Analytics Tip of the Week: Define Your Success

By Jay Adamsson

Welcome back to Week 6 of our series: Analytics Tip Of The Week.

Every Monday morning we’ll be providing a quick tip for your website Analytics. We’ll be presenting topics not just as a “how do I do this”, but “how can this help me”. Data alone may be interesting, but it’s only when we use the data that it becomes valuable.

Quite often, our tips will be Google Analytics related, but not always. Remember, there is a lot more to website analytics than just Google Analytics. We can’t forget other properties like your social media analytics, how best to implement Google Analytics, and perhaps the most important of all: reporting results in a way that makes sense and prompts continual improvement.

Forget Your Analytics – Define Your Success

One of the first things you should do for your Analytics is to forget you have Analytics.

Yes, that’s correct – ignore your Analytics. Just look at your website (or your website plan) without thinking about Analytics.

Why would we do this – isn’t it all about the Analytics and the reporting? No, it isn’t. Analytics is just a tool to help you determine the success (or lack of success) you are achieving, and to help you improve. If you want to measure your success, the first step – which is often the hardest step – is to define what success means.

Sometimes it’s pretty easy. An online store is successful when they sell a product.

Sometimes it’s really hard. What is success on a website for a non-profit that wants to change the world?

In Analytics lingo, the term you will often see used is conversion. If I were to define a conversion, I would say it is “an action carried out on your website by a user that is considered a successful interaction”. This is why it is so important to define success – if you can’t explicitly list what is a successful interaction, you can’t measure it. And unfortunately, most websites do not have defined a successful interaction.

Macro vs. Micro Conversion

Google (and most of the other literature) talks about macro and micro conversions.

A macro conversion is the big success. It might be an on-line purchase, making a donation, signing up for membership, or asking for a quote. These are the events that are cause for celebration as they increase, and big worries if they decline. They have a direct connection to the success of your organization.

A micro conversion are the smaller activities that indicate a user is getting closer to your objectives. Signing up for a newsletter or updates is not in itself a big success (usually). But they indicate that you now have an interested user that has given you permission to talk directly to them – and you are now one step closer to a macro conversion. Other micro conversions might be downloading your e-book or white paper, adding an item to a shopping cart, viewing certain pages or more details on a product, or using the site on your search. Each of those items don’t necessarily lead directly to the big, important macro conversions, but they are steps on the way there.

Why are micro conversions important? They help you identify areas on your site where you may be losing users before they reach the macro conversion stage. They also allow you to better evaluate the true impact of changes on your website.

But My Website Doesn’t Have Anything Like That

If your website falls into the category where you can’t really identify any conversions, don’t feel bad. The majority of small business or organizational websites fall into this category.

We tend to call these “brochure sites”. They present information to a user, usually from the perspective of the organization, but don’t really engage the user. At best, they have a “Contact Us” page that rarely, if ever, gets used.

If this is the case, it’s time to start thinking about how to improve your site. Sometimes that involves some simple adjustments. Sometimes it’s time to start over again with a good web designer.

I Have My Conversions – Now What?

Well, if you have your conversions, you are one step closer to having an effective website. When you identify conversions, you should also identify targets for these conversions. Again, sometimes this will be easy, and sometimes it will be challenging. But you should be able to create a table with target audiences and associated conversions.

One big tip when defining audiences – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER say one of your target audiences is the “general public”. This is lazy, and always inaccurate. You can always be more specific. The general public is not an audience – not everyone is interested in what you are offering. Sorry to be so harsh, but if you have “general public” listed as an audience, go back and try again.

Once you have your conversions, and only then, it is time to start thinking about your Google Analytics (or some other Analytics system) again. You want to capture when a user converts on your site. This is where your Google Analytics really starts to shine.

And it is also where you will be glad you used Google Tag Manager to capture your Analytics data (you do use Tag Manger, don’t you?)