Data is the cornerstone of any effective business strategy. It allows you to understand your audience by revealing who is part of it and how your audience prefers to be engaged. By utilizing your data to its fullest, you can create targeted, data-driven campaigns that optimize your marketing budget and maximize your return on investment (ROI).
However, suppose you’ve been relying on the same analytics and data collection methods year after year. In that case, it’s time to explore new options and techniques to keep the information you collect relevant. Utilizing tools like GA4, Hotjar, and ShortStack’s advanced form builder can help you unlock new insights about your customers and reveal growth opportunities.
This guide defines the four main data categories essential for a comprehensive understanding of your audience. Then, you’ll learn specific strategies for collecting the data your business may be missing.
Let’s get started!
The four categories of data
Understanding the four primary data types will help you evaluate the comprehensiveness of your data strategy. You may know your audience is primarily female and between the ages of 35 and 55, but when it comes to understanding how your audience finds you online, you may be entirely in the dark. The first step in leveling up your data strategy is understanding where the gaps in your data acquisition may be.
Here are the four types of data every business needs to collect:
Personal Data (Also known as Descriptive Data): This is demographic data like age, gender, location, and income. This data can help you categorize your audience into different personas, such as a “value-seeker” or “brand-buyer.” You can use this data to develop the flavor of your brand and write copy tailored to the people you’re targeting.
Behavioral Data: Behavioral data comes from how customers buy and use your products or services. Behaviors include online navigation data, purchase history, website bounces, and the path taken to make a purchase. By observing behavioral data, you can create better lead magnets, glean when to use pop-ups, and tailor your sales funnel for the best ROI.
Interactive Data (Also called Engagement Data): This data shows how customers interact with your business. For example, are they clicking your ‘more info’ CTAs, or do they prefer to activate live chat? Do they comment on your social media posts or open your emails? Interactive data gives you insights on everything from how to better organize your website’s homepage to building an optimal social media strategy.
Attitudinal Data: This data refers to the temperature of your audience concerning your business. Attitudinal Data can be gleaned by reading reviews, reviewing satisfaction surveys, and even compiling a Net Promoter Score (NPS). The information you collect can reveal areas of your business that need improvement or even help you develop new products and services.
Now that you know the types of data you can collect, read on to learn expert methods to gather that data and gain better insights.
Advanced entry form strategies for better data collection
Data security is a growing concern. People aren’t willing to disclose their personal information without a good reason, which makes collecting data difficult. For this reason, building the optimal entry form can be a delicate dance – you want to maximize the amount of data you collect without overwhelming visitors with a lengthy entry form.
With a quality form builder, features like branching logic and offering incentives for populating fields can help you coax more information from leary users. Here are some form-building techniques to help you score more data without triggering users to bounce.
Create a multi-page form
As the name implies, a multi-page form asks questions across multiple pages. Often, the viewer only sees one question or a few questions per page.
A multi-page form creates a more manageable user experience. Presenting the user with one to three questions at a time is far less intimidating than an assault via endless form fields.
As a best practice, include a page count so the length of the form is transparent.
Use conditional form fields
Conditional form fields are also known as branching logic. When using conditional form fields, the form displays questions based on the answer given for a previous question.
In this example built with ShortStack, selecting the “Active!…” response triggers a prompt to select a day and time to receive a phone call, while the other two options display a simple email capture.
There are multiple benefits to using branching logic. Like a multi-page form, branching logic allows you to break forms into easy-to-digest pieces and consolidates the number of fields you present to the user. More precise data collection will enable you to ask more targeted questions, acquiring the data you need to build a better profile of your audience.
Beyond field consolidation, branching logic allows you to prioritize your list of collected leads by type. In the example above, the design business can use the data collected to see who is ready for a remodel and who can be placed in a remarketing cycle for a remodel down the road.
Offer field incentives
Offering an incentive for providing data can convince an otherwise apprehensive person to share their data if they perceive the reward as worthwhile. A ‘reward’ may be a discount, a free resource, or extra chances to win a giveaway.
In another ShortStack-built example, the giveaway offers up to ten extra chances to win in exchange for a bit of information about the participant’s travel habits. Questions like these can go a long way in helping a business remarket to its customers or perhaps develop a new marketing strategy altogether.
Integrate with webhooks
The word ‘webhook’ sounds like intimidating tech jargon, but these days (with the help of third-party apps), anyone can connect an entry form with software that collects, stores, or manages their data.
Common use cases for webhooks include integrating lead capture forms (i.e., giveaways, quizzes, subscribe forms, etc.) with customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce or email service software like MailChimp. A webhook can take the data collected in a lead-capture form such as the name, email address, and whatever other information you captured, and automatically create a new customer profile, or add the contact to a list in another app.
Tools like Zapier can help you connect webhook-compatible forms (like those built with ShortStack) with literally thousands of different apps.
Now let’s look at ways to better analyze the data you collect.
Analytics tools & metrics for better data analysis
Although data collection through analytics may not be new to you, there may be some analytics stones you may have yet to turn over.
With that said, let’s talk about some of the places you should be digging into your data.
GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics. If you’re unfamiliar with GA4, it’s incredibly comprehensive and extraordinarily powerful. The downside of GA4 is that it comes with a bit of a learning curve. Don’t let that deter you from diving in! Setting up an account takes no time at all (here’s a step-by-step guide).
