Since it's a Friday, I'm going to go a little off topic with a guest post. Carlos writes about personal finance at The Writer's Coin - site you may be familiar with. He also runs Applied Analytics, a site devoted to bringing web analytics to the masses in plain English everyone can understand. He approached me about writing this article and I agreed (obviously) thinking that will give you a quick view behind the scenes of one of the many things I do when I'm not writing. You can subscribe to his web analytics tips and posts here.
I was born in warm and sunny Guatemala, so I never "got" hockey"”it was all about soccer everywhere I went. Even after going to school in Boston College for four years (and winning a National title!), I never really got into the sport.
So when I look at a hockey box score, I feel pretty stupid.
I couldn't tell you anything from looking at that...it's only because I read the recap that I know Chicago's goalie (Nemi) played a hell of a game. 45 shots? That means nothing to me.
And that's OK because I don't need to understand hockey "” it's not like there is some great useful purpose that can change my life if I were to put some effort into learning the game.
Web analytics is like hockey, only it can have a major impact on your life. If you own a website, that is.
What is Web Analytics?
Simple: web analytics is the trail of data all visitors leave on your site when they visit. They don't just register a visit"”they leave information about where in the world they're from, how long they stayed, how many pages they looked at, which order they viewed them in, and a bunch of other stuff that helps answer one crucial question.
What are people doing on my site and why are they doing it?
Answering that question is crucial because then you can make changes to your site to give your users more of what they want. Did this page flop? Are users flocking to this one page you didn't expect? While comments and emails can tell you some things: the real money is on what users do, not what they tell you they do.
Sometimes these are two very different things.
The Box Score
As a baseball fan, I love box scores"”instead of watching every game of baseball I can just scan through the box scores and get a really good idea of what happened in each game. Not only do I understand them, I thrive on them.
And that's because I love the game and I want to know what happened in every single game.
So let me show you a baseball box score and see what you think of it. I assume most people out there are better versed at this one than the hockey one:
Ahh, that's more like it!
As soon as I saw it I knew something special had happened"”a perfect game. Unfortunately, I didn't watch the game on TV "” I don't have time to watch a random Tampa Bay-Oakland game. [Editor's Note: Because I live in Oakland area and am a Red Sox fan, I actually did catch the end of the game.]
But the box score told me what I needed to know and I knew how special this game was without having to look at anything else. That's because I know how to read box scores.
What does this have to do with me?
If you own/run a website, you need to know how to read the box scores that are web-analytics reports. If you don't, then you are keeping yourself in the dark. You are missing the opportunity to answer crucial questions about your users and your site.
Your site might experience something incredible that's equivalent to a perfect game in baseball, and you'll miss it because you'll be looking at the reports going "Huh?"
Worry not! This stuff isn't as hard as you think it is. It's like a box score"”if someone explains it to you and shows you how much cool information is in there, you'll pick it up in no time. That's my goal over at Applied Analytics: to help bloggers and small businesses understand web analytics so they can understand their users and make better decisions about what's best for them.
Next time you see your traffic spike or something else happen, wouldn't it be great to have a solid answer so you can repeat it again and again?
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