Unless you know a lot more about something than I do, I am not really that interested.  I have too much information already.

~ Tucker Carlson, News Correspondent for the Fox News Channel

Let’s face it, data can be overwhelming.

Have you ever ventured into Google Analytics?  There’s a mountain of information there but unless you know what you are looking for it can be overwhelming.  On numerous occasions I have found myself drilling deeper and deeper into the analytics only to come up for air hours later with nothing but a pounding headache.

If you are dipping your toe into website analytics (and I highly recommend you do), here are some suggestions to keep your data analysis manageable:

Focus on Key Metrics

Hone in on 4 to 5 key metrics that are critical to the success of your business and actionable.  Follow them over time.  Keep in mind, what works for one business might not work for you.  Drill down on only those metrics that need more investigation.

Here are some useful metrics to get you started:

  • Bounce rate:  As Google Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik defines bounce rate from the user’s perspective:  “I came, I puked, I left.”  Technically speaking, bounce rate is the percentage of visits that view only one page and then leave.  Google Analytics benchmarks suggest 40-60% as an average bounce rate for a content website.  But average for a blog is 70 – 98%!  Determining what is an acceptable bounce rate is subjective so the best course of action is to monitor bounce rate over a period of time and keep that number from increasing.
  • Conversion Rate:  We typically associate conversation rate with ecommerce – the percentage of unique visitors that complete a purchase transaction in a given time frame.  But conversion rate can be used to measure any desired outcome such as product inquiries, PDF downloads, newsletter sign-ups, etc.  Whatever your desired outcome, conversion rate will help you understand how effective your content, landing pages and call-to-action buttons are performing.  Similar to bounce rate, conversion rate varies by industry, product price, business size, etc. but most studies show a range from 1.5% to 10%.
  • Traffic Sources:  Do you know how people find your site?  Traffic sources can provide insight into which sources are most effective at bringing visitors to your website.  Combine that with conversion rate and you might discover which traffic sources drive more qualified visitors.  Google Analytics also measures the amount of traffic from your social platforms. Which social network gives you more bang for your marketing efforts?

Segment Your Data

Segmentation allows you to better understand your website visitors and how they behave.  Understanding the difference between new visitors and returning visitors, or mobile users and PC users, will provide valuable insight into how to market to these different groups.

Set Goals

Ask yourself, what is the ultimate goal you wish to achieve with your website.   Setting goals gives you a way to measure the success rate of your website.   For an ecommerce website the “order confirmation” page might be the goal to measure online purchases.   For lead generation, completion of a contact form might be the goal.   Short term goals are great ways to track marketing campaign effectiveness.

Track Over Time

A single data point only gives you a snapshot of what is happening at that moment.  To fully understand what your website is doing you need to track key metrics over time.  Are page visits increasing?  What about conversion?  Even if you are seeing more traffic to your website, is that translating into more sales or increased membership?

If you start small with just a few key metrics you may actually learn something about your website without suffering a panic attack sifting through mounds of data.