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Insight vs Analysis vs Reporting

Jacob Brain


There’s a lot of confusion around the use of these words: reporting, analysis, and insight. In this article we hope to shed light on these three terms. Here’s what we mean by the use of them, and how they can affect your ability to parse data and take the right action.


Reporting is the first step of working with data when it comes to marketing. Reporting is really about the collection and organization of data points to start the storytelling process (more on story-telling later). Yet, to plant a seed, storytelling is really the core of reporting when it’s done well. The data should come together into an organized visual format, allowing you to see changes against time or other relevant variables to show what has happened.

Good reporting should be organized with clear time parameters and have a clear visual presentation, so you can start to gain understanding of where things are as they pertain to your marketing efforts.


Analysis is the step that should happen after the reports have been created. Analysis is the process of searching the reports and data to start to tell a more complex story. Analysis would look for the interactions between various data points to see how they influence each other. This search for correlation, or for the cause-and-effect relationships that exist inside of the data, is the basis of good analysis. To find, test, and confirm a true cause-and-effect relationship within the data would mark a successful analysis of the data.

Sometimes there’s not enough data to truly do analysis in your existing data set. This would mean that to do true analysis you would have to gather data from outside of your data set. For example, if you were doing some analysis on your web data, you might have to gather reports on your social media channels or referral channels to see a bigger picture of the data and get an idea of how it’s influenced by outside sources.


Insight is the beautiful last stage of data. Insight brings understanding. Very few people reach this phase, but when they do it creates a miraculous amount of understanding and, well, insight into your operations.

Insight is the cumulation of lots of analysis of your data over time. This may include examples inside or outside of an organization. For example, I have analyzed the data on thousands of different websites. This gives me an ability to do true insight analysis for a client, because my experience far exceeds the data in front of me. True insight is a measure of expertise – of having spent the thousands of hours building up information and understanding on a certain topic. So, when we at New North look at web stats, we are looking with eyes that have seen thousands of web stats reports and have gone far past analysis into insight.

The best insight is predictive or preventative in nature. Good predictive insight anticipates upcoming correlations between the trends in the data and activity. For example, I’ve seen seasonal shifts around events in web analytics that have allowed us to predict traffic for certain situations. I’ve also seen how search rankings impact traffic, so I’ve got good idea of how much optimization is needed to influence search traffic results. This only comes from experience across data sets.

The second ability is preventative, which is really the inverse of prediction. This is the ability to prevent loss of traction in your work. For example, in marketing, you can predict summer slowdowns, or the loss of traffic that comes after shutting down social channels, etc. This could also work in your favor as you are starting to plan out your 2019 marketing budget; if you know what items will be cut or what activities will be enforced, you’ll be able to better prepare to maintain success as decisions are made.

How do I move from analysis to insight?

This is a question we receive a lot, and honestly, we’re asked to bridge this gap in most organizations. Many organizations can do some analysis, but they lack the cross-discipline knowledge or the knowledge across industry that’s needed to be able to create insight.

There are benchmarking softwares that can give you some data to help replicate the impact of experiential insight across your industry. These can be invaluable when it comes to making big decisions on marketing initiatives.

To wrap up…

So, there you have it: a brief synopsis of those three points, and hopefully an ability to better gauge where you are in that process. Are you just a good report creator? Or do you have the deep knowledge and expertise to be creating insight? Either way, you’re on your journey to better enhancing your data-based marketing.

And, of course, if you’d like more insight into your data – let’s talk.

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