Avoid the Dangers of Averaging
Metrics, a wise man once said, are not proxies for performance. The lesson here is about moving beyond easy to game metrics, and avoid getting trapped in the dangers of averaging. Averages are like a low-hanging fruit, irresistible for those who prefer working off the armchair, but when was laziness a virtue? You cant become an Analysis Ninja by worshipping at the altar of averages.
Averages are guilty of under-leveraging Analytics on the web and do not offer fresh insights. And therein lies the problem. Yet, most of us are prone to using averages as a default metric in our analysis. But why do we love averages while number crunching? Perhaps because it is a commonly accepted feed for any metric cycle and it is an easy way to aggregate the numbers or analysis or data.
Another issue with averages is that they lie smartly and persuasively. Here's an example. Lets assume your Analytics throws up these numbers:
Scenario 1: Average time spent by visitors on your site is 60 seconds. This, let us say, is on par with the score for the previous year. What does it tell you? That your site is not slipping up on its performance, popularity and buzz value. Are you sure?
Scenario 2: You have segmented the data from your Analytics. And this is what it shows (additionally): - Average time on site (all visitors): 60 seconds - Visitors from social media: 35 seconds - From Search Engines: 38 seconds - Not from search engines: 75 seconds.
Now, you have real insight. You know the social media and search engine traffic are not staying very long and likely to be unqualified traffic. You also know where to focus your efforts so that you are able, empowered and competent to act on this insight. Proof enough that you should not bet all your cards on averages.
When you take the averages route in Analytics, you will get true lies". In some cases, it may not have a strong bearing on your decision making arising out of such analysis. But in quite a few instances, it will give you perilously the wrong outcome.
Another example. Analytics tells you that 60% of your website's visitors remain for 0-10 seconds. But wait. Nearly 40% of your visitors stay for 3-10 minutes!
Your averages tell you that your site is in ICU. Dig deeper and you will see that your site is actually far from sick with a small directed, focused dose of insight from Analytics. Find out why 40% of your visitors are interested, why a significant percentage of them are loyal, and how you can invest and leverage it to convert the remaining disinterested 60% of your visitors, so that you can add significant, tangible value to your site.
To leverage Analytics to the maximum one must avoid the dangers of averaging.