Using Data to Make Decisions in a Mostly-Digital World
Mostly everything that we do as humans is recorded, logged, and stored in databases with the intent that people can make sense of our actions and provide us with more customized experiences and better products. The problem is, individuals often get bogged down by the details, unable to show correlation or causation. They let their precious data go stale because they night not have the right training or the right tools. If you know how to interpret the information before you, you can make informed business decisions that will lead you on the path of success. I have compiled a few key performance indicators (KPIs) for several different marketing media. There are obviously many more, but these can get you started. If you have any questions, please use the comment box at the end of this post.
Whether you have a robust ecommerce site, or a simple one like this, it’s important to always keep an eye on your analytics. Your analytics tell you how people are responding to your content or products. If you don’t have some sort of tracking system installed, I suggest Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. They’re free, and provide a boatload of information.
Bounce Rate: This is one of the first things I look at to determine whether a site is successful. It essentially tells you how many people are visiting your site and only looking at the page from which they entered. It is fairly impossible to achieve a 0% bounce rate, and by most accounts, 25% is the best achievable rate. Anything higher than 60% may be cause for alarm. If you have a high bounce rate, you may want to check the pages that are throwing the highest numbers, and determine why your site isn’t engaging users.
Keywords: The keywords people are using to get to your site from search engines tell you a lot about your users and how they are finding you. Unfortunately, in recent years, Google has made it harder to access keyword information due to privacy concerns associated with the search queries of logged-in users. That being said, you can still access keywords from (up to) the past 90 days within Webmaster Tools. If you’d like to improve upon a keyword’s ranking, I advise revisiting your SEO strategy and filling in gaps.
Site Content: Remember when I said that Content is King? Well, I meant it. The quality and integrity of your content can mean the difference between success and failure. Take a look at your top site content pages. You can learn a lot about SEO and the amount of time that users are willing to spend on a given page. What does the page consist of? If you use your site for ecommerce, are your top content pages also top revenue-generating pages? Use the answers to these questions to draw conclusions about your users, your user experience, and future strategy.
Social media is one of my favorite places to use data for decision making, because it consists of platforms that are made specifically for interpersonal engagement. And if you use it correctly, your content can grow legs. Most social platforms offer analytics components to users. You’ll have to drill down into each of them to understand the nuances of each platform, so for now, I will speak in broad terms.
Engagement: For all intents and purposes, I’m going to lump shares, comments, likes, and clicks into the “Engagement” bucket. Some platforms may have insight areas that highlight each of these items. The better your content is, the more likely people will interact with it, which in turn leads more people to see it and do the same. Pay particular attention to the types of posts that garner the most engagement. Does your audience prefer links or video? Photos or text? Engagement is how your contents’ legs grow.
Reach/Impressions: Sometimes it’s referred to as “Reach” and other times it’s “Impressions.” They’re one-in-the-same, and refer to the number of users who physically saw your content. More impressions mean more chances for engagement, which ultimately mean more opportunities for you get in front of prospective customers. Impressions are the legs that your content grows.
Internal & External Email Communications
I’m of the school of thought that you can apply the same basic knowledge to both internal and external email communications for your organization. While the actions that you take as a result of your data may differ, the KPIs are still the same.
Open and Click-Through Rates: Open and click-through rates vary by industry, so it’s critical to keep an eye on your industry’s benchmark numbers and compare them to your marketing activities. For the love of all that is holy, please play attention to these numbers. They provide critical information about how many people are opening your emails and clicking through to your website (or wherever you’re sending them). If your open rates aren’t great, perhaps you should try more engaging subject lines, different types of emails, or start sending more infrequently. If your click-through rates dip, make sure your calls to action are clearly highlighted and are perceived as valuable enough for someone to click on and wait for a page to load.
List Growth: Keep an eye on the number of people subscribing to or opting out of your email list (this may be a non-issue for internal comms folks). If your unsubscribe rates are increasing while the number of new subscribers are decreasing, it’s time to revisit your strategy. Many email marketing tools allow those who unsubscribe from your emails to write a message; I advise that you read those, even if they can be nasty at times.