Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Health of Your Forest: Tracking Website Analytics without Going Grazy

Ok, so I admit it.  I'm a bean counter.  When I balance my checkbook, it has to balance out to the penny.  I'll spend more time than it's worth to find that single penny rather than just make an "adjustment to balance".  (Ugh, I shiver at the thought.)

But have you ever taken a good look at your analytics? The deeper you go, the more nerve racking inconsistencies you'll discover. 

Your blogger software, for instance, will tell you you've had 113 visits resulting from a particular link or email, whereas Google Analytics will tell you there were 128.  What the heck?  How can something so easy be so complicated? 

Well, actually, there are a thousand and one ways to track traffic.  Did one analytic program filter out your own IP traffic from its data? Did it track unique views or all page views?  Did it attribute the page view from the original source or from the last point of contact?  Think about it. 

Ma'am, Please...  Just Back Away from the Numbers!

But when it comes to website analytics, I take a more hands off approach and I believe it has allowed me to keep more of my sanity (an admittedly diminishing commodity these days).  The idea in tracking your analytics, be it page views, time on site or the all-important conversion, is to look at trends

As I explained it to one of my clients this year, look at the overall health of the forest; try not to count the individual trees.  How did one tweet compare to another in driving traffic to your site?  Does one page hold your visitors attention for an extra long amount of time?  Which sources are resulting in the most conversions?  These are far more interesting questions and the answers will allow you to make more educated decisions in the future about where to take your online marketing strategy.

So, stop pulling your hair out while pouring over your analytics.  Distance yourself from the nitty-gritty details and look at trending.  You'll end up with more valuable deductions, less gray hair and more time on your hands to balance that business checking account.