Once upon I time I was a chef…well, a cook really.  Those days hav­ing ended for me, the clos­est I get to it these days is liv­ing vic­ar­i­ously through shows like Top Chef.  One of my favorites in every sea­son is “Restau­rant Wars”.  In this seg­ment of the com­pe­ti­tion two teams of Top Chef hope­fuls develop a restau­rant con­cept with the hopes of win­ning over the judges and keep­ing them­selves in the game another week.  The most com­mon short­com­ing I’ve noticed is the los­ing teams spend too much or too lit­tle time on front of house – or the area of the restau­rant the pub­lic actu­ally sees. Ana­lyt­ics design is very sim­i­lar to Restau­rant Wars in this respect.

When you put your ana­lyt­ics pack­age in place, you prob­a­bly took a ver­i­ta­ble menu of require­ments from the whole team.  Mar­ket­ing wanted cam­paign attri­bu­tion, edi­to­r­ial wanted to know what peo­ple were read­ing most, and ad sales wanted to know how engaged or happy the audi­ence was with the site.  So you duti­fully devel­oped a con­cept for track­ing codes, top con­tent cut 15 dif­fer­ent ways, time spent, and visit fre­quency.  Nailed it, right? The con­cept is defined: the mar­ket­ing team knows where peo­ple come from and what they are look­ing at. The menu is laid out: the edi­to­r­ial team knows what to write about and pro­mote. Finally, the judges are ready: the sales team under­stands how deeply the audi­ence engages.

But isn’t some­thing miss­ing here?  What about the front-of-house staff – the food run­ners and servers? How else are we con­nect­ing what the kitchen puts on the plate with the expe­ri­ence we’re deliv­er­ing for the adver­tis­ers foot­ing the bill?  How does the kitchen know what peo­ple thought of the food, much less, how did the food even get to them?  That’s a key bridge between the orders (and dol­lars) flow­ing into the place and the wheels put into motion when those orders are placed.

Audi­ence sources, top con­tent, visit fre­quency, and time spent are all use­ful tools for telling you use­ful things about your site’s per­for­mance, but are you using them in a vac­uum?  With­out blend­ing the rev­enue with the web ana­lyt­ics dimen­sions and met­rics you don’t really get analy­sis that indi­cates healthy rev­enue and yield per­for­mance.  Put another way, the plates go out full, but you don’t know if the din­ers are actu­ally eat­ing it, and so you don’t know if you’re doing right or wrong by the very peo­ple upon whom your liveli­hood depends.

Get­ting at this has many fla­vors. At a sim­ple level, it could be peri­odic blended CPM val­ues applied across the site, or at sec­tion or template-type lev­els using a tool like SAINT.  At its most com­pli­cated, it might be inte­gra­tions across mul­ti­ple sys­tems, feed­ing ad server and Audi­ence Man­age­ment data into an ana­lyt­ics tool like Insight, and lever­ag­ing Site Cat­a­lyst, Dis­cover, and Insight for report­ing and analysis.

How­ever sim­ple or com­pli­cated you’re enabled today to make these con­nec­tions, you can make them with a lit­tle prep.  Ask the ad ops teams how they divvy up the site and where the high­est value is.  Under­stand how that changes over time.  Spend some time with the folks run­ning the ad opti­miza­tion tools.  Get to know the ingre­di­ents they have to work with and what is most requested by advertisers.

Run­ning a restau­rant is no easy task – many fold in the first year. Run­ning a suc­cess­ful ana­lyt­ics pro­gram for your media busi­ness is not any eas­ier. By mak­ing sure your pro­gram not only has the back-of-house struc­ture to pro­duce ana­lyt­i­cal data, but also mak­ing sure that some front-of-house thought has gone into how that data can be pre­sented, con­sumed, and acted upon you are more likely to turn out a win­ning restau­rant wor­thy of a top chef.

Bon Appetit!

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