We sure have come a long way since the days when an odometer -style counter was a popular and accepted method to count how many times a webpage was viewed. Back then, looking at your stats was pretty simple. The information that is available for website owners about what is happening in terms of the people visiting their website has grown almost exponentially over the past decade. All this has left most website owners feeling a bit overwhelmed when it comes to looking at and making sense of their website statistics. If you’re really into that sort of thing, you could spend days pouring over all of the interesting information that Google Analytics provides about your website. But who has time for that? For most busy website owners, the challenge becomes how to quickly see and understand what matters most. Let’s look at 3 steps to separating the interesting information from the truly valuable information so that you can quickly see what’s working and what’s not on your website.
Getting past data overload
With the almost infinite information that is available about who came to your website, where they came from, what pages they looked at on your website, what they ate for breakfast (just kidding about that part), it is enough to make your eyes glaze over. Too much data doesn’t contribute to better decisions. Instead it increases the chances that the decisions being made are based on interesting or irrelevant pieces of information, not what is really most important. The key to getting past data overload is not pursuing a degree in advanced mathematics, but to instead focus on the few key measures that matter most for your business. This is the key to being able to quickly look at reports and understand what you need to know in order to make better decisions. Essentially it comes down to identifying what is working and what isn’t. Once you know this, you can invest more in what is working and fix or reduce what isn’t.
Why do you exist?
What are the few key measures that you should be focusing on in your business? The answer to that is based on your answer to the question – Why do you exist? That is not intended to be a philosophical or spiritual question, but rather a business one. Your answer to this question becomes the single key criterion that you use to identify whether or not the particular Google Analytics measure that you’re looking at is among the most important measures for your business. From a strategic perspective, what is the most important thing that your website does?
Line of sight
In order to avoid data overload, you must focus your attention only on the measures that have a direct, line of sight, connection with your reason for being. Other things may be interesting, but that is not where the actionable insights are. If there were one measure that could tell you whether your business was ok or not, what would it be? What are your top three business priorities and which metrics can tell you whether you’re making progress or not? What is the biggest threat to your existence and how do you know if it is hurting you right now? These questions can help you identify and focus on the critical few indicators for your website analytics.
Valuable or Interesting
Although there are tons of metrics available inside of Google Analytics, you shouldn’t have more than three or four of the critical few. After all, it is known as the critical few, not the critical many. The critical few metrics that you choose will provide you with a sense of focus and direction for your website. Are you making progress or not? The critical few indicators will tell you. Knowing the critical few for your business will allow you to cut through the noise and find the valuable from among the interesting.
This is not to say that you will only look at three or four things inside of Google Analytics. Rather, the critical few indicators for your business will provide you with a way to get to the most important information quickly. Ideally, in addition to your critical few indicators that you have selected, you will also have a handful of secondary indicators that will further improve your understanding of the effectiveness of your online efforts. The role of the critical few is to quickly give you the information that is most important and provide you with focus and direction for your online efforts. Once you know what the critical few key performance indicators (KPI) are for your business inside of Google Analytics, improving the effectiveness of your website becomes easy.