How To Explain Your Analytics: The “Grandma” Test


Up until now, I’ve explained how to look at your own analytics data, interpret it, and act on it. That’s excellent for independent owners and operators, but that doesn’t fit everyone. What if you’re working for a small business doing online work that no one else knows how to do? What if you’re part of a larger company and you’re the only one that actually understands your data?

I’ve had clients in the past that were the only technologically-savvy members of their entire board of trustees. Not to mention I’ve had to attempt and explain my job to my own not-so-technical family at least a few times over. In every situation, I’ve followed a few easy steps based on one simple rule.

“How would I explain this to my grandma?”

If even grandma can understand what you’re saying, anyone can. When discussing anything you aren’t certain your audience will follow completely, you need to keep this in mind. Specifically, you need to remember a few key rules that come from this idea.

Explain the Results, Not the Process

You may understand your conversion funnel from start to finish and you may understand every analytics trick and tracking point of your new promotional campaign, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Explaining every little detail of the entire process isn’t the best way to spend your time; instead, focus on the results.

Explain the general purpose for why something has been implemented or why you have certain results, but spend more time on the benefits of those actions. It might not mean anything to anyone else that you’ve implemented UTM tracking across your entire campaign, but if you explain that the extra time spent adding this will let you see exactly how people are discovering your website; that’s immediately valuable to anyone even remotely paying attention.

Visualize Your Data

The best way to truly explain your results is to provide graphic visualizations of your findings. Saying “our traffic has increased 50% in a short time” lacks the same kind of punch as a line graph of dramatically rising traffic statistics. Giving your audience something to look at that makes your data significant will help you more easily explain why it is so important.

Google Analytics automatically produces lots of useful graphs and data visualizations. If you don’t want to spend the time crafting your own visualizations, you can simply take screenshots of your Analytics results, crop your images, and use these visualizations.

Use Tangible Examples

If you don’t have directly actionable data to visualize, you can still use a “visual” element. Your audience may not immediately understand the value of, for example, increasing your impressions through multiple PPC campaigns. If you break it down and explain that the more PPC campaigns you run, the more times your webpages will rank for a wider variety of terms; meaning the more people will see an opportunity to visit your website, the example becomes more accessible and easier to understand. The physical action of more people viewing your website is easier to grasp.

Even if you have to go completely off-subject and explain something in abstract terms, if it gets your point across, it’s worth trying. Showing motion with hand gestures or physical objects is another great idea. You aren’t trying to be a comedian, but explaining momentum and the cause-and-effect of your analytics is easier when you can show the actions you’ve observed.

Don’t Imply, Be Straightforward

On the same point, if your audience doesn’t understand the value of actions or results you’re trying to explain to them, they certainly won’t understand the implied significance behind them. If your traffic significantly improved after implementing a marketing campaign, highlight the link between the two; don’t leave it to your audience to pick up on the correlation.

Even if your audience understands the basics, explaining everything will help them fully grasp the true significance of what you’re telling them. Making sure that every detail and every metric can be explained in direct terms is an easier way for everyone to be on the same page at the same time, despite levels of technical knowledge. Finding actionable data is easier when everyone is on the same page.

In Short: Be Simple, Thorough, and Animated

It may seem like a pain, but these steps are immensely valuable to everyone involved. I can’t even count how many times I’ve realized something new by trying to explain even the most mundane things to someone. Simplifying and explaining your analytics results to others is a great exercise for yourself because it forces you to not only fully understand your data, but also the significance of specific trends and results.

If it helps, actually explain things to your grandma or anyone else that doesn’t “get” what you do. We do this all the time here, and it definitely helps! Most importantly, following these steps makes you focus on the value of your results, which helps you make more informed, well-planned business decisions.

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Andrew Glasscock is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated with a BA in English, specialized in Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing this past May. Along with copywriting, he loves being an improv comedian, playing frisbee, and dogs.

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