Interview with Brian Clifton: Using Digital Analytics to follow the digital footprints

Published June 16, 2015   |   

Brian Clifton PhD is internationally recognized as a Google Analytics expert, renowned author, measurement strategist and advisor. His best seller Advanced Web metrics With Google Analytics is considered to be the bible of Google Analytics. His second book Successful Analytics – Gain Business Insights with Google Analytics was released recently in January, 2015 and it is is highly recommended to all who have to deal with Google Analytics. As Google’s first Head of Web Analytics for Europe (2005-8), Brian built the pan-European team of product specialists. A legacy of his work is the online learning centre for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ). Brian is currently the director of Data Insights at Search Integration.
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Brian Clifton.
What’s your definition of Digital Analytics?
When we refer to digital, we mean “connected to the Internet”. And anything that is digital leaves a foot print. Digital Analytics is about following those digital footprints to understand the people and the experiences that leave them.
Why do this?
Well, if you understand the online behavior of people you can optimize their experience. That is, gain more leads, gain more customers, sell more things – or do all of these at the same level, but more efficiently.
When writing my books, I always emphasize the impact of optimization with real-world case studies. What I have found over the years is that optimization is not a tweaking of the business’s bottom line. Rather, the impact is almost always hugely significant in terms of return on investment.
As a business owner of an ecommerce website, what are the key insights or the metrics that they should be looking at?
Anything that has a $$$ value is clearly a candidate for a KPI. However, beyond conversion rates, transaction volumes and revenue, there is no silver bullet set of metrics to focus on. Instead, look at funnel processes and marketing overlaps. Funnels allow you to identify the pain-points of your visitors – so that you can remove them i.e. remove any friction or them to become a customer. Identifying marketing overlaps allows you to understand the best marketing mix to focus on i.e. attracting the most valuable visitors to your business.
If you could recommend two or three things that a business owner can do to reduce bounce rate, what would those be?
Bounce rate is a great metric to focus on, assuming you are not building a website as a series of perfect one-pager content! That is, always give your visitors a reason to do something more than simply reading one page. For example, encourage them to rate your content, add a comment, click an ad etc. Also consider splitting your page into multiple sections – so your readers click on “more” to get the next installment. All of these actions signal you have an engaged visitor, even though they stay on a single page. That means you measure your true bounce rate – real disaffected visitors. [ Checkout this post from me for more info: 10 micro-goals for tracking content engagement]
Once you have your true bounce rate setup, segment your visitors to understand what is happening on pages that have a high bounce rate (see note below). For example, where do they come from? Which campaigns or sources did they click on to find you? People bounce due to not having their expectations met, or because of errors once they arrive. Go view your campaigns and click through to the landing page. Do the landing pages match the messaging of the campaign? Are there any errors such as typos, missing images, confusion text? It never ceases to amaze me how many times I click on an ad only to arrive at an irrelevant page (the generic home page!) or even a 404 page… That’s money down the drain.
What constitutes a high bounce rate?
I use a traffic light system to focus efforts:

  • RED – a bounce rate of higher than 50%. This is priority to fix. Focus on these first.
  • YELLOW – a bounce rate between 25-50%.  A warning sign that should also be investigated
  • GREEN – a bounce rate of higher than 50%. This is good (there is always some people that will bounce). Don’t worry about these pages.

What are the most important contemporary trends that you see emerging in the Digital Analytics space across the globe?
Remarketing is the current big thing, and I envisage dynamic content personalization to be the next big thing (2016).
Remarketing is the targeting of your visitors as they browse around the web. For example, a visitor comes to your website and adds an item to their shopping cart, but abandon the process before completion and leave your site. By sharing your website cookies with Google (and other ad servers) such visitors can continue to see your ad and messaging, even for the product they abandoned, showing up on other websites. Done well, its a powerful reminder for them to get back in touch with you and complete that process i.e. become a customer!
Dynamic content personalization is the adjustment of content on your website while the visitor is still on your site. For example, if you know that a current visitor is a previous customer you can adjust the content and messaging to them, as apposed to treating them as a generic prospect. The idea of personalization has been around for a while – but based on your visitors identifying themselves i.e. logging into your site. However, DCP is about achieving personalization based on current visit behavior, without the need to log in. For example, if a visitor stays on your site for 5 minutes, views 7 pages, downloads a PDF, but has not yet converted – you can assume they are engaged and adjust your content to suit. I am looking forward to delving into this as tools become more cost effective and easier to deploy.
Your book Advanced Web metrics With Google Analytics was considered to be the bible of Google Analytics. How do you compare it with your latest book Successful Analytics: Gain Business Insight by Managing Google Analytics. Can you tell us about it, who is the target audience, and why they should read it?
AWM was a practitioners guide on how to use Google Analytics to its full advantage. It spanned three books and helped educate a generation of analysts on how to do it right. When I started writing those books in 2007 there was simply no step-by-step way for practitioners to train themselves. The book came about from the internal trainings I was conducting at Google – which later became the GAIQ.
Successful Analytics is a natural progression for those analysts. That is, they have been doing their work for a few years now, but are struggling to get buy-in from senior management to invest in their team (or become a senior manager themselves). Similarly the book is aimed at senior managers and executives who have responsibility for data. It is a guide for them to know what to invest in, what is important, how to scale and what they can expect in return.
Thanks Brian!