Digital Analytics Helps You Measure Your Website Objectives

Anybody who has a small business website should sign up to this fabulous and free online course on digital analytics which will help us all take advantage of the enormous power of Google Analytics.

Digital Analytics tools like Google Analytics Help You Measure Your Website Objectives
Digital Analytics tools like Google Analytics Help You Measure Your Website Objectives

What is Digital Analytics, a.k.a the evolution of Web Analytics

In the definition of the best story teller among web analytics evangelists, Avinash KaushikWeb Analytics 2.0 is:

(1) the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition,
(2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have,
(3) which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline).

Addressing the importance of digital analytics, this informative video guides us to address the type of customers we serve and the business goals we can address through the power of digital analytics.

Know Thy Site: What are your website objectives and how can you measure them through digital analytics?

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

According to Google’s Digital Analytics Academy, the five common business objectives for websites are:

  1. First, for ecommerce sites, an obvious objective is selling products or services, for ecommerce websites.
  2. Second, for lead generation sites, the goal is to collect user information for sales teams to connect with potential leads.
  3. Third, for content publishers, the goal is to encourage engagement and frequent visitation.
  4. Fourth, for online informational or support siteshelping users find the information they need at the right time is of primary importance.
  5. And finally for branding, the main objective is to drive awareness, engagement and loyalty.

I decided to use the list above and determine the type of business objective for some of the websites I manage either personally as a blogger, collectively  with my colleagues on behalf of my employer, or as a website optimization consultant on behalf of my clients. As it turns out, I have quite a variety of websites with diverse business objectives:

Taking the time to reflect on the type of objective applicable to a website is deeply satisfying — a delight for geeks, I would say — because it sets one on the course of actually managing, rather than just maintaining a website. And there is no better tool for managing through measurement than digital analytics. Peter Drucker would be delighted with the power of the tools we have easily accessible today!

How Can Website Optimization Help You?

optimizely_logo_BLUEToday I attended a fabulous session of the Web Managers Roundtable at AARP which featured a presentation by Dan Siroker, the former Director of Analytics for the Obama campaign, and co-founder of the A/B testing company Optimizely.

As the group of 50 or so professionals were presenting themselves, I couldn’t help but notice how for so many organizations analytics falls in the same category as social media. Then again, as Dan mentioned in his presentation, on the Obama campaign anything that was not well understood went under the New Media umbrella 🙂

Titles aside, clearly the Obama’s campaign did many things right as demonstrated by Dan with a couple of data points:

  • Facebook friends – 2.4 million for Obama vs 0.6 million of McCain
  • YouTube video views – ~100 million for Obama vs ~20 million for McCain
  • Unique website visitors – ~130 million for Obama vs ~30 million for McCain
  • ~$500 million raised online

In his presentation, subtitled “Lessons from Obama to Haiti”, Dan Siroker who had been approached also by the Clinton Bush Fund for Haiti in helping them optimize their fund-raising campaign, shared five lessons:

1. Define Success

Define quantifiable success metrics, for example:

Website click thru rate = # of clicks / # of impressions

Email signup rate = # of signups / # of pageviews

Raised money per recipient = $ amount raised / # of recipients

2. Question Assumptions

This was one of the most fun parts of the presentations because Dan engaged the audience in a live multivariate testing. He showed us several variables — for the media and for the button on the splash page of the Obama campaign website, that were considered two nights before the Iowa primaries — and had us all vote for what we felt would be best. Very few of us guessed what the data had shown to work best — the “Learn More” button and a “Obama family photo”. And that was exactly the point — that by questioning all assumptions and relying on data, you can arrive at gradual improvements that lead to real results.

Selecting the “Learn More” button for the email signup over the previous “Join Us Now” button had increased signup rate by 18.6%.

Choosing the “Obama family photo” for the media choice on the splash page had carried additional 13.3% of improvement over.

The majority of the participants, myself included, had chosen a rousing, inspiring video from the Springfield conference but as Dan explained, the function of a splash page is to quickly skip it and get into the site, thus the media choice had to be something simple — a long video had its place but on the splash page.

The combination of these two optimization factors lead to a 40.6% combined improvement which lead to approximately 2.88 million additional email subscriptions, 288,000 additional volunteers and $57 million additional contributions. That is real money!

3. Divide & Conquer

This lesson was illustrated by another demonstration of a multivariate testing, this time indicating that audience matters — what might work for one audience, or time, or place, might not work for another audience.

4. Take Advantage of Circumstances

You can never predict life, so with all the data and powerful tools you might have at your disposal, you still need to have the flexibility to adjust course depending on what circumstances present themselves to you. A couple of well known examples illustrated well this point. Being present in the moment is important for all of us but probably even more valuable to a number person!

5. Start Today

Indeed, with tools like Google Website Optimizer and Optimizely (whose public beta I hope to join soon), there is no need to postpone starting to optimize your website! Shall we start? Let’s do it!

The Beauty of Data Visualization

I just read a fascinating article in the Financial Times, “The hidden beauty of numbers”. Three websites dedicated to data visualization are profiled:

IBM’s “Many Eyes” project is a data visualization website which enables users to load, visualize and discuss numbers.

Swivel is another site allowing people to share and display data. See an example of a Swivel chart based on data of the box office sales for the first four Harry Potter movies:

Harry Potter conjures up profits at the box office

And now the really amazing stuff: Gapminder, software developed by a Swedish professor helps make statistics almost playful by mashing data and presenting it through animated bubblecharts.