Reporting the Right Data, The Right Way


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Prepared for SES Chicago 2011 (#seschi). Presented in the "How to Show Your Wins at Search Marketing with Web Analytics" session.

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  • Hi there, my name is Mike Pantoliano. I'm a lead SEO consultant from Distilled in Seattle. I've been doing SEO for about 5 years now, working for Distilled for the last year and a half.This slide deck is up on at the link on this slide. I wanted to present a lot of ideas, while avoiding the technical nitty-gritty implementation stuff (especially in cases where it's readily available online, already). So many of my slides have reference links, and if you don't catch the full URL, you can always get it from slideshare. I just tweeted the link to the Slideshare URL.Okay.Right off the bat, I want to apologize. It probably isn't apparent to those in the back, but I'm sporting one of the saddest attempts at a mustache the front row has ever seen.
  • I do have a bit of an excuse! Many of the men of Distilled are participating in Movember, trying to raise some money, and we all look pretty pathetic. But it's for charity! If you're feeling generous, give it a go.Anyway!
  • The obligatory show of hands. Who here is on Google Analytics? Omniture? WebTrends? CoreMetrics? Something else? Nothing?Good to know. I spend 95% of time with clients working in Google Analytics, so I apologize if I use GA specific terminology and ideas. I've done my best to make sure this stuff applies for anyone using web analytics.
  • So AvinashKaushik is Mr. Web Analytics. If you haven't read his blog, he does some great work. His definition of a Key Performance Indicator is simple, but perfect.They are:"Measures that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives."We're gonna talk a lot about the first bolded word: measures, but we'll spend a quick minute on the second bolded word: objectives. I promise we won't be at 30,000 feet for the entirety of my presentation.
  • There are tons of sites out there with an innumerable amount of business objectives (or reasons for that site to exist). These are just some general ones. So what's your site's objective?
  • Duh, it depends.
  • How do you go about getting an understanding of your site's objective? Well, you could ask. But keep in mind, a lot of times, your HiPPOs won't really understand the true reason for your site's existence. If you've ever had a client or boss that thinks the sole purpose of your site is to rank for one head term like "boots", then you know you shouldn't always listen to the HiPPOs.The truth is that no one here can tell you your objectives. Take the time internally to figure out what this really is, if you haven't already.Okay, that's it for objectives. Let's talk about what makes a good KPI and good reporting.
  • Good KPIs bring about an understanding in your organization. They are relevant, timely, instantly useful, and simple. If you're the only person who understands your KPI, nothing will ever get done (compound or calculated metrics suck). Most often, a good KPI starts as a simple measure that influences outcomes/conversions that boost your bottom line.With complete understanding, actions are more immediately obvious, and its a lot easier to get shit done. Good reporting is the same! Understandable and actionable.
  • First, say no to automation. Okay, if it must be done to satisfy someone in your organization, fine, but it's not getting a thing done.
  • A good analyst is also good at reporting their findings. And part of what makes that is an understanding of the audience. There are analytical and emotional types in every organization, as well there should be. If you're trying to influence change, it'd be a great idea to determine the best reporting style based on personality types.
  • At the furthest extreme of the analytical personality type is the kind of person that really wants to see and manipulate the data that you're reporting. Google Analytics' custom reports are awesome for appeasing this kind of person. Pretty easily shareable, as you can see.
  • The way you present your findings is incredibly important. Here's how Distilled does our reports.1) Exec Summary - In red. For a reason. Do it. No excuse. No fluff.2) Bulleted Lists of what has been done, and what will be done.3) Status of ongoing efforts - see the diagram4) Further explanation, where necessary.We're not talking about a novel.
  • Okay! Let's dive deeper into some KPIs, themselves.First off, we have the all star team of traffic KPIs. These guys are obvious. Visits/Unique Visitors, # of referring keywords, # of unique landing pages.Notice that asterisk. (not provided) (shake fist)
  • I feel I would be doing a disservice if I didn't cover how this previously awesome metric may well have been robbed of its trustworthiness and utility.Before the (not provided) stuff, our # of referring keywords was fairly simple to capture. Right there in our keywords report.
  • Now, unique keywords are getting thrown into the (not provided) bucket. So now we have a metric that doesn't really do a good job of giving an accurate number, which is a huge KPI red flag.Moving on.
