Is it time to review (and use) your digital marketing data?

by Annie Clare April 20, 2020
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Are you meeting today’s customer needs? In the current unsettled environment, the when, where, how and why people interact with our brands will change. Effective use of digital analytics tools and techniques helps us understand how our audience is engaging with our brand, today. Information that will help us quickly adapt our strategies, user-experience, content and marketing activity, to meet the needs of today and ultimately improve return on investment.

Using digital analytics for informed decision-making

As we lose access to traditional ways of doing business, there is a renewed urgency to focus on digital assets (websites and Apps) and digital campaigns. Ultimately, we want to attract, retain and grow the value of our customers. But rather than taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach, we want to do this with a keen eye on managing our limited time and budget.

While in the digital environment we are blessed with data to help us make informed decisions, this raises a key challenge: Which data to use and how to use it efficiently and effectively?

In this article I’ll summarise the data sources and practices I recommend as a foundation for digital marketing analytics and optimisation.


For Descriptive and Diagnostic analytics (What happened? Why did it happen?)

While descriptive and diagnostics analytics look back and report what has happened, this doesn’t mean that you need to wait a long time to use it. End of campaign or end of month reporting might suit management needs, but lets not miss the opportunity to use our data in-campaign to monitor, review and optimise as we go.

1.      Google Analytics

Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics track user behaviour on your website or App. They are a great start for getting a quick central, de-duplicated view of acquisition, behaviour and conversion on your website.

Pros Cons
    • There is a free version
    • Gives de-duplicated counts of visits and conversions on your website or App
    • Fairly easy to set up and the user interface is very intuitive
    • Gives an understanding of marketing channel attribution, onsite behaviour and conversions
    • Provides audience profile information such as geography, demography, interests, technology
    • Can be sliced and diced for deep insights
    • To get useful data you will need do at least a small amount of initial work to set up some custom tags, and ensure your campaigns are correctly reported.
    • In the GA reporting interface you need to go into multiple reports to get the data you need. To get an efficient snapshot view of your specific key metrics, its best to set up either custom reports or a dashboard.
    • It doesn’t have data on what happens prior to your site being visited (eg impressions, email opens, social engagement etc)


2.      Advertising platform & search analytics

Advertising platforms such as Facebook and Adwords along with Google Search Console, email and CRM tools offer data on interactions with their campaigns and platforms (eg email opens, ad impressions, engagement and clicks).  Most also can also be set up to attribute to key conversions on your website.

While there is some very valuable data, it’s worth remembering they are ‘marking their own homework’. Inevitably there are some generous definitions of ‘conversions’ from these sources and you’ll find that if you add them all together your cumulative total is far higher than the reality (and hence ROI is being over reported).

Pros Cons
    • The reporting comes free with your advertising account
    • Intuitive centralised dashboards bring together all the data relevant for that platform
    • Takes little or no extra set up, other than defining a ‘conversion’
    • Good for granular optimisation within that advertising channel eg which LinkedIn post worked better and less well.
    • Generous attribution rules means the platform may claim a conversion optimistically (and multiple platforms may claim the same conversion)
    • Only report on the unique platform – to get a central view of all your advertising channels you need to extract and combine the data, or use a web analytics tool.
    • Report minimal behaviour once the user is on your website.


3.      Dashboards – everything in one place

As far as collating meaningful and digestible data from both web and marketing analytics, a well designed dashboard is an excellent solution. They are a huge time saver as once configured you don’t need to waste time manually extracting, integrating or manipulating data – meaning you can focus on the insights and actions. Further, dashboards enable us to easily share this ready-to-go data across multiple stakeholders, taking others on the journey with us.

Tools such as DataStudio are free, or you can use the likes of Tableau or Domo. You can centralise into one dashboard your key GA and advertising data, email platform, CRM, search console, Google Sheets data and much more.

