Paul Thornton - Friday 1st June 2012

It’s data Jim, but not as we know it

It’s data Jim, but not as we know it!

I am, I guess, reasonably analytical by nature but that doesn’t mean that I’m a huge fan of massive spreadsheets and complex data analysis – anyone who knows me well will laugh at the idea of that I’m sure. In fact, for those of you who are familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality typing, I tend towards intuition and feeling which is quite the opposite. Which is perhaps a long way round of saying that, even though I’m not by nature data analysis oriented, when it comes to online marketing, and doing business online, I don’t just like data, I LOVE it! Here’s why:

It’s probably fair to say that the most common mistake we see people making online, is just not tracking the right things, so they don’t have the right kind of data to enable proper decisions. It’s a given that most people have some kind of Google Analytics in place (although a shocking number still don’t), but for the large part GA is just reporting huge amounts of data which actually has very little value to the business. Not that the data isn’t accurate and smart, just that it’s not what you really need to make proper business decisions. Visitors, time on site and traffic sources are all fine. But on-one’s going to get really excited by them. When we tell clients that we can show them exactly how many sales, dollars, enquiries or leads are generated by every specific keyword entered into Google, every link on every email, every Facebook post or Tweet they do, then we start to get a bit more excited about things!

Knowing exactly what your business needs/wants a visitor to your website to do is the first stage – make sure you write everything down that has an inherent or implied value to the business. Sales are easy of course, but tracking completions of contact forms, quote requests, free downloads, video views, loan (or similar) calculations, all provides you with a whole new level of data.

Now you can look at Adwords, and see exactly how many business outcomes (whatever they might be) are being generated by every ad you run and every keyword you bid on. For just about every client we’ve worked with, getting this information just transforms marketing. Suddenly you don’t have dry data, you’ve got real, actionable information. That expensive high-traffic keyword that took up 70% of your monthly budget didn’t produce a single sale/enquiry? Great, we can now move that budget to the keywords which produced great returns, or we can just save a load of money – both are excellent outcomes.

Or you can look at your SEO work in a totally different way and look in a different way at those keywords you spent a lot of time and effort in ranking well for. Which ones are really producing the outcomes you need? Sometimes the keywords you think you want to rank well for aren’t actually producing the end results you need. So we move the effort to places where it will produce more ROI for you. If you’re doing display advertising, wherever it might be, knowing exactly which ad/image/copy is producing not clicks, but real business outcomes, will change the game for you entirely.

Of course, branding and visibility are important as many will, rightly, argue. But they’re not more important than business outcomes, not by a long shot. So if the former is all you’re tracking, you’re light years from where you need to be.

With the right kind of data, you don’t need a team of Business Analysts or Statisticians to help you make decisions, it becomes much more of a business decision than a detailed technical analysis. If you could see exactly what every marketing dollar you’re spending is producing for you, you’d know what to do with that information I’m sure.

And that’s why, even I can get excited about the getting the right kind of data. Not tracking these critical actions is, well, illogical, Captain.

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