Back in my younger days I was working for a grocery store chain in their deli as the manager. I had just been assigned a new store to go manage and before I went the first day I was told a little about the deli I was going to. Most of the information was about the problems the department was having and the only positive I was told was that sales were up or at least they thought. Once I got to the store I started poking around to see what the deal was. Sales for the last month were indeed up from the same time from the year before, however as I did some more digging I found that the same time the year before the deli had been closed for repairs for most of the month. Once I looked at the sales for two years before I found that sales were way down and I really had my work cut out for me. I was expected to grow the sales of the department and I would have been really hurting myself by not finding out what the real numbers were. I have always done business using the F.U.N model of work. F.U.N. stands for Fundamental Understanding of the Numbers.
This month is all about web analytics and what they mean. From my first real good look into the field I am finding that it comes down to two functions. Function one is getting the data. This is done with software like Google Analytics or Woopra or any number of others making it seem like the hard part of the number gathering stage is finding the right software tools for you and the task at hand. Function two is the hard part, knowing what the numbers are telling you.
Finding the right software can be a daunting task with all the programs out there. Some are free and some cost. Also the question remains if one software platform is all you are going to need or are you going to need more than one. There are many websites on the web that compare things for you and give a list of strengths and weaknesses and I have found these to be of good use when starting research into a new product. One of the review pages on the subject of web analytics that I liked was a Top Ten Reviews by Dassault Systems powered by Tech Media Network. I liked this one because it was clear. It had a list of features and then showed a graph with the ten tools and has check marks showing what features they have. It is simple and fast.
Another useful review site is done by Inc.com where I found an article by Lou Dubols called “11 Best Web Analytic s Tools”. What I liked about this article is you get insight and observations about the software from the author that understands the goals of the software and has used it. For someone new to the field like myself, this type of review is very useful and helps me figure out what I am looking at faster.
Techsoup.org is also one of my go to places when I am looking to learn more about a tech related subject. They have reviews and articles about a number of topics including Web Analytics. Techsoup.org is designed for nonprofits and libraries and what I like about this resources is that it gives you tips on other cheaper, more cost effective ways to do things that other sites don’t get into as much. In a post by Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Henri Andrei entitled “A Few Good Analytic Tools” they talk about the cheaper or free options that might do the trick. They also go into terms and what things mean to help a newbie understand what everyone else is talking about. Again I found that very useful.
In your search for good information on web analytics there are thousands of websites to chose from and knowing what ones have useful or correct information can be a challenge. I would recommend steering clear of sites like Exact Target and their Web Analytic Connector. The site just posts the same content that can be found of hundreds of other more reputable sources without offer any new insights or explanations. Not that the site is bad, it just does not offer me anything new and thus is a waste of time.
I hope you find this information as useful as I did and would love to hear about other sources you have come to rely on.