Creating useful analytics reports that a client can understand is hard. In a rare guest post, Dean Levitt from Teacup Analytics shows us how.
Web analytics reporting can lead to delightfully positive outcomes. Despite the all-too-common feeling that analytics is baffling or nebulous, when presented in the right manner, regular analytics reporting plays a remarkable role in driving billable hours. Reporting helps you discover opportunities in the data to act on, in turn helping your clients grow and creates new work for you. Reporting helps increase revenue and sustain long term client relationships!
So, how do you sell analytics reporting to your clients? It's simple, really. Start by discussing what analytics can do for them.
People want to know if their social media efforts are paying off, or, where their new visitors are coming from. Reports that focus on answering your clients questions, with qualitative context, are easy for clients to consume. When clients can look at a web analytics report and "get it" then that's reporting done right. Reporting adds value to your client (and to you), in a number of ways so try talking about the following ideas with your clients.
Web Analytics Reporting Helps Your Clients Understand Their Site
Regular reporting helps clients have a realistic idea of their site performance and to see where they can improve. They’ll understand how many visitors they’re receiving, which channels are driving new traffic and what visitors do when they get to the client’s site.
Reporting demonstrates the role that their website plays in their overall business strategy and along with this understanding, you’ll be able to suggest good ideas that grow the business or improve performance.
To maximise your client’s understanding of their reports, go beyond sessions and how many mobile visitors showed up. These are often known as vanity metrics, and while they’re important metrics, they can become far more insightful when paired with qualitative metrics. I’ll explain below:
A classic example of vanity metrics in a report is the Google Analytics Audience Overview:
There is, quite frankly, no true understanding to be had here. Sure, you can see a trend over the last few weeks, but so what? Did these visitors purchase something? Did they book an appointment with my client? In a nutshell, were these visitors the right visitors?
We can say “hey, we attracted about 100,000 visitors to your site” and claim a victory but unless these visitors are taking the actions your clients needs them to take, your client will lose interest in the reports and in you.
To gain real understanding from a web analytics report, talk to your client and, together, consider the role that their website plays in meeting their business needs. For example, if your client is a moving company, they need people who visit their site to submit a request for a quote. The role of their site, in this instance, is to generate leads. When aiming to understand the website performance and its contribution to your client’s bottom line, a quote request is the conversion that provides context.
When a client is curious about their new visitors, or the impact that their SEO investment is having on organic traffic, don’t point to visitor sessions. Start with the number of visitors who ask for a quote, i.e. visitors who convert. This helps your client understand how much value they get from the website and their online initiatives.
To gain deeper understanding, explore the conversion rates, and perhaps other engagement metrics, of each channel or segment or even specific landing pages. You’ll understand which content is doing its job well, which channels are high quality and, conversely, where improvement is needed. This is real understanding and will leave your client feeling in control of their online destiny.
We’ll look at some examples in the next sections.
Discover Growth Opportunities With Analytics
Data-backed decisions that lead to growth increase your value to your clients. Web analytics reporting reveals those growth opportunities. Simple as that.
Channels with the highest-quality visitors are the channels to grow. After all, if something's working, do more of it. Whether it’s through increased investment in SEO, growing referrals or raising your SEM budgets, the data can highlight where your efforts are best focused.
The methodology behind uncovering channels that warrant growth is quite simple and was, to my knowledge, first coined by Tim Wilson of Analytics Demystified. In nutshell, it looks like this:
The idea here is to analyse web traffic data with minimal math, and easily figure out which channels are the right ones to invest in growing. You’re looking to discover the channels that have above average conversion rates but are low volume. These growth-ready channels are attracting engaged, high quality traffic and it’s time to turn on the gas! So let’s take it step by step:
Step 1: Get a graph – just a regular old square. The x-axis will be the number of sessions (visits) the site gets while the y-axis is the client’s conversion rate.
Step 2: The middle of this graph is the average. There are a few ways to calculate the average. I’ll explain two methods, the quick method and then my preferred method.
The quick method to finding your middle point on the graph is to look at each channel’s number of visitors for a given time period (a week, a month, a quarter) and then simply divide by the number of channels to calculate the mean. Then do the same for conversion rate.
My preferred method of finding the average is to calculate the weekly average over the past three months. This helps smooth out any outliers up or down. In other words, we’re finding the historical average and to compare the current performance to.
Step 3: Lay out your channels on the graph. If you followed my preferred method of calculating your average, then I recommend laying out the current week’s data against the longer term average. You’re comparing your current performance to your recent historical performance. This helps highlight which channels are performing above or below average.
Step 4: Any channels that sit in the green area – the growth zone – are ripe for growth. These channels, like I mentioned above, already attract high quality traffic so it’s logical to try and get more of it.
This can possibly feel a bit confusing and time consuming but there are indeed tools that help make this easier. My own Teacup Analytics handles this automatically.
