Don’t audit all the things

October 27, 2014 Brad Perry

a cartoon person with their fist in the air screaming "Let's Audit All the Things!"

In previous posts, we’ve discussed timing strategies of tag audits. What content to audit is another vital part of conversation. If running small, focused audits is better than wholesale scans, what’s the best way to segment?

Of course there’s no one-size-fits-all answer; and changing the way scans are segmented over time can be a good method to draw out hidden problems. Ultimately, coming up with a good segmentation strategy will require a mix of situational awareness, familiarity with the channels, and competence with your tools. As you become more sophisticated in your data quality practice, you’ll find that at any given time, several audits and simulations are collecting data from many of your digital channels.

One day you may be dealing with a data quality question in the analytics tool; the next week you could be confirming that tracking code is in place after a migration to a new technology; next a sitewide rearchitecture might necessitate a new baseline scan; all the while monitoring campaign tracking on inbound landing pages tied to search, paid, social, and email campaigns.

There’s a lot going on, and the temptation is to say “well let’s just collect all the data and sort it out later” but as a seasoned analyst, you know this is the wrong approach.

Where to start

Effective data quality analysts understand the business. Consider the purpose of your company’s online presence and the strategic reasons behind each digital channel you work with. It should be apparent that each channel warrants slightly different data quality monitoring treatment, and some channels might have higher or lower priority.

When it comes to the issue of data quality, audits are merely a mechanism of data sampling, and not a solution. After all, your digital assets are constantly evolving, and your digital marketing tools should move alongside.

A framework for audit segmentation

When and what to audit have come up in past blog posts because they’re important questions. Our data quality management process  considers these questions together because they are in fact tied together. Depending on the type of site your company runs, here are some examples of how you might segment your audits according to content.

Common Segmentation Strategies

Category / Channel / Content Group

Many of our retail customers find it useful to target audits to product categories, weekly circulars, offers, registries, and other pages. This type of audit targeting allows them to control the cadence of audits according to product release cycles (more often for weekly circulars, less often for product pages), prioritize work, and logically divide work between business units.

Purpose

Targeting audits by the business purpose of the content or the audit is another useful strategy. For example, the business purpose of a software company’s product and brand-oriented web site will be different than the support-oriented sites. The auditing purpose of a media site might dictate that content and tooling oriented around commenting should be excluded from an audit. And then this might change the next time around.

Are you trying to track down a specific problem with your site? Gaps in data, variables incorrectly populated, and data inflation can be caused by tagging problems. Tag audits, often switching parameters for different technical environments – browsers, physical locations, devices, etc. can help root out these issues.

Property / Asset Group

Some organizations maintain a massive number of websites/channels/properties. Sometimes it makes the most sense to just scan X pages in from the home page at a certain interval. This is especially true for media and blog-type sites that are constantly changing. Where the primary concern is ad revenue capture, the goal is to ensure that tags are firing as consistently and correctly as possible on the highest percentage of pages possible.

Recommendations and Exceptions

As a general rule, auditing an entire site will produce a lot of data that can go stale before it can be used. Websites can change faster than a data quality analyst can fix every single problem. Smaller, focused audits answer specific questions about a site or audits for specific sections of a site that work in different ways.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. If you’re dealing with static sites with pages, archival sites, or a similar situation, a one-and-done benchmark might be appropriate.

Summary

To efficiently decide what needs to be audited on a particular site, be sure you are clear on the goals for individual site sections and then focus your activity on highest-priority content. To help you prioritize this work, read about the  Data Quality Management Process.


This post is based on the whitepaper  Data Quality and the Digital World  by Eric T. Peterson, Principal consultant at Web Analytics Demystified.

 

About the Author

Brad Perry

Brad Perry has been Director of Demand Generation at ObservePoint since June 2015. He is, in his own words, “unhealthily addicted to driving marketing success” and has demonstrated his unrelenting passion for marketing in various verticals. His areas of expertise include demand generation, marketing operations & system design, marketing automation, email campaign management, content strategy, multi-stage lead nurturing and website optimization.

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