Hear – Listen – Communicate

Obstacles to Preparing Data
September 14, 2009, 8:08 am
Filed under: Enterprise web analytics adoption, Measuring Performance, Taking action

Obstacle # 1 – Preparing Data to the People

From a management perspective we think we have it handled.  We have purchased all the tools needed to collect the data.  What is really happening is an increase in time spent manually reviewing this data in various products and constructing the “Monthly Dashboard”.

Cause #1 – Lots of data – in lots of places

Data comes from many sources; WebTrends, ExactTarget, Banner Ads, You Tube, Twitter, Blogs, Special Events, Tradeshows, Offline Marketing, and on and on.  Each one with their own ways of exporting data into our beloved tool:  Excel

Ask any “web analyst”, “online marketer”, “SEO specialist” what their largest frustration is and preparing the data will be top on the list.  Whether this is appeasing Sally in Marketing who is launching another campaign with different metrics or Jack the SEO who quite simply wants to understand the percentage of brand phrases used to find our content, trended for the last year.

Cause #2 – Data Formatting or Re-Formatting

Each source presents the data ever so slightly different.  That said, the data usually has to be massaged a bit (cleaning up URL’s, test data, Page Names).

While many applications have turned to great visual representation of data, this does not help when trying to consolidate into a single report.

Area Usage – Fantastic when in the board meeting discussing the page redesign.  Excellent when meticulously reviewing as your key landing page.  Useless when trying to understand the other pages on your site using the new ABC News Widget.

Trended Metrics – Vendors, we love these.  Keep using them and making them better.  But how about allowing us to choose the URLs presented?  Until then we are stuck with exporting the data on a weekly or monthly basis ourselves.

Same Dimension, different measures – In a dream world, data would be presented together in the same tools and then exported out.  This is not however the case.  I won’t name the vendor screenshots below, but I will say it is their brand-new UI.  If I wanted to understand each pages bounce rate:  I would need to go to 3 different reports.

Cause #3 – Combining and Correlating Data

If  you are lucky enough to have a good amount of raw data, you may be able to combine some of the rich social data with your own sales or marketing work.  A great practice, but again, timely.  If you are not lucky enough, you may try to kill yourself trying.

Combining your data with other baseline stats both validates and creates context for your data.  Whether that be comparing your search traffic to that of the total searches on Google to comparing your traffic to that of other sites and topics.

Now, after you feel you have enough data to prove your point, you have to tie it all together for the accountants.  Excel, PowerPoint and RedBull are in your future.

Even if a company has this system in place, the question then becomes how much time and resources do we spend each month preparing this data and could we be doing it more efficiently?  If it take your company days or weeks to finishing the preparation of this data who is keeping a watchful eye on what is currently going on with your web site and marketing campaigns?  For most companies the answer is obvious (nothing); we cannot look at current statics until last month’s data ready to report.


1 Comment so far
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Well taken points, obviously straight from the front lines.

At Xchange last week, Bob Page from Yahoo (and formerly Accrue) made an interesting comment that resonnated with everyone.

“He said that web analytics is often expected to be like accounting wheras in reality it is more like statistics. And statistics means you can never say anything with certainty.” (not that 2 accounts ever agree on anything)

This seemed a useful guideline for picking a piece of data that you can make sense of. Formulating a good enough theory and trying it out to see if it works.

Another good guiding light is probably to focus energy on things you can control vs. trying to measure and measure and measure.

Oh well, preaching to the choir.
Thanks for a great post!

Comment by Akin Arikan

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