You can make reporting both easier to generate and easier to digest. In this post, I’ll show you a few ways to simplify your reporting tasks by focusing on a few key metrics, generating web micro-reports, and automating whenever possible.
This is designed for people that have a limited amount of time or interest in their websites, but want to make sure things are running right.
Getting the Pulse vs Analyzing Performance
Micro-reports give you a birds-eye view of your site. They are like checking your weight or checking your pulse after a run: you get enough info to catch red flags, but you won’t know exactly what’s going wrong (or right).
If you’re a full-time analyst or marketer, then this is not enough information for you. Yet this could be all a small business needs if it’s business priorities lie elsewhere.
You will want to do deeper analysis at some point (maybe monthly or quarterly), but the micro report format gives you enough knowledge to know if you need to stop and take a deeper look now or if you can keeping focusing on other tasks.
What Goes in a Web Micro Reports?
Analytics tool have thousands of different combinations of dimensions and metrics that you can look at. All of it has value to someone, but it’s not all going to be important of actionable for you. Micro-reports strip out everything but a few dimensions and the essential KPIs.
For example, if you’re focused on traffic acquisition, then you could focus on just these metrics:
- New Users or %New Users
- Bounce Rate
If you’re looking at lead generation for your SMB, then you might focus on:
- Form(s) Submission
- Form(s) Conversion Rate
- New Form(s) Starts
If you’re looking at ecommerce, then you could try:
- Products Sold
If you see these metrics regularly and compare to previous periods (same day last week, month-over-month, etc.), then you get a good idea of whether you’re growing or not. Any of these metric sets (or all) will give you a quick read on the pulse of your web business.
How Do You Get Your Web Micro-Reports?
The best way to get reporting is to have it come to you, or at least have everything in a single view. Your analytics program offers dashboards, report scheduling, and notifications for this.
Web Performance Dashboards
If you’re willing to login into your analytics program in the morning or just don’t want more email, then a simple dashboard can be your best friend. Below you see a dashboard for a daily checkup on traffic acquisition:
Notice that there is very little on this dashboard. Left-column gives you 3 key metrics (sessions, new users, bounce rate) & left column gives us a little more insight on where new users come from. If you take 2 minutes in the morning to look at this dashboard, then you’ll know if you’re growing and from where.
There is obviously a lot more we could put here. As it stands, we are not looking at engagement or conversions but this might be all that matters to you if you’re trying to build traffic to your blog or want a quick idea of how successful you are with SEO.
Here’s a post from Distilled on setting up similar reports and dashboards in Omniture
Automated Email Reports
I’m always surprised when people haven’t setup any automatic reports. I know that they can take over your inbox quickly and some solutions are less useful than others, but you can’t beat getting info in your inbox, especially if you’re not able to be on a computer everyday.
In Google Analytics, you can have your dashboard delivered to you daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly so you get the information without having to login. This also makes sharing the information easier: you can specify the recipients here and know that everyone is getting the same numbers.
Perfomance Alerts and Notifications
The two options we’ve covered assume you want to regularly check the pulse of your site. I think this is best, but maybe you only want to know when things change significantly. If you’re looking for the most minimal reporting then alerts are a good approach.
Google Analtyics calls these Intelligence Events and they’re designed to focus on key shifts in traffic, behavior and conversion. GA gives you some Automatic Alerts, but you can build custom ones to fit your needs.
If you’re looking for the simplest way to keep track of things, then you can focus on swings in overall traffic and have the alert emailed to you. Week over week works well, though year over year is a good way to know if you’re really making progress.
The upside of notifications like this is that you only see it when it matters. You won’t get inundated with emails unless things are going very bad (or very good). When you see something in your inbox, you know need to stop and take a look.
The downside is that you’re letting your site run on auto-pilot until some big occurs. If you’re looking more regularly you might be able to correct an issue before it becomes a problem, or optimize a campaign that as it starts to get traction.
The alert-only option is best if you know you don’t have time or interest in constant monitoring, but it doesn’t enhance your awareness.
What About Branding
Analytics are great for telling you what happens on your site, but it can’t tell much about buzz or brand awareness. If you’re looking to see the impact of a PR campaign or manage your reputation, then you’ll want to look at other sources.
Here are a couple external that can give you bite-size reporting about your Brand.
Google alerts – It’s not new or fancy, but you can setup reports to monitor industries, competitors, brands, products and other keywords. The interface lets you decide alert frequency, regions and sources.
Mention – This service is great if you’re trying to get a holistic view of your presence on the web. Similar to Google Alerts, you setup the queries you want to monitor and Mention will deliver reports to you. The big difference is that mention covers a lot more sources including all the major social networks, blogs and news sites.
Start Nibbling at Your Web Data
This is reporting for when the web is part of your business but not the heart of it. All the options listed here are designed to give you enough information to decide if you need to go deeper, but not disrupt your life too much if things are running smoothly.
Take a few minutes to setup a dashboard or alert now, and you’ll know that you’re not getting distracted by the web, but you aren’t neglecting it either.
Also published on Medium.