Fast Forward To Insights With Digital Reporting Automation

Recently at Edge we have been working with a client with multiple web properties. We’ve been providing substantial weekly digital marketing reports that provide information for every part of their web presence. This includes reporting for their website, their social media, and all manner of extra data that must be collected from third party sources, such as shortened link stats and email campaign figures. This is all very exciting stuff and it has been a pleasure working with them to help paint a grand and informative picture about their web presence and digital marketing as a whole.

But at the start, it was a struggle.

When we started reporting for this client it was fair to say that we were in over our heads. We knew that the sheer volume of their data and its sources made manual collection an untenable strategy, especially within the tight turn around window of a weekly report. It was taking far too many hours to pull together all the data for the report from the client’s myriad of third party digital services. We also couldn’t cut back on much of the data we gathered for fear of losing out on valuable information.

Less data wrangling. More room for thought. More actionable insights.

We needed a digital reporting automation solution, a way to fast forward through hours of raw data collection. Compelled to provide in-depth reporting that respects our clients’ budgets and spend more time sharing actionable insights while keeping our own sanity intact, we began to experiment with reporting automation.

We went through each section of the report and figured out a way to automate the collection of that section’s data.

First we started with data about their web traffic and found a Google Sheets integration that allowed us to automate data collection from Google Analytics. Next, we looked at their link shortening and Social Media sections. For these we wrote custom programming scripts that used the APIs of the sites we gathered data from to automatically query them like a database. Finally, we transformed our summary page from chunks of text into visualized data (graphs and charts) that was not only quicker for us to generate, but presents the summary information to the clients in a much more digestible fashion as well.

By automating almost all of the data collection process we were able to cut down the time spent in the data gathering phase by around 80%. Automation served as way for us to fast forward to the stage of data analysis where the insights happen and where we the real value exists for our clients.

But beyond creating more time and brain room for analysis, automation serves as way to solve two major problems that plague traditional reporting methods.

Accuracy

Humans are prone to mistakes, sometimes a lot of mistakes, especially when they are fatigued or bored, and nothing says “fatigued and bored” like data entry. Computers are not known to make mistakes. Being able to correctly set up an automation process once should guarantee the accuracy of the data for every future report.

Consistency

This goes hand-in-hand with accuracy, but is worth mentioning on its own. Once data automation has been configured for a report, it should pull the data the same way every time – from the same sources, using the same custom segments and from the appropriate date ranges. This guarantees consistent data while minimizing the potential for human error.

Room for Activities Meme

You can clear a lot more space for the important
stuff by automating your data collection.
Courtesy of WeKnowMemes.

Collection and entry of data is a time sucking burden. It is a mind numbingly dull process and leaves you feeling drained and less intelligent than when you started. Not only that, but there is only a certain amount of time that one can stare at data before it ceases to make sense anymore. Like when you a say or read a word so many times that it loses all meaning (meaning, meaning, meaning, meaning).

However, when you can automate that process you are then able to take a look at all your data with a fresh mind that hasn’t been cluttered – leaving so much more room to analyze and think critically.

Bonus: Automating the Format

Data in its purest form can be ugly. To give you an example here is an example of what kind of data we pull from facebook for our report and the format it comes in:

Raw Data Example

Raw data can be tough to swallow.

Yikes, this is an absolute mess and a bit like starring into the Matrix. Unless you’re a machine or attending Def Con 22, it might be hard to derive meaning from too. This brings us to the bonus section of automation process. Not only did we automate the data collection, but we also automated our data formatting process as well.

This was done for two reasons.

One, it is easier to examine data when it is in a more organized and eye pleasing format.

Two, you want to make the reports for the client as easy to read and aesthetically pleasing as possible. We used Google Sheets and its auto formatting to take the mess above and turn it into the eye catching and easy to read data table below.

All with a few button clicks:

Digital Reporting Automation Detail

Simple, elegant formatting brings your data to life in way that’s easy to understand.

In the end, our automation experiment was a huge success, we were able to have our cake and eat it too. We drastically reduced our reporting time, improved the quality of the reports, and didn’t have to make any sacrifices on the amount data we delivered to our client.

We are already extrapolating what we’ve learned serving this data-heavy, time-strapped client and applying the lessons to our other and future clients – delivering new automated reports, tailored to each of their specific needs.

Less data wrangling. More room for thought. More actionable insights.

Is your company just collecting data without using it to guide its digital marketing strategy? We can help you with that. Edge Multimedia provides timely and actionable insights into our clients’ websites and social media channels every day.

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