Web Analytics Life Cycle – Phases

1. (Re)Define

While reading Avinash Kaushik’a Blog, I found this article on defining the business purposes of your web site – http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2007/02/getting-started-with-web-analytics-step-one-glean-macro-insights.html.

Defining the business goals of your web site boils down to answering one simple question – What do you want them to do on the web site? Here are some questions to help you answer that question…

  1. Why does your web site exist?
    • E-commerce
    • Promotional material
    • Contests
    • Etc.
  2. What are your top three web strategies that you are working on?
    • paid campaigns
    • registered users
    • affiliates
    • updating content on the site
    • trying to get digg’ed
    • effective merchandising
    • etc.
  3. What do you think should be happening on your web site?
    • This is where you define your key performance indicators. Your KPIs need to correlate directly to the web strategies that you have defined.
    • I will spend more time talking about KPIs in another post, but here are three basic questions you should be answering with your key performance indicators:
      • How many visitors are coming to your web site?
      • Where are they coming from?
      • What are they actually doing?
    • Your key performance indicators also are an indication of how mature your web analytics process is. I will take the time in another post to discuss the Web Analytics Maturity Model.

When you go through this phase after the first iteration, take this opportunity to re-evaluate and re-define your business goals, your KPIs, and their definitions.

2. Collect

There are lots of tools to help you collect your Web Analytics data. There will be many decisions that you will have to make regarding the collection of your data. The KPIs should be at the heart of your decision on how to collect data. You will also need to keep in mind who your users are.

Tools are split into two major categories – web logs and site tagging. Web logs obviously measure the activity on the server, based on the requests of your site’s pages, images, PDFs, etc. Common tools for web log data analysis are WebTrends and ClickTracks. Site tagging measures actual user activity on the physical web site itself in their browser. Common tools for site tagging are Google Analytics and CoreMetrics. I will take a deeper dive into the differences between the collection methods and a review of the different tools at another time.

When you enter this phase of the process beyond the first iteration, take the time to re-evaluate whether your tools are satisfying your needs, and how the tool collects your data.

3. Analyze

Now that you have collected your data, you will need to analyze it. You should define reports that correlate back to your key performance indicators, and to your business goals. The first time you go through this cycle will be your benchmark. Future iterations should be geared to wards optimizing and improving your results.

During your analysis phase, you should review:

  • your business goals
  • which KPIs you collect
  • the definitions of the KPIs
  • whether the tools are right for your needs
  • how the tool collects your data
  • whether the results are better or worse than expected
  • how your data is presented
  • who sees your results.

Once all the analysis is complete, you should develop a list of recommended changes to each of these areas. These recommendations should be both technical and business in nature.

4. Adjust

In this phase, you should take each of the areas that were reviewed in the Analyze phase, and the recommendations that were made, and start to make adjustments as necessary. This could be redefining your business goals, adjusting your KPIs, making changes to your tool set, or rebuilding your reports.

Each iteration through the Adjust phase will be different. As you iterate through the lifecycle, the changes that are made in this phase will typically decrease in size and complexity.

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