Mar 18, 2013
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An important part of building a successful website is using analytics to see what is working and what can be improved. Making websites is all about proving or disproving assumptions through iterative testing and improvement. When you first build a website, you will be making many assumptions on how your website will be structured, your design, copy and your calls to actions. Analysing analytics allows you to see which of your assumptions were right, and which ones were completely off the mark. At the outset of a project, not all of your assumptions will be right, no matter how well you know your target audience. Analytics allows you to fix those assumptions once the truth is revealed through hard data.
You will never create a successful website unless you review your analytics as you will never correct your assumptions. Analysing your website’s data also needn’t be a job to do every day or every week. Much like the stock market, day-to-day fluctuations are meaningless without the context of time.
At one time, Google Analytics was the de facto choice for just about every website. However over the last couple of years, more and more new services have sprung up to challenge Google from their position. In this post I will be looking at what analytics choices the market has to offer so you can choose which is right for you.
Google Analytics is the long time leader of the online analytics game. Originally developed to tie in with Google’s Adwords product, Google Analytics has become the standard package that is used to track data on the Internet.
The beauty of Google Analytics is really how it ties in with Google Adwords. Google’s Adwords have been such a huge success over the last couple of years because it enables advertisers to see exactly how each penny of their marketing budget is being used. With Google Analytics, it is very easy to track traffic through your ecommerce process so you can directly attribute the return of investment from Adwords.
Google Analytics is also very easy to set up. All you have to do is copy and paste a tiny snippet of code into your website to make the magic happen. Much like nearly of Google’s products, Google Analytics is of course free to use.
The problem with Google Analytics is, it can present a wealth of information to you that is not actionable unless you know what to do with it. When you log into Google Analytics, you are presented with a dashboard of a selection of data points. From that point you can drill down a number of levels into the data. Google Analytics shows you all kinds of data about your website, your traffic sources and your visitors. From that point on you are on your own.
I’ve talked to a number of people who start rhyming off their top level data points without any understanding of what they mean or how to use them. If you don’t use the data correctly, you may as well not capture it at all.
Google Analytics should be the very minimum of data analysis that you use on your website. It is free and it is extremely easy to set up, so there really isn’t any excuse. However if you are going to solely use Google Analytics, you need to learn what the data means, how to interpret it and what actionable steps it is suggesting you should take.
Blindly tracking data is probably worse than not tracking it at all because you will be wasting your precious time.
Google Analytics focuses on the aggregate data of your website, KISSmetrics focuses on the actual individual users. As I mentioned above, Google Analytics can be great for understanding how your website is doing in terms of page views and traffic sources, but it can be difficult to drill down to understand how you are converting traffic into sales. KISSmetrics aims to solve this problem by focusing on the customer and allowing you to understand their actions and how you can improve them.
When dealing with a product focused website, it’s important to deeply understand your traffic and how they are interacting with your website. If your traffic is not reaching your landing page, you need to determine why. Once you are making sales, you need to understand the exact steps that user took in order to get there. These kinds of optimisations can literally be the difference between life and death of your company.
The Google Analytics dashboard focuses on page views, time on site and bounce rate. None of these metrics are meaningful to a product focused website. KISSmetrics allows you to understand how your traffic breaks down and how they group into cohorts. Once you convert a customer, KISSmetrics allows you to track how they interact with your website, not just how many times they view a certain page of trigger a certain event.
KISSmetrics is available from $99 a month and so you are probably only going to be able to justify that expense if you can see a return on your investment. Fortunately, with the right product and the right website, KISSmetrics can significantly improve your data analysis, conversion and funnel optimisation. When used correctly, KISSmetrics will be easily worth your money.
If your product or service can not be directly attributed to a sale, KISSmetrics is probably not the right package for you.
Mixpanel is a analytics package that is available for both websites and mobile apps. Mixpanel allows you to send your data from your website or application and then use that data to build reports, segmentations or analysis using an intuitive interface.
If you are building an online product, you will probably want to focus all of your developer’s time on building and improving the product, rather than creating a product just to analyse the generated date in house. Mixpanel allows you to quickly integrate their service into your product so any member of the team can start using the data without having to ask the developer to build something for them.
Mixpanel allows you to create complex data queries without having to know how to write Structured Query Language or interact with a database. Mixpanel is clever enough to interpret your data and then create an interface that allows anyone to use it.
If you are and your team are looking to make sense of the data that is generated from your application, Mixpanel could be a good choice. Mixpanel allows you to create reports, segment your data and analyse conversions all through an easy to use interface. You no longer have an excuse not to know exactly how your website or application is being used.
Intercom is not really a analytics package, but it falls into the same category of products that you should consider when looking to improve your website. Intercom is Customer Relationship Management software for online applications. It allows you to track how your application is being used, how your customers are interacting with it and where problems might lie.
Intercom also allows you to segment your users into the various feature plans you might have and allows you to target them based on rules that you set up such as how much the user has spent, how long they have interacted with your product or even how many Twitter followers they have. Intercom also enables you to send personal messages to your users directly through their software. Again these messages can be targeted to specific users based on rules that you create in order to segment them or target them with a specific offer.
If you have an online product that you want to gain a deeper understanding into, Intercom could be a good choice. Intercom is particularly good for freemium type business models where you have users interacting with your product and the goal is to increase the number that convert to a paid plan.
Chartbeat is a real time analytics package that aims to make sense of what is happening on your website. Chartbeat provides you with a big and beautiful dashboard that breaks down what is going on on your website right at that second. This allows you to see where you are getting traffic from and what pages of your website are getting viewed so you can take action in the moment. A big component of Chartbeat is analysing traffic from social media services like Twitter and Facebook.
Chartbeat is clearly aimed at content based websites that benefit from social media and real time engagement. Many of the world’s largest online publishers use Charbeat Publishing. This allows them to reorganise their websites in real time and analyse which bits of their content are going viral.
Due to the real time nature and emphasis on social media, Chartbeat is only really relevant to a specific segment of websites. Unless you have a significant volume of traffic, your Chartbeat dashboard will probably be a ghost town for much of the day and so it will be pretty hard to draw conclusions. However, if your are an online content publisher or an online product that actively pursues social media engagement, Chartbeat is very likely to be far more relevant than any of the other analytics packages that are currently on the market.
Choosing the right analytics package is all about determining what are your business goals. Different types of websites or applications will have different goals, and so it’s important to track the right type of data. Tracking the wrong metrics will be a complete waste of time and it won’t allow you to prove or disprove your assumptions or improve your conversion rate over time.
Google Analytics will be fine for the majority of small business websites, but it is not the only package that is available. As you can see from the services that I’ve highlighted above, we now have a range of products that specifically target very specific use cases. All of these packages are easy to integrate into your website or web application and they all offer a wealth of actionable information that you can start using to improve your product.
What analytics packages have you used? And what have you found works the best for your product?