Cutting through all the clutter of data, which metrics are your critical few?  You probably have at most three critical few metrics that define your existence...If you can't take action with anything, then perhaps you are using the wrong metric for your business...the simple process of identifying a metric as your key performance indicator and creating a graph of it rarely helps you find insights...before you diagnose how to improve a metric, you have to identify all the influencing variables...analyzing the variables will help you identify where the true opportunities for improvement forces you to dig in a methodical manner and let the data, not opinions, drive action...

-Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), Web Analytics 2.0



We've talked about what makes a good metric to look at for your business.  But, you have to be careful here.  There is soooo much data wrapped up in what seems at times like an endless amount of possible metrics. If you are not careful, you will catch yourself wasting your time lost at sea with no idea how to get back home where you belong.  By "home" I mean those critical metrics that will measure what needs to change at this specific point in time for your online efforts to improve.  So, before you dive in and drown in data, the first and maybe most important thing you can do is determine where to focus your attention.  By doing this first, you create a map that will guide you to the right places to dive for those golden insights you so desperately need to make your next decisions for action.

This is what you want, right?  Don't get me wrong, it's great to take a few moments and bask in the glory of your achievements or sulk in the pain of your failures.  Both can be tremendous motivators.  But the bulk of your time looking at all the pretty charts, graphs, numbers and arrows should be to find out what to do next.  What should you do more of?  Less of?  Who should get a raise and who should get fired?  Remember, these decisions shouldn't be faith-based initiatives.  Don't let your opinion get in the way.  They should be backed by solid data that tells a story that leads you to conclusions that show you actions that give you results.

But, remember the data you're looking at should be that which will tell you if what you were shooting for with your previous actions was accomplished or not.  This is how you and everyone else working with your site should be judged.  If what you were shooting for was to sell 20% more stuff than last year, who cares if visitors went up by 40% if it didn't result in 20% more sales!  There's a problem.  And who cares if visitors didn't go up at all if sales went up by 20%!  Someone deserves some love.  Sure, the two will most likely be intimately tied together, but why worry about what doesn't directly matter.  Focus on what matters and figure out what you can do to make it better.

February 1, 2012

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Fleming > Don't Waste Time Looking at Web Data Until You Do This - Part 2