TopRank Marketing Editor

10 Reasons Why Your Analytics Are Failing & 13 Tools To Help

Fail Whale AnalyticsWeb Analytics are a key indicator to the health and performance of any website, but online marketers often get lost in the complexities and details, forgetting how important analytics actually are and why.

Analytics can provide a wealth of information but marketers often look at high level indicators such as: top content, bounce rates, entrance sources and keywords without tying it all together. In most cases, there is a tremendous amount of insight that can be used to make smarter marketing decisions, but most companies barley scratch the surface. At the OMS Minneapolis event last week  Adam Proehl gave an excellent presentation on analytics failures and successes. I’ve taken my notes from that presentation and combined them with my own opinions to create this list.

10 reasons why your web analytics are failing:

You speak numbers to non-number people.

wha wha whaIt takes a numbers person to dig though large amounts of analytics data, figure things out, and draw conclusions. However, most people aren’t “numbers” people.

Many marketers like charts and clear, action orientated data. Charts are good, numbers in red and green help, and so does simplification. Don’t present tabular data just because it make sense to you. Try and think about who you’re presenting the information to and how they like to consume information. Some people like tables, others like graphs. As online marketers make an effort to understand the audience on the web they’re trying to reach, so should they understand the internal audiences that they report results to.

The statistics are fuzzy.

Michael JordanIt’s easy to combine different pieces of data and come out with a great conclusion, even if they don’t go together.

For example, did you know that Michael Jordan and I have a combined total of 6 NBA championships?

While that statement is true, the conclusion is a bit skewed. Yes, Michale’s 6 plus my 0 do equal 6, the fact is that that I didn’t do any of the work for those championships, but I’m still getting the credit as I was included in the statement.

In analytics it’s important to break out the data so that it makes sense, not just so it looks good. It’s easy to combine two pieces of information in ways that make things look really good, but in reality, is something being hidden?

The averages are flawed.

Averages are great unless there is a major spike or dip. Then they have a tendency to skew the data a bit too much.

Analytics Chart

Based on the graph above, you could say that we’re averaging 1652 people from StumbleUpon a day. But in reality, most days there were less than 50. The big spike just screwed up the average.  As quickly as that spike came, it can also disappear and making decisions based on the daily average isn’t a best practice.

Sometimes things just don’t work.

FailThere are lots of things that can go wrong with the analytics from a website and that has to be taken into account. The tracking code could be implemented incorrectly, maybe some special tagging was setup improperly, there could be issues with site architecture or maybe there are just things that are out of our control.

Analytics isn’t perfect and the reporting is never going to be 100% accurate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the numbers are wrong.

The important thing is to fix the issues you can and work with the numbers you have.

You don’t understand the customer.

UserWhy are people visiting our site? What are they doing while they are here? What stage of the buying cycle are they in?

Thinking that you know your customers is one thing, but you really need to watch their behavior and see what they are actually doing.

Maybe visitors are focused on research or maybe they can’t find what they’re looking for when they get to your site. These are things analytics can tell you if you look and once you know what your customer is doing, you can modify your site to fulfill their needs.

You don’t connect the conversion dots.

Connect The DotsGetting visitors to the site is one step. The next step is making sure you have content that is going to satisfy their need. As stated above, analytics can help with this, but once prospects fill out the contact form, what happens next?

How many decisions are made by looking at top level analytics alone? Someone has to tie leads back to the website to determine what is working and what isn’t.

For example, in a B2B situation, a whitepaper download may be bringing in lots of leads, but none are qualified. Maybe there is a CTA (call to action) form that is bringing in few leads, but they convert very well. Analytics can’t tell you what happens with a lead after filling out a form, and connecting that data is very important.

You don’t dig deep enough.

Magnifying GlassLooking at one metric in analytics and making a decision seems like a good idea unless you’re not seeing the whole picture.

A good example would be bounce rates to a landing page. Just because the bounce rates are high, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. You need to dig into the data and find out the conversion rate as well.  Changing a landing page because the bounce rate is higher than normal but that also has a higher than normal conversion rate may result in lost sales.

You don’t tie in outside data.

External DataMarketers should be looking at other online and offline marketing efforts and tie them into web analytics wherever they can.  Ideally, an online marketing program should track different sources for different outcomes such as: people from Twitter to conversion, knowing which conversions came from email campaigns and what offsite marketing tactics are working.

You don’t take the time.

TimeAnalytics isn’t easy. It’s not something anyone can do in an hour a day (except maybe those that read this book of course). If website marketers really want to get valuable information out of analytics, they need to invest time and resources into talent that can make that happen.

Analytics can seem complex and yes, it takes time and talent to make sense of them, but in the end analytics can paint a picture of how users are interacting with a site, what the user behavior is, and point out ways to make your site more successful and profitable.

Bonus: 13 analytics tools to help you out.

  • ShareThis – Social sharing button that can tie data into Goggle Analytics.
  • Snip and Tag – Firefox extension that allows you to easily copy a URL and tag it with Google Analytics code.
  • GA? – Firefox extension that quickly shows if Google Analytics is installed on the page or not.
  • Better Google Analytics – Firefox extension that enhances Google Analytics.
  • Enhanced Google Analytics – Another Firefox extension that enhances Google Analytics.
  • Twitalyzer – Analytics for social relationships.
  • Bit.ly – URL shortening with analytics.
  • Google URL Builder – A way of tagging URLs with Google Analytics code so they can be tracked on external sites.
  • Excellent Analytics – Microsoft Excel plugin to pull Google Analytics data directly into Excel.
  • Site Scan GA – Scans a website to find out what pages have analytics installed and which ones don’t.
  • Web Analytics Solution Profiler/Debugger (WASP) – Firefox plugin that debugs analytics.
  • Crazy Egg – Heat mapping tools that allow you to visually understand user behavior.
  • ClickTail – Heat mapping tools that also track where uses are when they bail on a form.

