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!