Attribution and Spreadsheets for Marketers: CXL Data Analysis Review
I had initially planned to do the Intermediate Google Analytics and Tag Manager course this week. But for a GA newbie like me, 14+ hours of GA in two weeks is a lot to digest.
I’ll return to complete those parts of the Data Analysis track next week. But this post looks at two other courses from this track. Namely:
- Excel and Sheets for Marketers by Fred Pike
- Attribution by Russell McAthy
Let’s start with Fred Pike’s crash course in spreadsheets for Marketers.
Excel and Sheets for Marketers by Fred Pike
I’m ashamed to say it, but I had no idea how much Excel could help marketers.
After all, the platforms we use all have their own analytics tools, right?
Well, yes they do. But I’ve often been frustrated when I hunt for useful data points in these platforms. Especially if the preset reporting functions don’t match what I’m looking for.
As a result, Fred’s introduction to Excel and Sheets for Marketers hooked me straight away.
Basically, Fred says that a lot of platforms kind of suck when it comes to letting us work with the data they collect.
Excel might not be as flashy, but it can plug a lot of these holes. So in many cases, the ‘Export data’ button is your best friend.
Instantly, it hit me. Excel might not be as boring as I thought it was. And more importantly…it might be my saviour going forward!
From Basics To Brilliance with Ed
Ed started with just the right amount of basics. But he wasted no time in getting to some really powerful stuff.
My first ‘aha moment’ was Pivot Tables — a pretty straightforward feature in Excel with immense power.
Pivot tables let you build a custom report from a bigger dataset. This means you can segment the data and get better insights — perfect for finding those data points your marketing platform isn’t showing you.
To practice, I pulled up a huge table of email campaign data to have a play around. By building a Pivot Table with my chosen rows and columns, I found my average open rate by weekday in like 5 clicks!
Often when I watch videos or talks by supermarketers, I wonder how they get such detailed and segmented data.
The lazy way is to assume that they just have more resources and better software than you do. But after taking CXL’s courses, I’ve realised what it really is: they just know how to use everyday tools like Google Analytics and Excel properly!
When it comes to spreadsheets, Mr Pike is the perfect person to help you build these skills.
He has the warmth and enthusiasm to make a technical and potentially boring topic fun. Plus, he really seems to get a kick out of sharing powerful techniques like Pivot Tables, VLOOKUP and Sparklines.
A definite highlight of the course was Fred getting extra dressed up to present the lessons on Sparklines and Conditional Formatting — features that help you ‘jazz up’ your boring spreadsheet and highlight trends in a visual and easy to digest way.
I never thought I’d laugh while doing a Spreadsheets course. But that wasn’t the only pleasant surprise in this module. I highly recommend Fred’s CXL course for anyone else who previously skipped Excel class.
The other course I completed this week was Russell McAthy’s course on Attribution. Let’s dig into it now.
Attribution by Russell McAthy
Russell’s primer on Attribution was the first module I took after my crash course in Google Analytics.
Naturally, the GA course required a lot of screen sharing by the instructor. So I was happy to return to a format with less screen-sharing and more time seeing the instructor.
Russell started by going through the theory and different kinds of Attribution models.
I found this section very thought-provoking. Mostly because it linked strongly to what we’d learned in Introduction to Google Analytics.
In the GA course, Mercer rams home the importance of knowing where the data you’re analysing has come from. Learning about attribution models forces you to ask the same question. And I can’t believe I didn’t look more deeply into this before.
Any revenue number we see in Adwords, Facebook Ads, or our email platform is calculated using one form of attribution or another.
We judge the success and failure of our campaigns on these numbers… and we make a lot of big decisions with these numbers. So it’s a pretty good idea to know where these numbers come from!
Russell did a great job of breaking down what attribution is and some of the different models used in the field. Among other things, it really hit me how complicated attribution is these days.
Attribution In The Modern World
Like a lot of marketers and copywriters, most of my learning prior to CXL revolved around the famous Direct Marketing books. Many of these focused on Direct Mail. where marketers could measure the returns from simple campaigns down to the cent.
In contrast, your digital marketing funnel might include Facebook ads, social media content, SEO, content marketing, Adwords, and more. How do you credit each part of the funnel for the role it played?
Think about it. The cogs earlier in the funnel may not have caused a conversion on the spot. But without them, the later conversion may not have taken place…
How should we value different points in our funnel, at a time when we have a) more touchpoints and b)more channels in motion than we ever have before?
Attribution: Theory vs Practice
For me, Russell’s course did a great job unpacking the theory of attribution. But I felt something was missing when it came to putting this theory into practice.
Early in the course, the teacher mentioned that sophisticated attribution models take $100,000s to set up and operate. This immediately made me doubt how soon I’d be able to use this stuff for myself.
The tutor gave us a lot of ways in which a good attribution model can shape the tactics you use in different marketing channels. He also told us how your attribution model can impact your organisation’s marketing strategy as a whole.
I felt the theory here really useful. Especially when it comes to taking a step back and remembering that the channel you’re looking at doesn’t exist in isolation.
But again, it felt like the ‘how’ was missing.
The tutor kept saying that the attribution model will show you this and help you with that. But how to actually put a model like this in place?
The Importance Of Attribution
I also came away with a strong sense of how important Attribution is. But in terms of implementing it, I think I’m a long way off.
I feel this module was probably aimed at Marketing VPs or people with the ability to invest in the technology needed. So it was probably a bit above my paygrade.
Nevertheless, the theoretical side of this module tied in nicely with the other modules in CXL’s Growth Marketing minidegree.
Being able to analyse data properly and working across channels are crucial traits in any T-shaped marketer. And I’d say that understanding attribution plays a big role in both.
This module forced me to question where my data comes from. And it reinforced that you need to imagine the customer’s journey across multiple touch points. Not just the channel you’re working on at the time.
Next week I’ll return to complete Intermediate Google Analytics and Mercer’s introduction to Google Tag Manager.
I always knew that building my data analysis skills from scratch would be the toughest part of this course. But as always, I’m in great hands with CXL and their tutors. Let’s do it!