By Ahava Leibtag published March 21, 2011

How to Develop Analytics Reports Your Team Will Want to Use

Do you want to use analytics more often to make decisions based on data instead of instinct? To do this, you not only need to have a good understanding of analytics, but you also need to present them to your team in a way that is useful to them.

Last week we looked at why analytics programs are important for helping teams make decisions based on real facts instead of hunches. We also looked at the first two steps to implementing a strong analytics program:

  1. Understand the critical pieces of information the team needs
  2. Train your teams in analytics so they understand what they really mean

Here are the next three steps that will help you and your team.

Step #3: Create reporting structures that work

Analytics can be fun, but you must structure your reports so they tell a story. Find a way to pull the highlights from the analytics so they narrate your digital content’s life in cyberspace. Use charts—by all means—but understand their value as a part of the story-making process.  Think about describing why content behaved the way it did. Nothing satisfies people more than the answer to the question, “Why did that happen?”

For example, consider a report with a short narrative at the top.  Pull out one example you’re trying to get at—like why users seem to bounce off one page so often.  Then use charts to express easily-understood concepts—like referring traffic or which keywords are bringing traffic to the site.

For instance,  you could provide a two-page report that includes this level of detail:

During the week of April 28, 2010, our page views went up, but unique visitors went down. This means that the number of visitors coming to the site decreased very slightly (.04%), but that the users who did come were looking at more pages with each visit.

Top keyword search terms included:

  1. Plumbing parts
  2. Plumbing supplies online
  3. Shop plumbing
  4. Plumbing parts depot
  5. Mini-vent plumbing vent

From there, you could have graphs that illustrate metrics such as these:

  • Most popular pages
  • Bounce rate
  • Top content sections

Step #4: Test your reports

Distribute your reports on a weekly basis, and use your first draft of reports for about a month. Notice if you are getting more or less feedback on analytics:

  • Are the reports coming up in conversations more often?
  • Is the team relying more on data from analytics rather than “gut instinct?”
  • Are you getting good questions that indicate the team is reading – and understanding – the reports?
  • What other pieces of information do they need?


Step #5: Refine the reports based on needs

As your team begins to grasp the full implications of the analytics, they will start asking different questions. They may begin to refine the types of information they need.  Maybe there is a different set of questions. Refine your reports once a quarter to better answer those questions. You may not need to change them at all; that’s ok too.

Analytics reports should inform and refine  your team’s thought processes around your digital content.  By implementing these five steps, you should really begin to see a difference in the quality of the questions your team needs to know about your digital content’s performance.

Do you use analytics in your organization? Do you find some of the same challenges we discussed above? Or are you experiencing something quite different?

Author: Ahava Leibtag

Based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ahava Leibtag is a Web content strategist and writer. She leads AHA Media Group, a Web and content consulting firm, and authors the blog Online it ALL Matters. She thinks 60 words is way too few to communicate why she’s interesting. You can connect with Ahava on Twitter at @ahaval.

Other posts by Ahava Leibtag

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  • Tracy Gold

    Great recap of an important topic. We provide a lot of reporting an analysis in the fashion that you describe above, and spend a lot of time preaching that you can’t just throw numbers at people without explaining them and explaining why they happened. For us, we’re explaining data to clients, but even if you’re not in marketing, you should be able to explain these numbers to your boss and your coworkers.

    I’ve had a couple conversations that this post reminds me off–my mother spends a lot of her time volunteering for a nonprofit. Her web person set up GA to send her automatic reports. But she pays attention to the visits, and nothing else. There’s no focus on which keywords are driving traffic to the site, or which pages have a high bounce rate, and thus nothing is being done to improve the website as a workhorse for the nonprofit. I help on family dinner nights, but that’s not enough.

    It goes to prove that systematic tracking and numbers are great, but as this post shows, without an intelligent, strategy focused human to provide interpretation, they’re not worth much.

    • Ahava

      @Tracy, Thanks for the thoughtful response. There were 2 main ideas to me:
      1. People need to understand how powerful analytics can be and how much they can learn from them
      2. You need a good system and framework to get to the goal of step 1
      Glad you enjoyed!

      • Tracy Gold

        Absolutely. Got to love a good system to get you to the point where you can
        drive some meaning home. Thanks again for the great article!

        Tracy Gold, Marketing and Content Associate

        Right Source Marketing


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  • Lorne Neff

    In my workplace (a government office), I don’t have a team, just content producers. And management is not dialed into analytics as a way measuring or directing future affairs. But I recently started producing reports as a way of trying to educate them on the potential, and perhaps shaping future content that’s more customer orientated. Your article reminds me of this process. I wonder how many people have actually used a similar approach to achieve initial buy-in (from management and social marketing contributors) – especially for environment(like mine) that isn’t market driven and isn’t worried about falling behind the competition.

    • Ahava

      HI Lorne,
      I actually developed this tactic working in a government agency! My bosses paid 0 attention to them, and after a while I became discouraged. However, even though I stopped creating them, I didn’t stop paying attention to the numbers because they gave me intersting patterns to contemplate–like, why did the user do that? If I could figure out the answer, it was usually because of a gaping whole in the content, and that’s how I was able to zero in on what needed to be done.

      • Ahava

        I meant hole. Fingers are too well trained! 🙂

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