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Analytics always needs a pinch of salt

Alex Christie

7 October 2008

As an analytics practitioner I can often despair and get discouraged by the inherent inaccuracies within web analytics data.

Tags won’t execute, people will disable cookies, there are a ton of reasons why the data could be imperfect.

Thats when I have to remind myself. Absolutes are irrelevant. What you need is to see the trends, because in web analytics, trends will hint at the truth.

Who cares if you can’t tell exactly how many visitors visited your site. Is it more than last month? Are certain sources sending more visitors than others?

What you should do:

1. Compare to the previous month, is it up or down?
2. Compare to the market using competitive intelligence tools, like Hitwise or Google Trends lab – are you normal?
3. Compare to this time last year?
4. And after you have trended across all relevant time periods, compare and segment within your data – products, terms, sources, etc.

With all these percentages and ratio’s, you won’t need to know exact numbers!

In Web analytics, there is no absolute. You have to let go of perfectionism.

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