In last week’s blog, we talked about the kinds of information you can get out of Google Analytics, and how the data can be used – in conjunction with a solid measurement plan – to help you drive your web presence and your business forward.

This week, we’ll be delving a little deeper into how to put together an effective analytics measurement plan for your own business; how to set objectives, what metrics to look out for, and how to implement tracking for all the information you need.

Why is a measurement plan important?

The sheer amount of data that Google Analytics and other similar platforms report on can be difficult to digest. Without a clear vision of how to approach your analytics, you can fall into bad practices, such as:

  • struggling to decipher what your data is telling you
  • wasting time choosing which metrics to look at
  • focusing on irrelevant or lower priority metrics
  • misinterpreting your data
  • pursuing the wrong course of action

And that’s if you even have your analytics set up properly in the first place. Unless you understand how the tracking software interacts with your site infrastructure, you might have vital features incorrectly implemented and reporting inaccurate data – or perhaps not even implemented at all.

It gets even worse when the management of your analytics changes hands between employees; suddenly, the new person has to figure it all out for themselves.

Having a ratified measurement plan in place keeps you from going in circles. You’ll know how to interpret your data, you’ll understand how it relates to your goals, you’ll know how to report on it, and you’ll be able to plan your next steps more effectively.

To create an effective measurement plan, you’ll need someone who understands your business aims, someone who understands how analytics works, and someone who understands your technical setup and how to implement tracking methods.

Small business owners with basic websites may be able to create and implement a measurement plan all by themselves. If you’re a larger organisation with a more complex web presence, you’ll probably need a dedicated analytics team, and they’ll need to collaborate with your senior management and your IT/web development team.

 

Step 1: Outline your business objectives, strategies and tactics

Start by writing down your overarching business objectives. Why does your company (and your company’s web presence) exist? What ultimately drives you?

Of course, generating revenue and profits should be a given, but you should also think about what you’re ultimately aiming to provide for your customers. Perhaps you want to make a particular activity or hobby more accessible for your audience? Maybe you’re hoping to help your customers complete certain tasks more efficiently?

Next, work out the strategies you have in place to support each of your objectives. If you’re an e-commerce retailer, your primary objective is to generate sales for your business – so your strategies for achieving that objective might include:

  • providing search tools to help users find what they want to buy
  • providing detailed product information to convert customers
  • encouraging repeat orders with loyalty offers

 

Step 2: Decide which metrics you’ll need to track

Now you’ve tied down the aims of your business, work out which metrics will directly indicate progress towards (or away from) those aims. (These are referred to as ‘key performance indicators’ or ‘KPIs’.)

Conversion rate and revenue are common KPIs for most e-commerce sales objectives. If you’re looking specifically to increase repeat orders from existing customers, you might choose to focus on the percentage of customers who logged into their account to purchase from you.

You’ll also need to work out how you want to segment your data. Segmentation allows you to identify trends, helping you pinpoint issues and/or approaches that are working.

All businesses should be segmenting their data by time period, so that any seasonal trends can be understood and documented. If your strategy is to increase new visits, segmenting by traffic source lets you see which acquisition channels are doing well and which ones need more attention.

Finally, you need to set realistic, achievable numeric targets for each of your KPIs, so that anyone can see at a glance whether a particular strategy is succeeding or failing. These targets should be set using the expectations of your senior management; alternatively, you can use previous site performance or third-party benchmarks.

Without having targets in place, you have no model for success to compare your data against – the only measurements you have are your own arbitrary ideas of successful numbers, which probably won’t match with those of other team members.

 

Step 3: Research the technical practicalities

Once you know what you want to track, it’s time to work out if and how you can track it. This means not only documenting your analytics platform and how it can record the data you want (we’ll come back to this) but also understanding your own technical setup.

Again, this should be a breeze for small businesses with simple web offerings, but if you’re a larger firm, this is where your IT/web development team should come in.

Firstly, take a full inventory of your web and digital presence. We’ll assume you have a website, but perhaps you have multiple subdomains, or even multiple unconnected sites. You might also have a mobile app, and perhaps your app is available on Android and iOS devices.

Additionally, you might be marketing your company with Adwords, social media, email marketing and other external platforms. If you sell and/or market your business offline too, be sure to write it down in your inventory – but be aware that tracking offline will require specialised solutions.

Next, document the technical infrastructure behind your web presence. What server technologies are you using? Is your site responsive? What additional software systems are integrated into your site?

Some technical features will create extra hurdles at the implementation stage; for example, if you’re using Ajax to update the content users see automatically, your analytics software will probably require event tracking configuration to interpret user activity correctly.

 

Step 4: Create an implementation plan

Now it’s time to go through your analytics software and work out what you’ll need to do to get the data feeding through to it. This will involve tagging each area with specific code snippets that your software can recognise – these will be provided for you by the software developer. At the very least, you’ll probably need to add a standard tracking snippet to your site’s code; you may also need to add filters so you’re only getting the data which is relevant to your business objectives.

You also need to know where to look in your analytics interface to find your KPIs. To make things easier, you can usually customise the way your interface displays and reports the data it records.

 

Step 5: Refine your plan

Once you’ve implemented your analytics tracking, your measurement plan is complete – for now.

Over time, your company will naturally change and evolve. Customer buying trends will shift, you’ll focus on different goals, and your website will develop to encompass more features (which may require moving to new development and server technologies). Your analytics will have to stay in sync with your business, or you’ll be left with data which isn’t fit for purpose.

For example, you might start marketing your site on social media, in which case you’ll need to track it as a separate marketing channel and measure the engagement you’re getting from your social presence. As a more extreme example, perhaps your business model will develop from selling physical products to offering subscription-based digital services, which will require more emphasis on retaining customer loyalty.

Take stock of your measurement plan every six to eight months, and make any necessary tweaks to your analytics setup along the way. If you have any big changes coming up, such as the development of a new website – make sure analytics goes into the planning discussion as soon as possible. This will ensure your data remains as a powerful tool for driving your company forward.

For more information on how to get to grips with Google Analytics, and for more help and advice with web marketing, follow Advantec on social media for all the latest posts from our blog.

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