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So What?: Some Easy Ways to Make Your Data Meaningful


“So what?!!”

One of the professors I had in grad school would always say this.  He would say it really loud, often, and sometimes projectile saliva would accompany the words.   Several of us took bets on how many times each class he would say it.

I see a lot of data everyday and I often find myself saying, “So what?”  … Perhaps not out loud and definitely not with saliva.

Data is becoming more and more a part of marketing efforts.  With the economy tanking and causing everyone to step back and dig deep into their pockets, companies now more than ever have to justify marketing spend.  Better show ROI these days.  Data, data, data.  We want more data.  What do I do with all this data?

Some thoughts to battle through the sea of data:

1) Stay focused on your key goals.  This is simple… yet so difficult to do.

Though this funny iPod/Microsoft video isn’t about analytics, it reminds me of what companies are doing with numbers these days and clouding their vision of the goals.

You have a landing page you’re designing?  Focus.

Do not get distracted with all the other peripherals and information that you think your customers need just in case.  Assuming you test and track (which everyone should be doing), the more links you have, the more you’ll need to sift through to measure your success.  If your goal for the landing page is registration, focus solely on how you create the initial page(s) so you can further test, analyze, and iterate it to optimize registration conversions.

2) Find ways that save you time. This all depends on your line of work.  Here are a few ways that I find helpful:

– Google Analytics ‘Intelligence’ feature is a GREAT way to help you save time and improve insight into the day to day web traffic on your site.  Google has done a fantastic job of applying statistics to really bring intelligence into web analytics.  There are awesome features such as the ‘alert sensitivity’ slider, ‘expected’ metrics to show predicted ranges, and custom alerts.  By leveraging these tools, Google will, for example, alert you with detailed information such as unexpected increase in pageviews from certain regions.  The cool things are: 1) you may have never realized there was a significant bump in overall traffic to even worry about drilling down; and 2) it would have taken you a few minutes (if you’re fast) to determine where the bump came from.

Here’s a quick video tutorial:

– If you aren’t pivoting, it’s time to start.  Nothing is more useful and easy for slicing and dicing data than using pivot tables in Excel.  If you don’t know how, don’t worry, it’s easy to learn.  If you’re on a Mac, Excel pivot tables for some reason aren’t quite up to par with Excel 2007 for PCs.  I heart PCs.

Just Google search “Excel pivot table tutorials” and you’ll find plenty of resources.

– Macros.  If you’re always doing the same thing over and over, run some macros to save you tons of time.  You know what I’m talking about. Copy, paste, copy, paste, delete column, zzzzzzz…

– For Omniture, Excel Client plug-in.  You can link your spreadsheet to Omniture and have ‘live’ data to work with other data points, which will allow you to do a lot of cool analysis and save time.

Check out this useful blog post by Omniture.

3) Organize how you capture data to help you analyze effectively and efficiently.

Structure and organization in data is critical in not only keeping your sanity, but being able to churn out valuable data.

Let’s use tracking codes as an example.  Before you start tagging everything in sight with tracking codes, step back and think what the goals are.  Once you’re focused, next start structuring the tracking codes in an organized hierarchy. Use character separators to categorize them into whatever buckets you will need.  By breaking it up into these ‘buckets’, you can determine values of each and compare them to one another.

“So what?!!”

There’s no way around it.  It’s here.  Data rules.  The days of BS and making up marketing jargon are coming to an end.  You either have measurable results or not.  Embrace data.  It won’t bite… usually.

Focus, work smarter, and stay organized.