Doing Detective Work at Analytics

When you look at your web analytics, there are some basic things you’ll want to examine:

  • traffic — you usually want to see it increasing steadily.
  • traffic sources — you’ll want to notice what’s bringing traffic and what’s showing the highest conversion rate, so you can do more of that; you’ll also want to catch any surprising results here, and see a steady increase in the number of different keywords bringing you visitors.
  • interesting patterns — you can often tell a lot about who you’re reaching by noticing patterns in visitor information, heat maps, and traffic.
  • spikes and changes — you always want to find out what happened to cause these, so you can respond strategically.

But notice that most of these things you notice involve finding out more. And hooking up what you learn with real world information to see the full implications, too.

Recently, Josepha noticed that one of our education-related clients had regular small spikes on the 15th of the month — teacher payday. Our hypothesis here is that teachers are using personal funds to shop there, not just school or grant funds. This means that some more personal approaches might work well.

Another client showed an apparent drop in visits to a particular page — until we looked back and found a completely artificial rise in visits to that particular page, caused by the webmaster’s failure to filter out workers’ visits to the site. The page in question had been the subject of a lot of debate and discussion the previous month, so there were a lot of visits by workers.

Another client had a big increase in overseas traffic — which turned out to be from a European equivalent to StumbleUpon. After thorough checking, we ignored it, thus saving the company from a lot of wasted time looking into serving overseas customers.

Moral of the story: look further when you see something interesting going on, and make sure that you know what’s really going on.


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