Webstie analytics tools, like Omniture (the tool we use) and Google Analytics (a free tool), are meant to help companies look at their website traffic and analyze the data in order to make good business decisions about marketing and website usability / design.

Website analytics software can tell you things like:

  • How many visitors you get (unique visitors, repeat visitors)
  • Who your visitors are (what country, what state)
  • Where your visitors come from (search engines, other websites, email)
  • What they do when they get to your site (pages they click, where they exit)
  • If they perform the desired ‘call to action’ (buy, fill out a form, sign up)

I recently worked with two very large Fortune 500 clients (we still love small business customers too) who had over $5 million each invested in website analytics technology that did not work. Their IT guy made excuses and blamed it on his predecessors. The software vendor blamed it on the hardware configuration and the old IT guy. My thought was “Hey, who gives a damn. Someone give me the $5 million back right now.”

If I paid someone $5 million, I assure you the damn thing better work, or I would be getting my money back. By the way, if you want to give me $5 million and get nothing in return, I could write this blog from the beach instead of my office! Sometimes big companies amaze me!

The Truth About Website Analytics
The truth is that no tool is perfect. If you ran five website analytics tools on the same site, they would all give you a different set of numbers. The good news is, you can use website analytics tools to track most paid advertising channels with pretty good accuracy. But most of the other numbers are accurate only up to 90%.

What is even worse, these tools give you tons of data. This data and the corresponding GIANT reports mean nothing to most people. (Hint – if you don’t know the difference between a ‘hit’ and a ‘unique visitor’, you should not even read the reports)

In website analytics, the 80/20 rule applies. Twenty percent of the value is in the numbers, but eighty percent of the value comes from understanding and analyzing the numbers and using that understanding to make business decisions. Online marketing is more about strategic thinking than tools. Everyone has tools!

The funny thing is, a lot of the big Atlanta search engine marketing firms (100+ employees) around town boast about their great, proprietary tools. They dazzle prospects with fancy “sample reports” and they make big promises. The truth – the sample reports shown during the pitch never seem to come out right on the sales side of the equation. It’s usually something Google did with their API (wink, wink).

Analytics tools are useless unless they are properly implemented and properly interpreted.

When you get pitched a fancy, proprietary website analytics tool, remember it’s not the tool – it’s the thinking. Don’t get me wrong, Ominture is one of the best website analytics tools around and we pay a pretty penny to use it. But it’s still useless if the data isn’t analyzed and acted on properly.

My Advice
Ask for a management overview dashboard of the numbers. Learn what the dashboard means. And every three months or so, really dig deep into the data with your agency, and see if you can’t make some good decisions about marketing and web design based on what the numbers tell you.

Anyone got an extra $5 million?