December 15, 2005, 12:00 AM

When analytics drop the ball

For online marketers, the virtues or benefits of web analytics are many – but so are the opportunities for analytics to misfire. Web analytics software provider ClickTracks shares why some analysis doesn`t deliver and some better alternatives.

For online marketers, the virtues or benefits of web analytics are many – but so are the opportunities for analytics to misfire, according to John Marshall, CEO of web analytics software firm ClickTracks. Marshall, in Chicago recently for a conference on search engine strategies, shared with Internet Retailer some of the "sins" of web analytics. Marshall’s point is that while web analytics can deliver volumes of data, not all of it is necessarily useful to marketers.

Among those sins: analytics that don’t go beyond simple visitor count. Such data are largely useless, contends Marshall, as the numbers may be falsely inflated by click fraud, referrer spam or other junk. A better approach is analytics packages that segment out and count only qualified visitors, he says.

Marshall also questions the simple popularity of search terms as a meaningful metric. “Only teenagers care about popularity,” he says, suggesting as more valuable metrics that relate keywords to pages of content, such as average time it takes searchers to reach a particular page from a keyword, or the number of exits from that page as a percentage of page views.

In addition, Marshall calls into question the value of activity trends over time as a significant metric, noting that too much site activity outside the marketer’s control also can affect trend lines over time. That could affect the validity of the trend line being plotted in such an analysis. “Data points can shoot up and down for no apparent reason,” says Marshall, advising marketers using analytics to apply only what they truly know to be valid to their analysis.

Click Tracks, analytics software that works off log files, generates campaign, click path and ROI information using innovative architecture that facilitates desktop data mining on the fly, according to the company.



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