Updating, Redesigning Or Migrating Your Website Without Losing Analytics
Every website goes through changes periodically. You can update sections, do a complete redesign, or you can transfer your current website to a new platform or content management system. When doing any of these things there are a number of things you have to think about, from user experience and 301 redirects to branding issues and more. One thing that is often forgotten about, however, is the
setup of analytics tracking codes.
Website analytics is an important tool in any business. Of course, it is not an exact science, and the data that is available to you is not 100 percent accurate. It is the data that you have, however, and over time its validity improves, helping you to make real and meaningful decisions to positively impact your marketing efforts. The problem is that the validity and accuracy of the data starts to fall apart when it stops coming in.
Unfortunately, this is an easy situation to get into. It usually occurs when the developers or technical team make all the great changes on your new or updated website, but they don't include the Opentracker analytics script that your marketing department wants to use.
In many cases, fixing the problem after the event is not simple. This is because of all the custom events, custom audiences, custom segments, and third-party integrations that you will probably have set up in Opentracker. Doing these updates after your website has been changed without any documentation is challenging, and can damage the integrity of your data.
So what is the answer? Like most things in business and marketing, the solution is all about planning, and then implementing that plan carefully. It involves the marketing department and the tech team working together, but getting it right from the start is essential to keep your data as accurate and useful as possible. It will also save you time in the long run.
Here is a five-step process to updating, redesigning, or migrating your website without losing analytics.
Step 1 – Documenting The Current Setup
Before you can start planning what you want to track on your new or updated website, you have to document what you are currently tracking. The information that you should gather includes:
- The events that you are tracking - this could be "thank you for signing up" URLs, downloads, video actions, social media interactions, or anything else
- The custom segments that you track - this could be member / non-member segments, geographical segments, user segments, and more
- The Opentracker code related to each event or segment
- Where that code has been implemented on your current website
You should also identify any third-party integrations you have in place. Examples of this include CRM systems, social media platforms, mobile specific applications or solutions, affiliate programs, PPC tags, DoubleClick tags, and more. As well as identifying these third-party integrations, you should also document the code and where that code has been placed.
Step 2 - Planning The New Setup for Success
Once you have a full understanding of what is currently in place, and you have documented everything, you are ready to start planning the analytics setup on your new site.
Start by identifying the current events that you want to keep. This could be a good time to purge those individual tracking events that don't get analysed, are no longer relevant, or don't provide useful data.
Then look at the events and segmentation customisations that you want to tweak or change, noting what those changes will be. Finally, add in new events to track based on new functionality on your website, or new marketing strategies. For example, you might have added ecommerce functionality to your website which will require additional tracking that is not in place on your existing website.
Step 3 - Planning And Implementing The Technical Changes On The New Site
The next step is to discuss and implement the technical changes on the new website to give you the analytics data that you need. This part of the process often requires involvement from the developers building the website, or the technical team in your organization.
Some things you should think about, and discuss with the tech team, include:
- The structure of the new website - this particularly applies if the structure is changing significantly from the current website. Issues such as sub domains and cross-domain tracking will also have to be addressed.
- Any changes to the way URLs are named - changing the names of URLs can affect the way the data is collected and reported, so this should be factored into your planning
- Code customizations - how will this integrate with the new website
- Whether you are using your existing Opentracker code - in some cases where websites have become unwieldy or the analytics process has become inefficient, companies may decide to start afresh with a new Opentracker code
- URL redirects - these are very common when websites are updated or redesigned, but can have a significant impact on the quality of analytics data if not managed properly
- Other technical changes to the website - such as to the search functionality on your website, or anything else that impacts on the Opentracker analytics process
Step 4 - Validate The Technical Changes After Launch
This step is usually carried out by the developers or your technical team. It involves using software or cloud-based services to scan your website to ensure the tracking code is installed on all your pages.
Here are some things to think about in this step:
- Is the Opentracker code on all your pages?
- Have configuration changes been made to all your profiles?
- Check that the Opentracker code is not mistakenly still on non-live pages, such as on a development server or staging environment.
- Double-check any pages that are not part of your CRM system or website template structure. Examples include landing pages and static pages created by third-party applications. You might have to install the Opentracker code on these pages manually.
- Review site speed reports to check if any of the analytics code that you have implemented is malfunctioning.
Step 5 - Review And Check The Data After Launch
You should always check the data in the weeks and months after you launch a new website. The best way to do that is to compare different but similar date ranges - this month with last month, last week with the week before, last month with the same month last year, etc.
Initially, look at the headline metrics to spot anything unusual or unexplained variations in the data. For example, has the mobile traffic or events on mobile seen a drop in numbers? This might be because the Opentracker codes are not implemented properly on mobile rather than a real difference in mobile traffic. It could also be caused by another technical problem, such as device or browser compatibility issues with the new website.
You can then start going into the data in more detail. Looking at the sources of your traffic, for example, can highlight potential problems. Look for spikes or drops in referring traffic, and identify any new self-referring sources. Self-referring sources arise when Opentracker records "traffic" as coming from a page on your domain. It does this when the Opentracker code is not installed on that page, or there is a problem with the code.
Also, look at the content and pages reports and look for anything unusual. It is also helpful to send 404 page reports to your website technical team on a regular basis so that they can fix any issues.
Also, pay particular attention to the traffic you get through organic SEO. If there are significant changes or variations in that traffic you should communicate this to your technical and SEO team. It is often the case that redesigning or updating a website can impact on search engine rankings, but you can mitigate the impact through close monitoring and prompt action.
The key to successfully updating, redesigning, or migrating a website is in the planning. Planning well, implementing that plan carefully, and close monitoring post-launch can not only maintain the integrity of your analytics data, but can also identify technical issues with the new website, drop-offs in traffic, and other problems.
It takes time and resources to do properly, but it is worth it in the medium to long term.