How to Turn Raw Data into Actionable Insights: Part 1 of 3 – Choosing KPIs

With the rise of the digital era where everything is trackable, it is no surprise that we have more data available to us than any other time in history. The data we collect can help further our artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits. Data allows us to get into the minds of our followers and customers to help us deliver a better experience to them.

The most common and practical data that can be utilized is collected from personal/business websites and social profiles. Note that data collection is not limited to these platforms. It is also available for collection through surveys and questionnaires. If your awareness of a specific statistic is important in a decision making process, there is a way to acquire that data to better inform the relative decision.

This is part 1 of 3, where we’ll be diving into how to turn bulk data into workable knowledge.

Turning Facts into Knowledge

For the remainder of this article, I will use the term ‘data’ interchangeably with ‘facts’. This is given that your collection method is error free and is a true representation of your audience/ followers/ customers/ etc. Let’s get a few definitions out of the way so we’re all on the same page.

Facts are pieces of indisputable information.

Knowledge is awareness gained by experiencing a fact.

Turning these facts into knowledge is our first goal.

Understanding of the right fact can dramatically help your cause. It is important to know now that 99.99% of facts out there will not help you and some will actually waste your time and money. Separating the facts that we want to pay attention to compared to the ones that will distract us from our objectives is key. These specific facts that we care about are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Principles of Using KPIs

Start from the top down. What is your main objective? If you’re a musician it might be to grow your following, or maybe it’s to sell more albums. If you’re a start-up, it might be to spread your message to as many ears as possible. Figure out the one thing that you are striving for so we can measure data against it to see what’s working and what’s not.

Once you know what your objective is, we can pull a handful of relevant data points. For the remainder of this article, let’s use an ecommerce company as our example. If the ecommerce company’s objective is to increase sales, what data points are relevant to that objective’s success?

Remember, discard all facts that are irrelevant as they will act as a distraction. This is harder than it looks. Is the total number of northern white rhinos left in the world relevant to this objective? Obviously no, it is just a sad fact. (The answer is 3…).

But what about the time users are spending on your ecommerce site? That one is in more of a gray area. It depends on numerous factors whether that fact is important to track or not. When we track something that is irrelevant to our objective, we are spending time and money solving a problem that doesn’t exist. If ‘time spent on site’ has no correlation with purchase intent, then it is in your best interest to ignore that data altogether.

It will be difficult to discern your data heroes from the herd. You will make mistakes in your choosing process. But the moment you realize the KPI you chose is actually a distraction, discard it as a sunk cost and move on.

How to Choose Initial KPIs

Ideally choose one data point to track from the four main categories of data:

  • Audience
  • Acquisition
  • Behavior
  • Conversions

If you’re using Google Analytics, you’re in luck because these are the 4 main categories they use to break their data down. For the ecommerce site, I would suggest tracking the following for each category:

Audience: Segment by Device Type

Are they visiting the ecommerce site on mobile, tablet, or desktop? How is this affecting sales?

Acquisition: Bounce Rate and Conversion Rate Segmented by Acquisition Channel

Understanding where your best users are coming from can help you know where to double your efforts and pull back on the channels that are not working.

Behavior: Cart Abandonment Rate

Ever wonder why Amazon added a one-click checkout option? Because the more steps (pages) in your checkout process, the higher rate at which people leave carts unpaid for.

Conversions: Funnel Visualization

Develop a multistep funnel based upon user behavior leading to checkout. Track exit rates of each step and work on optimizing each step along the conversion process.

Now that our KPIs are definitively outlined, we know exactly where to give our attention. We can now spend less time tracking and mulling over data, and more time acting on the insights that data has provided us!


If you need help setting up Google Analytics for your site, check out this easy to follow guide by Moz or shoot me a message and I can help you out!

Here are some relevant articles with setting up analytics for other platforms as well as how to utilize them. Regardless of what platform you’re using, these universal principles I outlined can be applied to help turn your raw data (facts) into new found awareness (knowledge).





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