Web analytics are an important part of the game plan for most companies with an online presence. They provide a valuable source of information and help websites keep a handle on their online activities. However, despite their prevalence there are many myths surrounding analytics which can significantly confuse the facts and result in the analytics being under-utilized, or just outright incorrectly understood. Let’s take a look at some of the top common myths about analytics.
Each “Unique Visitor” Represents A Real Person
The “unique visitor” metric is one of the most misunderstood pieces of information relating to web analytics. The natural interpretation of the term is that it represents the total number of actual people who visit a site. However, due to shortcomings and problems with the way this data is gathered, that is often not the case. Unique visitors are measured based on cookies, and quite often this paints an incomplete picture since many web browsers allow users to visit sites using an “incognito” function that keeps the cookies from being recorded. In addition people are very likely to visit the same site from a number of different devices and locations. For instance a user who visits a site from their personal computer at home, smart phone, and work computer might be counted three times despite only being one person.
Free Analytics Software Doesn’t Suffice
There are many things that free analytics can do and they provide a completely adequate option for many businesses. They offer many of the same features as expensive analytics software:
- Data Ownership
- Customer Service
- Enhanced Customization
Getting started with an easy implementation and user-interface of a free program like Google Analytics can put you on the path to data-driven decisions. The ROI can be realized in just a matter of days if not hours.
The Actual Data Is Always Secondary To The Insights It Yields
We’re certainly not encouraging people to ignore the big picture. In many ways and in many instances an insight into what the data means is indeed much more significant than the raw numbers. However, that isn’t always the case. It is important not to become so fixated on trying to interpret the information that you miss the basic facts. Many times the data does speak for itself and if you over-think things you run the risk of misinterpreting things completely or overlooking the obvious. Remember an insight is an interpretation and therefore is subjective to a large extent. The facts themselves don’t lie, but erroneous conclusions about them could be disastrous. Instead keep a balanced perspective.Try to form advanced insights when possible, but also let the data stand on its own merit when applicable.
Information From Various Analytics Programs Should All Match
Many people become discouraged and frustrated when they use multiple analytics programs only to discover that the data they receive from each varies. This is an understandable reaction because to many people that implies that one or all of their analytics results is wrong. However, analytics programs work in different ways and with slightly different methods. That means that slightly different results are also very expectable. In fact this natural difference between services is a good reason in and of itself to use multiple services. The greater range of, occasionally varied, information paints a fuller picture of the actual situation.
Analytics Code Degrades Site Performance
While it is certainly true that more code in general will degrade a sites performance – more code generally means longer execution time and more potential for mistakes – that simple statement doesn’t tell the whole story. An efficient analytics program may be entirely worth its slight cost in site performance. The real question is rather or not the data gathered is worth the price of gathering it. Nearly everything in life has some type of cost associated with it so the fact that analytics is no exception shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Web Analytics Are Only One Department’s Responsibility
Most people understand that a company or business runs better when everyone makes an effort and accepts responsibility for ensuring smooth functioning. After all a company may have an accounting department, but keeping expenses down is the responsibility of everyone at the company. It may have a janitor or cleaning service, but that doesn’t mean employees should feel free to trash their work areas. By the same token, an IT department can only do so much by itself. Everyone must work together to improve web analytics and the quality of its results.
Bounce Rate Is The Best Metric
Bounce rate is certainly an important metric, but a host of other metrics are also very relevant and important. In fact any time a single particular metric is described as the ‘best’ or ‘most important’ that is usually missing the big picture. Over time a number of various factors are likely to influence the success or failure of a company and it is important not to be so fixated on one that you ignore everything else. This would be like fighting a war against multiple enemies, but only concentrating on a single one. Or on the flip side focusing on one friendship or personal relationship and ignoring everyone else in your life. As always a more balanced approach is key.
We hope that this brief list of common myths about analytics has helped better put your analytics strategy into perspective. Web analytics is an extremely important part of any successful online business and just because hurdles and pitfalls exist that is no reason to give up on it or downplay its importance. Instead take these lessons for what they are and move on with a clear, thoughtful eye toward the future.