I’ll demonstrate with a snippet from a Teacup Analytics report:
Teacup already calculates your averages over the past few months and then qualitatively grades your current traffic based on engagement metrics like conversion rate. The point is that this report analyses which channels are performing well and attracting high quality visitors and and which are performing below par.
To get to the nub, channels that are high quality, like B’s, A’s and A+’s are ready for growth. In my example, I would recommend a client increase their investment in social media because it’s performing well (a grade of B) and it’s somewhat in the middle of the pack in terms of “activity.” You can see that according to the above graph, Social sits in the growth zone.
I’d might also recommend we increase our efforts to grow organic search traffic. Whatever it is we’re doing is clearly working so let’s go all out! To re-state the idea – if something is working, do more of it! This methodology also applies at a granular level. You can look at segments of traffic type, or device type or even affinity groups to find the best opportunities for growth.
By looking at each channel with this context, you and your clients readily see which channels are high quality. This should inspire action that grows client revenue.
Optimise The Visitor Experience With Web Analytics Reporting
Reporting uncovers what isn’t working. If optimisation is the quest for the ultimate user experience then web analytics reports are the map. When you and your client can quickly see what isn’t working, you can make changes and get your client back on the pathway to long term success. Web analytics reports are like the GPS of the online world.
Let’s take another look at our channels and their quality:
Do you notice the channels like email, paid search and referral traffic? Should we try to grow those channels too? And what about direct traffic?
To quote Bryan Eisenberg, in his book Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results:
Trying to increase sales simply by driving more traffic to a Web site with a poor customer conversion rate is like trying to keep a leaky bucket full by adding more water instead of plugging the holes.
Until we can increase the quality of those channels’ traffic, or optimise the visitor experience for those visitors, growing the traffic would be a waste of effort and money. Reporting is the safeguard against the wasteful leaky bucket scenario because it helps you and your clients focus on improving the right channels.
Growing channels ripe for growth, and optimising for the low quality channels, results in a delightful user experience for your client’s audience, increased profits for your client and, ultimately, a long term positive client relationship.
Reporting Gives Your Clients Confidence In You
Confidence comes from clients understanding why your recommendations are worth acting on and worth the investment. Confidence is that feeling when you take data-supported decisions and know you are likelier to succeed.
Reporting, combined with intelligent targets, tells you and your client that you’ve invested your time, energy and money in the right actions. And in the event that things don’t go exactly as planned, regular reporting alerts you to the need for adjustment. With insight and understanding, you, and your client, can act with confidence!
Confidence doesn’t just come from having regularly glanced at web analytics reports though it does certainly begin there. The second, yet equal component of confidence comes from measurement. Measurement means setting reasonable targets for your initiatives and then measuring the impact you have with KPIs (key performance indicators). Effective measurement means knowing when you’ve succeeded, or when to call it quits.
I describe, in detail, how to calculate targets based on past history here although, at the risk of bragging a bit, Teacup does it automatically for you:
Measuring results is fraught with mis-direction. Spikes up or down can cause your client anxiety and obfuscate a genuine improvement. The solution is to show averages over time, both before and after you’ve taken the action on your client’s behalf.
For example, let’s say you’d like to grow your client’s mobile search engine traffic. You recommend a mobile-first redesign to your client, and they agree. To best show that this was worth the expense and effort, you’d measure the average weekly mobile organic search traffic for the three months or so after the redesign and compare it to the avg. for the three months preceding the change. By showing averages, you avoid the noise that outliers can cause and, help your client feel confident that the investment was worthwhile.
When is comes to combining measurement with reporting, you’re seeking to answer the client’s question: is my SEO strategy working? Anything that doesn’t contribute to answering that question is superfluous. If your goal is to increase organic search traffic for a client, the report should show only organic search traffic along with the qualitative metrics like conversion rate to help the client grasp the value of that traffic.
Make the report, and measurement, one and the same.
Confidence is the cumulative effect of understanding website performance, realistic goals and ongoing monitoring.
Analytics Reporting Equals Accountability
This is, arguably, the most compelling reason to offer web analytics reporting to your clients. Long term relationships are built on trust and accountability and nothing engenders trust quite like accountability.
Reporting shows your clients that you’ve worked hard for them. You demonstrate that you’re willing to stand behind your recommendations. You’re willing to act on your client’s behalf and subject the results to sunlight.
When your clients can see the results of your efforts, they’ll continue being clients. And they’ll refer business your way.
Five Reasons To Sell Web Analytics Reporting To Your Clients
And there you have it. Five ways that reporting benefits your clients and benefits you. A simple emailed report or two, and you’re providing your clients understanding of their website, you’re showing them opportunities for growth, you’re helping to optimise their visitor experience, building the confidence needed to make positive changes and holding yourself accountable.
These five ideas are a foundation on which to build your own business’ success and the best part? It’s easy!