Defining Success – Web Analytics for Government
The need for the right data management tools
For any organisation that’s serious about optimising the performance of its digital assets, a well-defined program of web analytics is critical. However, in order to develop a relevant analytics solution, it’s necessary to first define what ‘success’ is for a given digital asset. Defining success is different for every online entity and comes down to a simple question: ‘Why does the website or digital asset exist?’ In the answer lies the starting point to defining the most relevant measurements of success.
When considering government websites and digital assets, the definition of the best analytical measures is quite different to, for example, an online retailer. Many of the measures used in that scenario – units sold, advertising banner click-through rates and customer accounts created – are simply not relevant. While these measurements may not be pertinent to a government site, that doesn’t make web analytics any less vital to ongoing performance enhancement and optimisation.
For example, in the case of an information resource site like www.resourcesmart.vic.gov.au, the website’s reason for existing was distilled down to the need to communicate information in a highly accessible way. Therefore, the engagement with, and absorption of, website information became the definition of success, and hence, the framework for a tracking, reporting and analytics solution.
In essence, the Resource Smart analytics solution involved:
a) Identifying the extent of information to be conveyed
b) Defining what successful user engagement with those pages would look like.
Two fundamental groups of metrics came out of this thinking – quantitative metrics such as page views (both unique and general), and qualitative metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate, and exit rate. Both of these groups of metrics define success in different ways. While these are essential metrics for any site, it is their application to specific site sections that casts the greatest light on objective content absorption and the user pathways that facilitate it. For Resource Smart, the Vizzl Information Tool is a key interactive information gateway that links users to energy saving content. By applying tracking to this tool and the content that it links to, Resource Smart can clearly see its value as an accessible communicator of content. By utilising this approach, a successful analytics solution can help stakeholders better control their website and optimise its performance.
Generallly, a useful analytics solution is the result of a thorough investigative process that includes:
Identifying the most appropriate metrics to capture the successful completion, or otherwise, of these objectives
Establishing tracking methodology
Setting performance targets and benchmarks
Creating a user-friendly, objective-focused Google Analytics dashboard
Delivering regular automated performance reporting from the dashboard (weekly or monthly)
Performing in-depth optimisation and opportunity analysis (bi-monthly or quarterly)
This structure ensures that the maximum amount of time is invested in analysing data and not lost in formatting reports, and provides the greatest value by delivering actionable, data-driven insights.
Finding the most appropriate metrics for government digital assets may not be as obvious as for an online retailer, as the objectives are often more complicated than simply ‘selling products’. Measuring user engagement, or intentions to change behaviour as a result of visiting the site, or understanding a change in government policy or service, requires specialist combinations of metrics. Going through the process of identifying them, however, will ensure that constructive analysis can be completed and used to spur future development and enhancement.