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Brightfind says Hello.

Analytics: What's the big deal?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 27, 2016 1:17:19 PM / by Julie Luo

When I started working with analytics this summer as an intern at Brightfind, I had no idea how important or applicable it was to nearly every part of the web development process. Admittedly, two and a half months of exposure is not a lot of time, but I did have an amazing mentor (shout-out to Justin Atkinson, aka Digital Analyst wizard) and new things to learn every single day. In this blog post, I’ve summarized a lot of what I’ve learned this summer to show you how important analytics really are.

The Importance of Setting Goals

Right now analytics are all the rage. Everyone is talking about them; everyone wants more data, more numbers, more analytics they can use to describe their website. The problem is that a lot of people don’t know what to do with this data. Coming into this internship, I had very little idea what web analytics were, let alone how to effectively leverage the data to drive decision making.

So what is the big deal? What is the significance of “data-driven decision making”, and why do people have such a hard time figuring it out?analytics-v2.png

Before we can address anything about web analytics, we need to talk about establishing goals. Here at Brightfind, we preach that people need to define their website’s goals and direction before a redesign or initial building of the site. This way they can ensure the website is designed to meet those objectives and align their analytics in a way that supports these strategic goals.

Once these goals are established, an organization can measure its success by evaluating the achievement of these goals. Combined with data analytics, this will give the organization a concrete, measurable definition of success. 

Data-Driven Decision Making

Analytics can empower organizations by letting them know what’s working and what’s not, so they can make changes that will help them reach their goals. This is where the importance of “data-driven decision making” comes in. Leading-edge organizations have moved from passively collecting data to actively leveraging data to drive decisions. A study from the MIT Center for Digital Business found that firms that use data-driven decision making have a 5-6% increase in output and productivity.

That sounds simple enough. So why do people have such trouble doing this? As it turns out, there is a ton of data that analytics programs give, but not all of it will be helpful for an organization. It is easy for organizations to get stuck on numbers that do not matter much. “Total visits” will not tell an organization anything substantial about their site, let alone drive anyone to make an effective change. It can act as a feel-good number (since “total visits” will only ever increase), but has virtually no other use. Good, useful metrics are comparative (total signups in a certain time period vs another time period), understandable, and will influence changes on the site.

What Analytics Tell Us

So now that we know the importance of establishing goals and defining what a good/bad metric is, how much can analytics tell us? What information do analytics give that you can then use to drive your decision-making? Analytics can tell us a lot about users and their behavior. Some examples of what they tell us and how we can use that information are as follows:

  • Who users are
    • What are their demographics? Are there patterns between their navigational path and their age? Or their entry point and their gender? These patterns can help lay the foundation for personas that represent the audience groups that are visiting your website.

  • Where users come from
    • Google? A different site? An ad? Facebook? The source can tell you which of your marketing campaigns have been most/least effective.
  • User Flow
    • Identify “call-to-action” (CTA) pages. A CTA page is one that guides the user down the path of accomplishing a strategic goal for the website. It is, quite literally, something that “calls” your user to “action”. Analytics can show us how users are getting to your CTA pages, and where they flow to afterward. 

      If you see users clicking back and forth a lot or using the search box instead of the navigation bar, it may mean the information architecture is confusing. The user’s navigation path can tell a lot about the effectiveness of User Experience (UX) on your site.

    • Where users exit
      • Is there a high bounce rate on a page you believe should be a user priority? If so, what could be causing people to leave so quickly?
Of course, all of this is only possible in context; since analytics are simply quantitative data, the context and scenario can greatly affect what this data means. Data provides us with facts; it gives us the “what”. Once we have the “what”, it allows us to identify potential areas for improvement, and ask the “why” and “how”?

If you have success in mind, you have to have your goals in mind. And if you have your goals in mind, web analytics are the right step toward achieving them. Analytics will provide you with the opportunity to capitalize on opportunities that you may not currently be leveraging--or resolve issues that may be deterring visitors from accomplishing a strategic goal. Analytics will tell you whether your marketing strategies have been effective, allow you to quantify any UX work, and most importantly, help you continuously improve your website to achieve goal after goal.

Topics: Website Marketing Goals, Web Strategy, Analytics

Julie Luo

Written by Julie Luo