It’s election season and there are multiple new polls released every day.
It’s a lot of data and the media jump on each tidbit to proclaim the outcome of an event that’s still many weeks away. Each new glimpse of the situation is treated as if today was Election Day until the next piece of information surfaces and the cycle begins again. Sound like your business?
It’s a very instructive situation and points to something I tell my clients all the time. A data point isn’t really important in and of itself. What IS important is the trend of that data and what it reflects about your business. Continuing the political example, Romney’s poll numbers over time have been declining while Obama‘s have been trending up. Many polls are still within the statistical margin of error about which candidate is winning (a fact often overlooked since these are results based on samples). Still, the data points to a sense of things, especially when you get past the top-line numbers and dig into segments and qualitative questions such as readiness for job, feelings about the person, etc.
If these were your web analytics, you’d want to do the same sort of thing. Get past the top line stuff – visits, page views – and dig into segments. Are visits from organic search up or down? Are we seeing new and relevant search terms creating visits or is everything limited to searches on your company name indicating a narrow audience? What are the different usage trends among new and repeat visitors? How is social impacting your audience? Are entrances coming to many pages or just one?
Don’t worry about any one day, worry about trends and you’ll be on a much more actionable track. Rolling averages and trends don’t cause daily fire-drills to fix something that might be a blip. Panic over a one-time occurrence usually does way more harm than good, whether it’s a poll, an analytics report, or a financial statement.