We talk a lot about how what you measure matters. The metrics you keep an eye on matter so much in fact, that they are rarely one size fits all across companies with different needs and marketing strategies. This leads to the issue of compiling reports and finding out what exactly is important to business owners.

We have been looking around for some time now for the perfect software to pull all of our data together and deliver the perfect report all bundled up and ready to go. The truth is though, that reports are about more than looking at numbers going up and down on a line. The power in the data is in what those number reflect. Say for instance you run Facebook ads, the amount of clicks compared to how much you spent is extremely important whereas someone who uses Facebook to interact with customers should be more concerned with their response rate. Now, I’m not saying it isn’t all important, but the thing to remember is that data is only numbers until you put some context behind it.

When starting to look at your data for the month, look beyond the numbers and consider the why. Why did people like one post over another? Or, why did this same format of email newsletter do so well one month but flopped this month? Well, the answers are not always clear, but you can use reports and the data you dig up to make inferences that you can test the next month or draw conclusions as to what prompts your audience to respond.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on when compiling data for someone else, or reflecting on your own data for the month to see what you did well or what maybe didn’t go over as well.

  1. Sharp inclines or declines – This can be a moment of joy or pure confusion. You’ve been trying new things, watching your data and all of a sudden your interaction on Facebook or your open rates flatline. There is a lot going on behind the scenes and you need to look at reasons this could be happening. Are you sending/posting too often? Is your content generic and dull? Conversely, if all of the sudden your interaction explodes and you see results like you’ve never seen before. Well, that’s great, unless it was a fluke. Try to identify what you did differently and don’t discount outside influence. If you own a heating company and the temperature drops dramatically, that might be incentive for people to go to your site and schedule appointments to make sure their heaters are up to good working order. The downside to sharp inclines is that those numbers can be deceiving. Keep everything in perspective and make sure you are aware of what’s normal for you and celebrate the victories.
  2. Unusual amount of interaction – Interaction is never a bad thing, right? Well, usually it’s a great thing, but if you normally have 7-10 likes per post and all of a sudden you notice 40-50 interactions on one post it might be time to look a little deeper. Make sure you pay attention to what people are saying about your post and the way they are sharing it. If that content is making the rounds for the wrong reason it can do more harm than good. If the content is getting attention for the right reasons, make note of what you did and integrate those aspects in other posts.
  3. Visitors from unknown websites – This one is pretty easy to spot and has a pretty simple solution. If the number of new visitors for the month is astronomically higher than anything you have seen before and are coming from websites you don’t recognize, odds are your spam filter isn’t doing its job. This isn’t going to hurt your website in the short run, but it’s better to recognize and eliminate the issue. If you need some help, take a look through this blog for some tips.

Decide what matters to you, your website and your overall goals before you decide what data is valuable to your organization. There are some indicators that are worth watching but reporting and looking at data is less about “Oh look, that happened” and more about “Why did that happen and what can I do to either make it happen next time or make sure it never happens again”.