Approach: Making Data Driven Decisions
A planned approach for the analysis of data gathered from various data collection tools yields a comprehensive picture of performance of a digital strategy and the coordination of its fundamental elements in the contribution to the success of that strategy. Consistently collecting and regularly reporting data allows organizations to make strategic and tactical decisions based on evidence. It also allows gaps to be analyzed and successes celebrated on specific achievements and goals. A Digital Analytics Program (DAP) should collect metrics across four main categories: Web/Mobile, Media, Email, and Social Media. Additionally, customer satisfaction metrics can be used to triangulate stakeholders’ assumptions related to progress checkpoints established by the digital strategy.
Federal digital properties are required to abide by the federal government’s DAP Framework. The approach outlined here collects more information than required under the federal guidelines.
Establishing a timeline for reports and delivering them consistently will increase their use by stakeholders and allow for timely decisions. Monthly reports for most websites make the most sense. Dashboards that show a snapshot of metrics can be helpful as well. Additionally, quarterly or annual metric recaps are extremely helpful for planning purposes. Those who should receive analytics reports should have the opportunity to review a sample report and dashboards to give input on their usefulness and usability. Training on how to read the reports and interpret some basic data is critical. In cases where there is a campaign or event, a special date range for reports can be requested.
In each regular report, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and dimension data, both explained below, should be compared to the previous reporting period, the same period a year ago, and benchmarks. Benchmarks are a set of goals for a site based on past performance and similar sites.
The Federal DAP provides select metrics from across the federal government for comparison.
Strategic Goals and Audience Profiles serve as the main thrust behind decisions regarding content and digital communications. The purpose of the DAP is to validate assumptions and help direct decisions regarding digital strategy. To ensure the most useful data is being collected, those receiving the regular metrics report will be queried every 6 months initially to judge the format and content of reports to ensure they get the best use. Once an analytics program is well established, the program should be reviewed annually.
As mentioned above, there are four key areas included in an analytics program: Web/Mobile, Media, Email, and Social Media. Each is defined below in detail.
Primary Web Metrics
The primary metrics outlined below illustrate the growth of an organization’s reach, as well as the depth of interactions and engagement with visitors. These are contributing factors to measuring the relationships built with the audience and the stickiness of content.
Key Performance Indicators and Dimensions
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are specific measurements tracked over time to illustrate performance. KPIs may also be called Common Web Performance Metrics. The following table shows common web performance metrics that should be used as KPIs.
Common Web Performance Metrics
- Unique Visitors
- Total Visits
- Page Views
- Total Video Views
- Avg Pages/Visit
- Avg Visit Duration
- Avg Time on Page
- Avg Viewing Time for Video
- Bounce Rate (%)
- New vs. Return Visitors
- Avg Visits/Visitor
- Total On-site Search Querie
- Video Views
Looking at the above from different perspectives adds dimension to the data. These lenses through which traffic is analyzed are important to measuring the health of a site (or sections of it) and determining if goals are being met. Dimensions allow the separation of traffic into groups based on traits or behaviors. Expectations and baselines for KPIs may vary based on each dimension and the objectives of each group while on the site. Here is an illustration of the model.
Common Dimensions for Metrics
- Day (24 hour)
- Most Popular Pages/Sections
- Most Downloaded
- Most Shared
- Most Subscribed (RSS feeds)
- Most Viewed Videos
- Most Searched Terms
- Offsite Links to Site
- Referring Domains/Site/Page
- Referring Search Keywords/Phrases
- Browser (Web & Mobile)
- Browser Version (Web & Mobile)
- Mobile Devices
- Screen Size
Segments of a website can be measured as well as the site overall. Specific content types or content related to a specific campaign, topic, program, or person, leadership in particular can be used to filter metrics.
In addition to code from an analytics tool, like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, being placed on pages and templates, tracking parameters can be used in URLs referring to the site in external communications, such as email or social media. These parameters can provide a better understanding of the effectiveness and efficiency of those channels.
