Data isn’t scary! It’s a vital tool to use so you can create an action plan for your online marketing.
Data. It can sound like a scary word. But we promise, data is not scary! It’s actually a super interesting way to look at how your website is performing and make a plan of action towards success. In short, data tells the story of how people are experiencing your digital storefront and online marketing.
As we looked into this topic, we wanted to talk to someone who is used to looking at the numbers and data for businesses. We found Tera Holderman! We were fortunate enough to meet her at Social Media Week Lima 2019. And, she was happy to sit down with us for our weekly Training Tuesday live video to talk all things data.
Holderman is the founder and president of Pivot Point Analytics in Marion, Ohio. She was recently featured on Social Media Examiner's Office Hours podcast. She also works for the Marion Community Foundation as the Data Management Specialist.
Holderman started working in data and analytics by chance, after landing a director role for a local YMCA right out of college in 2006. Grant writing, statistics, and a lot of analytics formed a foundation that eventually led Tera towards getting her Masters for Applied Business Analytics from Boston University.
According to Holderman, data is all about collecting information to tell a vibrant story. It tells the how and the why of visitors and our traffic. And, it gives an opportunity for brands to maximize their sales. It helps them know what’s working and what isn’t. But, Holderman said, data without action is useless. You have to be able to find actionable insight from your data.
For website data, most people turn to Google Analytics. It’s a free tool that can get super in depth information from the web traffic your business receives on their web site.
Tools like Google Analytics have so much data that is can be overwhelming. You can spend hours upon hours just clicking around and looking at numbers. Holderman says you need to have an objective and know what you’re searching for.
“When I say data creates a story, you have to be able to find that story,” Holderman said. “It all comes with asking the right questions and knowing your goals and objectives.” What she means by that is knowing what it is you’re after. Just looking at numbers isn’t good enough, you have to be searching for a reason. Maybe you want to know how your blogs are performing, where people are coming from, and if they are actually reading the content. Once you have you number, you need to do something with it.
“You have that number. What are you going to do?” Holderman said. “If it means nothing, maybe you are looking at the wrong data or you’re looking at it wrong.
Sometimes people have the data, but they don’t do anything with it. It ends up getting stored somewhere. Holderman used the examples of customer emails. “Some people don’t even use it!” she said. “They don’t know how or what to do with it.”
Holderman says there are three types of data:
- Descriptive–what has happened
- Predictive–what you predict will happen
- Prescriptive–what should you do with that information
Before the internet, businesses had products and if the sales weren’t good they just thought the product must not be good. But now, you can see every little action the customer makes. Now you can determine if you aren’t selling to the right person or if the copy isn’t connecting with your audience.
So, you know what people have done. What do you want them to do? And, how will you get them there?
How to set up your analytics
If you haven’t set up Google Analytics or if you have and are just not sure how to use it, Holderman says to check out the free training course they offer.
To set it up, first make an account. Then, add the code to your website. It's a simple set-up and Google walks you right through it. By doing this, you are allowing Google to have access to visitors on your site and their behavior. It then takes this data and puts it into back into Google Analytics and lets you filter and sort through it.
Questions to ask to find the story within your data
This is hugely contingent on your industry and what your goals are, according to Holderman. But, let’s say you have a landing page and want to know if it working. First, you have to look at what the goal is or what would make it successful. Is it a matter of getting an email address or is it completing a sale? Is it a matter of gaining new clients or getting some repeat business?
Maybe you want them to read a blog. Are they staying on the page long enough? After reading the blog, are they moving to other pages? What pages are they clicking off and leaving the website? Where in the funnel are they dropping off? Is it because the link isn’t working? Are they leaving now to come back later? How is your repeat traffic?
You can also monitor and track from which sources they are finding your website. Are they landing on a blog from a search engine or did they find it on Twitter? Was it referral traffic from someone else’s website or email?
Does a page that you want people to spend a long time on have a high bounce rate and low average visit time? Explore that page and determine why that could be. Does the information need updated, spruced up, or to be more engaging?
It’s also important to patch all of the data together to get a cohesive story. Maybe your social media traffic doesn’t appear to be converting people at first. But digging deeper might show you that social media traffic turns into repeat traffic, which turns into an email drip campaign, which turns into a sale. Maybe your social media isn’t outright getting sales, but instead is increasing brand awareness so that eventually there is a sale.
Also, check out other sources of data and put them together to form a complete picture. What’s your social media analytics saying? How is email performing?
Data is an extremely valuable tool when it comes to determining what is working and how you can improve. If you haven’t gotten started, we highly recommend you add Google Analytics to your website today so you can start tracking your traffic.
Have you been tracking data? If you have questions about what you’re seeing let us know! We’d love to answer your questions.