Remember those visual puzzles where you have to decide which picture shows a complex shape from the back or side? Sometimes that kind of mental shift can be useful and refreshing.
I spent the day learning about a completely different type of analytics at 8th & Walton, trainers for Walmart suppliers (of whom I am not one).
The type of analytics we were looking at has a lot in common with Google Analytics. As the trainer, Julie James, said, “Chances are good that what you want is in there — it’s just a matter of finding it.”
The details of finding your data in Google Analytics are completely different from the software I learned about today, but Julie made some points I think we should all keep in mind when we’re working with our web analytics:
- “Finding the data is only the first step,” she pointed out. “It doesn’t do any good to run reports if you don’t use them.” How often have you looked at your analytics reports and either grinned smugly or complained about Google instead of doing something about what you see?
- “Look for the best and the worst.” I usually say, “Look for surprises,” but Julie made an excellent point. Identifying your weakest pages (okay, she’s not talking about pages, but the principle is the same) and strengthening them can make a real difference. Finding your strongest pages and doing more of what you did there can also make a difference. If you’ve been searching for a starting point, that’s a good one.
- For some metrics, such as traffic volume, you want to see ongoing improvement. For others, such as bounce rate, you may have a baseline goal. For still others, the results are most meaningful in relation to other metrics. Figuring out which item is which before you run those reports is wise.
- Sort out the things that are too common to matter in your particular case. For example, I learned today that knowing what else people buy with your product is very useful — unless it’s bananas. People buy bananas with absolutely everything. Just so, seeing large numbers of visits from California, Texas, and New York is normal — there are lots of people there, that’s all. Lots of visitors from Nebraska means something.
- “Things don’t happen that fast,” said Julie, meaning that focusing on a week’s worth of data doesn’t usually give you actionable data. Actually, sometimes things happen that fast online. However, we often see clients overreacting to small amounts of data. Knee jerk reactions to limited information can not only lead to bad decisions, but can also keep you from collecting enough data to make good decisions.
If you need training in any of the things 8th & Walton trains people in, don’t hesitate to choose them. If not, I hope you can still benefit from these ideas next time you look at your analytics reports.