And What Do We Do With All That Data, Anyway?

August 13, 2009

This week, I am feeling the same kind of pain that those who come to our training sessions often feel. What do we do with all that data, I sometimes hear. What does it all mean?

Doing an analysis “cold.” I feel the pain because we have created a benchmark for a special set of websites, and now I have to do the evaluation. It was easy to do the overall evaluation, but when I sat down to do individual evaluations, I often found myself scratching my head. This was a particularly hard exercise, because I don’t work with these sites on a day to day basis and don’t keep up with the analytics — I approached them “cold,” you might say.

Asking the right questions. What I found was that when I happened to ask the right questions and look in the right places, I often came away with incredible nuggets of information. Golden data, you might say. But it wasn’t linear (first you look at this report, then you look at that report, etc.  Nope, not like that at all.)  There was a decent amount of luck involved. I was also able to bring a lot of experience from other sites that helped me ask the right questions.  And I had the good fortune to be surrounded by others who knew the project and were able to make suggestions.

Patience, patience. So be patient with yourself.  Maybe you can start by looking at your own benchmarking (in Google Analytics, it is at the top of the Visitor’s section of the navigation on the left) and ask, “Why are we doing well (or not doing well) in each of these areas?  I think web analytics includes discovery, but first, you have to get to know the territory. My current project requires me to work with the analytics cold, but many of you have the luxury of working with the same site and same analytics every day.  Get to know them.