7 Tips On Making Data Actionable

Mark  Ryan

October 17, 2011

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How do you make your reporting actionable?   We ponder this question often.

Good paid search firms have strong processes for reporting and acting on data. For example, they routinely look at phrases that have poor conversion rates and either alter the advertising message or eliminate the phrase.

But in web site optimization and web site redesigns, the processes and methodologies around making the data actionable are typically not as well defined.

Below are 7 simple tips that we have found help ensure actionable reporting:

  1. Create Excel dashboards:  We first create site reports and dashboards in Excel which are much easier to change than web analytic reports or dashboard tools.  We review these reports with the team and ask each member if there is missing data that would help them improve the site or if we are reporting on data that they don't know what to do with.  Eliminating data points is often as useful as adding data points.
  2. Use Forecasts:  Predicting and justifying a lift in conversion is often the best way to get team members to start looking at creative ways to solve problems on the site.  When everyone is focused on solutions, they will start asking for different data points to act upon.
  3. Use Segments:  On most sites, aggregate reporting doesn't provide very useful information.  When we do reporting in the context of segments such as prospects, current leads, customers, loyal customers, investors, job seekers, employees, etc we find that the team members are often much more likely to identify critical trends that are actionable.
  4. Encourage (or demand) question asking:  We sometimes have meetings where the objective is to educate the team on the behaviors of the visitors.  After data on site usage has been reported, we go around the room and have everyone ask questions.  This is a great technique for getting peoples creative juices flowing.  Often during the process, we uncover ways to improve the site.  No direction of questions is too ridiculous.
  5. Use multiple data sources and use external research:  When a UX expert at a leading computer manufacturer read an article about how well the eye perceives the color green, he decided to run some MVT tests on their site by changing the Buy Now buttons to green.  The tests showed a favorable enough outcome that they rolled the new buttons out to the whole site.  This little improvement resulted in tens of millions of dollars in new sales and demonstrated that external data coupled with internal data can make a powerful catalyst.  Using multiple data sources helps show a more complete picture of visitor interactions.  Distribute data from systems such as CRM, eMail marketing, customer support, heatmaps, session playback, surveys, etc.
  6. Analyze success and failure:  Often site reporting focuses on the number of visitors that actually convert.  This does not typically reveal the import insights that failure shows.  Analyzing both failure and success enables the team to identify methods for better serving visitors that don't convert and helping them to convert.
  7. Don't just improve the sites:  The primary objective of site reporting is to improve each sites ability to serve visitors and to serve the organizations goals.   There should also be a routine process for developing actionable insights on how to improve the reporting that enables the team.  Dashboards, tracking, and data sources should be reviewed and improved quarterly.

We are always looking for ways to make site reporting more useful and more actionable.  We would love to hear from you on any tips you have for making data more actionable within your organization.  Send me an email at mryan@extractable.com.