Three enormous wastes of your web analytics time

We are all guilty of wasting time, energy, and money. But when it comes to how organizations spend these three things on web analytics, or more appropriately mis-spend these resources, it can literally cost millions of wasted dollars when you consider how many people and days (or months) of work and senseless arguments it can drive.

There are a handful of things that we should stop doing immediately.  I’ve identified three here, most of which I’ll cover in greater detail in later posts.  I believe that if companies can reduce the amount of time they spend on these activities and increase the time they spend on practicing analytics, the world will be a significantly better place, your paychecks will increase, and you will want to hit inanimate objects less often.

  1. You are implementing analytics on new pages and tools last. I don’t know if I can tell you one example of web analytics implementation being a pervasive theme in content development.  Often, the product development people come up with an idea of what their content is going to do, they will come up with a handful of success metrics, and then once everything is built, analytics will be installed, usually requiring much of the more complex javascript – or even worse: flash – to be dragged back into the developer’s hands to open the hood and make sure this wonky tool can measure everything.

    It’s completely unacceptable in 2009 that a developer wouldn’t know the language of web analytics tools, the functions available for tracking in different ways, and your analysts (who will be the ones looking at all of this) not being a part of relevant conversations and directly involved in (and capable of) the physical implementation work.

  2. You care one iota about Unique Visitors and try to get the tool to count them correctly. Now this is certainly a topic I’ll want to cover in more detail in a future post, but let’s examine the facts:

    We know that the metric is ALWAYS wrong, across ALL tools
    .  Period.  There is no fixing this metric when people delete cookies, change computers or browsers, or have more than one person in a household.

    We know that we’re not going to act on the data
    , other than to tell our advertisers, partners, or someone else who asks for the metric.  And you don’t need a web analytics person for that – just tell a secretary to look up the number and be done with it. If you’re not sure of the accuracy, see above.

    None of your marketing or referral traffic efforts can be controlled to target or not target unique visitors
    .  With the exception of retargeting campaigns, which can also fail if cookies are deleted of different browsers are used, Uniques is not a metric that you can optimize to, nor is it a metric that you pay against.  You are paying and optimizing to impressions, clicks, visits, or some other de-personalized metric that can’t tell the difference.

    The biggest advertisers in the world have realized that it’s not about uniques
    , it’s about “touches.”  Finally, the beauty of it is that advertisers like Coke and Pepsi already realize that they’ll succeed by talking to the same people over and over again, because that’s exactly what it takes.  And nowhere else in the world are people less loyal to your brand than on the web: search has made sure of that.  If I’ve been to REI a thousand times before, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to search for my next parka or pair of hiking boots on Google to see what’s out there.  With zero competitive barriers present, don’t be foolish enough to think that you have any loyal customers who don’t need a constant reminder of your presence and offering.
  3. You are trying to get the numbers from any 2 of your 10 tools to match, be close, resemble each other, anything!!!So, I feel your pain on this one but that’s where it ends.  Let’s face it: we’re all spoiled online and we think that just because our analytics tool can give us an inch, we should be looking for a mile.  It’s just not the case.The truth is probably a few-fold: your implementation sucks (it does, trust me), many of the metrics used in each report are different in some way, and you’re completely mis-using the tools to begin with.

    A good friend of mine used to work for WebTrends and came up with a simple, but brilliant statement.  “We’re looking at web trends, not web accounting.”  Another way of looking at it is this way: if you were in the middle of the desert and had to choose between a pedometer and a compass, which one would you choose?

    Of course, the answer is obvious.  You’d much rather know if you’re going in the right direction than how many steps you’ve taken, and that’s exactly what web analytics tools offer us: insight into where we are going, if we’re going the right direction, how we should change course, etc.  But instead of listening to that information, we’re off firing people because we have two numbers that are unexplainably 8% off.

Let me know what the barriers to stopping with these modes of business are in your workplace.  What’s keeping us locked on the pedometer when the compass is what we asked for in the first place?

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