Keith Errington

marketing strategy
07860 267155

Measuring up to the web

Web analytics are seen as the marketer’s scientific justification for online marketing, but analytics are useless if the measurements are based on flawed thinking or poor methodology.

Why measure?
This may seem like a redundant question to some, but it’s a good opportunity to point out the implicit obligation in measuring – which is: are you going to make decisions and change strategy or implementation as a result?
If not, why are you measuring?
No really, if there is not the commitment to take action based on the results of measurements - there is no point to measurement – stop now!

Remember that simply measuring something changes nothing.

Analytics should go hand in hand with a culture of constant improvement. Sustainable online success only comes as the result of continued effort and a non-stop commitment to adjustment and support – support from search engine optimisation, advertising, content creation, social media marketing, PR, and all the other strands that make up a comprehensive marketing effort.

What to measure?
This is the key to the success or failure of the analytics exercise – get it wrong, and you could be at best wasting the budget, and at worst, acting on poorly chosen measurement data that could result in extensive damage to your marketing efforts.
Imagine a situation where dentists are paid based on the number of fillings they perform in a given period. Does this reflect the amount of work they are doing? Yes. Does it improve the nation’s health? Of course not – in fact it positively encourages dentists to give us bad advice so that we ruin our teeth and encourages them to ignore maintenance and remedial work – maybe even performing fillings that are entirely unnecessary. (And before any dentists complain – mine’s great by the way – I am talking hypothetically).

So where to start? Start with the goals of your organisation and work down to the goals of your marketing plan. Then work out how those goals can be achieved and measured. Look at identifying a few key performance indicators to check progress.
But then reflect back at these indicators and back up this chain – do they really help in assessing whether the marketing objectives are being met? And the organisations?
Working back from the indicators, look at all the possible implications of measuring these and acting on them. Make sure that they do not imply courses of action that run against your marketing plan or organisation’s objectives.

How to measure?
Just because we now know what we want to measure doesn’t mean that it is measurable. We may have to accept significant compromises in matching what is capable of being measured with what we would like to measure.
If so we again need to check they are truly appropriate for the task.

You may have to face the fact that some key performance indicators may not be measurable under any circumstances.

What was the real reason your customer bought a product? Was it in fact because their mother said it was a great product, and not the search engine ad?
Was it because your competitor uses flash on their website - which their browser had problems with – and yours did not, so they bought from you?
How could you possible measure this?
Perhaps a friend bought it for them and the registered owner of the product had no say in the decision whatsoever?

Make sure the measurement is unbiased – it’s very easy to construct measuring systems that will simply confirm what you want to hear.

What to do with the data?
Two issues here – analysing the data to extract useful lessons from it and taking action based on that information.

Any statistics related to the Internet are always highly suspect – there are still too many variables to draw detailed conclusions from most data sets. However, trends in the data are generally very useful and indicative.

Statistics can be tricky things – often reflecting the analysts preconceptions – the history of science is littered with cases where inconvenient measurements were ignored or misinterpreted because they didn’t fit the conventional wisdom, or where measurements were selected to fit some political agenda.

Once data has been analysed and key points have been extracted from the results, these should be presented to decision makers in a format they can understand and relate to. In a scientific environment this is all you may need to do, however in a business environment most decision makers would be looking for recommendations as to what action should be taken or what conclusions should be drawn.

It is also vitally important that this whole process takes place within a timeframe that makes the measurement meaningful.
It is no good measuring social media sentiment and delivering a report two weeks after the brand has been thoroughly trashed by bloggers, twitterers and Facebook users.

Finally, and most importantly, to reiterate the point made at the beginning, some action should be taken. (Which admittedly, might include carrying on doing what you are doing because it’s all working!) Otherwise it is all a pointless exercise.

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