Website performance dashboards for Radio NZ

RNZ (Radio New Zealand) is New Zealand’s state-funded broadcaster. Forget the fusty pulled-up-socks-and-shorts vibe you might get when you think of public radio, RNZ delivers thought-provoking journalism and storytelling online and on air, and plays good music. As an avid listener I was stoked when their Digital Product and Audience team wanted some help to understand and improve RNZ’s online performance to complement their already-strong audience research.

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About RNZ

RNZ is a dynamic force – people can listen to broadcast radio live through analogue or digital channels, download RNZ audio on demand or listen to RNZ podcasts, and consume news, videos and live coverage through the RNZ website, social media, apps or third party channels. All of which makes it very difficult to measure performance!

What data does RNZ need?

We held a workshop with people from news, radio, social media and the digital team. I showed them examples of data in action, and found out what they wanted to achieve. A clear trend emerged for radio and podcast producers. They want to see which stories from their programmes are performing well, and understand why in order to create more engaging content and prioritise what they feature. In their own words, they “need to know what not to be doing” because they’re time-poor and work with so many channels.

Dashboard breakdown

I created dashboards for twelve RNZ programmes and podcasts showing:

  • traffic volumes and changes over time
  • popular website pages, audio files and social content
  • what their users are looking for in on-site searches

With this view, RNZ producers can see the performance of their content across different channels, and understand the audience for each.

How are the dashboards used?

We showed the dashboards to a few producers and they found useful insights straight away. These included:

  • users searched for the name of a popular weekly guest, so the producer created a new page which received over 1200 visits
  • pages with a decent amount of written or visual content were performing better than those with just an audio link
  • producers were surprised to see really old content performing well – these stories had become topical again and been shared in social media
  • producers used the dashboards to find out whether their own social media efforts were sending people to the website
Site search table showing 237 searches for the presenter 'Mary Holm' on the RNZ website. Other searches are 'back pain' with 63 searches, 'Janice Galloway' with 63 searches, and 'totara' with 47 searches.

The Jesse Mulligan site search report shows over 200 searches for the guest ‘Mary Holm’

The dashboards show what’s successful, and begin to “explain the insanity of why some things do really well”, to put it in their own words. We’re going beyond digital and into the heart of what RNZ wants to achieve – good storytelling that resonates with the New Zealand public. Nothing will replace excellent journalists, producers and broadcasters – they’re the soul of RNZ. But data can help them better understand their audience, and target their content for different channels and audiences.

Busting analytics myths with Silverstripe

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Recently I held a hands-on analytics meetup with Silverstripe. They’re a cool Wellington company who create open source platforms, and are building an international digital community. We used free online tools to see what people are searching for in Google, and created advanced segments in Google Analytics to understand more about different audiences.

I’ve written a post for their blog that questions what common Google Analytics success measures – number of users, bounce rate, session duration and pages per session – actually mean for your site. Bounces (one-page visits) don’t necessarily mean failure!

See the full story on the Silverstripe blog – Busting Google Analytics engagement myths.

 

BNZ analytics training

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A few of the lovely BNZ people who attended training with Michelle on the right

I recently held website analytics training with some of the BNZ Digital team. They were awesome – they have an open and supportive culture and everyone got involved, discussing ideas about their customers and testing them with data. They mostly worked on website content, but there were also design, marketing, data and digital strategy people there too.

Michelle Anderson, Digital Content & Communications Manager for BNZ, got in touch because she wanted to give her team the skills to:

  • find out what BNZ customers want
  • back their content and design decisions with evidence
  • show the value of their work with measurable improvements

Michelle uses analytics techniques successfully, but she can’t do all the analysis! So she wanted to create a data culture in her team.

Michelle and I designed a session using a few simple reports that are the most insightful for content performance, showing what people are searching for in Google, and what they’re searching for on the BNZ site and the links they’re clicking on. I gave a presentation to show the value of analytics, then we had hands-on training using free Google tools.

