"You are stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. You can only pick one web analytics report to take with you on this deserted island.
Which report would you take?"
There are so many things wrong with the above scenario!
While not quite framed that badly, I do get asked a question like that quite a lot. And it poses the same challenging thoughts as in the above scenario.
Just one? Why only one? And how did I get on the island? What website am I looking at? What kind of website? Is there a computer on the island to get fresh data? Is there fresh water? :)
All tough questions to answer. With so much choice it is hard to pick one, and if you don't get paralyzed then it can reveal a lot about you.
After having thought about it for a little while (ok for just a few minutes), regardless of the website and its purpose, I would pick this web analytics report as my golden choice…
Outcomes By All Traffic Sources:
I am sure you gasped!
Perhaps you're thinking: "of all the wonderful and vast number of metrics and dimensions this is the best he could come up with?"
Are you disappointed? [Is anyone out there absolutely struck by the astounding brilliance of my choice? No? Yes?]
Let me explain.
You are right, there is a veritable ocean full of metrics in our web analytics tools, be it Omniture or CoreMetrics or WebTrends or Google Analytics or ClickTracks or whatever else catches your fancy. But the report represents two things I care more than anything else:
1) Sources of traffic, and hence just a hint of customer intent.
I have come to believe if I have sources of traffic then it can give me lots of information (not all, just lots) about what kind of people I might be attracting by where they are coming from, I might also get other delightful clues.
For example I am sure you all know that I am a big fan of direct traffic. If you tag your campaigns correctly (and come on who does not do something so basic!), then direct traffic represents free traffic because it is people who come through bookmarks, typing in your url or other such activities.
It is also traffic that is familiar with you (hence they visit directly) and so it also typically represents returning visitors (good for business). In the above case I was happy that direct is so big (and notice it converts higher!), but if I was a business I would probably want a even higher number!
Then I know that stumbleupon and Wikipedia and del.icio.us represents, for me, brand new visitors who might be topically interested in recent stories (in your case, probably recent promotions or product launched or a interesting seasonal effect).
Finally the dominance of google is clear in this case and for me it is a good thing because it means I have done a good job of search engine optimization (SEO) and that is translating into a steady stream of new traffic that gets introduced to the blog. I was delighted that there is so much traffic from images.google, a validation of the time and effort I put into tagging each image with relevant descriptions etc.
Net net, I know a lot about who is coming and by that I know if my core acquisition strategy is working, if I am getting the right kinds of people on the site, and which sites are my BFF's!
2) Outcomes, so I have a site, big deal, what's the impact of the site on me / my business / the world.
I find that most website owners / analysts do a very poor job of measuring outcomes, or even understanding it optimally. This is one of the core reasons many senior executives in companies don't take web analytics seriously, we the providers of data / analysis stuff our reports with Visits and Visitors and Time on Site and Bounce Rate and Referrers and Top Exit Pages and . . . . . . but nothing about explaining outcomes.
I am a big fan of outcomes. "Show me the money!"
I am a fan because if you measure outcomes accurately you will find that your senior executives suddenly care about your web analytics reports, they will ask you good questions, they will seek you out rather than your knocking on doors that never open.
Of course I like measuring outcomes because to shows the value of the website and its ability to add to the bottom line. And I don't just mean measuring overall Website Conversion Rate. That is a start.
I like measuring Macro Conversions and Micro Conversions. Truly understanding why a website exists and then measuring all the ways in which it adds value.
In the first screen shot above you'll see I have two goals listed (I actually have three). So I am measuring all of things that add value to me. I have also highlighted in pink the goal that I care the most about. Do that for your business and you'll be kosher.
Now looking at the intersection of the Goals and Traffic Sources helps me understand what sources are truly valuable to me. It helps me separate my real BFF's from the pretend ones! :) For me that is analytics.blogspot.com and Wikipedia and direct!
With absolutely no other data I know the kind of websites I want to have more relationships with, invest in getting relevant traffic, get more bang for my limited acquisition budget etc.
That's it. Here's a helpful visual of my view:
Surprised I don't want anything about the site? Leaving it to "magic"? :)
It is a matter of prioritization. In the worst case scenario if I am a good website owner / marketer / analyst then I would bother enough to get to know it really well. In that case I can take a stab at understanding what magic is happening that is cause the various traffic streams to do so well, or poorly.
It's not perfect but I can get by (especially if I can dissect outcomes closely).
Important Update: By "web analytics" I meant clickstream, you know Omniture, Indextools, Google Analytics, Statcounter etc. Not web analytics 2.0. So no surveys or competitive intelligence or website optimizer etc. This is to make the challenge even more fun. :) I am on the record saying that if I could only have one report I would take the 4Q greatest survey questions ever report! :)
Ok its your turn now.
Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island and you got lucky, its just you and Brad Pitt (or if you prefer, Angelina Jolie!). You can only have one web analytics report. Which report would you most want to have? Just one. No drill downs. No excuses. Just one single report.
Won't you please play along and share your perspectives with us? What would you choose? Why?
Thanks so much.
In case you really are stranded here's a helpful article: How to Live on a Deserted Island.]
[PPS: Completely off topic:
I recently resigned from my position on the Board of Directors of the Web Analytics Association. Some of you have inquired why. It is based on the number of things I have on my plate and where I can add the most amount of value. I have cherished my time on the WAA board, it is a wonderful industry organization that is in the midst of rapid evolution to keep pace with the ecosystem. I was thrilled to be a small part of it and I am confident that the fantastic slate of new Directors will help accelerate that process even more. I was and remain an active supporter and participant.]