Anyone who is serious about their online presence is using analytics tools to track their sites performance. Tools like google analytics provide a rich, deep, detailed and fully customizable dashboard that allow to monitor your sites activity and user trends. Sounds great, but there's two major problems.
- Sometimes the dashboard is overwhelming, complex, and intimidating
- People waste their time tracking statistics that are "interesting"
Fortunately both of these potential problems can be addressed at the same time by creating properly developed Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Here's a quick run down on how and why you should do this if you already aren't
1) Sometimes the dashboard is overwhelming, complex, and intimidating
Google analytics is a powerful tool with a hefty list of read outs, stats, and figures. All of which are extremely useful, but there's a difference between useful and important. Before you start tracking any kind of web analytics you need to ask yourself:
"Where are we going?"
What's the point of all of this? When it comes down to it, what are your business goals? Anil Batra summed up the importance of this question with a famous quote from Lawrence J Peter. "If you don’t know where you're going, you will probably end up somewhere else."
The solution is to define a goal that is company wide. Examples are to drive traffic, convert existing traffic, increase downloads or online sales. Essentially ask your self, "what specifically do we need to improve?" Stuck for an answer? If so, here are the key questions Anil asks his clients:
- Why are you in business?
- What purpose does your web site serve?
- How do you classify your site? (Online retail, social media, wiki, forum etc.)
- What do you expect users to do on the site?
- What are the multiple activities on the site? (List primary & secondary)
- Who is the target customer?
- What does success mean? (Visits, users, sales, conversions, might change and switch over time)
After asking yourself these questions you can probably pick four to five key metrics you are interested in tracking, and with good reason. Anil recommends no more then six to keep things simple. Anything beyond that is usually overkill and a waste of time. Which happens to be our second point.
2) People waste their time tracking statistics that are "interesting."
To help you pick the most useful KPI it's important to be able to justify each of the statistics on your dashboard. Why? Because all KPI are metrics, but not all metrics are KPI’s. In other words make sure the information is useful not just interesting. Why should you care about getting 30,000 more page visits then your competitors each month when their conversion rates and new user metrics are higher then yours.
Also, if you think you can just use the same metrics as another company in your industry, you're wrong. Good KPI are not industry specific, but organization specific. You need to pick your own KPI based on your company needs, not general industry trends. Good KPI will often be ratio's, percentages and indexes. Not raw numbers like visits, with one exception being revenue and profits. Those are hard to deny.
Once you have your KPI in place and have begun tracking them, you need to complete the last and most important step. Take action. Metrics and stats are great tools and indicators, but that's all they are. You still need to ask yourself "Okay, so what do I do about that?." Turn your information into actions, and do it before it's a problem! Action not reaction, because as Anil says,
"Good KPI are metrics that will make people freak out when they go in the reverse direction from the expected and call for immediate reaction"