Skills & Expertise

How to Tell a Compelling Story With Web Data

Keep these key points in mind when sharing performance numbers with the powers that be

If you manage your company’s website or are looking for a job in digital media, you can expect that someday soon, an executive will ask to see some data on how the site is doing.

Because there are many different ways to measure success and failure for a website—and because the person collecting the data is usually not the one presenting it—it can be difficult to articulate what’s actually happening and why it matters.

Here are a few tips to help you translate the data into a compelling story that is sure to impress the higher-ups:

Give Context to Your Metrics

When you’re working with your analytics tool every day, you become an expert in the language of metrics and reports. You know what the difference between a unique visitor and a session is, and you see the daily, weekly and monthly trends.

A report that seems self-explanatory to you may be very confusing or even misleading to someone that isn’t familiar with web analytics. It is your duty to break down the reports you share and explain what is, and what isn’t, included in each view. This includes any filters, segments or anomalies that affect the data.

Clearly define what each metric means and how they relate to each other. Then give context as to what each report means, so that leadership is tracking with you.

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Focus Less on the “What” and More on the “So What”

When sharing insights from a report, quantify what has changed. If this information is interesting, your manager will want a short sound bite to share with leadership, and it’s much easier to recall a specific number than it is to relay a lot of contextual information.

But contextual information is equally important. For anyone who is not a subject matter expert in analytics, it will help them understand your story if you couple the quantitative data with the qualitative information.

For example, your company’s website has had a 20% increase in monthly visitors for the past two months, which sounds like great news. But you know that your conversion rate has tanked, and can presume that this new traffic isn’t quality traffic. When you share this data, you’ll need to help management understand what’s actually happening.

Tie Performance to the Bottom Line

Some of the most interesting website data isn’t always headline worthy. Metrics like bounce rate, pages per session and session duration don’t always resonate with management. They can be perceived as the “inside baseball” of website analytics.

To help management understand and celebrate increases in these metrics, talk about the bottom line.

If you know a reduced bounce rate has a direct relationship to conversions, explain that relationship in a way that management would understand. Show the decreased bounce rate alongside the conversion report to demonstrate the relationship visually. You know that all of these small changes snowball into bigger trends that directly impact the business’s bottom line—so help bring that story to light.

Helping management and executive leadership understand what’s happening with the company’s website can both bolster your credibility, and give transparency into your department’s hard work. Take the time to analyze what’s actually happening, then give management the context needed to make decisions and adjust strategies.

Christopher White is a Mediabistro industry expert instructor and director of marketing at MBO Partners.

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