One of the more interesting experiences is my first trip through a new client‘s analytics. Much of the time I will have asked them before I look what conclusions they are drawing from what they’re seeing. They are often very detached from the reality of what’s going on, usually because of a couple of reasons. Given the emphasis on data these days, this is a problem, so let me mention a few things and hopefully you can ask yourself if they’re true about your data.
The first reason is faulty setup. One client was all excited about their volume of traffic and the depth of visiting until I told them that they weren’t filtering out visits from their own office. Once we did that the traffic declined quite a bit (but was obviously more indicative of what was going on). Another reason is that there is no filtering in place for spam links. I’m not sure why these companies (whose names I won’t cite here to give them any more visibility) refer traffic to so many sites, but it has the effect of ballooning bounce rates, decreasing time on site, and distorting a few other things.
Another reason the data is less useful is that they haven’t set up site search to report. Most sites of any size have a built-in search box. Analytics can report on what is searched for. This can help spot problems in navigation or topics that need to be given more prominence – maybe promoting them to a main navigation tab, etc. Sometimes the client has an app that replaces their mobile web experience but they’ve failed either to install analytics or to link them to their web reporting. Both are huge data fails
Finally, and this one is a bigger problem than most of the others, clients fail to figure out why they have a website in the first place. What is it that they want users to do? Buy something? Fill out a form? Visit a particular page? Those should be set up as goals and successful completions should be counted. They fail to link all their other tools such as Webmaster Tools or their paid search such as AdWords into the analytics suite. All of these things allow you to figure out the most cost-effective ways to use marketing and your site to drive revenues.
It’s funny to hear people talk about big data when the reality is that they still haven’t figured out the little data. Once you’ve got the little data under control, you’ll be well-prepared to add additional layers to the complex views that result. Got it?