How to Know if You Need to Audit Your Web Analytics Data

February 13, 2019 Clint Eagar

A web analytics audit is what stands between you and a better version of you. I’ll explain why.

For most, the word “audit” makes people uncomfortable, conjuring up associations with government agencies or other third party-inspections designed to ensure compliance with one rule or another. For that reason, “audit” can be shrouded in a negative connotation.

According to analytics experts at Unilytics, “A web analytics audit is a proven way for organizations to ensure they are generating tangible value from their investments in analytics. Audits can be particularly effective for companies that have diverse online operations, with multiple websites and significant online advertising activities.”

Not so icky, right?

Companies of all industries and sizes should validate their data by regularly auditing the performance and accuracy of their analytics tools.

Thinking about auditing your analytics implementations? Here are five questions to consider to make the process more effective:

1. Is your analytics solution being fully utilized?

Surprisingly, many companies never fully implement the powerful analytics applications they adopt.

Sometimes a company implements analytics in phases, starting with measuring traffic and leaving the more in-depth analysis for later—which often turns into never.

If time and resources are temporary issues, you should identify the most important data to measure and implement analytics for those first. Generally, these are conversion-related.

But then you need to expand on that primary solution. Failing to fully implement these solutions as appropriate to your business needs often results in individual units or teams trying to fill the gaps by deploying new tools sporadically on pages or subsections of the site.

One ObservePoint client experienced this exact phenomenon and referred to their organization’s tagging implementation as “a horror state.” The company’s web analytics architecture had multiple business units around the world deploying different tag campaigns, vendors, and management systems that met their specific team’s needs.

This company boasted over $110 billion net revenue in 2014, yet they could not trust the quality of the data being gathered from their 53,888,056,019 unique page views.

So during your audit, identify what your primary tool is and determine whether or not you are taking advantage of all the key features available to you.

2. Does your web analytics solution map to your business strategy?

In order to get the maximum ROI on your analytics efforts and investments, your technology must support a well-defined and widely understood strategy. What exactly are you measuring and what sort of business impact does that have?

Make sure to collaborate with the various stakeholders in your organization to determine the most important KPIs. Consider what metrics and traffic segments need to be captured in order to most accurately measure those KPIs, and the resulting data that will confirm if your digital business model is effective.

When the corporate or business unit strategy is modified, there should be a plan in place to keep the analytics aligned. Successful analytics organizations frequently revisit their analytics solution in the form of an analytics audit to make sure the implementation is up-to-date and gathering the data it needs to. 

3. How will you use the data?

Auditing your web analytics data also offers the opportunity to evaluate if you are providing the right data to the right people so they can make informed decisions and execute actions that impact the business. However, many analysts and digital marketers are instructed by management to “measure everything.”

While solutions like Adobe Analytics can, indeed, measure practically everything, the question remains: “Should you?”

How much is too much?

If decision-makers are trying to take action on too many data points, most likely they will end up spinning their wheels without gaining any traction. Not to mention the complexity involved with managing a large implementation with limited resources. 

Would it not be better then to only offer the most relevant and effective KPIs as needed to support identified business goals? Addition by subtraction. As the analytics team grows, more KPIs can be effectively measured and acted on. Addition by addition.

4. Do you trust your data?

Your data is only as good as the processes that collect the data. Though data is always objective (it will tell you exactly what it measured), the way in which you measure and collect data might be faulty.

Many decision-makers have figured this out. The perception of inaccuracy surrounding analytics data is one of the largest challenges facing the web analytics community today, and there are many variables impacting this perception.

Standardizing auditing procedures and creating strong governance policies will help to eliminate errors and subsequently build more trust in your data analytics organization. Governance bolsters your ability to present data with confidence.

Thankfully, automation is possible, and you don't have to manually spot-check every page on your site. Tag governance solutions like ObservePoint can scan your analytics implementations to find and report any gaps in your data collection processes, ensuring your data is trustworthy. 

5. Does your web analytics team have the right credibility, authority and skill?

Certainly, one of the problems at play in the perception and function of the web analytics data within many organizations is that web analytics teams simply lack the credibility and confidence they need.

The mission of your analytics team must be clearly defined, and the leaders of the team must have the internal credibility and authority to carry out objectives.

Appointing an analytics leader who can engage with both business and technical stakeholders is also crucial to the success of your team.

We've seen more and more that analytics functions are evolving to be their own teams within organizations, giving them greater autonomy to gather and analyze data for the good of the company. Make sure your team is well equipped with the skills to gather and act on data.

It’s Time for a Web Analytics Audit

Data quality isn’t just an IT issue—it’s a company-wide concern.

To know if your company is a good candidate for implementing a better analytics governance plan, consider the following questions:

  • How often does your company make marketing investments based on analytics data?
  • Do you see data quality as a project or a process?
  • Are changes to web analytics tags managed by a centralized, controlled process?
  • How often do your site tags undergo a QA process?
  • Does your company have a process for adding, changing and removing tags?
  • Is your process for analytics governance proactive or reactive?

The more complex, reactive, or uncertain your processes for governing analytics implementations, the more you need to buckle down on a strong governance plan for analytics tags and variables.

Implementing a tag governance solution is a crucial step in validating your analytics tools to make sure they’re present and collecting data correctly. ObservePoint can make a huge difference towards testing your analytics tools so you can use your solution to its fullest and trust your data. Schedule a web analytics audit to see how it works.


About the Author

Clint Eagar

Clint gets things done. He has been building websites, marketing and optimizing them for 15 years. He claims to know a little bit about a lot of things and is relied on to execute anything quickly. Clint has been with ObservePoint since the early days and has helped support, test, and promote the product. Before coming to ObservePoint he was at OrangeSoda, running the enterprise SEO team, and before that he was a business consultant at Omniture.

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