Clicks are great, but they aren’t everything

Talking about web analytics this week. There’s an increasing number of free and low-cost tools to give you all kinds of numbers about your site and your content. It can be a little addicting. Number go down (sad face) and up and it’s easy to think that you are learning important things about how to make your content more effective. Real-time data on subscriptions, visits, etc. is exciting. But here’s a little secret: your information is only as good as the questions you ask. Here’s how to get more from your analytics:

Match your data explorations to your business questions – What is your real goal in your business? Is it to sell things, get subscribers, improve your reputation, lower calls to customer service? Those are outcomes that you can measure. It’s easy to measure visits, but they don’t answer those questions.

Don’t just rely on clickstream data – Hits are easy to measure, but really don’t tell you all that much. Just because someone visited your page doesn’t mean they read anything. Even if they did, that visit alone may not explain why you made sales.

Keep notes on outside events – One thing you learn in college stats class is that correlation is not the same thing as causation. Data from dashboards is awesome because it is easy to get, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. What lurking variables in real life could explain the effects you are seeing?

Take the long view, mostly – You can get reports on any time frame you like, but measuring and iterating too rapidly can lead to bad decisions. You want to monitor regularly for crises, but for bigger decisions and changes, match your analyses to the times when you need to make decisions.

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