Most of us are responsible for reading reports on a daily basis, whether it’s a simple timesheet, a complex strategy plan or the results of a multi-tiered marketing campaign. We’re overloaded with documents demanding our attention.
Knowing that our audience is already overloaded, it is important, when we create a report, that our data tell a story. That it provides not only the hard facts, but also the context and the insight our readers need to take action based on the data. This is especially true when compiling web analytics reports that are intended to inform a business’ digital strategy.
Of course, the story you tell will depend on the needs of the audience you are addressing.
The audience determines what data to include and how often to deliver the report. Your audience will vary depending on where you’re working, whether it’s in-house at a large organization, at a small/medium-sized business, or at a digital marketing agency.
If you’re working in-house at a corporation as the web analytics specialist, your point-of-contact is likely going to be the marketing department. You’ll want to arrange regular meetings to discuss what campaigns they’re focused on and what data they need. This information will help determine what graphs and information you should include in your report.
Small and Medium Businesses
If you’re working at a SMB, you’ll likely be reporting directly to the owner or in some cases, the entire company. The first step is to meet with the owner and other senior managers to discuss what objectives they have for the company’s digital footprint. Goals may include increasing sales, driving brand awareness, or growing newsletter subscriptions. You’ll then need to determine whether their objectives are measurable with Google Analytics by Setting up Goals or utilizing the eCommerce Tracking features.
When you’re working with a long list of clients, like at an agency, the needs for your reports will change on an account-by-account basis. You want to keep the objectives of each individual client in mind when developing their web analytics report. If you don’t have direct contact with the client, you may want to discuss various goals with the appropriate account manager in order to determine what information will be the most valuable to include in your report.
Once you have an understanding of who your audience is and what their overall objectives are for their digital marketing campaign, you can begin to piece together a personalized report. Just like a story, you want to begin with a cover that gives an idea of what you’re reader is about to delve into. In your first “chapter,” set the stage with background information, and then build out the “plot” through the rest of the report by detailing more specific data.
To first grab your audience’s attention, utilize the cover page to outline what they’re about to read. Include a simple, straight-to-the-point title such as “Engaged Visitor Update” to keep the reports organized and describe its overall purpose.
Next, use the subtitle to share more details on how this report is useful to your audience. For example, if the marketing department told you that they need to know where website visitors are coming from – include that information in this section. Sometimes your audience won’t have time to read each page of your report, therefore provide an overall summary on the cover page that they can quickly review to get a sense of the report’s contents.
Start General and Get Specific
After the cover page, start by providing a chart that will give a general overview of the information you’re presenting in the rest of the report. For example, the time series chart below compares All Sessions versus Engaged Sessions. This shows your audience, at a glance, what the trends are in traffic to the site and what percentage of that traffic that is engaged. Starting the report this way introduces what the presentation is about, and provides context for the rest of the charts and tables included in the document.
In addition to the graphic, you should share a brief summary to explain the information in the chart. In the example below, you’ll want to point out that overall traffic is growing faster than the engaged traffic.
As you compile the rest of the charts and graphs from here, you’ll want to become more specific. For example, include an analysis of which channels (traffic sources), geographic regions, and devices (mobile versus desktop) send the most engaged visitors.
Introduce Acquisition Channel as One Method of Getting Specific
One way of getting more specific throughout the report is to segment the data along additional dimensions. For example, the above graph shows engaged sessions over a 6-month period. In the graphic below, you can see a breakdown of the engaged sessions by two acquisition channels: organic search and paid search. In this chart, you can see that organic search has become increasingly important, while paid search has been declining.
Here, we are segmenting by acquisition channel to generate insight about the importance of organic traffic. Segmenting by other dimensions, such as geography or device, might yield similarly important insights.
Overall, you want to ensure that you’re presenting your audience with data that is going to tell a story. The story should include information that they can utilize for their own tasks, and ultimately help the organization grow. The imagery, along with insightful summaries and details, will engage your audience and give them a complete overview of the organization’s success through digital marketing efforts.