I love data.
Whenever I get the keys to a client’s Web analytics, I feel like Indiana Jones, exploring cobweb-laced catacombs that contain hidden treasures which are just waiting to be discovered–treasures that frequently result in meaningful business intelligence. Unfortunately, though, I’ve learned that traditional business communicators don’t share my enthusiasm for online data analysis. Many view such activity as meaningless busywork, so, instead of rolling up their sleeves and wading deeply into the raw data, they cast fleeting glances at their automatically generated Web reports.
It’s understandable. Most marketing and PR folks still don’t understand the impact of a dynamic online marketplace. In the past, these professional business communicators reported on static measurements such as banner ad impressions or media mentions. Such metrics were good-enough when companies were the only initiators of online content, yet fall short of the task as 3rd parties (customers, prospects, competitors, and investors) have joined the online content party.
The amount of online content created about your company is increasing every day, and the effects of that content are becoming more significant. The question remains, “Does your company have a finger on the pulse of these effects?” If not, it’s like running into a dark forest without a helmet.
Most companies do nothing with the data that their analytics packages collect every day, and of those that do, even fewer perform analysis, preferring cursory looks at first-order results (unique visitors, page views, referrals, popular pages). First-order results work well in a traditional controlled content environment, but reveal their inadequacies in a dynamic online world. The real juicy business stories are found in the second-order calculations. Remember that old High School algebra and y=mx+b? Remember how to calculate the slope of a line?
Business stories are found in the second-order affects of Web analytics data. Rather than glancing at static numbers collected independently on a week-to-week basis, savvy communicators plot them over time. Enlightened business communicators study these graphs and ask questions such as:
- What is the slope of the data?
- Are the unique visitors rising or falling over time?
- Did the visits to a specific Web page spike and then return to its baseline level in a short amount of time? What could be the cause of that?
- Why did a number of people recently come to our Web site through someone else’s YouTube channel?
- Why did our company see a significant spike in Facebook fans over the past few weeks?
- Why is the fastest growing Web referral from Google tied to the keyword bad customer service?
Keep a close watch on these second-order effects. Find the trends. Once you do, you’ll be able to make smart executive-level decisions based on what you find.
Of course, if you’d like to hire a very smart consultant to show you how, I’m always available:-)
Photo Credit: vrkerbs