Analytics saving California Social Services Agency Millions

I know lots of companies that don’t measure the performance of their websites or enewsletters. On colleague of mine told me that he had a “gut feeling” about what works for his company.

However, when you look at what you can learn from studying your stats, it’s eye-opening. Many of my clients are truly surprised to find out what information their constituencies find most interesting, which pages on their sites get the most traffic, and which of their pearls of wisdom are generally ignored!

Now the Alameda County, Calif., Social Services Agency  has found that using analytics can save taxpayers a lot of money.

In July of 2009 the county agency launched a $1.5 million business intelligence and analytics package from IBM that integrates six systems in order to give caseworkers a nearly real-time look at how and when clients are using various social services.

Bingo! This is the beauty of information shared on the web. You can measure it. You can track responses, view traffic patterns and look at referring urls.

Now, you don’t have to spend $1.5 million to do so. In fact, for someone just starting out, a free program such as Google Analytics is a good start. I use it for several of my own sites and for client sites.

As a result of what we’ve learned from collecting data over a period of time one of my clients redesigned their site and changed the type of information that they presented. For example, we found that the FAQs section of the site drew the most visitors. As a result, we started putting the information that we felt was most important for customers to know in that section. We also found that there was an enormous need for basic educational information which drove us to create several tutorials.

As for e-newsletters, knowing which topics attract the most readers is valuable from an overall perspective but critical for sales people who want to learn more about the customers in their territories.

I think that one of the greatest barriers to installing analytics programs is that people are afraid what the measurements will show; that their programs aren’t performing as well as they should. My take on this is different. To measurably demonstrate the value that public relations and marketing communications adds to a company you must be able to provide the data and you must establish a benchmark for your current success. After all, you can’t improve your outreach if you don’t know there’s a problem.

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