Saturday, January 15, 2011

Making Web Analytics Easy

One of the advantages the web offers over traditional forms of marketing is measurability.  This means we can understand the success of a site by how users interact with it - how many individuals visit, how much time they spend on the site, what pages they view, and even how they arrived.  No other medium offers the insight and ability for analysis like the web.  But knowing what analytics tool is right, what numbers are important, and how to approach reporting can be overwhelming.  As with most things, a logical and simple approach is the best way to begin - not only for you as a Project Manager, but for your clients, as well.

Determine what success means:  The term KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is used to describe the measurement of success for a site.  In simple terms, it means identifying what activity on your website will be a sign of good performance.  Success varies for each website - some sites are intended to grow subscriber databases, others aim to sell product, and the list goes on.  It's important that the metrics for success are identified in the initial planning stages, so that the site can be built with an understanding of what it's supposed to achieve.  

Select the right analytics tool: There are numerous options to choose from when selecting a web analytics tool.  Important considerations include business requirements (how sophisticated will reporting requirements be?), costs (up-front purchase and ongoing licensing fees), and overall usability (determine whether the client will access reporting directly).  For many, free tools, such as Google Analytics are more than sufficient.  Do your research and try and demo the products you're interested in before making a decision.

Make reporting simple: Once you have access to your site analytics, you should standardize the format and frequency of the report that will be generated.  Not every measurement is important to all websites, so pare back to the most critical metrics, or the report will lose its focus and impact.  Remember the KPIs that were set initially - build a report around numbers that will support these benchmarks.  Once you've determined what your report will look like, create a dashboard that provides a snapshot of the report.  Most analytics tools allow you to set-up a summary screen that pulls in select metrics.  This is the screen that appears immediately upon logging in, which makes it an effective tool if your client will access analytics on their own.  Many analytics tools also allow these reports to be automatically generated and distributed via email, based on a schedule you can control.  So, if your client wants a summary report every Monday, this process can often be triggered quite easily.


  1. Gina,

    I would like to add that often CMS systems can provide more detailed reporting than stand-alone web analytics software can provide but often firms don't have the resources to go over detailed reports so they stick to simple web analytics software that displays a summary of the activity on their websites.

  2. Nitin, very good comment. It's worth pointing out that many organizations do not invest in any form of analytics, simply because they don't have the resources required for ongoing assessment. For this reason, implementing easy to use solutions, and establishing templated dashboards and reports - anything that may save time - could help prevent resourcing challenges for some clients.
    I also agree that built in reporting systems, such as those found in some CMS frameworks, may also simplify the process, by not requiring a client to learn and use two seperate systems.