Launching a website should never be a “one and done” experience. Data analysis is critical to ensuring your site is optimized to best meet your goals. The beauty of analytics is that you don’t have to ask your board for a budget — there’s lot of meaningful metrics that you can bootstrap yourself and put to work immediately.
We’re so inspired by the analytics work of our client Entomological Society of America that we interviewed their database manager rockstar Katherine Matthews to get her top six areas every organization should measure and leverage:
1. Personalized content is key.
“When you have the same website for 5+ years, it’s easy to fall into the ‘It’s just a website’ mentality,” notes Katherine. “But now that ESA has a Ferrari of a website, there’s no excuse not to use analytics to build personalized content.” And with analytics, you can continue to learn more about audiences so you aren’t working from the same assumptions you had at launch.
For example, she used data to determine that ESA wasn’t optimizing the transition (or profits) from student members to professional membership. Katherine’s analysis determined that ESA’s student members weren’t voluntarily moving themselves out of the student membership category after graduation. Not only was ESA leaving money on the table, but they weren’t best understanding their pipeline to their early professional membership category.
A simple change (adding a custom field in their AMS to note graduation date) fixed the issue. With better personalization, they can now tell members about early career education content and awards so they can get the right message to the right audiences and boost retention.
2. It’s more than just monitoring pageviews.
At the least, start looking at dropoffs (to figure out which are converting or promotion actions that aren’t happening) and determine your most visited pages. As Katherine discovered, “On our old ESA site, it was assumed that the most popular pages would be about our meeting and our journals, but in fact, it was our career center. We track stats and see that it continues to dominate, so we’re looking at the best ways to build that content out further.”
To dig deeper, set up Google goals and do conversion tracking. While Katherine notes this requires more work, it’s something ESA wants to start getting into since they have great data on marketing pieces (open rates, click throughs) but haven’t yet connected it directly to their website data.
3. Little changes can add up to big differences.
Katherine noted that simple data analysis can yield hefty returns. She used analytics to convince chapter leaders to stop sending out separate emails and consolidate their emailing through headquarters.
While the chapters were at first a bit hesitant to give up control, her data showed a 20% higher open rate with the headquarters’ email address. They were all on board after that!
4. You don’t need to create a new position to tap into analytics.
It all comes down to being willing to tap into things your staff are interested in. Katherine started by helping someone update an Excel report, and then dove in for more.
ESA is attuned to things their employees are interested in so they promoted her to a full time data position, but if you have talent and interest already, TAP IT.
You probably have someone on staff with a hidden talent for data visualization, html, etc., so keep your eyes open.
5. Share the data with your entire team.
It’s critically important to involve the staffers that own the data and have a stake in the analysis so they can help understand the nuances that you might not. Avoid the firehose of data.
Katherine also goes to all of their chapter meetings in spring, as well as annual, which really helps ESA understand their audiences. In this way, she’s not just running numbers, but picking up real-life data that she can align with her meeting anecdotes so they aren’t analyzing in a vacuum.
In the past, Katherine would provide data visualization on request, but now she’s “looking at ways to take legacy reporting and spin up new angles on stuff we’ve been looking at forever.”
6. Just because you can track it doesn’t mean it’s important.
As a note of caution, it’s important to remember that numbers can be distorted for individual purposes, and within any organization, people inevitably have different incentives, conflicts, and challenges.
Not everyone will get insight out of data, and you’ll also need to consider the learning curve in how people understand what data means.
Katherine’s final recommendation? “Take the time to talk to your consultants on what they’re doing for other clients in your industry or outside the industry to learn about new frontiers and best practices. Knowing ‘is this normal?’ across your consultants’ clients and industries can be valuable insight to back up your own observations.”
How are you leveraging data and analytics to your advantage? Share your stories in the comments below.