One thing this blog is making me do is really get back to basics, which is great. So what is web analytics and why might website owners not embrace it? The Wikipedia entry has a technical definition, but it’s really just studying the behavior of your website visitors. That sounds simple, but there is so much involved in studying behavior and *why* we should study behavior. We’ll talk about the skeptics a little later.
When I began getting involved in analytics back in 2001, the company I worked for used WebTrends as their analytics package. Back then we used log analyzer (which, like the name suggests, analyzes log files). I can still remember sitting at my desk doing other work for 2 hours (depending upon the date range) while waiting for a report to run. Those were the good ol’ days … or … not.
Today there are two *main* ways to collect quantitative analytics data – log files and page tags. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. No matter what you choose, though, the key to using web analytics to your advantage is to measure the data and relate it directly to your website goals. If you don’t do this, you’ll find yourself swimming in data with no idea what to do with it.
You may also find people in your department, school, or unit (and maybe that somebody is you!) who think this is all bunk. The numbers are always wrong, so what’s the point of measuring?
Why doesn’t it matter? Because it’s *off* consistently across your site. That’s why trends are so important. You can argue that the statement, “I got 1,500 visits last month” may or may not be perfectly true. You can’t argue, however, the truth to the statement, “our visits are up 10% over last month.” See the difference? The 1,500 number doesn’t mean anything anyway, even if it were a concrete, true, golden number. Putting it in context with the previous month (or other date range) makes all the difference. You can do the same thing with all your other metrics.
If you remember that measuring anything on the web is never *perfect*, but measuring trends can be *accurate*, then you’ll start to embrace the power of web analytics!