Analytics as the Source of Truth – The Power of Data Integration

We’ve all got a big job to do when it comes to our discipline in digital marketing – whether it’s SEO, paid search, social media, or being on a team that does it all. Do you measure your marketing? Do you feel confident in the metrics you’re tracking?

Let’s face it: marketers struggle with and businesses don’t fully have a handle on their Web analytics most of the time. Like most disciplines within Web marketing, analytics is a standalone skill set developed over time.

But no one will ever become great at finding those gems of insight that drive business outcomes without the right analytics. And there are so many ways that Web analytics and a lack of understanding of how to harness analytics are holding businesses back from making the best decisions.

In this post, we’ll look at two big ways your Web analytics could be holding you back right now:

  1. A lack of integration with other data points
  2. Limitations in tracking insightful metrics

1. Lack of Integration

Have you taken stock lately of the different analytics tools you use on a daily basis that are task-based? You might have one tool that gives you a snapshot of this, and one tool that fills in the gaps in that, and yet another you can layer on top of it all.

This then puts you, the marketer, in the middle of trying to integrate different types of data, and how they might correlate with one another, and then trying to derive meaningful insight from that.

You are not a machine, and this is a highly inefficient use of your time.

How Analytics Should Work – Analytics as the Source of Truth

The right analytics technology should do the heavy lifting for its human counterpart, making it easier for the professionals to do what they do best – making strategic decisions.

Integrating multiple data points, and processing them in a way that standardizes the data and shows the entire picture in one place helps us all solve the problem of big data – that is, finding the right data.

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You can’t scale your efforts without the right technology. So, the talent needs the partnership of the technology to get more done faster and better. That means considering an analytics platform (not just many “tools”) that:

  • Offers an API and the ability to integrate with trusted data sources.
  • Allows you to create meaningful dashboards that report on progress in a language that’s accessible to individual stakeholders (for more on dashboards, check out this post from Avinash Kaushik).
  • Help you manage and track workflow, so all the team members on a project know what to do and when.

2. Limitations in Tracking Insightful Metrics

How many of the tools in your analytics toolbox give you vanity metrics? Those are the metrics that may seem interesting or dazzling at first blush, but upon closer look, don’t really tell you much about business outcomes.

Nearly every analytics provider can have vanity metrics in some form or another, oftentimes to oversimplify perhaps a more complicated story that’s happening behind the scenes. Sometimes vanity metrics are what the C-Suite is asking for, too.

The problem with this is that the human again has to stitch together the story. Sure, your CEO may have a Klout Score of 85, but what does that really mean to the brand? Based on the human’s subjective interpretation, it could mean any number of things. However, this again requires more work to decode.

Take this chart, for example, as a way a marketer may have to map out meaningful metrics from vanity metrics.

vanity-metrics-table

If you’re using a tool that’s only giving you a limited data set, you’re not going to advance beyond what the data is telling you. Raising the CEO’s Klout Score may give his ego a boost, but not the bottom line.

So, if your SEO tools, for example, are only giving you a limited view of progress, and not allowing you to see beyond the keywords and rankings to the engagement, conversions and revenue, your full marketing potential is not going to be realized.

Get Smart With Your Analytics

Many of us are familiar with the prediction that came out in 2012 from Gartner that that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on technology than IT. The problem is, CMOs spend massive amounts of money today on technology that they haven’t even properly evaluated and are not sure how to get the most out of.

In fact, 67 percent of executives surveyed by CMOSurvey.org in 2014 said their company did not formally evaluate the quality of their marketing analytics.

If you take all the monthly subscriptions you shell money out for, the free tools and time spent trying to create a story from multiple data points, vanity metrics and the like, and add it all up, how much are you actually spending on your Web analytics?

Streamlining all of this is the first step in making sure your analytics is not holding you back. Proper evaluation of the platform you are considering is crucial, and then really getting the most from your analytics provider is the final step.

Kaushik said in a post on his Occam’s Razor blog (linked to earlier) that in order to make smart decisions about data, we need four things:

You need access to data, the ability to analyze (slice, dice, drill-up, drill-down, drill-around) interesting data points that your performance throws up, ability to understand what caused the performance (often by understanding who did, what and where in other parts of the organization), and the power to make decisions.

Don’t let your analytics continue to hold back your ability to make the most informed decisions. Get smart about your analytics this year, invest wisely, and take the time to ensure it meets your needs so you can start making it work for you.

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