Web Analytics Too Hard? Click Here

Hearing the questions from so many that come to my seminars, one would think that analytics was difficult or maybe even hard to grasp. Seriously, it has caused great wonder as to why the concept of analytics would prove such a perplexing and daunting task to so many people.

Unlearn Analytics
At the heart of the matter, I believe, is that many people have been incorrectly “trained” based on their thinking and practice of analytics. Those who have been online for many years know that the earliest analytics packages were simply traffic counters, hardly “analytics” as we call them today, but more “stats,” as they became more widely known. The basic stats packages still exist today: FunnelWeb and AWStats, just to name a few.

The History of Bad Stats
Because the early stats program provided just that: statistics. Mainly, the statistics were based on numbers that webmasters needed to estimate bandwidth and hosting requirements. People assumed that the numbers provided in these reports were important. Granted, for many businesses, a goal of increasing visitors was able to be reported, but that’s about as far as one could go. Because of the limited amount of information provided in these reports, marketers simply added them into web reports, and they essentially became part of doing business online. It was (and still is) assumed that if these were the numbers provided by the stats, then these must be important and necessary—the measuring stick with which we are provided.

Your Measuring Stick Is Wrong
And that is my finding. We were given a measuring stick at the beginning of the Internet age, and many people have not yet realized that the measuring stick is wrong. Thus, the word “hits” is so engrained into the vocabulary of many business people, not realizing exactly what hits are, nor how they affect the website, nor even much larger, the business.

So, we need to trade in our old measuring stick for a new one. One that is based not on off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-none numbers, but one based on the company’s website marketing goals.

Goals are the starting point for any analytics endeavor. “Analytics works best when measurement expectations are clearly defined in advance,” wrote Eric Peterson in Web Analytics Demystified “not after the fact or on an ad-hoc basis.” Smart words.

Most marketers attempting web analytics are missing this piece of the puzzle. What are the measurement expectations? Does management simply want to know the number of visitors to the website and why that number is lower than the previous month? If so, then I pity your job. Justifying visitor numbers within in a vacuum without any context has nothing to do with improving the company website.

Every analyst needs to demand clear goals in order to create the correct measuring stick. Without these goals, there is no point in tracking anything.

Hamster-Wheel Analytics
Setting goals is the first and only place to start when developing an analytics strategy. Otherwise, the analyst or the website marketing manager will spend the majority of their time developing reports with numbers on them. The rest of their month will then be spent justifying why those numbers are higher or lower than the previous month. Without goals, there is simply no direction.

Large numbers become the goal, and people become enamored with large numbers, even though everyone knows that more visitors is not necessarily the goal. Qualified visitors are the goal. This is hamster-wheel analytics—the endless cycle of doing the same thing and going nowhere.

Why Do You Have a Website?
Clearly stated goals are the first place to start. I find that the best answers are the clearest and simplest. Points are awarded for brevity. Two-word answers are clear, and everyone involved in the website should have these printed out and displayed clearly. They are your new measuring stick—the measurement upon which every decision about the website should and must be based. Define these questions, and you’ll find that simply reporting numbers does not report business success.

No guesswork, measurement.

1. What is the purpose of the website?
2. What is the company goal for the website?
3. What do we want visitors to do?

This is the place to start. Define your goals first, and then the campaign and measurement will develop naturally.

Matt Bailey, SiteLogic, is a featured speaker at this year's SEMA Show Education Days. Contact him directly at See below for a complete list of Online Marketing Track sessions. Click here for more details.

ONLINE MARKETING TRACK - Sponsored by eBay Motors
[All sessions will be at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Room #N258]

Tuesday, November 2
9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Social Media Tactics You Can’t Afford to Miss—Powered by the SEMA Businesswomen's Network (SBN)
Presenter: Matt Bailey, SiteLogic Online Marketing

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Conversion Improvement # 1: Take Action with Analytics
Presenter: Matt Bailey, SiteLogic Online Marketing

1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Conversion Improvement # 2: How to Implement Testing
Presenter: Matt Bailey, SiteLogic Online Marketing

3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Reputation Management: How to Counter Negative Information
Panelists: David Bayer, DataBanq; Danny Chang, eBay Motors; Jonah Stein,

Wednesday, November 3
9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Getting People to Read Your E-mails
Presenter: Michael Kelly, ClickMail Marketing

11:00 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
MICRO SESSION! 7 Questions to Ask a Potential Web Designer
Presenter: Luanne Brown, eTool Developers LLC

11:15 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
MICRO SESSION! Website Hosting Essentials
Presenter: Daniel Smith, NFI Studios

11:30 a.m.–11:45 a.m.
MICRO SESSION! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Local Search
Presenter: Wil Reynolds, SEER Interactive

11:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
MICRO SESSION! Keyword Search
Wil Reynolds, SEER Interactive

1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Link Building 101
Presenter: Wil Reynolds, SEER Interactive

3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
6 Secrets to Viral Video Marketing
Presenters: Matt Martelli, Mad Media; Josh Martellis, Mad Media

Thursday, November 4
9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Connecting with Your Customers on Blogs & Forums
Panelists: Tyler Tanaka, PostRelease; Adrian Harris, Internet Brands; Famous Rhodes, eBay Motors; Stewart Lawson, VerticalScope

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Maximize ROI on your Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
Presenter: Sam Malapas, III, Forge Media

1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Location: N258
Reaching the Masses: Selling on Online Marketplaces