What are some of your favorite web analytics tools?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (6 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5)
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Comments

  1. I really like this post and if the analytics industry is going to thrive then awareness is needed from clients, consultants and vendors around all of these issues.

    @conversion_guru

  2. Great detailed post. I really liked the images next to each point. They made the post look interesting and not boring.

    “A good example would be bounce rates to a landing page. Just because the bounce rates are high, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. You need to dig into the data and find out the conversion rate as well. Changing a landing page because the bounce rate is higher than normal but that also has a higher than normal conversion rate may result in lost sales.”

    Wait, I am confused regarding this. Shouldn't a landing page always have a high bounce rate, as it would be only a one page website? Bounce rate means how many people exit from the main page and do not go to other pages, right?

    Lastly, I use Google Analytics only. No other tool currently. Although someone recommended 'clicky' (getclicky.com) as an alternative to Google Analytics.

    Nabeel

    • Landing pages probably will have a high bounce rate, but some will make a decision based on bounce rate alone and not look at the conversion rate.

      • freefor15 says:

        It is extremely vital to track all angles of traffic and especially pinpoint your advertising cost to sale action. Otherwise your throwing money into the wind and hoping it multiplies into sales which usually doesn't happen.

  3. Grassroots Web says:

    Great points most do not think of – something for a future post and article on my website!

    Thank you

    Julie

  4. Thank you so much for such a detailed article about “the numbers and statistics game” – I have to say I am a victim, I check my stats all the time but do not really understand them or act on what I see. I will have to have a closer look at the tools you are providing to help the situation….

  5. Great post, Thomas! There is a lot to learn about web analytics. Posts like these help show how easy it is to get started and what types of barriers to avoid. I think the tools you've mentioned are great. In addition, I would add Clicky Web Analytics, Quantcast.com, and Google's Webmaster Tools. Also, if you use Chrome as a web browser, the SEO Site Tools extension is tough to beat.

  6. Thanks…I needed to read your post right about now…

    Analytics is absolutely critical to any website analysis; however, I think you hit the nail right on the head when you discussed the difference between reviewing the data and then effectively communicating it to the website owner. While some conclusions are crystal clear to anyone looking at this information all the time – there are better ways to present the information to people who are unfamiliar with it…

    Thanks again…

  7. Great Post. Very informative information about analytics

  8. Samdrabber says:

    I use clicktail, it helps me know what is happening on my site and its heatmaps and videos show me i can increase my conversions

    • I have been considering ClickTail or Crazy Egg but have been trying to justify the price. For a site that is relatively new, still working on getting traffic, but seeing about roughly 50 visits per day, is it worth it or do you think the heatmap game should wait till there is more traffic available?

      • Heat maps are a good way to see how users are interacting with your site. If you fix usability issues now, new visitors may find the site easier to use and stick around.

  9. A really good post and the information is really valuable.I have used Clicky so far and newer my favorite is GoingUp!

  10. Evelyn Zorn says:

    Very good blogpost! Thanks!

  11. Thanks for your great post. Web analytics play a major role in the optimization of your online presence; however, if you’re like most small business owners, you probably have only a vague understanding of analytics.

  12. Great post with many worthwhile points. I'm having similar problems. But now let me applicable ideas as per your blog.

  13. Wow, thanks for the tips, especially the extension for google analytics tool!

    Joseph Bushnell
    http://josephbushnell.com

  14. Great Information…

  15. Completely agreed with this post..keep posting

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  17. And sometimes we dig too deep.

    Sometimes the answer is simple and in front of our face but we're too concerned digging deep into the analytics. Can't forget about the simple things.

  18. Nice Article…The main thing i learned from this article is how is effectively reach out to your traffic..That is the main thing in Analytics

  19. Create a Website says:

    Thanks for great post and great Information. Web analytics is about people, not numbers.

  20. I honestly have trouble understanding almost all of Google's user interfaces including Google Analytics. Nothing Google does ever seems to follow a logical order to me. I like what you said about how you can't talk numbers to non-numbers people. I'm actually an accountant and I know it is very important to be able to speak English with my clients instead of numbers. Thanks for making that point. I hope Google figures that out someday.

  21. JustinAtSmile.ly says:

    Nice post. With regards to social media, determining ROI is extremely difficult and can be easily manipulated. Your post offers some good advice….

  22. Thanks for sharing this useful infromation on Google Analytics and also for the 13 analytics tools provided.

  23. I liked your point about digging deeper. That’s exactly what BI software such as Bime does.. it helps you see trends and opportunities in your data that you wouldn’t be able to see from a simple top level analysis.

  24. Very good post.

    For custom report automation on Google Analytics data, I use an application that it’s saving us a lot of time and money. It’s is really worth checking it out: http://www.reportingsuite.com

  25. Google Advertising NYC says:

    I really like the way in which
    writer has encouraged us to share our point of views on this article and
    happy to see the active participation of readers on this.