Choosing how frequently you check your business analytics and metrics can be surprisingly tricky.
On the one hand, while monitoring changes to metrics on a daily basis can help you identify anomalies and major events very quickly, you may see your metrics jump significantly up or down depending on what day of the week it is. Like the stock market, these daily fluctuations might mean nothing in the long run, but you might latch onto a false signal.
On the other hand, while you are less likely to see these drastic changes when you are analyzing your metrics monthly, such long delays between analytical cycles will prevent your business from rapidly testing out different ideas.
You need to find a happy medium.
I recommend keeping track of your metrics on a weekly basis for three simple reasons:
1. People behave similarly from week to week
While the “week” is a completely arbitrary unit of time invented by our ancient ancestors, it is surprisingly well-suited for modern analytics needs.
Let’s take the “views” metrics for our medium publication as an example:
Starting mid-September, we ramped up our content schedule from posting 1-2 pieces per week to consistently posting 3 pieces a week.
If we looked at the effectiveness of this posting schedule by comparing day-by-day, we would most likely miss a clear indicator of whether our strategy resulted in an overall increase in our publication views.
However, when we compare the total number of views across weeks, it is very clear that our shift in strategy resulted in an increase in our readership.
This is because unlike days, hours, months, or any other time period, people tend to behave very consistently from one week to another, making it easier to compare metrics across weeks.
For example, most people tend to check their email less on Friday afternoons because they're wrapping up work and getting ready for the weekend, so your email marketing metrics will probably be lower on Fridays, which you can expect to see when you compare metrics between weeks.
Therefore, when you are comparing your metrics changes from one week to another, it is much more likely that those changes are due to your efforts, instead of random noise caused by seasonality across weeks.
For this exact reason, using weeks as a unit of analysis in your organization can help you accurately identify what initiatives worked, and what didn’t work. This enables you to leverage these ideas that did produce results, and iterate upon those that didn’t.
2. Week-to-week analysis helps you focus on long term strategy while not losing sight of short-term changes
One of the biggest problems I see from companies that have just begun utilizing analytics is that they make decisions from their data too quickly.
Very often, I would see a business owner completely crossing out a channel (such as Facebook ads) after spending less than $100 on the platform across only two or three weeks.
However, the reality is that ad platforms such as Facebook require a lot of time and energy for optimization before it starts showing results. More likely or not, you will not see drastic contributions from these channels to your revenue in the first month - or even the first quarter.
While not completely eliminating the “hasty conclusion” issue, analyzing campaign metrics weekly can serve as a buffer that will lessen the chances of making rash decisions, such as terminating campaigns that may be either under-optimized or still gathering momentum.
On the other side of the coin, tracking weekly changes can offer you a good idea of whether a channel is getting better or worse in a reasonably speedy time frame, enabling you to identify weak ads and channels quickly without wasting too much money on them.
3. Analyzing on a weekly basis will align with your decision cycle
The last reason is fairly practical — it is simply impossible to come up with a coherent action plan and execute on it if you track your metrics in any time period shorter than a week.
A well-executed digital marketing plan requires not only a coherent strategy, but also ample time for the digital marketing team to build aesthetically-pleasing assets such as images and videos that resonate with your target audience. All of these steps take time.
Making data-driven decisions on a weekly basis can help you accomplish two things. On one hand, it gives your digital marketing team ample time to strategize and prepare content to engage your audiences. On the other hand, it provides them with enough time pressure to be motivated and ensure rapid execution of your decisions.
As we demonstrated, analyzing your metrics on a weekly basis can offer you many advantages not offered by viewing metrics on a daily or monthly basis.
In additional to the benefits I mentioned, many analytics and dashboard tools on the market (such as Google Analytics) track your metrics on a week-to-week basis by default. As a result, tracking metrics weekly is also simpler to setup than other options.
However, I do like to mention here that as your analytics capabilities grow, you may find that analyzing your metrics weekly isn’t quite enough to satisfy your more complex analytics need s. In that case, you can expand to a more frequent analytics schedule that meets those needs — but that’s a problem that’s relatively far away for most small and medium sized businesses.
Even if you are using a schedule different than the one recommended in this article, it is still worth your time to answer the three questions I brought up in this article:
Is the period I selected stable enough to be compared over time?
Can the time period enable me to focus on both long-term and short-term changes in my metrics?
Can the time period enable my team to execute an action plan within each decision cycle?
I hope these questions can provide you with a framework for thinking about the role of analytics in your business. If properly approached, these questions can help you to grow your digital presence much faster than you thought was possible!
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