I'll start with a confession. My name is Lisa Barone and for years I ignored analytics.
I'm a content person. I deal with words and encouraging people to share those words.
Numbers? Charts? That didn't concern me. That was for the SEO department. Or maybe PPC. Development? I wasn't sure. I didn't really care.
I was an idiot.
When you work in a digital agency, it's easy for things to become segmented. For SEO to do that. Public relations to do this. And for the design department to do something entirely different. But that's not where success is found.
Success is found when all areas of your company are working from the same information set, toward the same goal, and are pulling on the same side of the rope. That's when you achieve real, OMG-call-mom levels of awesome
Analytics is what creates that.
Where Does Analytics Fit Into Your Agency?
The simple answer? Everywhere.
Regardless of where you sit in your office, analytics matters to your job.
- Are you a content person? Use analytics to identify your most successful content marketing attempts based on links, social shares, etc., and then build upon them. Identify content that has grown legs without you even realizing it or needing to push it. Locate content that has been a total and complete failure and understand why.
- Working on the design side of things? Use analytics to understand which ads or site designs performed the best. If you're noticing that ads designed in orange convert better due to visibility, note that. If you're finding an ad lots of people clicked on never converted, maybe it's not a design problem but something that should be addressed by content. Share that information.
- In social media? Use analytics to understand the keywords, phrases and conversations that are presently hot. What do customers want to hear about? What's gaining influence? Dig into the social reports in Google Analytics to understand who is already talking about your brand. Find the ripples and track them back to the source. Once you've identified the conversations, get involved in them.
- Not in social, but are in public relations? Look to analytics to measure success of media placements. How much traffic did that mention drive to your site? How many of those converted? Did other outlets pick up the story? Identify which reporters and bloggers are already sending you traffic without you even having to pitch them.
- Developer? Look to your analytics to better understand the people who are visiting the site. What browser are they using? Are they coming from mobile – what device? What screen size? What's the best way to show information to accommodate your users?
That's just a quick snapshot of why analytics matters to your whole agency.
Now that you know why people should care, how do you make them actually care. Because those are two different animals.
Making People Give A Damn About Analytics
Creating a data-friendly culture, one where people are excited by numbers and don't fear them, takes serious work. It means going beyond the numbers and inserting context to build the larger story.
How do you do that?
1. Appoint an Analytics Evangelist
Truth: Analytics is everyone's job.
Fact: If you don't make analytics someone's job, it will be no one's job.
Create an analytical culture by first making someone accountable for it. Appoint that hype person to high five the content team after a huge traffic spike or to congratulate the PPC woman for the highest conversion rate you've seen this side of 2013.
Make someone directly responsible for celebrating internal successes, both inside the department and to the larger agency. That's how you're going to drive home the importance of using analytics to achieve company goals.
Employees need to see how everyday actions can lead to big ripples. Do that and pretty soon you won't have to convince people data matters, they'll be seeking it out themselves.
2. Identify Goals & Leverage Points
Everyone knows that clearly-defined goals are the first step to successfully measuring what's happening on your site. But be selective about the goals you choose. Make sure they represent the most important leverage points for the department and/or company.
Don't assign goals just to have them or collect data just in case you need it. Collect with a purpose and identify what will have the greatest impact.
The Analytics Evangelist should work with each department to help them identify the metrics that matter most to their decision making, while also taking into account other data that may be useful from a 10,000 foot company perspective. Over time you want to create a culture where you're acting not on intuitive, but on intelligence you've collected and analyzed.
3. Open the Data
It was always pretty easy for me to ignore analytics. Why? Because I didn't have direct access to the data.
The company's analytic was something that other guy had access to. If I wanted it, I'd have to ask him. That's intimidating, especially when the guy who holds the key to the data lock usually doesn't have the best social skills. So instead I just sat in the dark.
If you want to adopt a data-driven culture, your first step is to make the data available to all employees. Don't lock it up. Share it. Encourage people to look at it and to touch it and decipher what it means.
Set that example company-wide that data is their friend and something to learn from.
4. Use Data as a Storyteller
As humans, we ignore what we don't understand or what doesn't relate to us. It's not that we're bad people, per se, it's that we simply can't process more than that.
When you're using analytics data to drive home a point, stay away from using too many numbers. Instead, use context to create a story about what those numbers mean.
- What are the numbers saying?
- How accurate are they?
- How does knowing this empower us to make better decisions?
Your Analytics Evangelists should understand how to take data and mold it into team-specific insights centered on recent wins and losses. By creating a story brings insight to current projects and how they're going, it helps show the data as something that is actionable instead of something used to facilitate a nap.
We learn what worked and what didn't work and what the true effect of that action/inaction was. That's something we can improve upon. A random number with a percent sign attached to it is not.
Whenever possible, do your best to tie the story back to revenue. We all want to look like rockstars to our boss, even if we are the boss.
You'll be surprised how quickly development will get that new feature built out if they know the dollar amount it will potentially drive back into the business and how awesome they'll look for it. Again, go beyond the numbers and get to the understanding that comes from those numbers.
We're midway into February so it may be a bit late to start in on those resolutions for the New Year. But if your agency isn't yet crazy about mastering analytics, it may be time to commit, open up a bottle of a champagne, and count down all over again.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!