Cutting the Fat in Web Analytics Reports

It’s the age of data – we have so much of it at our fingertips, but now we have to figure out what to do with it. As I do more and more work with Web analytics, the more I’m finding that it’s not only a matter of figuring out what’s important to report on, but also what’s not important to report on.

Let’s say I’m poking around in Google Analytics and I see that most of my website’s Chinese visitors come from Hangzhou, that most organic search visitors come from Yahoo, that most visitors are on Linux, and that most mobile visitors are using Blackberrys. Wow, interesting. But do those things really matter?

The answer to that question, of course, depends on the content of my website. Certain content caters to certain audiences; we know that. But the other part of the picture, which people often seem to miss, are the website’s goals. It’s not just what you are – it’s also what you want to be.

If I’m not specifically working on attracting more Hangzhou, Yahoo, Linux or Blackberry traffic, then I probably don’t care about tracking those things. Of course, knowing more about my visitors can help inform future iterations of my website, but I need to find a balance between what’s genuinely useful information and what’s interesting but not actionable.

A rule of thumb is to make sure all the statistics you track are directly related to marketing goals. With that in mind, you can begin to create an actionable, useful analytics report, without the bloat. Here are some steps you might take:

  1. Compile your marketing goals – all of them; your website impinges on a bigger picture than you might realize
  2. Determine what metrics and KPIs relate to these goals
  3. Set up a dashboard and automatic alerts in your analytics suite
  4. Monitor how things like email blasts, media placements and industry happenings affect your bottom-line metrics
  5. As time passes, consider removing sections from the dashboard that you don’t use
  6. Always look for ways to improve your reports!

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