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Are the Keys to Better Business Decisions Hiding in Your Analytics?

by: Teresa Schmidt

Copywriter / Content Strategist

On the surface, 100 conversions beats 30. But weighing the metrics according to their relative business value might help you see things in a new light

Data analytics was once the realm of statisticians and scientists, and barely understood by us mere mortals. But then Google made web analytics more approachable, and marketers started using analytics reports (ARs) to answer questions about traffic, user behavior, and conversions, and to develop strategies to improve them all.

But the scary truth is that well-meaning analytics strategies often lead to bad decisions—not because of bad data, but because they were based on the wrong insights from that data.

Luckily, this problem is easily solved. When you know more about what you can do with your web analytics, you can leverage the information to make more meaningful decisions, so your campaigns are more successful and you reach your objectives.

Are You Basing Your Strategy on the Wrong Data?
While analytics reports provide valuable information, the conversations—and strategies—tend to center around these six metrics:

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Sessions – a group of interactions one user takes on your site within a given time frame.
Users – a unique person who is visiting the site.
Pageviews – a visit with one pageview, regardless of how long the visitor was on the page or how they left.

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Average Pages per Session – also includes repeated views of a page.
Average Session Duration, which is just that.
Bounce Rate, the percentage of users who left without taking action or moving from their entrance page.

These numbers seem straightforward, but can lead to bad decisions. To most people, a longer session duration is better than a shorter one, and bouncing is bad. But consider the following scenarios:

Dr. Sue has a question on your product’s safety. She conducts a search, lands on your product safety page, finds the information she needs, and writes the prescription.

Her session stats:

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Dr. Sam also has a question on your product’s safety. He conducts a search, scans through several pages trying to find an answer, but doesn’t. Dr. Sam gets frustrated and leaves.

His session stats:

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Comparing these numbers, one might conclude that Dr. Sam’s experience was much better, since he spent more time on the site, viewed more pages, and didn’t bounce right out. His session looks successful.

Considering what actually happened, we know that’s just not the case. And based on these tricky numbers, you might decide to keep doing what you’re doing, which unfortunately is not meeting visitors’ needs—or driving prescriptions.

The Right Strategy Leads to Better Decisions
Your analytics strategy is only as good as the decisions it empowers you to make. With the right strategy, your analytics will reveal actionable insights, which empower you to make better business decisions.

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To uncover actionable insights, you measure and learn, take an action, measure and learn, take a different action, and measure again. Rinse and repeat, until satisfactory results free you up to shift attention to other areas needing improvement.

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We’ve made it easier to put this all into practice by identifying four keys to reaching actionable insights.

4 Keys to Reaching Actionable Insights

Key #1: Select Meaningful Key Performance Indicators

As they say, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” and that’s where your website comes in. You might think of it as the central portal to measure online promotions, and potentially, even offline efforts. Good business decisions are based on what it tells you. So, the first key to actionable insights is selecting metrics that actually contribute to your business objectives. Start with a few critical goals, and choose actions that help you meet them. For example, to increase prescriptions, you might need to increase copay card activation. To raise awareness of a new treatment, you’d want to increase consumption of content focused on differentiating clinical benefits.

Then, weight KPIs for business impact. One way to accomplish this is by assigning them relative dollar values. For example, if you want to know the value of one conversion, or one action you want a consumer to make, you can assign a number to something like the lifetime value of a prescription. You then estimate how many conversions/actions will turn into a prescription, and voila! You have a value you can assign for each conversion.

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We’ll just use round numbers to make our point, and this can be a best guess—you just need to establish a common baseline to compare each type of conversion against the others.

The exercise of weighting KPIs is valuable, because it can help you determine which marketing channels return the most value.

For example, let’s say an educational product video yields 1% conversions, for a value of $10 per conversion.

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However, a copay card activation yields 80% conversions, so each of these conversions is much more valuable. Again, accuracy in the actual numbers you plug in doesn’t matter as much as the relative spacing between them.

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If you prefer, use can also assign points instead of dollar values.

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How 30 Can be Greater Than 100
Armed with these valuations, you can now accurately compare ROI from two campaigns that on the surface are somewhat misleading.

Campaign A resulted in 90 views of the product video and 10 copay card activations. Total conversions = 100.

Campaign B resulted in 20 copay card activations and 10 video views. Total conversions = 30.

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Looking at the number of conversions, the obvious decision is continuing Campaign A.

But when we consider the dollars (or points) behind these conversions, we get a more valuable insight. Copay card activations have an 80% conversion rate. So even though the video had nine times the conversions, the actual dollar value is not as impressive:

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Campaign A, 100 conversions:
Video Conversion Value = $900 (90 x $10)
Copay Card Conversion Value = $8,000 (10 x $800)
Total conversion value = $8,900

In Campaign B, 30 conversions:
Video Conversion Value = $100 (10 x $10)
Copay Card Conversion Value = $16,000 (20 x $800)
Total conversion value = $16,100

On the surface, 100 conversions beats 30. But by weighing the metrics according to business value, you may see things in a different light. Now you have an insight that’s actionable—to shift more resources to the campaign that actually delivers the most business value.

Let’s go on to the second key to reaching actionable insights.

Key #2: Develop a Robust Strategy to Capture Meaningful Data

Capturing meaningful data starts with custom tagging that allows you to segment, explore and overlay audience traits or behaviors with their web activity, and to uncover new, meaningful and actionable insights. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do visitors reach my site?
  2. Who are my visitors?
  3. How do visitors use my site?
    • What content do they consume?
    • What actions do they take?

