Learning Analytics: What I Wish I Knew Then

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We’re just about a month away from our Introduction to Digital Marketing course in Chicago. One of the topics we will be covering on January 22nd  is Marketing Analytics. Dave Rohrer will discuss the finer points of setting up a marketing dashboard. He’ll also cover what you can learn from your analytics and he’ll review a few different analytics packages and tools, among other things. As I was thinking about the upcoming class, I decided to ask my marketer friends on Facebook what one things they wish they had known about marketing analytics earlier in their career. Here’s the exact question I asked:

What’s the one thing you wish you knew about analytics & measurement earlier in your career? The thing that would have helped you most as a marketer?

And here is what they had to say:

 

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Teri Gidwitz Have a solid strategy when you set your analytics up (even how you are tagging your pages, links, etc), so you know what you want to measure, so the data is being collected in a way that allows you to use it optimally. Make sure your IT partners are stakeholders so they are enablers, not inhibitors. Some IT decisions can be very difficult to work around from an analytics standpoint.

James Cordeiro Combining Goals & Funnels! If anyone who uses Analytics, does not have Goals & Funnels set up – they are not using Analytics to its absolute utmost amazing ability of tremendous advantage information! Attach along side this, Goal flow and Experiments – you’re on the right track.

If you do not have something in each of these categories happening in your analytics account – you are missing out big time. Every time I take on a new client, and get into their analytics left behind by other marketers – I NEVER see these set-up. I don’t get it… maybe its use is misunderstood, or, it’s scary looking to new marketers. But good golly use them!

Augie Ray I wish earlier in my career I’d realized that people will settle for ILLUSION of metrics rather than invest in the metrics that matter. I hope that doesn’t sound too cynical, but I’m appalled at how much focus is put on things like clicks and even (depending on the industry) conversions while ignoring the larger impacts to brand affinity, purchase intent, NPS, etc. SO much of digital metrics is about direct marketing in a world that increasingly cares about what brands stand for.

Cassie Allinger Analytics should be considered at all stages of website development and management, but most importantly, during build. If analytics aren’t taken into consideration when the website is being built, it’s likely that you’re not going to be set up to use all of the tracking capabilities available to you.

Ameena Falchetto That real time analytics are a distracting and only mildly more interesting than watching paint dry.

Ovetta Sampson That people lie…not on purpose but unconsciously and incrementally. So when you look at analytics you have to account for the whole human thing. Correlation DOES NOT equal causation and if you really want to extrapolate your analytics and measurements to account for consumer behavior then you better brush up on your scientific methodology or hire a Ph.D. scientist because you can’t do it with data alone. A lot of marketers get the data and have no idea what to do with it and use junk science methodologies to make decisions that have no basis in proven reality. Data alone doesn’t tell the story. Humans are known to act against type for all number of untold reasons. Data is better than ever today but it isn’t the whole picture. It isn’t the holy grail and if you aren’t a student of the behavioral sciences – anthropology, psychology, sociology- you won’t know what to do with it.

Rusty Speidel How to ignore useless data. There is sufficient data available now to tell any story you wish to tell, so how do you make sure you’re only measuring what MATTERS to YOUR business, and that provides actual insight? I agree with Augie. It’s a hot topic right now–big data, big “insights”–but it’s largely useless if it isn’t focused.

And yes–big data is not so useful in the softer aspects of business like sentiment and brand affinity.

Dane Findley My best analytics coming from simply being in the trenches — working on my site every day for 4 years, you just start to get a sense of what will work and what won’t, before you even have to try it. ALSO: I wish I could have told myself years ago that everything works a little bit, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to try “everything” so you have to just pick a couple of key areas, create a strategy, and throw your weight behind those exclusively. Community Management is an essential piece of the puzzle, but it’s a huge time sponge. The more important piece is to keep Google happy (even though no one likes to say it directly like that, it’s so politically incorrect, yet true). The 3 analytics I look at each week are: uniques, average time on site, and referring sites (In that exact order).

p.s. it seems important to mention that A/B Testing (that thing that everyone talks about but few people actually do consistently) is essential to success, but it’s heck-uv expensive and time consuming. It’s a good thing that I’m a total nerd otherwise all of this would be excruciating! HaH!!

stats serve different purposes in a company then they do for a solopreneur. In a company, you often need to present analytics for political reasons — people love numbers in meetings. For a solopreneur, there is no meeting!

Data

Gini Dietrich I wish I’d known how to read a P&L and balance sheet.

Aaron Biebert What gets measured gets done. If you measure and distribute meaningless stats to your team, they will work on improving them. Measure what matters.

Jeremy Powers 1. Measure net revenue and EBITDA, always. 2. Always keep “the numbers” handy. Create a “bible” of recent metrics, and keep it with you. 3. Percentages are fun, but dollars pay the bills.

Andrew Ciccone Do not fall into the self-fulfilling prophecy trap. Support your conclusions with sound rationale and supporting data.
I loved a lot of these comments, and I’ll leave you with one simple quote that is one of my all time favorites. The origin of the quote is apparently subject to some debate and some incorrectly attribute it to Einstein. It was found hanging on the wall in his office, but I dot believe it has been affirmatively attributed to him. Regardless, it is this:
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
What’s been your experience with analytics? What one thing do you wish you knew earlier in your career? You data experts out there, what ONE THING would you recommend to a newbie digital marketer who came to you asking for guidance or assistance?
Images courtesy of JD Hancock and Teosaurio via Flickr creative commons license.

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, full service digital agency based in Chicago, Illinois. 312 digital provides high performing websites, SEO, content marketing and other online marketing services to small and medium sized businesses across the US. He speaks and blogs about SEO, content creation, social media and a number of other digital topics. Sean has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. You can find him on .

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9 comments
HughAnderson
HughAnderson

I love some of these, especially the ones about ignoring useless data and real-time data. I'm an accountant by background so I love data but I now understand how 90% of the PR industry hates it! In this world of increasingly noisy big data, my own tip - at least for SMBs - would be to really nail defined KPI's and then, as far as possible, follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) :) 

KateFinley
KateFinley

Great round-up of advice! Thanks for sharing, Sean! I'm booking mark this.

saltlab
saltlab

Personally, I wish I understood the maxim "If you aren't willing to make changes based on the data, don't bother measuring it." Would have saved me a lot of hassle.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @HughAnderson I find it sort of sad that any industry would eschew data like that Hugh, but I'm not terribly surprised. @ginidietrich  has found the same thing I think in terms of the PR industry being allergic to measurement.

 

Do you have any favorite KPIs to measure, or do they tend to vary by project?

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @kateupdates Thanks Kate! What's been your experience with data? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Hire that stuff out? Do tell!

HughAnderson
HughAnderson

 @ginidietrich  @Sean McGinnis Ooooh, now that's a bigger debate. I think you're right, but I don't think I'm qualified to comment on the American education system. Might an option with that be to just get the a great blend of the best right brain and best left brain people working together?

Ref KPIs, I guess it depends on the business, but the typical marketing funnel is as good a place as any to start: new leads, new customers, total rolling customers, total sales, % gross margin, OP, and (crucially) cash.

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