Data-Driven Decision-Making Through Analytics

Data-Driven Decision-Making Through Analytics | www.TheMatriXFiles.netA couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with Tim Martin and Jessica Katz of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Tim is Digital Director and Jessica is Web Manager & Developer at Carnegie.

Carnegie has a well-developed analytics program, the organization respects data, and Tim and Jessica are committed to using analytics to guide their work. Some highlights from the webinar:

You’ve Got to Understand Your Goals. Tim and Jessica are adamant that you must first understand what your organization is trying to achieve and what constitutes success before embarking on an analytics initiative. For Carnegie, it’s all about getting people to read their publications: op-eds, commentary, analysis, etc. Carnegie isn’t trying to get people to join, donate or register, it’s all about reading the articles so in their analytics, they look at what drives people to the site, where they are coming from, what they are reading, how far down the page they’re scrolling, etc.

Most Visitors Go Direct to Content. Carnegie refers to their visitors as converted or unconverted. Converted visitors have signed up for something, they have provided an email, they have opted in to receive something. It turns out that for converted visitors, they don’t come to the website to surf randomly. Converted visitors rely on email and social media to direct their surfing and, what’s more, they go direct to content. Yep, they pretty much bypass the home page. Even the search engines drive visitors directly to articles and NOT the home page.

The Home Page is for the Unconverted. So who goes to the home page? The unconverted or the persons who want to know more about Carnegie, what it does, and what it represents. For this audience, the goals are to: educate them about Carnegie and get them to convert. But here’s the really big thing: by reducing the call to action, they vastly simplified the home page and created an elegant and bold home page that consists of about a half dozen stories with dramatic imagery. The home page is no longer the newsy page it used to be and that frankly looked like sister and competitor organizations. The bold home page invites exploration and conversion.

Optimize What’s Important. Since article pages are what the site is all about, Tim and Jessica are constantly looking for ways to optimize their article pages. Here’s a sample article page about Ukraine. Everything from the summary at the top, to the Comment and Share button, are researched and optimized. Every detail is intentional.

Go Beyond Yay! Traffic! Most organizations are content to look at their analytics, see that their traffic is growing, and never go beyond that. Tim and Jessica recommend mining GA to find out where people are coming from, what they searched for, etc. Jessica recalls doing a deep dive into a spike in traffic that resulted from a mention in a Polish newspaper. Careful cultivation of the newspaper and other organizations in Eastern Europe have resulted in a new digital series and healthy traffic growth from that part of the world.

Start with Event Tracking. Tim and Jessica closed the webinar by talking about how it’s taken time for the organization to get where they are today. It’s taken careful setup of the custom variable and reports and thoughtful cultivation of Carnegie experts and senior leadership. If your organization is just starting out, they recommend setting up Event Tracking, which is a method available in the Google Analytics (GA) tracking code (we recommend Tag Manager) that you can use to record user interactions with website elements. For example, you can track PDF downloads, clicks on related articles, clicks on the Print button, scrolls down lengthy pages, etc.

Check out the Carnegie Endowment website to see the fruits of all this intentional and well-researched design and development.

How about you? How are you using analytics to guide your decision-making? What do YOU wish you could track? What’s working? Please share!