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Five Ways to Make Communicating Web Analytics Data Easier

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In this article, you'll learn how to...

  • Effectively convey Web analytics data to those less familiar with it
  • Incorporate your offline marketing efforts when presenting your analytics data

Visits, pageviews, time on site, time on page, unique visitors, conversions, impressions, click-throughs, view-throughs... the list of metrics used to measure the performance of our digital marketing activities is as confusing as it is endless.

Often it's up to online marketers to communicate what all of that jargon means to those who are still worried about how many "hits" their site got last year. It's challenging, to say the least.

But here are five ways you can make your job easier while helping those senior-level execs understand just how well your digital activities are doing.

1. Don't be afraid of their questions

This is where many Web professionals falter. They try to avoid the provocation of questions from senior leadership. That's because the questions are often coming from people who probably don't fully understand what they're asking.


But that's where the opportunity lies. Your execs' asking questions likely means they'll develop the understanding you so desperately want them to have.

So encourage questions... but emphasize the value in business questions. Train them to ask not how many unique visitors you had last month, for example, but how your website is doing at attracting new customers to your brand.

2. Use analogies

This one's a simple thought, but often difficult to implement in a Web analytics presentation. Using analogies is one of your best weapons against misunderstanding.

You can compare your website traffic to the population of a major city, state, or country, for example. Or relate your online marketing measurement strategy to how airline pilots operate: They've got a ton of data points (just like you); they focus on the important things to keep the plane in the air; they use the more detailed data points to help diagnose issues and opportunities (just like your Web analytics strategy).

A little creativity can go a long way toward making your analogies stick.

3. Make the data visible

You're already publishing reports that show your key performance metrics, but are they visible? Nine out of ten senior leaders tell me they don't read the reports their marketing teams diligently send them each month.

Part of making your data visible is giving your audience something they can quickly get value from.

Include a one-page executive summary each month with your reports, develop a KPI dashboard that includes just a few business critical "wow" metrics (conversions better be one of those metrics), and schedule a monthly 30-minute Web performance review to talk through the data with key leadership personnel.

If you want to get really fancy, have three or four 42-inch LCD screens installed around the office and set up a real-time dashboard like ChartBeat to be shown 24 hours a day on those screens. Now that's visibility!

4. Relate the data to what they care about: sales, volume, market share

If you're running an e-commerce site, this is relatively simple to do and you're probably already doing it. But if you're running a branding or content site and you don't necessarily have a direct tie to dollars, this is a little more difficult.

Evaluate correlations between your website KPIs and online marketing metrics to sales, volume, and market share. Overlay the trend lines to see whether one seems to be affecting the other.

If you can show to a senior leader a chart that correlates a rise in traffic to a rise in sales or market share, and you don't run an e-commerce site, you've just achieved rockstar status...

5. Tell the whole story

With so many moving pieces to any online strategy, it's difficult to tie everything together, but it's imperative for your audience's understanding of the data.

Simply presenting your website metrics won't do. Make sure you're bringing in your advertising performance, paid and organic search, social media KPIs, email, etc. Your offline marketing efforts shouldn't be left out either: How did that direct mail affect your website traffic, Facebook "likes," and branded organic search keywords?

Bringing everything together is going to help your audience understand and retain what you're presenting, and help them to determine the decisions to be made and the actions to be taken.

* * *

Consider these five tips the next time you're preparing to communicate your Web analytics data. It'll produce more value for your audience and help solidify you as an expert in your field.


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Zack Pike is a consultant who writes and speaks about unconventional solutions to tough professional situations at CorporateRadical.com. Follow him @ZackPike.

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  • by Jose Tavares Tue Mar 29, 2011 via web

    This is an excellent guide. I would add a sixth item to this list "Do not share client data". If your going to show off metric capabilities of any software that you'll use to gauge traffic then be sure not to give away client information when doing demonstrations.

    I had an SEO company interview with me and they showed me a ton of information related to a competitor from another business. Forget that the person your presenting to might know the client or the legal implications, but this can have dyer consequences for someones business.

  • by @JesseLuna Tue Mar 29, 2011 via web

    I like the visual approach to explaining analytics. Dashboards are great but challenging to find key measures that everyone can agree on.

    I blogged about a visual approach to analyzing keywords using Wordle.net. This is only a slice of the analytics picture but it's a nice tool: http://www.jpluna.com/wordpress/2010/05/05/a-powerful-way-to-visualize-your...

  • by Zack Pike Tue Mar 29, 2011 via web

    @Jose Tavares - Good point Jose, it's sad how often that type of thing happens. As a customer, setting up a good enforceable NDA is helpful when working with any agency... And especially an agency that holds sensitive data.

  • by Zack Pike Tue Mar 29, 2011 via web

    @JesseLuna - It definitely can be challenging to agree upon what's important, especially when you've got multiple strong-willed individuals involved. What's worked well for me is the "so-what" principle promoted by Avinash Kaushik. When someone says they want to see a particular number, ask why, then "so-what". Let them answer your "so-what", then say it again... Let them answer, then say it again. After the third "so-what" answer if they haven't gotten to a tactical decision driven from that metric then it doesn't belong there. Avinash can explain it better than me... Check out his blog: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2010/03/kill-useless-web-metrics-apply-so-wh...

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