Increasing the Effectiveness of Your Analytics Reports
Nearly every college and university already collect data from Google Analytics or other platforms. In many cases, only basic reports are created with this information.
At the Leeds School of Business we were no different. Until we finally asked ourselves what we were reporting and how it was impacting strategic decision making.
Simply generating graphs and reporting the ups and downs of page performance is not enough to guide strategic decision making.
Since its inception, it has been standard protocol to drop Google Analytics data into an Excel spreadsheet. With a few graphing tools and pivot tables you can create charts and compare a variety of dimensions to metrics.
And, in the past a few tables and charts sufficed for analytics reporting. They don’t anymore. Today, senior leaders are asking pointed questions and there is increased pressure for measurable return on investment (ROI) from online marketing efforts.
Harvesting and reporting actionable insights from analytics data is becoming essential in strategic decision making.
Effective Reporting for Today’s Higher Education Institution
More and more leaders in higher education now understand the importance of search engine and digital marketing efforts. They are also demanding an increased level of accountability in analytics reports.
Insights beyond key performance indicators that include perspectives on historic, current and future performance must now accompany the data charts and graphs, once the cornerstone of traditional analytics reporting efforts.
The main difference between then and now is the inclusion of insights and analysis.
Insights are not optional anymore in effective analytics reports. But first we still have to capture the information.
In the Advanced Web Analytics for Higher Ed Course I took earlier this year, I learned how to quickly develop custom reports through the Google Sheets Google Analytics API, custom reports within Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Excel.
This improved workflow resulted in more time for analysis. I was also able to more effectively test different ideas and increase my ability to compare different dimensions and metrics.
Where to Begin Improving Analytics Reporting Effectiveness
Once I could generate the complex reports necessary for advanced reporting faster, I developed a roadmap for our new reporting needs. Below are six tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Tip #1 – Ask senior leaders about their analytics needs
Connecting analytics to decision making requires an understanding of the decisions that need to be made. So, I met with leaders and managers to determine their reporting needs.
During these meetings we started to formulate the questions that needed answers from analytics. Find the questions before looking for answers.
Tip #2 – Develop a reporting plan for each department
Once you identify individual departments and program needs, you can develop a plan to capture the required data through one of the various reporting platforms.It’s time to decide where you’ll use custom reports within Google Analytics, Google Data Studio reports or data processed through.
Tip #3 – Create custom reports for each department
You can then use resources including student workers to actually capture and process the data for your analysis.
Tip #4 – Set up competitive monitoring tools
Set up free accounts with platforms such as SEMRush and SimilarWeb to monitor competitor sites. You can also look at paid resources such as RivalIQ which includes SEMRush reporting capabilities.
Understanding peer and competitor site performance was a game changer in our reporting. The inclusion of baseline data beyond our own historical website analytics described our site’s health in relation to other known sites.
Tip #5 – Simplify sections of the reports focusing on 1-2 KPI’s
Avoid data heavy charts with multiple dimensions when applicable. A focus on specific data points and trends can be more effective in communicating actionable information.
Tip #6 – Captured feedback
Make sure what you are reporting makes sense to all parties. Remember, you might report the same information used in a program or department report to one of the deans. So, ask questions and solicit feedback.
Creating reports that become a critical part of strategic decision making might seem lofty. However, when correctly implemented your reports and analysis will play an important role in the student recruitment and retention efforts at your college or university.
Meet the Author: Erik Jeffries
Erik Jeffries is the director of creative services and director of digital asset and marketing technologies at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is also an alum of Higher Ed Experts’ professional certificate program in Advanced Web Analytics.