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The hurried panic for actionable data is sending tremors through executive hallways. Human resource departments probe job search databases for expert business analysts capable of deciphering the hieroglyphic website analytic systems in search of answers. Answers to how companies can generate greater returns from their invested online marketing dollars.
This build-up of activity however will provide few answers just more questions.
As with all assessment tools, the value derived from the tool is dependent on the expertise of the analyst but not from just an analyst's perspective. Instead, the expert analyst must possess cross-disciplined knowledge of the companies' business, their customer, product or service and how it all plays within the environment of usability, technology, design and influence.
Let me explain.
Data is data is data - is doesn't change into actionable knowledge until it is cracked open with a penetrating jack hammer of "why?"and "how?"questioning. Pulling data from a website analytics program even the most sophisticated ones address the "what is"but not the "why it is"or "how it is changed."
In essence, the power from analytical data stems from the questions it creates. And the insightfulness of the questions is a direct outcome of the expert knowledge applied to it in the context of the companies' customers and their intentions and goals for interacting with their products and services.
For example, one powerful analytics metric is the website's bounce rate or single page access. The metric is defined as the "percentage of web site visitors who arrive at an entry page, then leave without getting any deeper into the website."
If you have a high bounce like 80% to 100% it means that visitors aren't finding what they had expected to find and decided to abandon your website. This is a big problem unless if what you want them to achieve such as placing a phone call into your sales staff is capable of being performed directly on the entry page. In this case, your bounce rate is measured as a conversion rate for the number of phone calls coming in versus unique visitors landing on the entry page. In addition, the bounce rate would be held in context with the time spent on the site.
Nevertheless, if your bounce rate is 90% for your home page, then a significant amount of your visitors (90%) are not taking a step further into your website. Considering that a home page (especially for an e-commerce site) is designed as a roadmap to get people where they want to be quickly and conveniently, a high bounce rate shows that the map is wrong.
However, the bounce rate metrics does not tell what is wrong with the "map." Was the map in the wrong language, for the wrong location, was it faded from excessive use, was it outdated, was the print too small to read, was it too geographically complicated for the visitors' skill level, was the specific location sought after not listed, was there details needed that weren't available, and so on. Even by combining multiple analyses like adding which referring URLs and keywords the visitors who bounced arrived through adds more fuel to the process but still doesn't generate any answers - it just narrows the potential solutions.
Analyzing the analytics and identifying the problem area is a starting point only achieved through performance metrics. It sets the foundation for applying customer behavior, usability, persuasion, and marketing knowledge to generate the "why" questions and "how" responses.
The "why" questions form the framework for applying potential strategies to reduce or eliminate the problem area. However, here again, the expert cross-disciplined knowledge to determine which question to answer first helps define priorities for generating answers. In addition, most questions will generates mutliple potential answers.
For the bounce rate example, if it is identified that the referring keywords are frequently for "San Antonio, Texas" yet the home page only shows "Austin, Texas" then adding "San Antonio, Texas" to the home page may drive the bounce rate down and pull these visitors through to the next page.
However, just presenting keyword links no the home page doesn't ensure success. Eye tracking studies has shown that the placement of components on a website is as important as the component itself. By placing a relevant keyword link at the bottom left section of the entry page may potentially go unnoticed by visitors. An analytics professional must not only interpret the data but also have the skills to effectively develop a strategic response.
As businesses search for website analytic solutions they need to realize that the tool is as good as the operator. Too often, companies pay thousands of dollars per month for a sophisticated solution and then drop it into the hands of novice marketing or IT associate with the simple goal of generating reports. If a company wants reports, stick to a cheap solution where upward or downward trending even using skewed data is sufficient.
On the other hand, if a company is serious about maximizing their e-business whether for direct or multi-channel sales, invest in a highly-skilled, cross-disciplined individual. Their insights will not only generate a significant return from the web analytics investment but also help to drive marketing strategies.
As consumers crossover channels, all marketing begins to diverge with the web being the most measurable. A highly skilled professional can spread analytical learnings across the online and even the traditional marketing channels to drive new levels of business performance.
Kevin Gold is Managing Partner of Enhanced Concepts helping businesses increase their online leads and sales through improving conversions and gaining greater visibility. Download "20 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Website
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