We learned in the first post of the series that you need a formal way to define your goals, objectives, and tactics for a given year, and that the tactical and operational metrics are critical to your success at the operational level. We also learned the differences between tactical and operational metrics.
In the first blog post, we used an illustrative example of a consumer genomics company that has an objective to sell 700,000 kits in 2018. We reviewed how you should estimate the increase necessary in online purchases, website traffic, and email sends to meet your objective. This drives the data gathering that we will explore in this post.
This phase of a data-driven digital strategy is the most tool-centric. Every organization uses different tools so I strongly suggest you learn how each of your tools presents data. I will concentrate on general data-gathering techniques and use google analytics, a commonly used tool, to illustrate best practices.
Decide to Gather Metrics in an Automated or Manual Way
If your organization is well-financed you should consider investing in a business information management tool that you may have to pay a firm to integrate with your various data gathering tools. Many organizations don’t have the means for this, especially when starting this strategy, so they should manually gather weekly numbers and track them in Microsoft Excel.
One possible way to use Microsoft Excel is displayed below. In column A, list the metrics you are monitoring. Next, state the units, the previous year’s totals, the plan year to date (YTD), and the actual year to date. Then, list the numbers by week compared against the plan numbers. The plan numbers should be a weekly breakdown of your entire year’s goal. You need to modify the weekly numbers based on seasonal circumstances, holidays, industry-specific events, and planned company-specific events such as mergers & acquisitions etc. When you do this the first time, you are essentially making educated guesses, but over time these plan estimates will be more precise. Each week, you will compare the number to that week’s plan, and then add both the plan and the actual weekly number to the plan YTD and actual YTD numbers respectively. Comparing the plan YTD and the actual YTD will tell you if you are on track to reach your goal for the year. For presentation purposes, you can color the boxes green or red based on achievement of plan.
Set up a Google Account
Google has an excellent set of online courses to help you set up your own account and begin using the tool in your daily work life:
This blog post will cover a few topics to get you started. First, sign up for an account at https://analytics.google.com.
Add Tracking Code to your Website.
Go to the administration section of your account, and then go to the Property section and click on the menu item “Tracking Code”.
The tracking code looks like the screenshot below.
This is the code that google analytics needs to have on your website so that it can receive data. This must be on every page of your website, and is therefore added to the header in your site.
Now, your site will start collecting data.
In the administration section of the site, set up three views of the data to start with:
- Test View allows you to try things out before incorporating the changes into the Master View
- Master View is what you will use day to day in order to do your job
- All Website Data is the untouchable view that exists in order to collect all of your data without any filters.
Next, exclude bot traffic and visits that are from your own organization. To do this, go into the Administration section of the site, and click on “View Settings” for each view. Then, check the box next to “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders. Note, that Google will exclude all hits from the bots and spiders on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s International Spiders & Bots list. This is important because visits from spiders & bots to your site often outnumber visits by real humans.
Basic structure of a report
Now that your site is sending data to your google analytics account, let’s explore a basic report.
A Google Analytics report presents data based on a date range that is editable. You will see the graph in the middle of the report change based on the date range. You can choose to display the graph by hour, day, week, or month. The basic report will also display key data points as tiles in the bottom left corner. These tiles summarize the number of sessions, users, pageviews, pages/session, average session duration, bounce rate, and the percentage of new sessions by week. This weekly information is what you should enter into your Microsoft Excel tables. In our example, we want the number of weekly sessions to add to our Microsoft Excel file.
Annotate Your Reports
You perform many activities that may affect your metrics. Activities such as sending an email to your database, changing a promotion on the home page, or even making feature changes to important pages. Track these changes by adding annotation to your graphs. This can be done by clicking the “Create new annotation” in the section just below the line chart. This will help you remember what you did on a particular day.
Investigate Key Pages
Inevitably there are a certain set of landing pages or other key pages on your website that have an inordinate effect on the success of your activities. These could be the set of pages that gather leads using forms, or they are the pages that comprise the purchasing sequence. It is important to drill-down into these pages to check to make sure they are working properly. You can even have separate entries in your Microsoft Excel tables for these specific pages. You can drill down into these pages using Google Analytics, or you can look at page reports in your content management system such as the Ingeniux CMS 10.
These are the basics for data collection from Google Analytics. Collecting this data into a central Microsoft Excel file or business information management tool will make the next phase, metrics interpretation, easier.