Data: you can’t go far without bumping into it. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together… oh wait, that’s the Force. Well, you don’t have to be a data Jedi to understand the force (pardon the pun) that data plays in our lives. Unfortunately, data in its raw form is often not so easily consumed. We must first collect the data and then interpret it in order to obtain the information we need from it.
When it comes to Internet marketing, having the right data can help you determine what strategy works best to achieve the greatest ROI. We often rely on tools to help us gather this data, though not all of those tools are free. Even with the ones that are, there’s still some labor associated with the collection of data from those sources, so it is important to find the most efficient, as well as effective, way to do that.
As you grow, you may realize that sometimes, you get what you pay for, which forces you to consider looking into more expensive sources that yield a better return. Of course, when running a business, expenses need to be kept to a minimum. Sometimes, it takes a little adaptation from your current approach to collecting data to find a solution that works best for your business’s needs.
- Manual data collection
- From the same source(s) [limited]
- Sometimes outdated or “dead”
- One-time use
When you first start out collecting data, this is usually your go-to approach. You look for data anywhere you can find it (in close proximity) and hope that it will be relevant to what you need it for. In many cases, this can be collecting data for a one-time use. Free tools are often employed (especially those that don’t require you to create an account). For something like search engine optimization you may rely on a tool like the AdWords Keyword Tool. Though this gives a good idea of the relative search volume of keywords searched by Google, there’s always more to consider, like trends, locality, and even personalized search. If you’re doing manual search queries to view the SERP landscape for each keyword you’re targeting, you run into this problem as well.
If you keep collecting your data on a case-by-case basis, you might be spending time and effort unnecessarily. Though this is often an unavoidable issue, once you realize that you will eventually need to reassess this method, you may start considering ways to be more specific in your data collection efforts. Once you realize that you need to hone your focus where you are collecting your data, that’s when you start…
- Manual data collection
- From individual and targeted sources [more abundant if flexible]
- Limited reuse
You’ve now experienced the benefits of targeted data collection, though you may not know how you will be able to tap into it continually. You still have to do some manual labor to get that data, but you’ve found ways of making that data collection a lot more efficient. You’ve no doubt upgraded your tools, or at the very least, increased your variety of tools. Though not all of your tools will be free, like Google Analytics for example, you’re realizing that having a larger variety of tools at your disposal is more effective in getting the job done. As your tools become more plentiful and complex, so too can your output (e.g. reports). You’ve also found clever ways to store your data so it can be called upon when needed (e.g. database).
Unfortunately, your data resources are still very dependent upon your environment. As a result of this dependency, you are required to be mobile so you can follow the resources of data. When one source dries up, you’re forced to move onto a different source. If you’ve depended upon Yahoo! ranking data from RankChecker, as an example, you may sympathize with this. As you start investigating your surroundings further, you start picking up important details about the sources of your data to determine how it is sustained. You can’t completely let go of your dependence on your existing resources but you’re beginning to see that you can find ways of harnessing that data so you can “plant your roots.” You’re now dabbling into…
- Some manual data collection, but mostly automatic
- From individual and targeted sources [more abundant if resources are available]
- Somewhat long-term for a smaller set of needs
You have now found a way to harness that data in a way that you have more control over and you seek to improve your accessibility to it, though its mostly just the small stuff (or at least, it may seem so right now). You still depend on some of your surrounding resources, but you’ve also found ways to harness some of the data automatically. Though you may experience some bumps due to the weather (or trends or algorithm updates), you’ve developed a pretty good data collection process that gets the job done automatically so you’re saving time and effort.
Free tools might still be applicable, but some of the less expensive paid tools are proving their worth as well. You might even find ways of adapting free tools, like creating custom reports in Google Analytics, as an example. Sure, you had to take a little time to set it up, but now that initial investment of time and energy is saving you even more time and energy in the long run. Your system may not be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be if you’re working on a smaller scale. However, since you’ve found a good process of harvesting your data you may think that you can keep data mining away and you’ll never hit “bedrock”.
That is, until you hit “bedrock” or the equivalent type of obstacle in your data gathering. In some cases, this may simply be that the tools that you have aren’t tough enough to handle all the big data that you’re trying to haul. In others, it just may be that the data that you’re acquiring isn’t providing you with the type of sustenance that your business needs. Whether the data is too big, or your sources of data are limited, you’re now faced with a decision: scale back/down or invest in bigger, better tools. If you’ve chosen the latter, you’re now…
- Automated data collection
- From targeted sources
- Long-term for a large set of needs
Though data farming actually refers to running simulations, like with Project Albert, you don’t have to be quite at that level in order to be a marketing data farmer. By now, you’ve seen how having the right tools can help you process the large amounts of data that you need to make important decisions for your Internet marketing strategies. Though there’s no way to eliminate all labor, you’ve found ways to virtually automate everything you possibly can. Your tools are stronger to handle the needs of your business long-term, and you may even have enough to continue growing. You’ve also found better data management practices which allow you to maximize your output even more. Though your tools may be more expensive, you’re also reaping a greater return because those tools are yielding data that previously was out of reach.
Though used in a sociological/economical context, you may find that you’re a shining example of the Matthew Effect, sometimes known as the “rich-get-richer” phenomenon. In this case, as your data becomes more plentiful and manageable, your strategies can improve to help yield greater returns, thus making better (more expensive) tools more affordable, which comes full circle into providing even more relevant, actionable data. Still, you may find that you need to tap into your old habits and scavenging, hunting, gardening every now and then, and that’s okay, but at least you have the option at this level.
Where do you position yourself? Feel free to list it below in the comments section!