AUTHOR’S POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: As of April 2022, I no longer support or recommend the use of Google Analytics and for details as to why that is, check out episode 53 “Why I Un-Installed Google Analytics (And Why You May Want To Follow My Lead”. For analytics software options I do recommend, there’s episode 54, “How To Ethically Track Your Visitors”.
This is a transcript of episode 41
I’m Lanie Lamarre and when you see me in my office with a bunch of book behind me – those aren’t business books – for the most part, they’re books on the music industry because they’re my favorite to read.
Another thing I fan-girl for is good data but there are a lot of reasons why you may not have or be able to collect good data, but I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t mean you can’t forecast your OMGrowth moments with some degree of accuracy and that’s what’s we’ll “ramble on” about in today’s episode. (Rock music pun intended)
Let’s begin this little fireside chat with something up-lifting, shall we?
Data is just ONE tool available to you when it comes to forecasting and improving your results.
And if you’re relying solely on numbers to make your decisions, this is a mistake for a number of reasons and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
GOOGLE ANALYTICS ISN’T PERFECT
Whether you’re using the Universal Analytics and GA4 version of Google Analytics, neither version has perfect reporting. Fun fact about data analysts: they spend very little of their time and effort actually analyzing data because anywhere between 60-80% of their job consists of CLEANING data sources and data collection.
That’s because data is flawed and here are a few ways as to how that impacts YOU as an online business owner and digital marketer:
- Other data sources may run interference;
I discussed this a bit back on episode 11 when we compared the reporting from Facebook Analytics to Google Analytics, and the reality is they are each telling their version of the truth from their standpoint, and this information can be conflicting. For instance, Google Analytics may say you converted a sale from an email you sent while Facebook Analytics as it’s responsible for that sale because your buyer had clicked on their add; so, who is correct? Well, they both are. Facebook did introduce that buyer to you but they didn’t buy immediately and their last touchpoint with you before buying was that email.
So expect different data sources to tell you different stories
- Campaigns that aren’t tagged;
When you aren’t tracking your marketing, the platforms you’re using are going to make their best efforts to take credits for how they’re bringing traffic to your website. The problem is that all these platforms aren’t using the same or even similar naming conventions and this makes your promotional efforts complex to track, if they can be tracked at all.
This is why you want to use UTM parameters on any links you have – so you can track your efforts, YOUR way – and have the kind of agency and control you want to see about the campaignS you’re running.
- Your visitors session times out;
You’ve done this before: you open a gazillion tabs and whether or not you’re actually ever do come back to them, you can probably guess that this all-too-common online practice will impact how that session’s data is being collected and interpreted by online business owners and digital marketers such as your fine self. The way people behave online isn’t always cut and dry, and as such, neither is the way those behaviours are reported.
- Visitors coming from different and / or share devices;
Likewise when you switch between your work laptop to your mobile phone to your partner’s tablet. Unless you log into something like your Google or Facebook account that could link your sessions as being performed by the same person, the data may actually represent you as a “new user” on these 3 separate occasions.
- Cookies are blocked, disabled or cleared;
Because some people don’t WANT to be tracked. What’s more, as I discussed in episode 31, most browsers are blocking your ability to track as much as we have been to comply to it in fourth privacy rights that will only become more commonplace. Furthermore, privacy-focused browsers such as Brave or DuckDuckGo are becoming increasingly relevant and these naturally impact your tracking abilities.
- Your data collection set up.
Remember when I started off explaining that “ data analysts” would be better described as “data janitors” for all the cleaning they have to do? This is where that happens.
Whether it’s having duplicate pixels double counting all your results, or subdomains and cross-domains that aren’t properly set up, or any other conga line of errors you can – and probably do! – have with your set up, your data collection may not be entirely reliable
Your data is like your online house; you’re never “done” with keeping either of them clean.
If you want a simple to use dashboard that will audit your Google Analytics account for you, I’ll include a link to that.
And if you want help figuring out what data you want to get a grasp on to better inform in forecast for next marketing strategy, check this out
TRENDS FOR THE WIN
But data isn’t retroactive. While you can and should clean your data for better information collection moving forward, it doesn’t do much for the past trends you want to use for forecasting, right? Mmmm, kinda right.
Patterns are patterns. Trends are trends.
Regardless of the exactness of the numbers, the patterns still exist and the trends still emerge.
Getting data-driven isn’t like accounting; your numbers don’t have to be precise in order to report on and capitalize on them.
Look at the big picture of what you DO know, and see how you can apply this to your ABCs of data:
- What patterns or trends can you identify with how you’re ATTRACTING people?;
- What are the patterns or trends for how you’re BUILDING your email list and return visitors?; and
- What patterns or trends are you able to see with those who are CONVERTING to sales?
These are simple questions that, if you really focus on answering each, can be incredibly informative to how you choose to promote yourself or where you stand to make the biggest gains… and most of these don’t require you to have a major data strategy to get started with.
Especially when it comes to answering that last one about how you’re converting people. Why?
Because you have access to the single greatest tracking tool available to any business: your bank account.
“Follow the money”, as they say, and identify where it is coming from.
How do you do that? Just ask, boss!
Feedback can be the best that you have because it’s qualitative and that gives you contacts that you don’t get with quantitative data.
Qualitative data will tell you WHAT they liked about you on Instagram, WHY they signed up to your email list or wanted that free offer, and WHY they clicked through on all your emails promoting that offer but WHAT made them finally choose to buy after reading the third one.
Meanwhile, quantitative data will focus on the “ how many” answers you’re looking to identify trends around: how many people came to you from Instagram, how many people subscribe to your email is, how many of your email subscribers bought your offer; both quantitative and qualitative data are valuable for you to collect and even if you don’t have or can’t rely on your numbers, you can still build a story around the context – and the language people use when they are choo-choo-choosing you – to build into your planning and forecasting.
So this is your ACTION ITEM because even if you aren’t collecting data – or maybe you are and don’t really know how to interpret it or even how reliable it is – here is how you get that at you used to forecast and improve the results you’re already getting: whether you sell products or services,ASK your clients for feedback.
- How did they hear about you?
- What made the light bulb go off for them to invest in you?
- What are they able to do now that they couldn’t do before being introduced to you?
If I can do anything with this podcast, I want to give you a reason to believe the following:
People are more important than data. Act accordingly.
Without the people, there is no data without your people, you have no data. Sure, you want to have the measures in place to collect the data so you can better serve your people in the long-term, but don’t use “not having data” or “not being a numbers person” as a reason why you’re not showing up for the people you serve.
If people showed up for you, remember that you don’t need a spreadsheet or dashboard to show up for them. You need to deliver on what they come to you and love you for. (And I’d like to “mic drop” right about now, but I like my microphone and would like to use it to record Another podcast episode like this for you so I’ll keep it intact and hey! find news but I’m trying to be a TikTok-er – I know, right? – and I’m thinking I’m very funny but you would know better than me and for now it’s just me laughing at my own jokes so I encourage you to come find me and laugh with me, boss.