I came across an interesting article the other day discussing the inadequacies of Google Analytic’s Dashboard.  This sentiment is not an uncommon one in the Internet marketing industry, but what I thought was missing from Danny DeMichele’s write-up was the consideration that certain metrics found on the Dashboard (and titles) can be misleading for certain types of websites.  I had a few thoughts on the piece and will give my two cents on the author’s opinion of 5 common data points.

1. Bounce Rate – As with any piece of information offered by the Dashboard, it cannot be taken at face value, and more importantly, may not be applicable to the overall success of the site.  To summarize DeMichele’s point, your bounce rate should only be considered when reviewing the home page.  Theoretically, a PPC/SEM/SEO campaign (when run effectively) directs users to the most relevant page where a conversion should occur, thus leading to a high bounce rate overall.  It is further stated that this is not an issue, so long as your conversion rate is equally high for the targeted landing pages.  While I somewhat agree, the author assumes that if you are using analytics, you are marketing your website.  In my experience, 2/3 of website owners do not market their site. Instead, they are pining over analytics, at a loss for why their online business is sputtering along.  This data is quite helpful in identifying the usefulness of your site’s pages and can help determine if there is a need to re-work content, design, or perhaps the product/service presented.

2. Time on Site – Somewhat related to your Bounce Rate is your Time on Site.  The author bluntly states “a high time on site is an indicator that it is performing poorly, people cannot find what they need, etc.”  I would agree with his point if the site in question was featuring a product/service that was a necessity and involves little research in the buying process.  However, if I am searching for an apartment to rent, I personally would take the time to review the listing for information on pricing, lease details, reviews, etc.  Again, the conversion metric is mentioned, but looking at it from the business owner’s point of view, a higher number of conversions does not always indicate success.  If there are a large number of conversions for low quality or unqualified applicants, does that really help my business grow?  I also think this logic is applicable for service-based businesses such as Plastic Surgeons or Lawyers who require a highly qualified lead in order for the conversion to mean something.

3. Page Views – There is no real argument made for or against page views in the article, mostly just agreement with my point, “Don’t take these at face value.”  Again, a high number of page views could be good if you have a multiple products/services that are similar in nature (apartment listings, electronic components, etc.) that a user may browse through before converting.  A low number of page views could also be good if you are selling one or two products only; this could indicate a quick purchasing decision after seeing what is offered.

4. Top Exit Pages – Again, there is no real argument on the strength/weakness of this metric, but rather a warning to users that it must be compared to conversion to see its value as a data point.  I agree that the term “exit page” infers a negative user experience and could be misleading.  However, in the hundreds of analytics reviews I have conducted with my clients, they rarely find this metric on their own and it is often overlooked.  

5. Conversion per Keyword – I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s point here; just because people purchase from a keyword-driven visit does not mean that you should put all your marketing efforts towards it.  I would take it a step further though, and analyze if these visits are unique visits or not.  If a repeat user is soaking up your marketing budget to find the same or similar products, it would indicate that your CRM process could use refinement.  Instead of relying on the user to come back via keyword search, is there an opportunity for drip marketing practices to be applied?

For the most part, I think that this piece has the right intention: “You must not take these data points at face value.”  Most of these metrics require comparison to understand their importance and even then, should be taken with a fist-sized grain of salt.  Analytics is not trying to tell you that your site is performing well or poorly, it merely gives you the tools to make an educated decision.

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