Website analytics faces a number of misconceptions in many professional services firms, ranging from ‘not relevant as we revamped our website only 6 months ago’ all the way through to ‘analytics is mainly for ecommerce companies like Amazon – we’re not selling anything.’
The reason these misconceptions persist is that to make effective use of analytics you need to:
- Know what it offers
- Know how to enrich the basic data gathered by platforms like Google Analytics
- Know how to interpret it
- Be able to report in a user-friendly and timely manner to stakeholders
It’s the first of these issues (simply knowing what analytics offers) that we’re dealing with in this article.
1. Web analytics is the largest source of objective data about your market
Every time someone visits your website – client, prospect or jobseeker – your webserver looks over their shoulder. And unlike anecdotal market feedback you get occasionally from staff, your website operates 24 X 7 and doesn’t care which practice group is seeking the lion’s share of the marketing budget this year, or whether there are tensions between partners Brian and Edward.
Tracking 20k individuals visiting a year for small firms, 100k to 250k individuals for mid tiers, up to low millions for global behemoths, website analytics is simply your firm’s largest source of information about what your clients and prospects are interested in.
Analytics gathers for each person if they’re visiting for the first time or the seventh, what sequence of pages did they follow, and can be enriched to track they performed a high value activity like actually contacting individual lawyers from the website or shared one of your pages on LinkedIn.
Ignoring your firm’s largest set of objective data about the market won’t help align views amongst practice group heads, senior management and marketing, nor encourage the right strategic choices (assuming competitive success depends on a better understanding of your market).
2. Web analytics is not as anonymous as you think
Many people are aware that web analytics data is anonymous.
Except it’s not.
To begin with a good analytics implementation labels groups of people: for example someone who visits your recruitment pages can be labelled so every time they come back they’re automatically identified as a jobseeker. Even default analytics characteristics like first time visitor versus repeat visitors, or city of visitor are very useful.
What about labelling your existing clients so you can see what they (only) are doing on your website? You can.
3. Web analytics enables you to write better articles
Most firms are adopting the ‘show don’t tell’ principle and make a considerable investment in writing articles that actively demonstrate expertise, rather than just claiming to have it.
The most detailed data we have (from lawfirms syndicating through Mondaq in Australia) is that firms write 73 articles per year on average (about 2.2 articles per fee-earner). A lowball estimate of the cost of each article after 2-3 hours writing and editing and upload to the website, would be $500, even with a junior fee-earner writing it (higher end estimates suggest $2000 per article).
So average lawfirms who write articles invest $36,500 per year in writing 73 articles (or $146,000 if you favour the higher end estimate).
Analytics tell authors which articles are getting no reads (do you want to continue writing those?), which are being read a lot, and most importantly, which articles actually lead to high value activities like readers contacting fee-earners.
Think of these articles as a 73 question survey answered tens of thousands of times a year about what problems your clients and prospects have (mostly typed into search engines) and how often they’re trying to solve them.
4. Web analytics tells you how each individual fee earner is doing
By looking at fee-earner profiles, you can see how interest in each fee-earner is tracking, year on year, or the extent to which each is investing in new business development.
This information is important in allocating BD resources and can also provide an early warning signal for management that all is not right for some fee-earners.
You can even see which senior associates are driving significant interest and might be partnership candidates.
5. Web analytics delivers better decisions about where and how to grow your firm
How is the Melbourne or San Francisco office doing and should you expand it? You’d at least want to know how many visitors you’re seeing from those locales and the year on year trend.
What about your insurance practice? Billing has gone up this year but is that an outlier relating to a couple of key clients or are you seeing a consistent lift in people looking at your insurance practice group pages?
6. Web analytics helps determine the real value of third-party channels
Most firms now realise that clients initially get familiar with you where they already are, rather than necessarily going to your website as the first step. However, it’s difficult to argue a third-party channel is valuable if nobody ever comes from that channel to your website, especially given that most of those services will be linking back, for instance from articles to your fee-earner bios.
Analytics gives you a way to evaluate the puffery of directories who argue that being listed in Bestest Ever Lawyers will drive clients to your door.
Or if you contribute articles to newsletter services like Lexology or syndicators like Mondaq** you can road-test their claims that they’re generating value for your firm simply because they’re ‘packed full of C- suite decisionmakers‘.
Analytics tells you who the third party channel is actually sending to you: are they mostly people who have already been to your website (existing clients or existing prospects) or genuinely new prospects, and did they perform the kinds of high value activities that you want to see on your site, you can even see what specific companies arrived from each third party channel.
7. Web analytics turns opinions about key website pages into decisions
If you’ve ever tried to agree the text of a practice group or fee earner bio page, you’re aware of the difficulty of reconciling differing personal opinions amongst senior professionals in your firm.
Analytics puts data behind these opinions: from simple measures like whether the change just made resulted in visitors to that page falling off, to more subtle insights like whether first time visitors left your website after reading that page or carried on afterwards to perform higher value activities like reviewing lawyer bios or contacted you.
8. Web analytics tells you whether your website infrastructure is working
You invest in a team of people who support, maintain and write articles for your website, as well as software, hosting, development and other website costs.
Website analytics gives you information on response time (people are very sensitive to even quarter second delays), types of devices visiting (are your mobile outcomes much poorer than your desktop outcomes?) and generic metrics like number of pages and length of visit (engagement).
These sorts of numbers should be a focus for your website team.
9. Web analytics tells you how your newsletter program is working for clients
In most cases your newsletter program contains links that lead people back to your website. Some newsletter systems will have first-click measurement but what happens after the reader lands on your site? At that point it’s over to your site analytics to tell you: did that person perform any high value activities, did related content perform well, even what weekday timing is best for sending your newsletter.
10. Web analytics increases referrals driven by social media
Professional services has always been heavily driven by referrals, and social media interactions such as Likes and Shares are referrals on steroids. And most things you post on social media will again lead back to your website.
But which specific social channels and content posted are really working for you so you can focus more on them? Website analytics will tell you.
A final note: why firms don’t have great web analytics
The sort of website reporting that most firms get (if any) is typically not structured for professional services firms, is not presented in a user-friendly and timely manner for analytics laypersons like your authors, marketing and management, and is not enriched in the way it should be to start tracking high value activities as this requires specialist skills.
However it doesn’t have to be that way.
** Full disclosure: we are the resellers for Mondaq in Australia and New Zealand.