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Mistakes in Web Analytics

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There’s a lot of talk in the measurement community about best practices–accepted methods to measure and optimize a website.

Of course, if you’re not following these, chances are you’re operating with one or all of the 5 worst practices in web analytics.

#5 – No Segmentation

Many of the out of the box web analytics dashboards and reports lump together all sources and churn out one summary metric. If this is all you’re reporting on, it’s time to slice and dice those numbers.

Averages lie. Start segmenting your data to find interesting differences. Break down results by traffic sources. Look at paid search analytics by ad group. Set benchmarks with historical email campaign results and compare new campaigns to those standards.

Break away from lumpy reports.

#4 – Goals? Forget ‘Em

"Is that good or bad?" is among the most common questions asked about web analytics data. Our conversion rate is 1%. We had 1,000 more visits today. How are you supposed to interpret trends?

Web analytics tools are great at producing data, but they don’t answer questions. Analysts answer questions.

Good analysis happens when you look at the data. Great analysis happens before you see any data at all. It starts by defining your business questions, goals and identifying the metrics that will help you gauge success.

#3 – Skip The Summary

Tools are full of endless screens of data. Simply amassing the right information into a dashboard is a start. Unfortunately, just having a set of data doesn’t convey the story behind the numbers.

In a marketplace short on web analytics understanding, you need to connect the dots. A summary helps combat scarce time and less technically inclined audiences.

Tailor your summary to the different audience types. 1 page for execs is enough. You can probably be a bit more in-depth for directors and managers. Cut out key points for anyone actually doing the work, e.g. copywriters or technical folk.

#2 – Ignore External Data and Context

Getting the data in your tool reasonably close to reality is a job in and of itself. It’s so tempting to believe all the answers can be found in what’s readily available at hand. Sadly, it’s just not always the case.

External events add context to your analysis. Site changes, market events, competitive initiatives–they can all have an influence on how many people come to your site and what they do there.

Start documenting key events and noting them in reports. Put them as events right on trend charts. Seek out access to tools like Hitwise, Compete, Quantcast and other competitive intelligence to understand how global trends influence your site’s local trends.

#1 – Leave Out Insights and Action

Commenting on all of the trends you see draws attention to notable changes. Gathering and charting the data can help illustrate trends and a little explanatory text can narrate what you see.

That’s great for people who aren’t close to the data, but it only raises a whole new set of questions.

Instead of single charts, pair each notable data point with a corresponding insight and recommended action. Sure, you won’t have all of the answers, but it’s a great place to start.

You can count on "What happened? What does that mean? What should we do about it?" being the first 3 questions you hear, so come prepared.

-> If you liked this post, you might also enjoy my recent post about a basic method for website analysisat Digital Alex.

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Mistakes in Web Analytics
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About Manoj Jasra
Manoj Jasra is an online marketing veteran of almost 10 years who specializes in analytics, social/search strategy and mobile marketing. Manoj is currently a Sr. Strategist at one of Canada's largest Telecommunications Companies, Shaw Communications Inc., where he leads Social Media, SEO, PPC and Web Analytics strategies. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends' Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He authors Web Analytics World (a top 100 Online Marketing Blog) and consults through his firm Jasra Inc. WebProNews Writer
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