Google Analytics For Poets


There’s a course taught at Columbia University called “Physics For Poets”.  I loved the name of the class the first time I heard it because as a physics course for non-science students, instead of calling it “Physics For Dummies” they gave it a . . . well a poetic name.  The simple name says so much.  Not everyone has the same kind of intellectual wiring and just because you’re a physicist doesn’t mean you’re smarter than a poet.  The other thing I like about the name is that it introduces a subject to people who might not otherwise have ever gotten to know it.  It takes the fear out it.

If you want to get better at blogging, Facebook, email or any digital marketing efforts, you have to understand the numbers coming out of Facebook insights, Google Analytics and your blog.  But you don’t have to be afraid if you don’t consider yourself a numbers person.  The most  important quality of a good analyst is not exclusive to math wizards–it’s curiosity.  In looking at numbers you are looking at the “what” but you won’t get anywhere unless you ask “why?”

So, while you have to be comfortable around numbers, it’s o.k. if you are not good at math. The important thing is to look at and understand what is happening with the numbers so you can get better at what you do.

Here is a simple 3-step process to understand the numbers that come out of Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Email, and other digital marketing efforts.  Web analytics is an art and a science and there is a lot to learn.  There is an entire discipline to knowing what numbers to look at, and this won’t tell you everything, but it’s a good way to get important information quickly. And, it is important that you clear away the data clutter that may result in analysis paralysis.

1. Start with one type of information that is important to you over a period of time.  It could be traffic, new visits, bounce rate, clicks, or any other metric.  Look at it in a simple line graph.  Now you have something that is not a bunch of numbers, but a picture.

2. Look at the highest peaks (and also, the deepest valleys.) Something happened there.  Something took off or something bombed.

3. Ask why.

Now comes the poetic part.

This is where you need to think deeply and creatively. Understanding why something you did took off or bombed is an art. You need to be able to connect seemingly unrelated data and come up with a conclusion that at least makes sense and is ideally, enlightening.  This is virtually the definition of creativity.

If you are accepting the surface information and not passionately pursuing what happened to get you those results, you’re going to get a lot of data and no information.  How to dig deeper into the numbers and truly find out what happened requires considering many factors.  Here is a checklist that may help.  The right questions will come from you but the best answer comes from the best questions.

*  Visual presentation

Always look at a visual when you are doing analysis. What did the design look like?  Where was the link? Was something in red? Was a photo good or bad?  How big was the “order now” button, in what order did information appear?

*  Content

What was the offer, the words you used,  the length of the content, the nature of the product, the complexity of the question?

* Time factors

What is the seasonality?  When was the last time you spoke about it?  Did it help or hinder to provide the same information twice? To offer a better sale last week? Was it a holiday, a  Tuesday, a morning?

Recognizing that a variety of factors determine the success of your marketing efforts is important.  A success may be the result of a great price for a popular product but you should not ignore the power of contributing factors and their relative weights.

Your curiosity will lead you to ask the right questions. What are you asking when you look at your results?

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