Web Analytics – What Do They Mean?

I worked for small firm here in the Madison area. Yeah imagine the reactions some clients had when I left a web account manager for a corporate IT recruiter position. I digress. I learned a lot about project management, selling e-marketing solutions, and understanding client needs. I also learned a bit more about web analytics.

I used to think I knew what web analytics was all about. I had it on a few websites of my own and took a look at them from time to time. Well I did not have a good understanding, and I still don’t. Not fully. Why? Because it’s a tricky space. Many rookies and professionals tend to think they know what the numbers mean, but they misinterpret them or think that more is better. That’s not always the case. I give you the following example…

Last month recorded 1000 unique visitors. They, visitors, spend a couple minutes a page and visit 1-3 pages per visit. Great. So what? What does that mean? ┬áThe rookie may automatically go back 1-6 months and compare the numbers. “They’re up!”, confirms rookie analyst. Not only are they up, but they’re up 50%! Huhzah!

But what does that mean to the business? “Why were the visits up?” Then you’ll see the analyst squirm and shrug their shoulders. Maybe the person actually knows, or thinks they know, because there was a recent update to the site. Now this person may only attribute the increase to this update because they were involved or knew of the update. Is that truly the case? Could be. But that usually doesn’t lure the person to the site, right? The update alone does not drive traffic to the site UNLESS Google indexes it appropriately, but after one month, that may not be a viable connection. You have to ask yourself, what is it that drove the people to the site more last month than the month before? Sure, you can look at referrals, search terms, and how those relate to the specific landing pages and you might actually get a story out of the numbers. The pros get this, or so they should.

Still, we’re at ‘so what?’ What is the impact upon the business? Did we sell more widgets last month? It won’t matter if you get 1 million visitors if none of them buy your products or services. You could have 20 people visit your site and maybe half of them buy something from your company. That’s called conversion folks, and that’s what you want to measure. That’s where the pay off resides. That’s what pays the bills.

What I’m trying to say is that the numbers have to tell a story and it’s going to take a lot more than the analytics to provide a story that makes sense. If you’re in a large enterprise, corporation, you’re going to have to work with multiple departments – e-channel/social media, e-commerce, marketing, sales, product, etc. in order to get the full tale.

Would the following make more sense?

January, Product announces a new widget that they want to push out to consumers. Go live is February 1st.

Marketing says great and starts a campaign that will involve direct mail, email marketing.

An update is implemented on the website that has a call-out to the product that screams “click here, click here!”, individual splash page is created as part of the website to include promo code providing the visitor an offer.

Other departments, like HR, that may monitor social media channels retweet promos to the world, etc.

In other words, everyone is in the loop. Analytics, web channel, sees spike in traffic for month of February and reports on this in March. More reports are run to include sales numbers from reps in the field. Call center reports are pulled to see if call volume is up.

Maybe conversion didn’t come from the site, but more came from those that don’t like the web and decided to phone in their order. It could be anything, but you have to get more info. This will then help you measure your efforts. Even if you had 1000 unique visitors and each one bought a widget you have to measure your efforts and see if the campaign was a success. If everyone involved cost more than your return, then your campaign wasn’t a success.

So to all those people that love the high numbers, it may not matter. It’s not always that simple. Be sure to look at everything. You’d be surprised at what you find.

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