Going Beyond the What with Google Analytics: MnSearch Marquee Event Recap

Jeff presenting at mnsearchLet it be known that on October 22, 2014 the minds of those intrepid digital marketers who packed Spyder Trap’s auditorium may have been changed forever. We were there to listen to Minnesota native and now San Francisco transplant Jeff Sauer give a presentation titled Going Beyond the What with Analytics.

The overarching theme of the night was moving beyond the “what” of data and analytics and into the “why” that comes from a digital marketer’s brain, which is what drives and influences strategy at an organizational level. Jeff distilled this strategic thinking skill piece down into three principles:

  • Selling your strategic vision to the client or organization.
  • Understanding your tools and the data they provide.
  • Sharing your results with decision makers and partners.

Getting Organizational Buy-In: Selling Your Strategy

There may not be many of us who are giving make-or-break presentations in wood-paneled boardrooms, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp when presenting your strategic vision to decision makers.

According to Jeff, before you present, ask yourself if your pitch is boardroom worthy. Explaining to corporate level players why their organization needs a data-driven digital analytics strategy is a prerequisite to implementing the tools that will provide the fodder for your analysis, so make sure you come impeccably prepared.

Suggestions on what you should take into account and focus on during your “30 minutes to shine”:

  • Show a clear understanding of the company and its goals.
  • Talk about the benefits of your strategy for the organization, and be specific.
  • Use your words, not your acronyms; make sure the people in the room understand you.
  • Back up your points with relevant examples and case studies.
  • Predict value: “I estimate that doing x will bring you an increase in revenue of y.”

Pro Tip: Visit Avinash’s blog, Occam’s Razor, and read/download his material on ROA (Return on Analytics). The CFO is going to ask for numbers, and this is a great asset that will allow you to provide them.


When you’re pitching strategy, Jeff advises that we look to create frameworks for particular desired outcomes (build a national presence, sustain x% growth, become a market leader, etc.). This allows us to set high level goals and KPIs that we can then build out with the three T’s: tactics, teams and tools.

Tactics are how we plan to deliver the KPI that will meet the high level goals. Defining teams will assign accountability. Tools are how you measure your efforts; much like a Phillips head, a tool will not solve your problem without a human to wield it.

Frameworks are a great way to put it all together, creating a digital measurement strategy that everyone can rally around. Everyone knows what the goals are, what the organization is trying to do, and when these frameworks are at a suitably high level, they make for great presentations.

Understanding the Tools: Google Analytics

Tools, according to Jeff, come second to strategy. That is a key point, and why he covered the strategic pitch first; tools can be set up in five minutes or less and data will start flowing immediately. Understanding the data and using it to adjust your processes to meet those KPIs we laid out for the execs in our initial pitch is where you need to put the time in.

Jeff went way inside baseball for this segment, discussing some of the changes to Google’s analytics tools that have the most potential to help marketers develop better strategies for our clients/companies.

Google Analytics has recently added demographic reports, which allow marketers to tap into all sorts of great data about site visitors that Google stores. Jeff recently wrote an article about this feature, which you can check out over at Jeffalytics.

Also recently added are benchmarking reports, which show you how you stack up against the competition, and give you another way to tell decision makers in your organization why you need budget to execute on a strategy or tactic that is paying off for others in that niche.

Universal Analytics is a new method that Google uses to collect visitor data. It requires a different version of the existing Google Analytics code which has less reliance on cookies, which is good, because it allows better tracking of users rather than devices.

This improved tracking is combined with better customization and configuration options than were previously available, meaning you are now able to take the one-size-fits-all tool that is Google Analytics and tailor it to your specific needs.

Tag Manager is an analytics tool that allows you to hold all of the tracking tags for your website in one place. Without it, you’d have a bunch of JavaScript containers that would become pretty cumbersome to maintain over time. With Tag Manager, you can apply one piece of code one time and do all of the tagging through an interface rather than through code, and who doesn’t like a good UI?

Jeff talked about some specific use cases and capabilities which you can see in the presentation. One that was particularly interesting was the use of tracking to include weather data in the analytics, allowing a business to explain changes in their sales that may have been impacted by weather. You could, of course, do the same with economic data or other news events, allowing correlation on a ridiculous scale.

The Final Piece: Sharing Your Results

While the pitch gets you in the door and the tools give you the data you need to measure your KPIs and evaluate your strategy, no one is going to know about it unless you share your successes (and failures). Showing others why you succeeded (or failed) is hugely important when you are trying for continued adoption of your strategy.

It is at this point that Jeff went all Eastern and provided his path to analytics Zen, or put another way, what you should be telling others about your work:

  • What happened, and by how much? Well, we’re actually really good at that; see the “tools” section above.
  • Is this expected, should we be worried? Here we venture outside the analytics and into actual analysis as well as benchmarking against competitors.
  • Why did it happen? More analysis, correlation study, and testing hypotheses.
  • How do we react? The conclusion piece. What do we do? Nothing? Everything? Provide the answers for your organization.

Tips on Presenting Results

The key to sharing the data you’re extracting via analytics is doing so in a way that helps people understand what you want them to see. Take the ideas in your head and the data in your tools and make them into a common format everyone can understand and get behind.

Pro Tip: What you say is important, but what you don’t say is even more important; don’t be a “data puker.” If the plumber cleans out my drain, I just want to know that the drain is clear. I don’t need to see what was blocking it.

Jeff’s advice on what to put in a presentation that shares the results of your strategy:

  • Use visuals. Pictures and thousands of words and all of that.
  • Don’t show your work. Again, what you don’t say is more important. Tell them what to think, you don’t need to show them everything you’ve done. They probably don’t really care.
  • Assume the presentation will be passed around offline. Make it easy to follow, flow in a logical order, and add an executive summary with all of your key points.
  • Remove ambiguity. Tell your story in a way that allows everyone to draw the same conclusions.
  • Offer solutions rather than describing problems. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.

Reach out to Jeff in order to get a look at his reporting template, which gives you a great framework for reporting your results and charting the way forward.

We Are Now Beyond the What

Without editorializing overmuch, I think that Jeff’s message is clear: collecting and interpreting the data doesn’t mean much if you can’t explain it to the decision makers the influencers, the executives. Analytics tools are just a part of what you need to be a great data-driven marketer. You need to be able to persuade, to get organizational buy-in. You also need to be able to share results.

Ask yourself how what you’re doing helps the business, and also ask yourself how you make yourself a strategic asset to your company. Add value to everything you do by making sure you can communicate it to the people who make the decisions that drive the direction of the business.

Thanks again Jeff for a great MnSearch event filled with mind blowing insights and lots of laughter.


Be sure to join us on Wednesday, November 19th at Spyder Trap as we welcome Nifty Marketing founder Mike Ramsey to the stage. Mike is an internationally recognized speaker who will walk us through the lessons he learned the hard way about the world and search. Register for the next MnSearch Marquee event, An Idiot’s Guide to Winning at SEO and Influencing SERPs.


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