Learn to Read...the data, that is
Before web analytics, I bet people with a product or service to sell had to play poker of sorts to win their customer, hedge their bets, and then hope. Or pray. From first-time shopper to window shopper to real customer, gathering data to gain customer knowledge was like crossing the seven seas on a boat. In other words, it was most likely a navigational nightmare. Nowadays, website owners can sort of schmooze and sell. Because Google Analytics or more precisely, reading the data in Google Analytics gives us the power to know more about our customers, to differentiate the casual from the serious, and the potential convert from the flippant.
Data, in this context and for the purpose of website reporting, means information related to the traffic that a website receives. Web traffic is generated when a visitor directly types in the URL of your website in the web browser, clicks on a link in a search engine, or clicks on a link from another "referring" website.
Google collects and buckets the data into several categories which will then allow us to focus on the behavioral aspect of our visitors in order to give us a better idea of the nature and kinds of people visiting.
Why and how is reading this data important for a website owner? Well, website traffic is the only aspect of your website that is monetized. Reading the data correctly will also increase the value of your website when the quality of the traffic gets better.
Websites are also a gold mine for advertising to target audiences and for website owners to sell their wares better. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the data. Here are some helpful hints to analyzing and measuring the data better.
If you have an e-commerce site, then identifying which traffic sources led to revenue should be always be on the top of the list of metrics to measure.
When analyzing your traffic, avoid focusing on just a single metric. Pageviews by itself is not actionable because you don't know what the number really means. But, when you look at pageviews in the context of other metrics, you start to get clearer picture.
Defining/calculating ROI, conversion rates and cost per acquisition metrics will allow you to perform apple-to-apple comparisons versus raw data such as visits or pageviews.
Use the graph mode whenever applicable to compare two metrics. Visualization always leads to a better understanding of the data.
When in graph mode, focus on analyzing trends and identify any unique peaks or valleys in the data set.
Ask yourself questions and try to answer them (i.e. Did visits increase or did each visitor look at more pages?)
Understanding how to read the data will move you closer to understanding your customers and, more important, knowing the when, why, where, to what extent, and which of your products and/or services meet your customer needs.