Brian Clifton – Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

I’ve finally come around to reading a sneak preview of Brian Clifton’s book about advanced metrics and Google Analytics. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word advanced as it might fear some of you potential readers out of reading this book. I’m unsure whether or not it is because I love analytics or if it is because this book is very well written. But as I came around to finally reading the two chapters I had received to review, it only took me about an hour to get through them.

This will not be the common review of a book, it will not look at the table of contents and wish for the best, but hopefully this post will enforce the need for you to actually read this book. I am not being paid to say this either. I’ll show you my bank statement if I have to.

In a sense, Brian has captured what I feel is the essence of his writing in the following few lines:

The most common fear is data overload—collecting more information just because you can inevitably leads to more confusion, not clarity. This is particularly the case when your website is operating as a silo, that is, not integrated with the rest of your business—a common problem if yours is a nontransactional website. Therefore, an important early step when deciding on a website measurement strategy is to define the value that web measurement can bring to your business.

Measuring and Analyzing is not difficult

Measuring stuff is not difficult. It shouldn’t feel that way anyhow. Metrics, stats, analysis and all other names for it is all about how you best improve your business. Not knowing where you stand will most certainly not give you a clear direction on where to go in the future. Take social media as an example. Most people search for successful social media cases that they can copy for their own businesses and campaigns.

The problem with social media however is that in order for the same tactic to work twice, the prerequisites have to be exactly the same. Most businesses today make very poor decisions due to a lack of knowledge about what the metrics are really telling them and how the success stories can help them. Eg. If a company A has a very strong relationship with its followers and launch a youtube video clip, it is natural for it to go viral within that group of people. They have  a relationship that they have invested money into that THEN accelerates the success of the campaign. If a company B just looks at the content of the video campaign and tries to launch it in the same way without knowing if they have a good enough relationship to build it on… well then company B will be shooting from the hip, meaning they do not know.

Turning focus to KPIs

In the second chapter I got the privilege to read, Brian goes through KPIs. What they are and how you can measure them. This chapter is all about what I described above. If you set up a series of success events that you measure towards a KPI, then you will know when you are ready to launch similar campaigns to those who have succeeded previous to you.

But what a KPI more importantly tells you, is how you can continuously improve your business and performance online. Brian, goes through the basics of how to set up a KPI and puts focus on the stakeholders. Any online PR-consultant or internal communications officer MUST understand the principles of stakeholders within an organization. Without proper metrics they will act blindly and you will lack the tools of governance that stakeholder relevant KPIs give you. Or as Brian writes it;

Use KPIs to put your data into context.

This way you will bring light to, not only on how much, but also in what direction your progress/regress is taking you. If your KPIs are relevant to the stakeholder receiving them, then they will also act on improving them.

Upper management Must read

I don’t think that upper management would take the time to read this book, but I sure hope they would. It uses Google Analytics as a way to tell the story about how you can implement sustainable metrics and analysis in your organization. I have personally experienced too many times that management focus on statistics such as “hits”, “pageviews” or (god forbid) “unique visitors”. This data tells you nothing if not put into the context of your own actions.

It is also way too often that you hear management of businesses comparing themselves to others, but as Brian writes:

Keep in mind that KPIs are important to drive improvement for your own website. Although it is obviously interesting and insightful to compare how your website is performing against those of your peers and competitors, in my opinion it is a mistake to place too much emphasis on external industry benchmarks. These can be misleading and often end up with you finding the benchmark that fits your story—giving a false impression of success.

This book tells you why and what you should have a look at instead. Some of the chapters might be too technical, but just skip them if you don’t care and keep to the gory stuff that enlightens your day. As I haven’t read the full book yet, I cannot say if the rest of the chapters are as good, but from what I’ve read I will buy the book right away.

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