Making Web Analytics Actionable - Part 2

"Not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters" said Einstein. This is the main problem in the thinking behind my first post about making analytics actionable.

The assumption is that what you can control will immediately influence results on your site. There is also an implicit assumption of a linear relationship and direct correlation.

The most important things have an exponential effect after being done consistently and for a long enough period of time. For example, if you do a lot of research and reading, it will reflect on the quality of content, people will find it useful, and they will promote it for you. There is no metric that measures what you do outside your website.

So, to refine the first argument, we need to assume that all variables are held constant, and then we can correlate some actions to certain outcomes and results.

Another important thing is to know that there are things that have to be done outside the site, but will have a huge impact on the reputation and brand, thereby affecting results of the site.

Web Analytics Wednesday - Dubai

Had a great time yesterday in our first Web Analytics Wednesday in Dubai. Around 18 people attended and it was very nice cathching up with friends and meeting new ones. The presentation I shared is mainly about using analytics as the starting point, proactively, and not as a reactive mechanism. Here is the presentation:

Here it is if you prefer Google Docs. Mani also shared an interesting presentation on social media.
You can follow tweets abouts this gathering on #WAWDubai.
It seems we will be having this next week also.

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."


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.

New Media - Old Media

Current categorization:

Media: TV, Print, Outdoor

New Media: Internet, Mobile, Digital

My recommendation:

Media: Internet, Mobile, Digital

Old Media: TV, Print, Outdoor


Frequency vs. Importance

If you look at the statistics of your mobile phone calls, you will probably realize that the frequency with which you call people is not evenly distributed.

You probably call some people every day, some people every week, and so on.

But how often do you call your mechanic? Or an emergency doctor, or the police? Probably once in the lifetime of your phone? But that one call, that brought in the doctor at the right time to save a life, or that mechanic that came helped you when you were in the middle of nowhere, was as important as all the calls you made to an "important" person combined.

Just because you don't call them frequently does not mean that they are not important.

Likewise, when analyzing visits to pages on a website, focusing on high traffic pages might cause you to loose sight of other low traffic, but potentially very important pages in terms of content. The same applies to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and simply, everyone you know.

The Silent Storm a.k.a "Digital Life"

Anyone working in the new era of factories (people who have their heads inside a computer all day long), lives full days of silent storms. From the outside, you just see a person sitting in a chair, typically slouching, eyes fixed on the screen, and hours passing by, where we go through emails, funny videos, interesting stuff, stressful ideas, deadlines, etc.
On the inside, the person is living in a storm; every video, email, or spreadsheet, is fueled with emotion, stress, conflicting thoughts, and inherent ambiguity, not to mention the unpredictable stuff that keeps coming with no limit. 
It's a storm of ideas that is impacting us on a real level, but it looks silent on the outside.
The funny thing about this storm, is that we somehow control it, and that's precisely why we are controlled by it! 
Because we can open 100 windows at the same time, we do. Because we can have seventeen different applications running at the same time, we do. Juggling, is the new name of the game. Speaking of games, I think gamers are the ones most suited to be the future business leaders. What they can accomplish in a game is precisely what "professional" people do in their computer; they multi task, make split-second decisions, and are comfortable with an ever moving and firing environment.
Dealing with this situation is about being able to channel every idea that comes in a fluid way. An inherent problem with the office atmosphere (which is different from gaming) is the fact that you can easily shut down any of the applications you are running and take a break whenever you want. Of course, the stuff keeps coming, and your clients and bosses are waiting.
The next time you are caught playing a game at work, tell them you are training for the new economy! 

Web Analytics: Starting From The "End"

Many people think about analytics as something to be done after you have started a campaign, launched a new site, or created anything online. I think the opposite should always be done, unless you are launching a new site, where you don't have any data to base your decisions on. The new site case is probably the only one where you should look at analytics afterwards.

Being Labelled an Employee vs. a Business Person

There is a huge difference in how people can react to you after first being introduced, depending on how you are labelled. When your label implies you are a member of a team...
"He's managing our whatever function that does blah blah blah" 

Click Through Ratio, and How It Can Be Improved

Most online advertisers have to deal with improving their CTRs, and likewise, publishers have the challenge of improving the CTRs of the advertising that they sell. The way it is calculated is simply dividing the number of clicks a campaign (or an ad) has generated over the total number of times the ads were served (impressions).
What about the users who saw the same ad several times and clicked? Do we still expect them to click every time they see the ad. Worse yet, the same user might see the same ad on different websites, and therefore, for that user the CTR is 0% on the sites where she did not click.
I think the healthier way to calculate this is first by going back one step and actually understanding what the objective of CTR is.
Do we really care about this metric, or is the reality that we want to know the percent of people who responded to our message?
Easy question...
Then why don't we focus on measuring this thing exactly instead of just dividing two metrics over each other? 
How this can be calculated is very simple, but needs to take into consideration the number of people (remember we are advertising to human beings).
Let's agree on some simple definitions: 
Impressions: the number of times an ad has been displayed during a campaign.
Unique impressions: the number of unique visitors who were shown the ad.
Clicks: the total clicks an ad has generated.
Unique clicks: the number of unique visitors who have clicked on the ad.
Dividing the number of unique impressions over the number of unique clicks gives us the effective response rate.
Let's call it the effective click-thruogh ratio eCTR.

Starting AdWords Campaigns: The Alternative Path of Landing Pages

Many online advertisers have a problem getting their ads to show on AdWords, or getting a reasonable CPC, instead of $5, or sometimes $10.
While there are several possible reasons for this, I'm going to emphasize the importance of selecting landing pages in the initial process (as opposed to having it as the last decision in the campaign).
The landing page is after all the first encounter your user has with your site. This is where the selling happens. This is where the branding happens. And this page is visited by a tiny fraction of users who saw your ad, users that you pay for each click they do.

Forget AdWords.

Go to your analytics tool, and check out the landing pages, or most popular content report. Sort pages according to bounce rate (or conversion rate, or $ value), and see what your top performing pages are.

This report shows you the pages that you know based on statistics that people will be less likely to run away from your site once they see them.

If your site is content based, and you have many content categories that you want to promote, you might promote those that are already performing better than others (instead of promoting the ones that you think should be promoted).

Sometimes, it is actually the very beginning of a campaign. If you discover that a certain page is giving huge results, why not create a campaign especially for it?