Web Analytics Reporting – Part III: Get Feedback

Published December 19, 2013

Good reporters listen to their readers. Good web analytics professionals listen to their audience. After you send out your web analytics report, you should work hard to get feedback.


The Feedback Loop

In Part I of this series, we talked about how important it is to know your audience, and form an idea about what kind of data they want to see in a web analytics report. While this is a good starting point, the problem you may have discovered is that much of your audience will tell you is rather vague, like "show me what is driving engagement on our site".

Now that your audience has a report from you in hand, they will be able to give you much better feedback. For example, you may have provided a breakdown of engaged visits by referral source. After seeing this, your audience may tell you that what they really need to know is what content is most engaging to visitors from different sources. So, in the next iteration of your report, you'll want to include a chart that breaks out the most visited pages by referral source.

Think of this as a feedback loop. Each time you send out a report, you have an opportunity to improve on it based on feedback from your audience. It is a collaborative development effort. If you have ever done software development, you know that you never get it right the first time. Only after many iterations incorporating feedback from users, does the software product begin to take shape and become truly useful. The same principle applies to web analytics reporting.

The Passive Audience Problem

What if your audience doesn't want to provide feedback? Often times, the people you work with are just really busy and its hard for them to sit down and think about what they need in a web analytics report. You are going to need to work at it. Try to get some one-on-one time on the calendar with they key people who receive your report. If that doesn't work, try just walking over to their desk with a copy of the report and asking a few questions. Be persistent.

You don't want to find yourself in a situation where the first feedback you get is at the big meeting. People may be looking at your report for the first time and start finding fault with it. The criticism can snowball and is unlikely to be constructive. Protect yourself from that scenario by getting feedback from individuals before important meetings. Get through a few iterations of the report before you find yourself on the spot to defend it.


This is the last post in a three part series. Hopefully, it has provided you with a framework for going about the task of creating useful web analytics reports. It starts and ends with the audience and your report is always a work in progress. If you have questions or comments, please leave them here, or head over to our forums.

Part I: Know Your Audience
Part II: Tell a Story
Part III: Get Feedback


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.