visit?
- Event – what, exactly, do you want them to accomplish?
Labeling goals in terms of outcomes helps make the web metrics you are seeking immediately more actionable. Many of my goals are event-based, but they can be viewed in light of some of these other categories, which can help me better determine of the goal has been met. Note how some of my goals could be categorized into different types of goals, shaping which metric I analyze to determine if the goal has been met:
- Get a new follower > Event = hitting the “follow” button, OR URL Destination = arriving at the “Thank you for subscribing” page
- Get a new comment > Event = submit a comment, OR, URL Destination = arriving at the “Thank you for your comment” page
- Get a post “liked” or “shared” on a social media channel > Event = like/share
- Obtain a new client > Event = submit a request for a demo, OR URL Destination = arriving at “Download our quick-start guide” page
How to Set up a Goal:
- To set up a goal in Google Analytics, log in, go to “Conversions” along the left sidebar, and click “Goals.
- Click the box “Set up goals,” and select one of the template goals, or set a custom goal for your website.
- Once you hit “next step,” name your goal. Then, select if your goal is a “Destination,” “Duration,” “Pages/Visit,” or “Event”-based metric.
- Set up the “Goal Details,” according to which type of goal it is.
- Once you have entered the goal details, check to “verify this goal,” seeing how many times the goal would have been met in the past week.
- Save your goal
- Repeat the above steps, setting up Google Analytics goals for each goal you have set for your website.
Once these goals have been identified and set up in Google Analytics, the software will do the work itself, providing you with information specifically about what you want to know rather than the standard template reports that provide metrics that are not actionable. For me, taking a look at the number of followers my blog generated this week, helps me identify what are the best ways to drive traffic to my blog, and what are the most interesting topics to my readers. This information helps determine the way my site takes shape, and I believe, if implemented, knowing how your goals have been met will steer the direction of your website as well.
Don’t Forget Funnels and Filters!
Along with the web analytics dialogue about web analytics goals, comes mention of the two other major ways to get Google Analytics to provide actionable information. Funnels are “path[s] that you expect visitors to take on the way to a conversion goal,” according to Web Metrics & SEO Lesson 6. This helps identify which steps customers should take to arrive at your desired conversion goal, and it helps you orient your Web site in such a way as to encourage, coerce, nudge, direct (whichever word you may prefer) your site visitor to arrive at a desired outcome or complete a desired event.
Filters are similar to Goals in that they provide data to help identify if individuals have performed the desired action. Setting up a Filter is very similar to setting up a goal in Google Analytics, and these filters can provide “a way to manipulate data to provide accurate reports, showing specific data,” according to Web Metrics & SEO Lesson 6. Filters can include analyzing which domain the traffic is coming from, which IP addresses are generating traffic, and which sub-directories are sending traffic to your site. These numbers can help identify where people are coming from, so the site can better be oriented to welcome them.
Again, the more specifically you get Google Analytics to drill down into your data, the less you have to wade through, and the more actionable and immediate your data can be. Knowing the funnel through which your visitors are being directed, and setting up filters to view data according to where they are coming from all sheds light on how you can maximize and accelerate your Web site to perform its intended purpose and accomplish your goals.
Have you set up any goals for your Web site? How have these helped you see ways you may need to change/re-organize your site?