Customer Satisfaction Metrics
Collecting feedback from a random sample of visitors to the site about their impressions, priorities, satisfaction, etc. reach a very small percentage of a site’s overall traffic and can have a negative effect on user experience. The use of these surveys should be strategically considered and the questions carefully crafted. The data is considered supplemental to more concrete analytics, and not even satisfaction scores can be considered KPIs. The information collected can serve two helpful purposes:
- Validating assumptions derived from analyzing KPIs
- Adding dimension to audience profiles
There are two main categories of requirements and metrics for media: press list management and media monitoring.
Press List Management
Outreach to the media should allow a press team to build, segment, and grow contact lists, as well as the ability to send and track emails, via a single tool.
- Service should maintain a thorough and accurate list of press contacts at a range of media outlets, including non-English outlets
- An organization should be able to upload their existing contacts into the system, and media contacts should be able to self-subscribe to lists
- Recipient lists should be able to be built using segments to target messaging
- A service should have the ability to either send emails via the service or the service should integrate into the organization’s mass email platform
- Multiple templates should be available for sending, as well as multiple sender addresses and labels
- The emails sent will be classified as “transactional,” preventing recipients from unsubscribing
- Similar email analytics should be available as outlined in the “Email Metrics” section below, including the ability to monitor open rates
An organization should be able to tracking mentions of them and key leaders across online (including blogs), print, and broadcast outlets. A service should allow for filtering or sorting based on the source, author, format, release sent, or topic. Estimated reach of each outlet should be provided to gauge the impact any single piece has.
Email outreach requires testing message effectiveness, measuring successful message delivery, and maintenance of contacts.
- The ability to offer email subscriptions on a website and for subscribers to maintain their subscription preferences online
- List building/promotion from the email platform via a referral service based on similar websites and content
- Ability to create various types of distribution lists, including private lists accessible only by select internal users
- List segmentation for targeted messaging
- A/B Testing for subject lines and email content (through monitoring of open rates)
- Multiple sender profiles (display name and email address), as well as the ability to send commercial or transactional messages
- Multiple template options
- Automated newsletter creation and scheduled sending integrated with a web content management system with the ability to code and track email blasts to determine success of campaigns
Key Performance Indicators and Dimensions
While press lists and emails are sent via the tools previously mentioned, the KPIs below should be available for both.
Common Email Metrics
- Open Rate
- Click-Thru Rates
- New Subscribers
- Spam Reports/Blocks
Social Media Metrics
Similar to other channels, social media metrics reflect both the quantity and quality of the audience and the efficacy of the messaging. Some metrics for video are collected as part of web metrics, but some are listed below under social media.
Social events like Twitter chats, webinars, or live streaming require planning ahead of time to establish hashtags and trackers since historical data can be difficult to obtain without a flag in the ground marking the upcoming event.
Social Media Metrics
- Social Influence
- Content Engagement (Who clicks on what)
- Best Times to Reach/Engage
Hashtags when used strategically improve the ability to track conversations around a specific topic and amplify a message’s reach across audiences, spreading the message and engaging new participants in the conversation. Timing and consistency are important to getting the right metrics. For example, choose hashtags that are evergreen, like #dinner, to monitor a topic over a longer period. The same hashtag would need to be attached to all conversations about dinner for accuracy. For specific events, whether single occurrence or recurring on a schedule, a second hashtag might need to be added to separate those conversations, like #SundayDinner. To let people who usually follow #dinner that there is another event happening, use both hashtags to cross-pollinate the audiences.
As for measurement, impressions and accounts reached are important metrics. Determining key influencers in the conversation can help engage people who can amplify messages in future efforts. It’s also possible to see what messages had the biggest impact on the conversation to test other messages.
URL shorteners, like Bit.ly or owl.ly, allow for tracking of specific links to content being promoted across channels. This can help with A/B Testing messaging and timing of posts.