Once you’re set up, you’ll soon discover that the amount of data gleaned from GA4 could fill a set of encyclopedias. Instead of feeling pulled in too many directions, here are three eye-opening metrics your business can start following right away:
Engaged Sessions: Engaged Sessions last longer than 10 seconds and/or have some sort of conversion or engagement. Visitors that did not qualify as an Engaged Session, bounced (or left your site quickly). GA4 uses the percentage of engaged sessions as your engagement rate, and the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions as your bounce rate.
By following this metric, you’ll know whether your website is optimized for conversions or if you need to tweak your page copy or change your targeted ads to better reflect your offering.
Traffic Acquisition Reports: Traffic Acquisition Reports can tell you what your best lead magnets are. In other words, what path is your web traffic following to arrive at your site? Are they reading your blog posts, visiting your landing pages, or clicking on your ads? You can even break data down by keyword to see what people are searching for when they click on your site’s URL.
This data can give you direct insight into where you should invest in content creation.
Conversion Tracking: Conversions mean different things to different businesses. Whereas some may consider a sale or purchase a conversion, others may consider an email capture or even a button click as conversions. Whatever your definition of conversion may be, GA4 allows you to set custom conversion events to help you accurately gauge the success of your site. You can also learn which engagement events may lead to conversions. For example, if your site’s visitors watched a video and converted within three days, GA4 can let you know about it.
Those are just three invaluable pieces of data you can use to peer into the minds of your user base and help you understand where you’re winning and what things can use improvement.
Social Media Analytics
A boost in Likes and Shares may seem to be an obvious measure of success, but these metrics (sometimes referred to as vanity metrics) aren’t always something to high-five your office mates about. In fact, a study done by Harvard Business Review revealed: “the mere act of endorsing a brand does not affect a customer’s behavior or lead to increased purchasing, nor does it spur purchasing by friends.” Instead, understanding how customers talk about your brand can serve as a valuable source of marketing insight, and what better source for putting your ear to the ground than your most popular social media channels?
Here are a few metrics that you can use to measure how your branding is fairing on social media:
Social Share of Voice (SSoV): This metric refers to how much and how often people talk about your business on social media. It’s often used to measure the level of your brand awareness in relation to your competitors. Hubspot offers a handy guide to help you find your brand’s share of voice. Understanding where your business fits into the conversation happening in your industry can help you gauge the direction and volume of new social content you create.
Social Sentiment: If your SSoV refers to the amount of attention you’re getting online, your social sentiment measures the feeling or attitude of what those people are saying. Are people raving about your latest product, applauding your excellent customer service, or bashing your business? Check out Hootsuite’s roundup of tools and tips to help you find your brand’s social sentiment.
Video views, view duration, and re-watches: Similar to blog or landing page content, video views can help you understand the topics of most interest to your audience. However, unlike landing pages or blog content, video analytics, like those on YouTube, can tell you more about how the viewer engaged with the video. For example, one useful metric is the average view duration of your videos. If the average duration of a video is 10 seconds, there may a disconnect between viewers’ expectations and the content in the video. Re-watches are another helpful metric and can reveal if parts of a video are particularly interesting, or if there is a need to make more content around that video’s topic.
Heat Mapping, Session Replays, & User Tests
Data analysis with analytics tools is a strategy businesses of all sizes can utilize to help understand their audience. But if you really want to climb inside the mind of your users, these other forms of data collection and analysis will serve you plenty of “ah-ha” moments, too.
Heat mapping software like Hotjar gives you a visual representation of where webpage visitors click and scroll. A heat map of your webpage will show you different colors associated with how many clicks, scrolls, or interactions an area receives.
Heat mapping is a great way to see if visitors click CTAs and read content where you intend, if they’re getting tripped up on arbitrary links, or not engaging with your site much at all.
Also offered by Hotjar, session replays are an incredibly insightful tool that shows the path of the user’s mouse cursor as they view your site. You can see precisely where their mouse hovers, if the user scrolls up and down (as if they’re looking for something they can’t find), view each page visited, find out when a user exits the session and everything in between. It’s a bit like watching over the shoulder of your users as they view your site.
If session replays are the virtual equivalent of looking over someone’s shoulder, then user tests are the real deal. In-person user testing places a human (unfamiliar with your website) in the driver’s seat, and a facilitator asks them to accomplish a goal with the tool. The facilitator observes where the tester gets confused or even lost.
User testing can also be performed online. Many third-party services recruit people to test and do the vouyering for you. Trymata is an example of a company that can take user testing off your plate.
Bonus: Data Governance & Laws
Businesses that deal with data must set up a data governance policy that outlines how policies and procedures are implemented and followed and how data is handled.
The folks at TechTarget describe a well-designed data governance program as “a governance team, a steering committee that acts as the governing body, and a group of data stewards. They work together to create the standards and policies for governing data, as well as implementation and enforcement procedures that are primarily carried out by the data stewards.”
With the ever-changing landscape of data laws, your data governance committee will give you a better handle on knowing the details of the rules by which your business must abide.
Here is a list of data laws your business may need to know about:
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Australian Privacy Act
- Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks
To wrap things up,
When it comes to utilizing data to help steer your business strategy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tools available. However, leaning on data isn’t an all-or-nothing venture. Start small – dedicate a little time each week to watch some session replay recordings, check your engagement sessions, or even just keep one eye on your social share of voice. Once you gain some good data habits, your appetite for further insights will surely grow.
Building sophisticated entry forms for a smart data collection strategy can also be intimidating. My best advice? Start with a good form builder like ShortStack that includes learning resources to make the process painless.