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Using Data Dashboards to Make Smarter Marketing Decisions

by Jane Lee
April 8, 2021

Neon sign reading data has a better idea

Making data-driven decisions is simple in principle: rely on actual numbers over intuition. In reality, most marketers are faced with a disconnect between data and strategy.

CMOs say that only half of their marketing decisions are being influenced by marketing analytics.

 -Gartner 2020 Marketing Data and Analytics Survey

Sifting through the flood of data marketers have access to nowadays can be overwhelming, but well-designed data visualization dashboards can guide you to make more data-informed decisions.

Data Dashboard Examples 

Simply put, a dashboard is a data visualization tool that displays key metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) in one place, usually in real-time. It allows you to combine data from multiple sources into one central view and present it in a way that’s visually appealing, compelling, and clear to understand. The ability to customize data views more easily can help you drill down on trends and patterns found within the data.

You can customize your dashboards to best suit the needs of your department or company and to foster decision-making confidence. Generally, there are three types of dashboards:

Analytical dashboards 

These are used to analyze a vast amount of data, allowing users to investigate current trends and predict future outcomes. Analytics dashboards appear to be more complex and are mainly developed by data analysts. Business analysts, data analysts, or executives will mainly be using analytics dashboards.

Mediacurrent created this analytical dashboard to help a scientific society improve its organic site performance.

Dashboard display featuring page speed, slow pages, SEMRush page audit

Strategic dashboards 

These dashboards are commonly used to monitor enterprise-wide strategic goals, enabling users to track key metrics and summarize performance over time at a high level. Executives or directors will be mainly using strategic dashboards.

Mediacurrent created this strategic dashboard for a healthcare software company. It helps the customer ensure that website activity factors into the overall picture of business health.

strategic dashboard shows pageviews and sessions

Operational dashboards 

 These help keep track of business processes which often change and are based on real-time data. They allow users to focus on current KPIs and provide them with a more detailed view of specific data sets. Line of business managers or business users will be using operational dashboards. An example of an operational dashboard is a Daily Web Overview Dashboard. It tracks hourly web performance against predetermined objectives for a digital marketing team.

Mediacurrent partnered with a government agency to build a dashboard that gives a detailed view of its off-site campaign performance.

dashboard display shows landing page performance including sessions, bounce rate, and location

Tools like Siteimprove can be used to monitor progress toward SEO and accessibility goals.

Mediacurrent Siteimprove dashboard

Building Dashboards Into Your Marketing Strategy 

With an effective dashboard, you can start reaping the benefits of decisions based on the data you collect. Below are some examples.

Data visualization helps data interpretation

According to a study in The Law Teacher journal, 65% of the world’s population are visual learners. That’s nearly 4 billion people who naturally prefer visualization as their primary method of learning. So, visualization is not simply to make things pretty, but it helps inform analysis and interpretation. A data visualization dashboard helps the Stakeholders across your organization gain a better understanding of your data. Dashboards have the capability of summarizing large amounts of data efficiently in a graphical format which allows people to learn and identify the patterns faster. 

With the right visualization approach, you can provide clearer messages, aid decision analysis, and tell your organization’s story in a meaningful way. Dashboards utilize colors, symbols, labels, and shapes to highlight important data points and differentiate correlation, allowing you to see the significance at first glance. When you need to analyze a tremendous amount of data, the benefits of dashboards as a visualization tool become more prominent. Additionally, you can examine the information you need without sifting through spreadsheets. That way, there is more time to develop insights and solutions to improve business performance. 

It’s time to ditch spreadsheets

Dashboards may seem redundant if your company is already using Excel to view data, however, dashboards often prove to be an efficient alternative. In order to manually create graphs and charts in Excel, you would need to manipulate data on the cell level first which can be time-consuming. This is also a task that requires a certain level of familiarity with Excel's features. Not only are visualizations in dashboards more appealing than charts in Excel, but dashboards are also more intuitive and don't require you to be an analyst in order to understand the data presented.

Without visualizations, you would need to dig into each row of data points to identify gaps, trends, and patterns. Besides, Excel wasn’t designed to blend both internal and external data from multiple sources. It requires you to set up tedious and laborious formulas and manual tweaks that lead to a higher chance of errors. Therefore, dashboards could save you more time on data manipulation and lower the chances of data misinterpretation.

