Three Resolutions to Keep in 2006

As we scramble to finish our holiday shopping and, oh yeah, achieve the professional goals that determine our holiday bonuses, it’s a natural time to reflect. Take a few minutes to consider how effectively you leveraged all that customer data to improve your site in 2005. If you’re like many, you made improvements this year, but there’s still ample room for growth.

If you want to do a better job proving and improving the return on your marketing initiatives in 2006, your organization must make (and stick with) these three New Year’s resolutions:

  • Ensure accuracy.

  • Measure what matters.
  • Make optimization a priority.

Focus on these three fundamental areas next year, and you’ll accomplish more with your data in 2006 than 95 percent of the enterprise-sized sites did in 2005. And it’s actually not that hard, either.

Ensure Accuracy

Before you make another decision (or a first decision) based on your Web analytics information, you must confirm the data are accurate. My company conducts accuracy audits for new clients and typically finds a 10-40 percent discrepancy in what clients report against their actual numbers. If you rely on this data, that sort of discrepancy isn’t acceptable.

A common misconception is if you have a top-tier analytics tool initially configured by the provider, your data are accurate. That isn’t a safe assumption, no matter what tool you use, or who initially set it up. You must continually check for data accuracy. There are many ways to do this. Start with the basics, such as first-party versus third-party cookie tracking, exclusion of traffic from spiders, unique visitor identification, and page-tagging methodology.

If you’re unsure if you should be concerned about data accuracy, more likely than not you should be. Check out this column to get you started.

Measure What Matters

I’ve written numerous columns on the importance of defining business goals and using those goals to define your Web analytics priorities. Far too many people still focus only on the out-of-the-box information provided by the tool, such as general visitor stats. It’s easy to push this out to everyone and point out traffic is up 12 percent this week.

The amount of standard information tool providers such as WebTrends, Omniture, and Google Analytics provide is huge. The key is to hone in on the data that matters to your business and the conversions you’re trying to drive.

Make Optimization a Priority

Unless you act on all of the data you collect to improve site performance, the ROI (define) of your analytics resources and tool is zero. Too often, organizations focus more on selecting a Web analytics tool and getting it installed than on effectively analyzing the data and acting on the findings.

Make site optimization a priority in 2006, whether it’s multivariate testing or simple A/B testing. You’ll be amazed at the benefit even small optimization projects can yield when focused on the right business metrics.

This should provide a place to start. If you need more information on how to do this, check out some of my other columns, or shoot me an email and I can share some specific pointers. Think of me as your “counselor” to help you stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions. The couch is now open (please, no Dr. Phil references).

Happy holidays! I’ll see you in 2006.

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