Don’t Get Stuck: 5 Ways to Simplify Analytics and Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Using web analytics sometimes feels like trying to sip from a firehose. There’s so much potentially useful information that it’s tough to decide what you will actually do with it all. At that point, confusion sets in and you are really no better off than if you had no information at all. Presumably this is not what you bargained for when you got into analytics, and these 5 tips will simplify the process for you.

  1. Roll it out little by little
    Today’s sophisticated analytics packages allow you to track dozens and sometimes even hundreds of different metrics. While this can be very helpful, it is only frustrating and overwhelming if you are new to analytics. Early on, ignore these advanced tracking options in favor of just a few–say, page views, conversions, and visitor value. These are the numbers that truly matter, and getting a feel for regularly testing them will prepare you to track more metrics in the future.

  2. Focus on dollars, not percentages
    It is very easy to get caught up in tracking things that are only indirectly related to your bottom line. Click-through rate (CTR) is a prime example of this. While it is obviously desirable to have a high CTR, it only matters if those hoards of people who click actually buy something, sign up, or otherwise act in the way you are hoping they will. Put another way, a 20% CTR doesn’t matter if your conversions are persistently stagnant. When making analytics-related decisions, place more of your attention on dollars (conversions, Visitor Value) and less on percentages (page view, CTR.).

  3. Rank each metric in terms of importance to your specific goals
    It is a mistake to think that masters of web analytics have somehow figured out how to track every single metric with equal effort and stay on top of it all. In fact, the opposite is true. The true analytics pros know which metrics matter to their unique website(s) and relentlessly exclude the others from consideration. For example, if you are running a lead generation website, your important metrics are probably page views and opt-in rate. While others may yield helpful insights, you can safely ignore most of them and bias your time and energy into those relatively few that matter most.

    Remember: a jack of all trades is a master of none.

  4. Use an analytics package with visualization
    Let’s face it–not everyone is of a mind to crawl over a dense spreadsheet of numbers and draw useful conclusions from them. Luckily, there are packages that visually illustrate your analytics data by laying them over your web pages. Your options include CrazyEgg, ClickTale and UserFly. If you are not a numbers person, these and similar packages will make analytics much simpler!

  5. Look for benchmarks specific to your industry or niche
    There is no such thing as a “good” conversion rate, Visitor Value, or any other metric that applies to all markets. Rather, this depends on the industry or niche you are in. For example, Clickz.com and the Fireclicks Index maintain regularly updated charts of optimal CTRs according to industry. Whenever possible, consult these benchmarks and make the goal of your analytics tracking to meet and surpass them.

  1. Thank you for writing about analytics so that regular people can understand them. I’ve linked this post into my recent posts on Web Analytics and also added a link to your Twitter account.

    I’ll be visiting frequently and sharing your posts at Twitter, FriendFeed, cliKball and in my blog. I often post real life examples of analytics issues that you may find interesting.

    I noticed you’ve suggested other analytics programs. I’d be very interested in more detail about how other analytics programs compare to Google Analytics so that I can recommend them to my readers.

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