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Personas and Google Analytics

Andrea Wiggins recently posted an excellent article on her blog on “Data-backed Personas,” in which she discusses using Google Analytics data as input to persona design. As someone who appreciates the relative confidence numbers provide, I found the article (and extensive related discussion, including on Jared Spool’s User Interface Engineering blog) to be enlightening regarding the value and methodology behind personas.

The article inspired me to think more about how personas can interface with web tracking like Google Analytics. The author suggested architecting the GA account to contain separate new and returning visitor profiles, then using the data within the profiles as input to persona creation, including geographic considerations, as well as visitor needs via segments like keywords and landing pages. I immediately think of the converse equation, (or continuation of the process) – using the personas to structure the GA account once they have been created.

The ability to customize reporting based on business goals is one of the key values Google Analytics can add to a company. But often details regarding the structure of an account are overlooked, with the assumption that the end reports will provide the data exactly as needed. But GA is clunky is the respect that sometimes the particular segments you need to cross-reference can’t be easily displayed in a single report.

After perfecting the personas, designing profiles around a few basic attributes of each via fairly straightforward Custom Filters, such as Geographic Region and connection speed, could extend the life of the personas into the analysis beyond the web design phase. Which can greatly aid communication between the consultant and business stakeholder by following consistent threads into the conversation. For a company on their own that lacks a devoted web analyst, having profiles that correlate specifically with user-types can aid in trouble-shooting, not to mention avoid delving in to a more complicated configuration. When your time with the tool is limited, it can be easy to emerge from an analysis session without a clear takeaway from what you saw. The memorable-ness of a persona and ability to compare, for instance, the top content, or time spent on various pages, between two different personas could help the company make more efficient use of their time.

This is not to say that these should be the only profiles! A comprehensive profile, as well as others designed around organizational needs, is in order too.

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