The deluge of data available to marketers has resulted in “data blindness”. We stare at graphs and charts on a screen, and struggle to draw any insight at all – let alone on a regular basis. What’s become so readily available is often set up because we know it should be (think Google Analytics, AdWords, heat mapping, IP tracking, email marketing…the list goes on).

Yet we’re not using it to inform actions, celebrate what we’re doing well, and perhaps more importantly, change what we’re doing not so well – we’ve become data blind.

However, putting simple processes and reporting in place is often all we need to draw insight, demonstrate the effectiveness of digital marketing and identify quick wins (as well as digital’s impact on the bottom line).

But how? Google Analytics is a powerful tool and it’s likely you already have it installed on your site.  However, without knowing what to look for, the data collected is doing nothing for you. Start using this data effectively today and write down a list of questions that you need your data to answer. Custom Google Analytics dashboards should then be set up to isolate what’s important to you and facilitate “at-a-glance” viewing of key metrics – PDFs of these dashboards can be exported and emailed to stakeholders as reports too (for rapid reporting!), and the data compared with any time period.

If you’re not sure where to start when setting up your dashboard, consider if it would be useful for you to find out answers to the following:

“What channel are my visitors coming from?”

Perhaps you’ve spent time on promoting your business on social media and now you want to compare the traffic you’ve received from this channel with previous periods?  Pull into your dashboard a widget (in table format) to display “medium” as your dimension and “sessions” as your metric. To find out if your traffic from search engines has increased, consider comparing data year on year (hopefully your organic traffic has increased if you’ve invested in developing your content).

“I need to know how my site performs on mobile devices”

Create a widget to display the device category your users fall into (mobile, desktop, tablet). Go a step further and include bounce rate to determine the device category most engaged with your site (this might tell you that your mobile experience should be improved, for example).

“I need to know what content people are landing on and how many conversions these pages are responsible for”

 If you don’t have any form of conversion tracking set up, do that now. The simplest conversion to track is often a destination goal (tracking the URL that users see when they’ve completed a form or a purchase – usually this is a “thank you” page). Use your new Google Analytics dashboard to present the top landing pages that result in a conversion. Perhaps this will highlight pages that needs improving, or, on the flipside, pages that need heavily promoting.

Importantly, if your optimised content now appears in the top landing pages (but was nowhere to be seen a couple of months ago) your dashboard will show this off for you.

“What countries/territories do my site’s visitor’s reside in?”

Perhaps you have a significant proportion of visitors based in the USA landing on your site and converting – does this mean that you should localise a version of your site due to the evident gap in the market? It’s time to investigate.

“In which cities do my visitors live?”

Maybe you ran a print marketing campaign in Edinburgh and Glasgow encouraging people to visit your site as the call to action. Has this paid off? Pulling in a widget to display users at a city level (and comparing to the previous period) will help demonstrate the effectiveness of campaigns like this.

Of course, the examples above are only a few of the metrics that you might want to report on. Over time, you’ll be used to interpreting your dashboard reports and will want more and more insight – and evidence that your efforts are paying off. The lesson to be learned here is that reporting on digital marketing activity does not need to be complex. It’s simple to isolate the important stuff and place it at the forefront.

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