Website statistics that don’t matter

Website statisticsTracking website statistics is a good thing. After all, how can you determine if your website is successful unless you set a goal for it, then track some statistics to see if you are reaching that goal? With that as a given, so much of the traditional view of the important statistics to track just isn’t true. I was one of several discussion leaders a few months back at an event put on by the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce. The topic was “Technology — Marketing Your Company on the Web.”

During the course of the discussion, the topic of tracking statistics came up. I made the point that the tracking of hits was overrated and not nearly important as most people made it out to be. After all, when you’re paying rent for your office or storefront, do they accept hits as payment? Of course not. Your website needs to make you money. Well, two other web design companies were present and argued the point with me.

Now, it’s possible we were arguing semantics. I was saying that hits are not the goal, but tracking them can be the means to an end. They may have very well been meaning the same thing but emphasizing the means. But the point is, the popular process is to track a lot of statistics that ultimately don’t mean anything.
The book Web Design for ROI talks about several “metrics that don’t matter (as much).” I’m going to hijack their list here, and give my own commentary on each of the items. Metrics that don’t matter (as much)

  • Traffic Here’s my simple, blunt comment on traffic: Who cares how many people are visiting your site if they aren’t buying anything?
  • Time on site and average page views Web Design for ROI gives an excellent example here. The general view is that the longer someone spends on your website, the better. However, if after a redesign, someone is able to make a purchase quicker, that’s not really a bad thing.
  • Hits Hits measure the total number of objects (files, images, pages, etc) downloaded from your website. This number can easily be inflated simply by adding a lot of pictures to your front page. Again, who cares how many hits you have if you don’t have money coming in from them?
  • Surveys We’re talking here about surveying customers, clients and/or website visitors about the website. Watching what someone does when they visit your site will give infinitely more accurate and useful information about your website than asking them about it will.
  • Focus groups Surveys and focus groups share some of the same problems. In addition, the feedback from individuals in the groups will be impacted by other individuals in their group.
  • Industry average conversion rates While you do understandably want better conversion rates (simply put, $$ per website visitor) than your competitors, there’s no real way to directly compare your conversion rates with theirs. You would have to have the same exact site with only slight differences to reasonably compare conversion rates.

Keep in mind as you look at any statistic that the ultimate goal of your website is (probably) to increase your revenue and provide a return on your investment. They are not the goal itself, but use them as a tool to move your company towards that goal.

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