Analytics have become the core of the online marketing strategies of many brands, but are we using them as effectively as we should be, and are the numbers as useful as we wish that they could be?
At the simplest level, web analytics will involve counting visitors and little more. This process, simply examining a limited set of raw data, is not particularly valuable to webmasters.
Unfortunately, many webmasters don’t realise this, and they limit the use of analytics data to just visitor counts, and perhaps referrals. When this fails to help them revolutionize their marketing efforts, they dismiss the entire analytics industry as being of limited value.
The true value of analytics can only be seen if you are using the tools the way they are supposed to be used. The more first-party data you can gather the better. You can get an idea of the popularity of a website by using Compete, Comscore, Quantcast and other tools, but those off-site tools are educated estimates at best and completely random stabs in the dark in the case of smaller, more niche websites.
The best analytics data is the data that you gather on your own site. Session times, engagements, heatmaps, conversion paths and device or location data are all incredibly valuable for improving your marketing efforts.
Understanding that Data
At first glance, that data may look as if it is of limited use - just a random assortment of numbers. Before you can truly get any value out of the information, you need to have an idea of what you want to get out of your analytics plan. Are you trying to improve the design of your landing pages, improve your SEO in general or reduce your cart abandon rates? Depending on your objectives, you will need to approach your data collection in a different way.
A/B testing is ideal for working on landing pages, and analytics goals can help you to understand why people are leaving your site. Heatmaps can be used to optimize your website and improve engagement, and more traditional analytics metrics such as referrer data and search query still have a lot of value when you are working on SEO. Once you have a clear idea in your head about what you are trying to find out with your analytics, the data will look less like a list of numbers and more like a solution to a problem.