Reporting Is More Than Graphs & Numbers
One thing is certain -- Google Analytics provides immense value to marketers for viewing website data. This near-instant access to practically endless data makes it easy for interns to quickly pull together charts, copy and paste them into a document, and deliver them to clients. However, that same near-instant access can also encourage sloppy reporting. It’s far too simple to pick a few charts and tables, download a few PDFs and send those off to clients without giving much thought as to why those charts and tables are important.
To many clients, a document full of graphs and numbers means little or nothing. Proactive reporting takes setting aside previous knowledge you have and taking on the persona of the person you’re preparing the report for. For example, say you’re a business owner unfamiliar with web analytics. If you received a report that looked just like the screenshot below, would you know what to do with it? Sure, you can figure out that the graph correlates to traffic on your site, and probably guess what Users and Pageviews are. But do you know how Sessions and Users differ? Can you find the larger story about how these numbers relate to the health of your site and business? Probably not. In fact, you probably expect your agency to extract the insight from these numbers and present it to you in a way that is relevant to your business.
As an agency accountable to clients, simply pulling screenshots or PDFs from Google Analytics is not enough to convey performance in way that is meaningful to your clients. Clients need to understand what the metrics in the reports mean and how those metrics relate to their business goals. That’s where finding the right reporting platform comes into play. A solution like Megalytic can help translate analytics data into a format that clients can better understand, leading to better reporting.
However, in order to utilize a reporting platform and be able to properly explain the data to a client, an agency staff member needs to understand the client’s business and how metrics from analytics relate to that client. An intern, or a junior staff member who’s just joined the company, will not have the same level of knowledge as an account manager or PPC manager who has worked with an account on a daily basis.
For example, an intern may pull a graph that shows a spike in traffic on a particular day; however, he or she also likely won’t know the reason for that spike. On the other hand, a higher level staff member who works with the account regularly would know that the spike correlates with the launch of a new website, accompanied by heavy promotion. That person would take the time to comment on the spike within the report, explaining the reasoning to the client.
In addition, if a client sees a statistic that looks negative, he or she might become concerned unnecessarily. Once again, an intern may not take the time to note that lead submissions have decreased from last month, or that Bounce Rate has increased. The staff member with better knowledge of the account will take the time to diagnose a reason for the change.
An intern may not have the background and knowledge to be able to select what elements to include in a report and which are unnecessary. For example, in the overview screenshot above, there is no date range comparison, and so the client has no context to know whether the numbers shown are higher or lower than normal. In addition, while some metrics are important, a client may not readily care about all the metrics presented, such as the percentage of new Sessions. A higher level employee will have the background to create a custom analytics report showing the data that actually matters to the client.
Reports Need to Take High Priority
Reports tell the story of how well the campaign achieved the clients’ goals. Handing someone an auto-generated PDF with no explanation, or a Word doc of hastily pieced-together screenshots, doesn’t demonstrate to a client the full value of your work. Your client needs to see you put the same level of care into reporting that you’ve put into the rest of their campaign.
Reports should reflect your understanding of your client’s industry and goals, and how web analytics relates to those goals. Take the time to adapt reports to your client’s level of knowledge and desire for information.
For example, one client may prefer a detailed table of numbers, like the below screenshot showing traffic, engagement and conversions by Source/Medium.
This is helpful for pointing out how specific marketing channels performed. For example, you can point out that Google paid traffic (google/cpc) drove the highest quantity of conversions, while Bing paid traffic (bing/cpc) drove the highest conversion rate. Again, this observation is more likely to be made by someone actually involved with managing the online advertising campaigns than by an intern.
Another client, however, may not care about nitty-gritty details, preferring simple graphs showing trends over time. Preparing a big picture analytics report for an executive requires just as much care as creating a report with fine details.
The owner of a company doesn’t have much time to read and will likely skim a report. You want to be able to summarize the metrics that will mean the most to him or her, making any successes stand out. For example, the below graph shows growth in organic traffic over the last few months. While the CEO may not care about week-by-week numbers, he or she should care about seeing the red line trend upward.
Educate Your Team on Reporting
Just because your intern shouldn’t be the one solely responsible for reporting doesn’t mean you should stray away from educating interns or new employees. You should seek to educate everyone in the company about building effective digital marketing reports. You can walk interns through a templated report you’ve built and show them how to generate a new one. Once they’ve generated the framework for a report, higher level staff can review, customize further and add their comments.
Everybody working in your agency, whether a website developer, PPC account manager or intern, should understand the goals of your clients and how their work contributes to achieving those goals. Looping everyone in on the reporting process will help to ensure that the right story is told, accounting for everyone’s work that helped to drive success for a client.
So, should reporting be tasked to the intern?
The job of creating reports should not be solely or primarily tasked to the intern. While an intern or entry level employee may be able to help generate reports that have been previously templated, higher-level staff members with hands-on client involvement and in-depth understanding of online metrics should oversee, and ultimately be responsible for, the reporting process.