Data is the voice of your audience
Data has a reputation for being scary
I haven’t seen many examples of this manuscript-style report approach resulting in big content improvements. The people who have the remit to mould content skim the report, have a couple of ‘aaah, that’s interesting’ moments, fail to see how the insights can turn into actionable improvements, and get on with shaping content in accordance with their whims.
Use data all the time
I’ve provided guidance about using free online search tools to find user needs. How you measure whether you’re meeting those needs will depend on the need itself. It’s best to approach analytics with an assumption about how people are using your content. Then you’re less likely to get lost in the maze - you can follow the user journey through the data to confirm or challenge that assumption.
Don't spend hours on it
Data is a neutral language and can be extremely effective in supporting ‘common sense’ solutions in conversations with people who may not have the user at heart. Equally you’ll challenge your own assumptions with data - being militant about plain English is not the right approach when lots of people are searching for an obscure acronym.
If you’ve diligently used data to refine your content you may achieve the holy grail of analysts - the pretty graph. Some prefer their graphs to dip or peak perkily in response to content changes, however I prefer the stark contrast of the date comparison - two craggy lines like mountain ranges showing just how far you’ve come.
GOV.UK case study
The graph below shows what happens when a content designer improved a guide on Bereavement allowance, which is a benefit that people can get if their partner dies. People were searching for ‘widows pension’ in GOV.UK search because this is what they thought the benefit was called. We hadn’t included this term within content so they weren’t finding it. Including it on the page resulted in almost a thousand fewer searches on GOV.UK for ‘widows pension’ in April compared with February in Google Analytics. Hopefully this small change will continue to help a lot of people to find important information in a difficult time in their lives.
You don’t need to be an analyst to analyse - take ownership of the analytics process to enhance the user journey and demonstrate the success of your content. Go for the graph.