Web analytics needs an audience to be useful. For, as a great philosopher once asked, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?". Analogously, we may ask, "If you get great insights from Google Analytics, but no one is paying attention, do you make an impact?".
Web analytics can only improve business results when decision makers are paying attention. That's why you need to publish regular reports and distribute them to management and clients. The first question to ask when setting up a web analytics reporting system should be "who is my audience"? The answer will depend somewhat on your job and the type of organization you work for.
If you work in the web analytics department of a large organization, your primary audience is probably the marketing department. These are the people who create campaigns and content that drive traffic to your web properties. Marketing folks will want to know how well their campaigns are performing. That could be measured in terms of traffic or goal conversions (e.g., newsletter signups). They probably need a weekly, or even daily, report. Start by meeting with them and asking them what they want to measure. Ask to see what reports they are using now. Figure out where web analytics can add value to the data they already have.
Small and Medium Businesses
In a small or medium business, your audience might be the entire company. Oftentimes, the CEO of a small business will want everyone focused on a few key objectives. Ask yourself if any of these objectives can be measured with Google Analytics. Things like traffic growth from specific channels are easy to track. Other metrics, like new accounts, require setting up goals and tracking conversions. Even revenue can be tracked using the eCommerce features in Google Analytics. Its probably a good idea to start by sitting down with a few key executives and learning what they want to track. If you can provide the analytics that they have specifically asked for, you will have gone a long way toward building an important audience. In this case, a weekly or monthly report is probably what is needed.
Digital Agencies and Freelancers
If you work for a digital agency, or are a freelancer, you most important audience is probably your clients. These clients are often the owners of the websites that your firm has built. If your firm did not create the client's website, then the client probably hired your firm to drive traffic or run specific types of campaigns (e.g., SEO, PPC, Social Media). Either way, your audience should ultimately be the client or the internal folks who represent the client. To understand their needs, first sit down with the Account Director/Manager - or whoever is responsible for handling all direct communication with the client. Reports that get created for the client will need to be cleared by this person. The Account Director may also want to see "internal use only" web analytics reports that show progress toward meeting client expectations. Lastly, the creative team most likely also wants to see the reports being used to track results. Within an agency, you have a few different audiences, each wanting to see a different set of metrics. To nail down the reports you need to publish, it will be necessary to meet with representatives from each audience.
To summarize, start your web analytics reporting initiatives by meeting with your audience and understanding the information they need, and how frequently they need it. Once you know your audience is, it will be much easier to design reports that have impact.
In the next installment of this series, we look at the importance of telling a story with your web analytics report.