Commentary

Seven Reasons to Switch Web Analytics Tools

Most organizations I speak with are on their third or fourth Web analytics tool by now. The funny part is that some are switching from tool A to tool B, while others are switching from tool B to tool A. Are they all so bad? Yes, they are -- and here are the reasons.

1. Somebody installed this tool back in the Dark Ages and it simply does not work. We looked at some reports and they just make no sense. Our most popular pages don't even show up! This is clearly old, broken technology and no good.

2. It costs waaaaay too much and there are free ones out there from Google and Yahoo!

3.It's free -- how good can it be?

4. A cross-functional team spent four months reviewing different tools and they selected one they considered the very best for us. After three months of negotiation, two months of actual acquisition and six months of implementation, we went back to the selection committee to sign off -- and discovered none of them work here anymore.

5. We're redesigning our whole Web site and putting in a new content management system. Time to throw out the bath water and everything that's in it.

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6. When we wanted to slice and dice our Web data by time of day and source of visit and business outcome across a few more customer segments over the past eight months, the tool we're using fell over and died.

7. Nobody can agree on the actual, real purpose of our Web site -- so we tend to use these reports as a drunkard does a lamppost, for support rather than illumination.

8. (bonus) The only numbers that matter are profit and loss -- and these Web data reports are all about bounce rates and conversion rates and social media influence vs. sentiment ratios. It's just too geeky. We need a business tool.

The solution? Love the one you're with. (Yes, that's a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reference.)

Tools will never provide insight. They can show anomalies, point out trends, and set off alarms when things go out of scope. Some of them can even highlight the most significant correlations. But they can't tell you why things happened -- and they certainly can't tell you how you might put that information to use. For that you need analysts.

Step One, Tech Check: Make sue all your pages are properly tagged.

Step Two: Data Check: Make sure you're not measuring employees, bots, etc.

Step Three: Identify your most important goal.

Step Four: Do not read any of the reports; ask questions instead.

Step Five: Analyze your data. Think about it, play with it, discover patterns in it.

Step Six: Devise tests to try out hypotheses and engage in continual improvement,

If all that doesn't significantly improve the value of your Web site and the utility of your Web analytics tool, you might want to consider switching.

7 comments about "Seven Reasons to Switch Web Analytics Tools".
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  1. Jessica Burdman from iCrossing, July 31, 2009 at 3:18 p.m.

    Humor is the best medicine. But more importantly, the steps you outline are absolutely spot-on and so important to remember. Thanks for this article - best thing I've read all week.

  2. David Smith, July 31, 2009 at 3:48 p.m.

    Actually Jim, "Love The One You're With" was a song from Stephen Stills' solo album, not a CSNY reference. Got to keep you straight on this.
    Dave Smith
    Mediasmith

  3. Donald Bartholomew from Fleishman-Hillard, July 31, 2009 at 4:05 p.m.

    Hi Jim,
    Good solid advice. Questioning the basics every once in a while is always a good idea. One point of potential disagreement - I don't believe you can "tell why things happened" with web analytics and an analyst. You can infer the 'why' but not know it unless you do audience (primary) research and ask people why they behaved or acted in a certain way. Analytics + digital content analysis + audience research gives you the whole picture.

    Thanks, Don B @donbart

  4. Mahala Renkey from Renkey Marketing, July 31, 2009 at 5:54 p.m.

    The humor is done well - with a wink. The commentary is accurate and have seen in action. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

  5. Ken Nicholas from VideoAmp, July 31, 2009 at 7:54 p.m.

    As this humor is no doubt lost on them, you must have fun... uh, or not!...when you visit with the C-level types upon whom this would be wasted.

    Great read to end a Friday on!

  6. Thorsten Rhode from marqueteer, July 31, 2009 at 8 p.m.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. Recognized a lot of my past (and current adventures) in this article. Thanks for breaking it down into 'everyday-speak' -- this might just help me getting through to people who still ask me what the difference between SEO and SEM is...

    ...#4 just made me laugh out loud. Priceless. Ready to start my weekend now. Over and out.

    twitter.com/marqueteer

  7. Jim Sterne from Target Marketing, August 1, 2009 at 1:20 p.m.


    Thorsten - Just remind them that is a series of tubes and we're measuring the flow.

    Ken - Glad you enjoyed it! Have a great weekend.

    Mahala - "Sad/Funny " - that was tweetable! Many thanks.

    Don - Nailed me between the eyes. You are absolutely right that it take analytics + digital content analysis + audience research to give you the whole picture. To that, I add, competitive analysis and make sure your audience research extends to the social stuff - like comments on this article!

    David - You and Dan Guthrie both schooled me on my CSNY knowledge. Thanks for showing your age - er - I mean, straightening me out!

    Jessica - Glad you liked it but if this is the best thing you're read all week, you really need a Kindle. Hey - That's a great prize for a giveaway at an eMetrics conference! Thanks!

    Paula - But they all seem to know what others don't know. Me Included. How does that work??

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