Context necessary for understanding market research

JANUARY 10, 2012 – A company can learn more about its customers by tracking how they interact with a website, but without understanding the analytics, the organization will not be able to turn the raw data into actionable market research.

Meghan Peters, writing for Mashable, explains how businesses can use Google Analytics to the fullest, learning what kind of device the website visitors were using – smartphone, tablet, desktop computer – as well as how long they lingered on certain pages. By assessing this information, corporations will be able to determine the best ways for targeting particular demographics or what they need to do to improve the site’s performance and relevance to consumers.

“If content is king, then context is queen,” Google Analytics product manager Phil Mui told the news source.

Peters notes that knowing how many people are viewing the website for the first time, how many are repeat visitors and from where they originated (such as a search engine or social network) can help paint a clearer picture of the audience’s location, native language and other details.

In addition to metrics and analyzing visitor acquisition, Google Analytics can also provide a window into customer engagement – letting the company know whether the person read the page, continued deeper in the website or “bounced back” to a search engine or previous website.

“Engagement metrics focus on these actions visitors are taking once they get to your site – and how good you are at keeping them there,” Peters explains. By comparing these details for content-heavy pages, website designers and others within the company can figure out whether the information they are publishing is actually resonating with readers and driving them to act. If bounce rates are high, it may be time to reassess the business’ content strategy.

There are other aspects of an “engaging” website, she adds, including its ease of use, simplicity in navigation, having content with keywords that match the headlines and the presence of interactive content that encourages visitor participation.

When starting any project, it’s important to create a clear list of goals so those running the program have a point of reference to measure progress and keep everything on track. Is the company trying to increase its engagement with visitors? Expand its online presence? Pull more eyes to a particular page on the website?

Analyzing where visitors are finding a link to the site can give insight into which sources – Google, Twitter, Facebook – are increasing the company profile and which need more attention. The URL destination is a useful metric for driving up clicks on a certain page, such as a purchase message page or the homepage, Peters says. Measuring events – watching a video, downloading a white paper or posting on a message board, for instance – provides more information on what activities visitors are connecting with.

“Whether you’re strategizing for a massive corporation or bolstering your personal web presence, understanding acquisition, engagement and outcome metrics is a must,” Peters concludes.

In an interview with Econsultancy, e-business consultant Dan Barker says in addition to website analytics, companies need to assess how those in the market interact with materials that are published and distributed off their sites.

Barker also issued a prediction for the future of analysis, noting that predictive and multichannel analytics will become more common. He added that it will also become easier to automate processes as a result of analytics data.