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3 Remedies for a Web Analytics Overdose

by Justin Palmer - June 15th, 2009

“Not enough information” – here’s a problem the web marketer never has. Rather, the opposite is true, too much information, especially when it comes to web analytics. So how can we make sense out of the myriad of data we’re confronted with? Here’s 3 remedies for the all to common web analytics overdose.

Remedy #1 – Focus on the Few, Not the Many

“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” — Mother Theresa

People know millions of children are starving in Africa, yet rarely act on this knowledge. But what if one of these children showed up on their doorstep? Who wouldn’t act to help this child? The emotional connection with a single child trumps the astonishing, but paralyzing knowledge that millions of children are starving.

Sometimes we’re so fixated on the mass of data before us we forget there are people behind the pageviews. Have you ever stood behind someone as they used your website? Don’t just watch how they interact with the site, watch their demeanor. Ask them how they felt about the experience. Clickpaths rarely tell the whole story. What happens between the clicks matters. How the customer feels about the experience matters even more. Try focusing on just a few experiences, whether by observing people directly, or using a visual analytics tool such as Clicktale.

Remedy #2 - Ditch the Averages

General averages are often used for high level KPI reports for management, and rightfully so. Your CEO doesn’t want to know the conversion rate of your blue widget page, he wants the big picture. However, focusing solely on averages without extracting specific segments often results in information you cannot act upon.

Consider the following metrics and their usefulness:

  • Useless: Your website bounce rate is 25%
  • Better: Your website bounce rate from first time visitors is 40%
  • Actionable: Your blue widget landing page bounce rate for first time visitors is 70%

The problem with general averages (the first example above) is they hide specific problems (the last example). By making the data more granular, you discover that a specific landing page is problematic. You now have information you can act upon. By tackling problems on a granular level, you’ll slowly improve the more broad averages as well.

Remedy #3 - Let Business Needs Drive Strategy

A trap I often fall into is wasting hours scouring analytics reports for that one business-altering, earth shattering insight. Unfortunately, excessively mining analytics for insights is often a waste of time.

For instance, suppose your international conversation rate reports shows unusually low conversation rates from visitors in Mexico. While you may think you’ve found an action item (increase Mexico visitor conversion rate), this may not be inline with overall business objectives. Sometimes going after international business is very expensive (due to shipping, customs, and customer service costs). There are often unknown variables as well, such as a low credit card adoption rate in Mexico)

Here’s a different approach:

  • Start with a known business problem or opportunity, and consult the analytics for the solution

Rather than:

  • Consulting analytics reports find business problems and opportunities that don’t align with strategy

Contrast the prior example with this. Your company has made a strategic decision to sell more blue widgets because the margin is better than green widgets. Upon research, your analytics reports show that repeat visitors buy green widgets at twice the rate of blue ones. This discovery can now be made meaningful by optimizing clickpaths of return visitors towards a green widget purchase. Based on this knowledge, you begin marketing your green widgets to your sources of repeat traffic, such as visitors who come through email newsletters.

Conclusion

There’s other great ways of getting your analytics unstuck, but I hope the ideas above will help you make sense out of the madness that confronts you each day. How about you, what are your methods of dealing with an analytics overdose?



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4 Responses to “3 Remedies for a Web Analytics Overdose” by Justin Palmer

  1. Natalie Says:

    This is a must read for all SEO folks. Great post, Justin!

  2. eCommerce Weekly Roundup Volume 1 Issue 8 | dustinfisher.com Says:

    [...] 3 Remedies for a Web Analytics Overdose (via palmerwebmarketing.com) – A couple tips to sort through the hundreds of web analytics reports and make them usefull to your business. [...]

  3. Karl K Says:

    Good points, consider also getting voice of customer via 4Q or Kampyle (both free). Combining that insight with business need and metrics is path to success.

  4. Silvia Says:

    Hi Justin! I wish more people knew how to do segmentation in web analytics software. A lot of our clients usually dismiss the segmentation, although it is one of our central features. (Logaholic Web Analytics). It seems like making a good piece of software is one thing, but educating customers on how to get the most out of it is the second big challenge.


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