Pros Cons
    • Some free tools are available – eg Google DataStudio
    • Timely access to the key metrics, all in one place
    • Lots of visualisation options to ensure the data is easily digested
    • Can easily create different versions for eg a high-level Management Report and a more detailed Campaign Optimisation report.
    • Huge time saver – removes the need to manually extract, centralise and visualise data to present
    • An easier way to access GA data without knowing your way around the GA reports interface, and without having the add filters or segments whenever you use it.
    • Can be easily shared, downloaded or set up with an automated send.
    •  Gives you data and indicators, but not data mining, deep insights or recommendations
    • Needs an initial build of the Dashboard, however this is fairly intuitive for those who want to learn themselves, or quickly set up by an expert
    • Are only effective if well designed, based on identification of the key and meaningful data. Avoid meaningless ‘vanity’ metrics, or a dump of too much data.


For Diagnostic and Predictive Analytics (Why did it happen? What will happen if…?)

The previous section talks to data collection and topline reporting – what happened and some elements of why. To inform more sophisticated strategy its helpful to look for deeper insights as to why things are happening, and what we can change to make different (better) things happen.

1.      Insights

There is much more data sitting in your sources than you would bring into a dashboard. This data can be mined for greater insights. If you dig deeper into Google Analytics or business intelligence tools you can find out much more about:

  • Which segments of your audience are behaving differently, and therefore how you can prioritise and communicate with them differently? Using ‘averages’ will mask this.
  • Which content, products or messages are contributing more to conversions?
  • What time of day or day of week your activity is more effective? (and this can vary by channel or segment)
  • Which calls to action are working better? (on your site or your marketing)
  • Where people are abandoning your site or check-out funnel?
  • Indicators of a future conversion
  • The lifetime value of a user, versus a session-based behaviour
  • User and segment profiles by geography, demography and interests
  • And much more
Pros Cons
    • Gives you some really valuable insights that inform business cases or immediate changes to your website or marketing activity
    • Takes a good understanding of the data available (or to be collected) and time to pull together a strategic deep dive


2.      Testing & Optimisation

A testing program and optimisation tools can deliver huge improvements in both your website and campaign performance. A testing program is a process, while optimisation tools such as Google Optimize can facilitate both testing and personalisation on your website. There are also a number of landing page testing tools available.

Pros Cons
    • Some tools offer free versions (eg Google Optimize)
    • The ability to gather real data from A/B or multivariate tests to inform future changes on your website
    • The ability to make data driven decisions on marketing strategy and tactics (rather than opinion-based decisions)
    • You can test and learn quickly – if you’ve got a hypothesis you can get it into real market conditions very quickly
    • Depending on volume, it can take a bit of time to run a test before results can be analysed and acted on
    • A testing program that doesn’t have strategic focus, hypothesis to work with and adhere to principles such as statistical significance, can result in meaningless insights or incorrect decisions based on flawed interpretation.


Final thought: Keep it simple, timely and valuable

There are many tools, processes and metrics available to help with data-driven decision making. Where you choose to focus your next efforts depends on how mature your current digital analytics program is.

Getting up and running with concise, useful data that gives you insights and informs decisions doesn’t need to take a long time or be budget heavy – often the greatest progress can be made in these early stages. Most of the data sources and tools listed above offer free versions, and an experienced digital marketing analyst can set you on your way quickly.

While marketing analytics and data can be over-whelming, a few principles can keep things manageable, timely and valuable. I recommend considering four questions to guide your digital analytics efforts:

  • What is my decision-making objective?
  • What do I need to understand to help make those decisions?
  • What data do I need to give me that understanding?
  • Will this deliver ROI? Analytics should enable better use of development and marketing budgets. If the costs out-weigh the benefits, then why do it?


Annie Clare Consulting helps brands take the guess-work out of decisions, through data-driven insights, strategies and optimisation.

Get started with a free Google Analytics audit and plan, to help step up your data-driven decision making and meet your customers’ needs.



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