Data blending drives better insights

Marketers are responsible for wrangling large amounts of data from a variety of analytics and marketing tools, with even more data coming in from different departments. The challenge arises to combine different datasets to see business or campaign performance, or to answer specific questions. This creates a need for data blending.

What is data blending? 

Data blending is the act of combining multiple datasets to create a single, new dataset which can then be processed or analyzed. Data blending allows users to integrate data from spreadsheets, web analytics platforms, business systems, cloud applications, etc. Data visualization tools such as Google Data Studio and Tableau come with this functionality, allowing you to pull the information from multiple data sources and combine them in a single interface for overview. 

For instance, your marketing team can blend data from Marketo with Salesforce more seamlessly. This enables you to keep an eye on multiple KPIs and metrics in one central location simultaneously. You are able to dive deeper into data to get actionable insights.

Reducing data prep time 

Data blending helps increase the efficiency of data preparation to reduce your time spent on reporting. Creating blended charts directly removes the need to manipulate your data in other applications first, saving you time and effort.

Data analysts spend about 80% of their working hours on data preparing, cleaning, and creating datasets, leaving only 20% of their time to work on analyzing data, pulling analytical insights and recommendations from data. 

- Forbes

According to Harvard Business Review, data blending is essentially a data analytics methodology and toolset combined. Data blending gives you self-service solutions to cleanse, enrich, and join together the data they require. This can all be delivered in an automated process. Data blending solutions allow you to combine data internally and externally from different sources. Therefore, with dashboards, data blending is much easier and quicker, which could save you time manually manipulating the data across many different sources. Additionally, it also offers graphical drag-and-drop interfaces so that you can address questions as you want. All this empowers managers to make informed and intelligent business decisions quickly and without the need to lean on a data scientist or IT professional.

Interactive dashboards accelerate in-depth analysis

Interactivity is a great dashboard feature. A well-built, interactive dashboard provides you with a variety of ways to dissect data. It allows you to track key metrics while engaging with your data instantly. You can explore data for a better understanding of the numbers and develop deeper insights. 

One common way to make a dashboard interactive is to incorporate drilldowns. Drilldowns allow you to click on a chart or graph and dig deeper into the data. You can look at a specific data set at a granular level and address your specific questions. Stakeholders can look at the data from different angles and get the information they need from the same data set by utilizing the drilldown function. 


Additionally, you can delve into the roots of the data so you are not limited to only looking at performance at a high level. Drilldowns give users the flexibility to decide how they want to read the data. You can identify issues or opportunities more efficiently and drive greater insights and action plans.


Another common way to make a good interactive dashboard is to implement cross-tab filters. Basically, the filters enable you to apply filters on different tabs and synchronize the filtered data for the whole report. For instance, if you create a five-tab dashboard, you only need to apply a filter once and the filtering will be applied on all the other tabs without the need of filtering out the data five times individually. 

Filtering allows users to accelerate the data analysis process with reduced reporting time, thus increasing your productivity because you save time on manually applying filters to each tab. It will also ensure the accuracy of data comparison since the same filter is on every tab which keeps the data consistent. In a word, filtering helps the analysis and decision-making quicker and easier.

Time interval

A time interval widget is another vital element for an interactive dashboard. These widgets provide you with the flexibility to select the time frame on different charts on the dashboard with an interactive drill-down function. With this functionality, you can move the date or time field from a yearly view to a monthly, weekly, or daily view of your data without changing the specific time frame selector shown on your dashboard (usually displayed on the top of the dashboard). This saves time and hassle if you only want to change the time intervals of single charts without affecting other data on your dashboard.

Let's Bridge the Data Gap

Accurate data analysis and interpretation are essential to your digital strategy. But it isn't always easy. That’s where dashboards can serve as a valuable tool for your business. In a nutshell, a dashboard is a great tool to visualize your data, blend your data from multiple sources, and allow internal stakeholders to explore your data with ease. All of this factors into your data-driven decision-making.

Whether you’re still thinking about them or already use them, it’s never too late to start or refine your data collecting and viewing process. Get in touch with our strategy team to begin the journey or level up your existing Siteimprove dashboard. Our data analysts would love to walk you through how our team can help you connect the dots between your goals, audience, and data. 

Jane Lee

Meet team member, Jane Lee

Jane’s extensive knowledge of marketing and data analysis propels Mediacurrent's customers in the right direction with data-driven decisions. Her skills in Google Analytics and Tag Manager, as well as a history of data visualization, help teams understand what their data means.

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