Web Analytics. Why Should You Care?

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Casual browsing would seem to confirm that a majority of businesses do not use their web analytics.  DUO Consulting, for instance, did their own survey and found, ‘…more than half of businesses and organizations are barely looking at, let alone really using, data from their websites.”  Not surprising. The SaaS business I went to work for a few years ago, itself a web-based activity, made no use of web analytics at all.

My impression: “Analytics” is perceived as a kind of ugly, nasty, ‘black box’ topic.

As a result, many people, perhaps you, perceive web analytics as something, lumpy, bumpy, perhaps in the shadows and scary, belonging solely in the realm of the ‘IT people.’  If so, the smaller an organization (e.g. an SMB), the more likely you’re unwilling to invest the time in something you don’t understand.

With this in mind, I had the opportunity to speak with folks at the September gathering of  WordPress Ann Arbor. With an audience spanning the entire spectrum from non-users (of analytics) to full-time developers, my goal was to break the black box open, and let some light in for all to see.  After all, simply knowing something exists, is the first step to being able to take advantage of it.

The slides, with ‘some’ notes, is available below.

So let’s start letting in some light.  ‘Analytics’ is simply the process of capturing, measuring, evaluating, and then reporting, on the wealth of information being passed through your website.  Unbidden or not, there is a tremendous volume of stuff flowing through your website behind the prettily rendered pages.

So what is some of this ‘stuff?’  A quick list, hardly all inclusive, includes:

  • Screen Resolutions
  • Browsers
  • Countries
  • Users: New vs Return
  • Devices
  • Hot Articles
  • Dead Articles
  • Sources
  • Keywords

So: Why Should You Care?

Knowledge is power.  And having knowledge gives you the ability to act on it, to make informed decisions.

For instance, using Google Analytics, you can easily track what the screen resolutions are for visitors to your site.  Let’s say you’re designing a new user interface for your web site; a site heavily dependent on displaying tabular information.  How you design your interface is going to be very dependent on available screen resolutions.

You might like to know that 76% of your customers use a screen resolution at least 1200 pixels wide.  Even more important, it may also be critical to know that 24% (1/4 of your business) still use a screen resolution of only 800×600.  If you roll out a new user interface (UI) without supporting 800×600 (‘assuming’ that resolution’s long gone, dead, and extinct), you would immediately disable a quarter of your visitors.

Screen Res Analytic Not too many businesses would care to write off 24% of their revenue by accident due to ignorance.  How painful it might be to learn you didn’t have to lose 24% of your revenue—especially when you had the information available to you to have avoided the problem in the first place.

Imagine: Throwing away 24% of your revenue due to ignorance—when you had the info all along.

Another real-world example might be knowing where your users come from.

Country Origin Analytic

Beyond simply being ‘pretty’ or nice to look at, analysis of where your site visitors, or customers, are coming from can help focus new efforts. Or, reinforce the need to continue current efforts.

For instance, in my own search for work, I conducted a direct mail campaign.  In the prior 12 months, while I had visitors from ‘Colorado,’ none came specifically from Boulder, Colorado.

I sent 80 pieces to potential employers in Boulder.  Over the course of the next 3-8 days, all of a sudden my site recorded about 40 visits from Boulder, specifically.  What’s this tell me?  A couple things.  For one, it was nice confirmation that, yes, for all my effort, the mailing had made it through the U.S. Postal service:).  Second, it told me my message was effective enough that 40 people thought there was enough value to warrant typing in my website address and visiting to learn more.  How might this sort of feedback be useful for your marketing (email, direct, telemarketing, etc.) campaigns?

For this current post, my interest is not in taking a deep dive into the wonderful world of analytics.  Rather I want to ‘break the black box open’ for you.  If a web site is important to your business, hopefully I’m giving you some new food for thought empowering you to at least dig a bit further.

To see a bit more info, along with a number of additional analytic screenshots, view Monday’s presentation here:

Parting thought: Everything shown in the slideshow, Google Analytics, and WordPress.com States, are free and can be set up by many end users self-hosting their own sites.