How To Make The Most Of Your Analytics

By shanesnow
Published on December 1, 2008

Bryan Eisenberg recently blogged at MSN AdCenter Analytics Blog about the 7 Biggest Mistakes of Web Analytics. We thought we’d work off of these seven points and give you our take on how to make the most of your analytics setup, while avoiding some major pitfalls. Some of these tips are universal to all analytics software, including free services, like Google Analytics, while others are obviously geared toward larger enterprise analytics packages.

1. Double Check Your Implementation
Nothing sucks worse than spending five hours implementing a new analytics tracking suite, only to have some misplaced javascript tag cause 1,000 clicks to go to a 404 error page. After you have implemented your analytics tracking, double check EVERY page. Also, make sure you are tagging the right pages with the right tags. Eisenburg uses the example of mistakenly tagging transactions like regular pages. Save yourself some time and money later by putting in some extra time up front.

2. Set Some Goals, Dangit!
Analytics does you a limited amount of good if you don’t have goals defined and built into your setup. If you don’t have goals, why are you measuring things in the first place? Think about the purpose for tracking your visitors and knowing information about them. Then define goals that can help you measure what is happening when visitors arrive at your site. Even if you’re not an e-commerce site, you should be setting goals to track things like user signups and downloads, among other things.

3. Get Down To The Gritty Segmentation
Sometimes averages can be very deceptive. One of the chief mistakes you can make when poring over your analytics data is to only look at the means. Different segments of users behave differently, and can throw off your statistics significantly. Visitors referred from StumbleUpon will probably act a lot differently on your site than visitors from shop.yahoo.com. Don’t stop analyzing your reports when you see fair or even good statistics. Dig deep and see what’s going on within each of your segments.

4. Focus On Metrics You Can Control
Remember that rambling old war vet you had for Chemistry in 10th grade? You may have learned a lot of interesting stories in that class, but most of them may not have been relevant to the subject. Analytics can be the same way. Make sure you aren’t getting distracted by the myriad of data that analytics tracks, as interesting as it may be. Focus on the metrics you can do something about and you can trace back to your bottom line.

5. Document Changes
Many webmasters have had occasion to take a look at long term data and make some startlingly wrong conclusions. Make sure you document milestone events that occur in your business, your website, and your marketing so you don’t make false assumptions based on old data. This is especially good advice for teams, but even if you’re a one-man crew, you’d be stupid not to document these big events.

6. “Be Data-driven but Customer-focused”
Quantative data tells you what is happening, and how much of it is happening, but qualitative data can tell you why. Listen to your visitors/customers in addition to analyzing the data you accumulate in analytics. A focus group might be a great way to supplement your analytics reporting once in a while. And it might be a good way to get you out of your cubicle, too.

7. Don’t Just Read The Data – Do Something About It
The other day when I was sitting in church, the preacher said to the audience, “Most people go home on Sunday and yawn and say ‘That was good.’ What you should be doing is going home and changing something in your life because of what you heard.” Whether you’re religious or not, you should be applying this lesson to your analytics. Besides, to some of us web analytics is our second religion anyway!

Take what you learn and actually implement it. Test your theories, and let your website evolve with what you discover over time. If you’re not going to do anything with the data, spend your time doing something else. Like finding a new job.

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One Response to “How To Make The Most Of Your Analytics”

  1. Site Metric (1 comments.) says:

    Great advice. I find it extremely important to make sure the analytics code is implemented correctly (I believe there is a Firefox plugin for this I haven’t had a chance to checkout yet), creating KPI’s to make the metrics actionable and segmenting visitors to get more insights out of the data.

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