Justice Potter Stewart, opining in “Jacobellis v. Ohio”, famously said of obscenity that he could not define it but that “I know it when I see it”.
This trope may be helpful in making many determinations, but we are hoping here to make success in web analytics a bit more easy to define than that.
I think we know what failure looks like: lack of adoption, confusion, mistrust of the numbers, blaming the tool and a reversion to the age-old and rather pointless discussion about “hits” and “page views”.
Success looks very different, and here is how it does:
1. You have a strategy.
You can foresee your rollout schedule, your players and your business goals. You have identified your analyst and her role, your content agency and their role, your analytics agency and their role, and your IT department and their role; you have established rapport and touchpoints between the parties. You know what you want to get out of analytics. You have decided what your KPIs are and you know that the people you work with know how to translate those into actual reports and dashboards. You have stamped out distractions from lightweights who say “we can do it all ourselves” or “I once used Google at another job” or “let’s hold off until after we launch [we're too busy]“. You have identified your third party campaigns and made it clear those need to be tracked independently–not relying on the data coming back to you from the ad network. And you have made it clear you are focused on accurate reporting for business purposes.
2. You pay close attention to implementation
You have also made certain that the reporting layer of your analytics tool is accessible and intelligible. If you are truly successful, you will have also trained your internal clients enough so that they know what they are looking at, and can readily access reports that are important to them.
3. You use the data
Not only have you performed all the planning and technical work, you have also made sure you convene business owners within the organization to make decisions based on the data. Your organization knows analytics isn’t just “informational” but “actionable”. If a certain campaign is doing poorly, you will change it or end it. If people are accessing pages your didn’t expect them to, you will make those pages perform for you. You don’t accept excuses from your creative team that the “impact can’t be measured” because you have already measured its impact against your business goals. And if you have found the content wanting, you know how to get it changed.
The above is what analytics looks like when it’s really doing what it is supposed to do in the organization. It’s planned well, it’s executed well, and its implications are clearly understood and accepted by those who need to do so.
If you don’t see these characteristics in your organization, start with some research into who can help get your analytics program back on track and headed in the right direction. If you do see all these characteristics, and you are not very secretive, you may want to start speaking publicly about your success, as, likely, it is rare.