The answers will lead you to more effective, impactful actions.

1. How Do Visitors Reach My Site?
To find out, capture this data:

  • The source – e.g., search engine, disease education site, blog
  • The medium or channel – e.g., paid search, organic search, post
  • The campaign name
  • Creative execution – e.g., headline #1 or headline #2; photo A or photo B
  • Any search keywords

Next, calculate conversion values for the the various sources and channels to determine which are having the greatest impact.

In this example, paid search campaigns on Google and Bing yield about the same conversion value per session, at $8.26 ($29,000/3,511) and $8.39 ($10,800/1,287) respectively.

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But by going deeper, you’ll discover which Google campaign is more valuable.

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While the “brand awareness” campaign clocks in at just $4.71, the “mobile app available” campaign yields a per-conversion value of $19.88. Clearly, the latter is more cost effective.

Stick to Some Semblance of Standards
Tracking individual campaigns is easier and more accurate when everyone involved in traffic acquisition, whether online or offline, sticks to standardized tagging procedures and methods. Developing consistent internal practices will ensure the same tagging methodology is used to identify whether a visitor arrived on a promotion page through a Facebook ad or by using a vanity URL from a magazine ad. Embrace the use of short vanity URLs to replace long URLs.

As you know, an analytics report will tell you where website visitors come from. But knowing which marketing campaign drives more high-value interactions to your site is a greater actionable insight.

2. Who Are My Website Visitors?
The more you know about your visitors, the more useful content you can deliver. The data you could capture might include:

  • Visitor demographics – e.g., age, gender, level of education
  • Their location and language
  • The technology they’re using – e.g., type of device, browser, version
  • HCP data – e.g., designation, specialty, call plan status
  • Patient data – e.g., patient or caregiver, current therapy

In the following example, you’ll see that the most frequent HCP visitors are physicians, with 36.1% of visits. RNs are next, followed by a mix of other HCP designations.

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When you drill down into HCP specialties, you get even more valuable information:

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The website is attracting HCPs in family practice, and far fewer from pharmacology.

Now, let’s see what happens when we assign a meaningful KPI—Conversions by Designation—to the visitor data.

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It turns out that RNs account for more conversions than physicians. And while pharmacists represented the fewest visitors, they still yield a healthy number of conversions. Insights like these can help you be more strategic when deciding where to focus your resources.

3. How Do Visitors Use My Site?
When you know which content your visitors value most, you can deliver more of it. To find out how they’re using your site, you could capture:

  • The content topic or category – e.g., blog, living with the disease, learning about the disease
  • Marketing claims – e.g., controlling symptoms, convenience, new approved use
  • The products you’re covering
  • The author of the piece

You can then measure consumption through metrics like page and post views, document downloads, video views, or podcast playbacks. These top-level numbers will give you a good idea of what content visitors prefer, and what content converts—which isn’t always the content you’re giving them.

Here, we can see how content provided doesn’t necessarily equal content consumed:

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The graph shows that the blog is the most prolific category, accounting for 41% of the site content. However, it represents the lowest level of content consumption, at only 2%. Clearly, site visitors are not into the blog. Looking at actual consumption offers a very valuable insight: 42% of content consumed is in the learning category. A resulting action you might take is investing in more learning-focused, support content and less in blog content.

Another way to measure how visitors use your site is to look at their other actions:

  • Registration and signups – newsletters, product updates
  • Ordering product samples and support materials
  • Interacting with tools and presentations
  • Sharing on social media – clicking on Facebook or Twitter icons
  • Following links to external sites
  • Conducting in-site searches to learn more

Simple tagging will answer the top-level “who” and “how” questions, but why stop there? A more robust effort will enable you to get to the heart of the data that can empower you to make more effective decisions.

The right tagging, implemented with cohesive procedures and methods across all channels, will result in metrics that can tell you which marketing campaigns deliver the most value, which creative executions within those campaigns perform best, how various designations of visitors use your site, and even which product claims result in more sample requests versus copay card requests.

Key #3: Integrate with Other Data Sources

Capturing website data is just one piece of the puzzle. Don’t overlook the value of data from:

  1. User registration and survey databases
  2. CRM and marketing automation systems
  3. Third-party vendors and service providers, for prescribing data or copay cards

Integrating external data with web metrics tells a much bigger story, for more actionable insights.

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With robust tagging, we can determine whether a search ad campaign, ads on a disease education site, or links from a network of bloggers resulted in the highest rate of copay card activations through the branded website, and the most usage data. You might discover that the blogger network is underwhelming, and make the decision to divert those resources to other channels.

Key #4: Regularly Review Analytics and Share Your Insights

Here’s how get the most out of your analytics data, for organization-wide value:

  • Work with your agency partners; insist on proper tagging, and get regular reports and dashboards delivered
  • Create a shared data directory, defining report terms and metrics, so everyone uses the same words to describe the same things.
  • Find regular opportunities to share your measurement techniques, insights, and successes (and the occasional flop) with others in your company

Use the Power of Analytics for Good
To review, the four keys to actionable insights are:

  1. Select meaningful Key Performance Indicators
  2. Develop a robust strategy to capture meaningful data
  3. Integrate with other data sources
  4. Regularly review analytics and share your insights

The data that will lead to better business decisions already exists. You just have to know what to look for. And now that you do, go forth and use your newfound powers for good.

Let’s talk.

embrace@toolhouse.com | (360) 676-9275