  • Conversion rate. It's the gold standard KPI for almost any website. It is extremely simple to grasp, it is often tied directly to an action that moves the bottom line, there are multiple angles to improve upon it, and you can segment the crap out of it to analyze your traffic!
  • Speaking of segmenting, Thom is going to be covering it in more detail in his presentation, so I won't dwell. But these here are just a few really great ways to segment conversion rate, bounce rate, visits, or whatever metric you'd like.
  • Google v bing conversion rate….Okay, let's get even deeper. Bounce rate is a great KPI. It tells us where our users are dissatisfied with our site. This is a super useful practice for bounce rate. Segment your users down however you'd like, I'm looking at organic here. Now compare your pages' bounce rate with the site average. That last one is pretty bad there, it might be a good idea to find out if we're making promises to our users from the SERPs that the site can't keep.
  • Traditional rank tracking is dangerous. That is, tracking keywords at an individual level can cloud the big picture.
  • Aggregate rank tracking is where it's at. At Distilled, we use Authority Labs to categorize keywords into indices like head, mid, high per visit value, what have you. With enough keywords, you can get a much better idea of how the site is faring on a whole.
  • How about link building? Let's bring back the analytical vs emotional personality types here. For the analytical type, I like to deliver a spreadsheet of the linking root domains, sorted by SEOmoz Domain Authority. The emotional personality type might receive a spreadsheet like that, and say, who cares? To them, I'd highlight the exposure, traffic, and yes, seo benefit of a few of the highest profile links acquired. I'd do this verbally or in a report.
  • How about reporting link metrics? SEOmoz and MajesticSEO are the best we've got, but they're not a panacea. Both of their indices jitter quite a bit, and you might not get accurate data for quite awhile (remember good KPIs are timely!). It's best to set the tone early, and not rely too heavily on their data. Great for link prospecting, a bit too unreliable for reporting on your own site.I'd steer clear of the Competes, Alexas, and Quantcasts of the world, too. Especially for following on your own site.PageRank? Just, no.
  • When in doubt, to remain timely, report referring sites to your linkbait URL. Links that people actually click on are much more likely to provide SEO benefit, anyway. We use a great tool at Distilled, built by Rob Ousbey of Distilled, called Linkstant. It's a bit of JavaScript you install on your linkbait page that notifies you immediately of a new referring page (as in, someone clicked a link).
  • Let's switch over to social now. If you're actively working to improve the social aspects of your site, try ThinkUp. It's a pretty simple app that can serve as your social analytics for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Tracking follower count over time or social engagement? Try ThinkUp.
  • Community managers and socially-minded web marketers are working to increase social engagement on their site all the time. Back in June, Google announced that it could now track those social engagements within Google Analytics.The installation wasn't all that simple though, but it is now thanks to AddThis. They've made it so you can add a small JS snippet just above the typical AddThis JS snippet, and it passes all that good stuff into Analytics. Other web analytics packages, sorry…
  • We can take this data further with custom variables. This is an example of a report delivered that shows the # of links, tweets, comments, shares, etc. per author of a blog. The data is dummy data, but this stuff is gold. A simple custom variable call in GA or prop variable in Omniture and you can pass the author into your web analytics.
  • Panda's been around for awhile now, and we've all been told the same thing, really. Improve the user experience. Well, not too long ago Duane Forrester of Bing wrote a revealing blog post that talked about Dwell Time, which is the amount of time a user spends on your page, after clicking directly from the SERPs, before clicking back to the SERPs. Bing's tracking it, and though Google hasn't outright said it, it's pretty much a given.Now, we can't track true dwell time in our web analytics packages. Anytime someone hits one page of our site, then leaves, it's merely a bounce, and we get no time data. They could be on the page for 2 seconds or 10 minutes, and it looks the same in web analytics.
  • That's why dwell time might have to be tracked with an eye-tracking service like ClickTale or Crazy Egg. I don't believe either have made this a "feature" of their service, but they probably should. The data is there, as they both track time on individual pages.
  • Lastly, I want to talk about mini-KPIs. Those are ones that are tied to a new initiative or campaign that you've identified as metrics worth tracking. I'll give an example here: At Distilled, we worked with a client that was dealing with indexation issues because of bad site architecture and no XML Sitemaps. So we worked with them to improve their site architecture and submitted index Sitemaps that included all of their over 1 million URLs, and tracked indexation through the Sitemaps report in GWT. This was a great win for us, because as indexation increased, traffic did as well.