They found surprising insights about their audience. Search data showed that customers want to find out about foreign exchange rates on the BNZ home page, and people want to pay tax through their online banking system. The team were able to challenge their assumptions about which terms are the most popular – they were surprised to see that the term ‘mortgage’ is MUCH more popular than ‘home loan’ in Google searches:

Graph showing that searches for ‘mortgage’ are higher than searches for ‘home loan’ in Google (source: Google Trends)

We didn’t go into extreme detail – they didn’t want to become data analysts. But we found useful insights with a few simple reports. The tools can sometimes seem impenetrable and overwhelming, but by sticking to a couple of reports and focusing on major trends we got some good insights.

They’ve used the training since – I gave out stickers to remind the team how to find the Google Analytics reports we looked at, and Michelle found a use for hers:

“I used your handy little sticker the other day to find some data to strengthen an argument. Felt very chuffed.”

Thanks guys for a great session!

Wellington talk: analytics for successful websites

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I’m giving a free talk on Thursday 20th July, 5.30pm at the Reserve Bank of NZ in Wellington.

You can register for the talk on Eventbrite – come along!

It’s about how to make your website successful using analytics and SEO, and I’ll give practical tips and real case studies of data in action.

We’ll cover:

  • understanding user paths to see how people navigate through your content
  • designing products with success measurement in mind to build a data-driven culture
  • communicating results to your design and technical team and how to tackle issues
  • case studies, including quick-wins and not-so-obvious ideas
  • discover what the analytics dashboards can do for you

Hope to see you there.

Create a website performance dashboard

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Dashboards can be brilliant. They can act as a living mirror for your team, reflecting successes and challenges to address. They can prove the value of your work to clients and higher-ups in an easily digestible way. And they can reveal what your audience needs from your website.

Equally they can be totally useless. And don’t be fooled by the shiny ones. A pretty design and technical impressiveness are no indication of usefulness. 

It’s hard to achieve the former, and easy to bang out the latter. To create a useful dashboard you need to do a bit of work up front to:

  1. define your audience and their goals for the product
  2. get all the data 
  3. get rid of most of the data
  4. start with a low-fi design and iterate
  5. get your team using it

An example of a useful dashboard is the Dashboard for GOV.UK transition project. This allowed my team to get more resources to ensure that our site was meeting user needs.

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Define audience and product goals

Don’t try to do too many things for too many people. For example do you want your dashboard to primarily be for your team to help them improve content? Or do you want to show clients or management the value of your work?

Hold a workshop with your audience to define their goals

Having people in the same room is really important to get a consensus, because they’ll often have competing needs. A good workshop will allow everyone in the group to have a voice and go away with a better understanding of the product goals and how to meet them. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • what do you want to achieve with your website (i.e. increase inquiries or purchases)?
  • how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
  • what data do you use already, and how do you use it?
  • what will indicate why you have and haven’t achieved your goals so that you can improve your product?

Try not to ask what metrics people want to see! Often they’ll give you a long list of metrics that won’t achieve squat. Instead focus on the actions they want to take with data insight.

Prioritise competing needs as a group and be realistic about what you can cover. If there are loads of different needs go back to the original goal to work out what will make the dashboard a success.

Get all the data

Once you’re clear about what success looks like, take a wide sweep of the user insight available to you. Look for qualitative and quantitative insight from things like lab-based user research reports, call centre insight, surveys and online feedback forms. Do an in-depth user journey analysis using Google Analytics to find the best metrics and get more context about website performance. Get your hands dirty with the data and keep asking yourself whether it will achieve the product goals, and allow your team to measure the effect of any changes they make.

Get rid of most of the data

You’ll probably be swamped with data, so half the job is deciding what to leave out. You only want high-level indicators that will show you where to deep-dive. For example tracking each field in an online contact form is probably too much information for a dashboard. You just want the number of contacts, and only if this is an important success indicator.

Mock up a low-fi dashboard

Scrawling numbers and words on a whiteboard or brown paper is a great way to start. Keep it in a public space so that people engage with it, and encourage your team to own the dashboard and provide critical feedback. For dashboard mockups it’s a good idea to:

  • use real data and insights to make sure they’re useful
  • include a headline at the top that reflects the main takeaway of that period, for example if you’ve had a huge spike in contacts due to an effective promotion spell it out
  • use lots of words – unless your team is very data-oriented they’ll appreciate it
  • keep it uncluttered

Show it to your group and get feedback.

