Last week we looked at the problems many of you face with your Web analysis and reporting. This week, I'll offer some solutions.
Realizing that your Web data is going to be flawed—and understanding the technologies and how they can affect your analysis—is half the battle. Here are six ways you can “fix” Web data problems.
Using cookies with your analysis tool may take some time to configure. But stick with it. Their use has the alternative benefit of alleviating the proxy server issue. I feel much more confidant in Web data when cookie technology is used in conjunction with a Web analytics tool.
Remember: Some cookies will be rejected or deleted occasionally by cookie washers (software designed to clean all cookies off of a computer). But the vast majority won't be, so your data should be pretty solid.
2. Educate yourself on the basics of programming
The accuracy of your data hinges on how your site is programmed.
Learn just enough about Web programming to be able to articulate to your programmers what the pitfalls are. Your being able to “talk the talk” will help your programmers to avoid some of the issues that come up with dynamic and framed Web sites.
If your site uses flash technology, explain to your designer that each time a link is clicked, the URL bar should change. You don't need to understand how this gets done, but you do need to be able to articulate these kinds of changes in a language that your programmers and designers will understand.
3. Analyze your data for anomalies
Sort your page views in ascending order. If you see a user loading 21,000 pages in one hour, you may want to filter out that user, or that user's IP, because it is probably an automated spider doing the loading. A human being is not likely to be able to load and read 350 pages per minute.
4. Focus on what matters
Conversions, email newsletter signups, brand exposure—whatever matters to your business—is what you analyze, period. Create a list of priorities and work on getting the most accurate data for the statistics that are most influential to your decision-making process.
5. Audit log file data with custom solutions
Get your programmers to build an administration function that aggregates the number of times a thank you page was loaded, for example, and sort that report by day, month and year. Such a tool will be a tremendous asset for you to audit your Web conversion stats.
Having a tool to aggregate a basic (but highly important) statistic for auditing purposes is very helpful in ensuring that the data you have is accurate. It also ensures that the methodologies used to get that data are sound and able to be replicated.
6. Get an experienced Internet metrics analyst
If all this is too much detail for you, but you still see the value in having highly accurate Web data, you may need to hire someone whose job is to fully understand your business and determine how to use Web metrics to gauge success in achieving business goals.
Ideally, the person in charge of analytics needs to be part programmer, part analyst and part marketer rolled into one:
- The programmer understands what technologies can be implemented to provide accurate data that the business feels comfortable using to make decisions. This person fully understands the implications of Web site design on Web analysis.
- The analyst understands the needs of the business and what data the business needs to prove what's working and what isn't. This person likely sits in on high-level business meetings and will help develop some of the business strategy.
- The marketer is the one who understands the customers and how to entice them to come to the site and, more importantly, how to get them to take the desired course of action.