  • In conclusion, web analytics can be complex and overwhelming. It is our job to distill things down to understandable and actionable levels for the decision makers in our organization.
  • That's it! I didn't really mention Excel too much, but every web analyst should be an Excel ninja. If you feel like you're skills are lacking, I wrote up a guide at that URL that you might find useful!Thanks
  • Reporting the Right Data, The Right Way

    1. 1. Presenting & Reporting the Right Data The Right Way Mike Pantoliano Lead SEO Consultant @MikeCP
    2. 2. First! An Apology! I am truly sorry for my appearance.@MikeCP
    3. 3. The Show of Hands@MikeCP
    4. 4. Defining KPIs Measures that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives. Avinash Kaushik @avinash
    5. 5. Site Types & Their KPIsContent (Advertising) Content (Subscription) eCommerce Lead Gen @MikeCP
    6. 6. What Is Your Site’s Objective?eCommerce Brick and MortarSubscription-based Customer Service It Depends!Ad-driven (duh) Lead GenSaaS Blog@MikeCP
    7. 7. What Is Your Site’s Objective? Ask! (But the HiPPOs could be wrong)@MikeCP
    8. 8. Reporting EffectivelyGood KPIs Understanding Action Good Reporting Is The Same @MikeCP
    9. 9. Say No To Automation This Doesn’t GTD@MikeCP
    10. 10. Know Your Audience Analytical Emotional Very Data Driven  Big Picture No BS  Competitive Precise  Listens to Gut Systematic  Action Oriented @MikeCP
    11. 11. Know Your AudienceProvide Super Hands-On Types w/ Access to Custom Reports @MikeCP
    12. 12. Progress Reporting1. Executive Summary2. What was done?3. What is to be done?4. Status of ongoing efforts5. Further explanation (where necessary) @MikeCP
    13. 13. Traffic KPIs All Star Team• Visits or Unique Visitors• # of Referring Keywords*• # of Unique Landing Pages *Beware the dreaded (not provided) @MikeCP
    14. 14. (Not Provided) Before@MikeCP
    15. 15. (Not Provided) After@MikeCP
    16. 16. Conversion Rate Gold Standard KPI • Extremely simple to understand • Often tied directly to bottom line • Multiple angles to take to improving • Can segment the crap out of it!@MikeCP
    17. 17. Segment!• Branded vs. Non- • Geography branded • Site Search Users• Paid vs Unpaid • Commenters Traffic • New vs Returning• Google vs Bing • Much More• Social vs Non-Social @MikeCP
    18. 18. Bounce RateAwesome Metric – One Example:@MikeCP
    19. 19. Rank Tracking Rank Tracking is Dangerous Aggregate Rank Tracking, FTW Screen shot from@MikeCP
    20. 20. Rank Tracking Screen shot from@MikeCP
    21. 21. Link Building Wins# of Root Domains Highlight top 5-10Sorted by Domain domains inAuthority reporting/verbally@MikeCP
    22. 22. Link Metrics Okay. Meh. Hell No.@MikeCP
    23. 23. When In Doubt Report Referring Sites Live Linkbuilding Wins@MikeCP Linkstant:
    24. 24. Social WinsFollower Count Social Engagement Screen shot from @MikeCP
    25. 25. Social Wins AddThis GA Integration@MikeCP
    26. 26. Social Wins Omniture Google Analyticss_ab.prop6 = ”Mike"; [‘_setCustomVar’,1,‘Mike’,3]; AddThis GA Integration@MikeCP
    27. 27. Panda KPIs How’s Your Dwell Time? The time between when a user clicks on our search result and when they come back from your website tells a potential story … while that’s not the only factor we review when helpingDuane Forrester to determine quality, it’s a signal weSr. Product watch.Manager at Bing From his “How To Build Quality Content” Blog Post @MikeCP
    28. 28. Panda KPIs User Interaction from@MikeCP
    29. 29. Mini-KPIsProject/Campaign-Specific KPIs Indexation issues?@MikeCP
    30. 30. In Conclusion Web Analytics can be complex and overwhelming It is our job to distill data down tounderstandable and actionable levels@MikeCP
    31. 31. Thanks! Michael Pantoliano - @MikeCP Lead SEO Consultant at Distilled