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Iterate

Keep your dashboard in a low-fi format for a while to see if it’s useful over time. Once you’ve got to a point where it’s delivering good results, decide on the best way to render it. A simple Google Analytics dashboard that can be emailed automatically will work well if that’s your main source of data. Consider Powerpoint presentations, Google sheets if you want to automate different sources of data. Or a whiteboard dashboard will do just fine if you’ve got a couple of clear goals, such as increasing sales and reducing complaints.

Show the team the value of the dashboard

Present the tarted up dashboard to your team and explain how the website is (or isn’t!) meeting their goals. Confirm how often and in what format they’d like to receive it. A combination of presentation and email is good – it’s best to talk your audience through the insights to make sure they’re useful and used. Let them know that it will never be finished, so feedback is always welcome.

If you need help making useful performance dashboards get in touch!

Get started with Google Analytics

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Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool, and it’s becoming crucial to use it to understand your audience and improve your digital product. If you’re a product manager, or agency / website owner you need to bring GA into the heart of your team. In this post I’ll show you the value of GA, help you decide what’s best for you in terms of using it, and outline how to infuse it into your team.

Why use Google Analytics?

Because it can help you to understand your audience. And this insight will help you to meet your goals, increase your traffic, and show your clients and management how brilliant you and your team are. Here are some examples of how powerful GA can be:

Often a simple headline will be enough to show the value of your work. For example there were lots of people searching for ‘opening hours’ on the Te Papa site so the team put this information on every page. The graph below shows how searches including the term ‘hour’ dropped by 85%, because people didn’t need to search for it any more:

 

Putting opening hours on every page:

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Resulted in an 85% drop in searches containing ‘hour’:

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What does it do?

Google Analytics shows how people use your website. It tracks hundreds of things like where they come from (e.g. Google, social, referral sites), what pages they visit, and what they search for on your site. If you need to set up GA Moz has a great guide on this, so go do that and then come back here so you can make the data useful.

How can I use it?

People tend to approach GA with enthusiasm, thinking that pulling a few levers will make all the insights fall out. But understanding why things are happening and how to fix them is more like one of those frustrating claw arcade games where you never get the toy. The confusing terminology, number of reports, and the fact that a lot of useful stuff isn’t tracked automatically make it tricky. Below are some ideas about how you can use GA effectively.

Get specialist help

If you manage a big site you’ll want to consider a full-time GA specialist to get to grips with your data. If you can’t bring in a permanent employee consider getting time-boxed help from a consultant (such as Lanalytics!). Spend a bit of time working with them so that you can use their data – sit down with a question about your users and go through the data together. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand, it’s their job to help you get results.

Learn it yourself: pair with specialist

If you want to learn GA yourself it’s ideal to have a specialist on-site. You’ll be able to get help with questions when they arise, such as ‘Are users actually clicking on that 6 pt link that’s 3 km down the bottom of the page?’ If you have someone at your work you can pester them relentlessly. Just be prepared to provide chocolate.

Training courses and online tutorials

If you don’t have the luxury of an on-site specialist, try a certified course or do online training such as the Google Analytics Academy. If you decide to go to a course it’s a good idea to define the main things you’d like to find out about your site before you attend. You can ask the trainer to show you how to track these, because training is often very broad. Likewise find bite-sized online tutorials that meet your specific goals – you’ll get lost if you try to learn everything.

Assign site measurement to a team member

Consider training up a member of your team. They should be passionate about users, good with technology, and good communicators. Don’t rule out less-experienced team members – putting data to good use relies on knowledge of business, team and user needs, which are learnt on the job.

Infusing your team with data

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Whatever route you decide to take, don’t let your data sit in a vacuum. Analytics works best when every team member can track what they’re interested in. For example designers will want to know whether their blue call-to-action button is being clicked, whereas content designers will want to know which of the pages they’ve written are popular.

Also define things that are important to your whole team, like are the right people finding your online form page? Work out your performance priorities as a team and build up to regular dashboard reporting (more on that in a later post) which reflects your goals and performance.

Google Analytics is a valuable source of insights to help you understand your users and improve your site. Whether you decide to learn Google Analytics yourself, assign it to a team member, or get a specialist in, make sure you build a performance culture within your team. GA will help you to help you increase traffic to your website, meet your goals, and prove the value of your work. Get started!

Contact Lanalytics for help with using Google Analytics to make your website brilliant.

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