Making Web Analytics Actionable

Having actionable insights is one of the most important things in any analysis you do. Ok, understood. But now what? How do we "make" our analytics actionable?

Page views increased by 15%, or page / visit went down 17%. So what?

These are the results of things that happened on your site, and caused page views, pages/visit, or whatever you are measuring to go up or down. After discovering the disaster (or the great news) you will have to dig deep and know why it happened in order to remedy the situation.

But there is another approach, which starts the other way around, preempts problems, and gives a clear action path in situations like the above.

This is inspired by a sentence that Bryan Eisenberg said in a webinar,"It doesn't make any sense to measure anything if you don't know what you are going to do with it."

Bingo!

This approach starts with the available actions you can influence in your site, and then builds the measurement strategy based on that:

1. Start by asking,"what actions are available to me on the site?"

Possible answers: I can change the content, I can change the layout of the page elements, I can change PPC bids, etc...

2. For each action, list all the possible things it can affect so that you have a ready action list during analysis.

Possible examples: Adding/removing keywords from my PPC campaign affects my conversion rate, getting high quality links affects my position on search results for keywords X,Y, & Z.

3. Build you KPIs based on the things that are affected by what you have control over.

Possible examples: Conversion rate of campaigns if you have control over, pages/visit for traffic sources you can control (like PPC), user experience of a process that you can influence the business rules.

With this approach you almost automatically know what you need to do when KPIs tell you something, because you know how they are affected, and because you already chosen the ones that you can influence.

The answer to "how to make analytics actionable?"...

You don't. You see what you are already empowered to do and analyze accordingly. Important things that you can't control should definitely be reported and you should seek to influence them, but in the current situation you should start with what you have.
 

Comments

Hey, this post certainly addresses a big problem. Since the dawn of web analytics, vendors such as Unica have always said that our solutions help by providing more actionable insights. But it takes some good best practices to really use our solutions to continuously dig up actionable insights and then to act on them.

Your thought experiment proposed in this post makes sense to me. But I worry that step 1 would yield an infinite number of things that you could change about your sites and ads. How would you narrow that down?

Having said that, if you could take one element out of the set in step #1, e.g. home page layout, then your approach seems to lead more quickly to an attitude of continuous testing.

As in, I can vary option XYZ, so let me test A vs. B vs. C and see which works best.

Thank you for addressing this point which is so key to all of my web analytics customers at Unica.

Akin
Blog: MultichannelMetrics.com

Thanks a lot Akin. Actually I'm aware that this will yield to continuous improvement, and this, in my opinion, is what the site's marketers should be doing. How we prevent meaningless testing is where the conversion optimization specialists can help and spot the most impactful elements and recommend changes and tests intelligently, instead of a "let's test anything and everything" attitude. Appreciate your feedback :)