December 5, 2017

Utilization of web analytics varies a lot around organizations. Many companies have a Google Analytics account (or corresponding tool) in place, but too few of these organizations take full advantage of it. But why is that? Shouldn’t the benefits be obvious?

This blog article digs into challenges, causes and prerequisites on what does it take to utilize web analytics effectively. At the end of the article we provide practical tips on how to take usage of analytics a bit further in your organization.

Observations presented in this article are gathered from Finland, but many of the findings can be used abroad as well.

Challenges in organizations

Challenges related to utilization of web analytics are very organization-specific. And these challenges or obstacles are usually a combination of several causes. Typical excuses in organizations are lack of time and lack of resources. In some cases, this might even be true, but I’d say the question is more related to appreciation and culture regarding data analysis.

More practical reasons are lack of proper competences, and the fact, that analytics tools are quite difficult to use. Modern and continuously developing tools require modern and up-to-date skills.

One of the reasons is also, that validity of analytics data lacks trust. Data should provide business benefits, but the decision-makers won’t be convinced without hard evidence. This is also related to appreciation and culture.

Required ingredients: Resources, tools and culture

First of all, a prerequisite for success is sufficient amount of time and active participation from your own organization. Utilization of web analytics shouldn’t be entirely outsourced. I strongly advise to use external partners to complement your skills and provide expert knowledge, but external partner can never know your business environment as well as you do. Best outcome comes from close cooperation between internal and external actors.

Selecting the most suitable tool is the smallest of your challenges. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are commonly used free tools that will give you a flying start. If data ownership is a top priority, then Piwik is a good choice.

Just remember, that these tools require proper configurations, so plain default setup is not so useful. There are plenty of other tools also available, but start with these and think the tool set further only when your own understanding and your organization’s needs grow.

Then the difficult part: gaining appreciation and building a suitable culture for analytics. There are some rare occasions, where organization has been able to create a data-driven culture. In these organizations, web analytics data is appreciated, and data plays a significant role in decision-making.

But typically, this requires extra work. Not from “them”, but from you.

Organizations need at least one person, who is genuinely excited about web analytics. This person needs to take sort of a torchbearer role and start building a suitable culture bottom-up. This person should be active and curious, and have the ability to challenge current practices. Talk around your organization, ask questions, share information openly, show respect and try to gain mutual understanding.

Pro-activeness generates positive results. Sometimes slowly, but surely.

An example: Give useful tips to business management without them requesting for it. “Hey Mary! Have you noticed that these five organizations from your sales territory are spending time on our website, and have downloaded the following product brochures?”

These kinds of approaches should arouse interest. And as interest grows, your organization starts to give something in return, e.g. by guaranteeing proper conditions for analysis, or showing appreciation by requesting more information from you.

Naturally the suggestions based on data should result in real actions, but this is something a torchbearer can’t control, so focus on providing relevant suggestions.

5 practical tips on web analytics utilization

In general, possibilities regarding utilization of web analytics and other data increase all the time. Yet many of the organizations are still struggling with the basics. Here is some practical advice that can take you a step or two further:

  1. Before doing anything, define objectives for the wholeness: Not just for your web site, but everything related to data utilization and people involved.
  2. Start building the suitable culture for data utilization in your own organization. Be proactive towards business management.
  3. Involve more people around your organization. Usually the people who benefit from analysis are completely different people than those who work with web analytics.
  4. Allocate adequate resources, both internal and external.
  5. Ask three times ”Why?”:
    • Why did we receive less orders than usual in last month? –> Conversion rate decreased on the whole web site.
    • Why did the conversion rate decrease? –> Our AdWords campaign generated unexceptionally low amount of conversions.
    • Why did the AdWords campaign generate such a low amount of conversions? –> We got the clicks, but the advertisement was re-directing to 404 page and the visitors ended up to a dead end.
    • (P.S. This was a real-life example, where a bunch of hot leads and ca. 1000€ monthly advertising money was saved by analyzing web analytics data.)

One more practical tip: Start already today!

Note: This article is a translated and slightly modified abstract from a two-part article series published earlier this year. Credits regarding many essential thoughts in the original articles go to our visiting specialists Lassi Tomminen and Rami Karhu. Thank you, guys!

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