I introduced a term called “Report Surfing” a while back – to explain an unfortunate behaviour in the usage of Web Analytics tools and one of the greatest sins one as a Web Analytics practitioner can do!
Reporting Surfing explained as in; one logging in to your e.g. IndexTools or Omniture account and browse the canned reports (such as #visit, most popular pages, top 10 referrers, perhaps even a scenario) from top to bottom. With no real agenda other than looking at the reports.
I inexhaustible preach methods on how to avoid this, in particular because clients utilizing a web analytics tool in that manor will get little to no return on their investment. So…
How to avoid Web Analytics Reporting Surfing:
Ask yourself three business related questions that you would like answered — BEFORE — you open up your web analytics tool. Then try to answer those three questions through your tool using anything from standard reports, customs reports, filters, segments and other tool functionality.
Example – Business related question: “Are my recent SEO initiatives paying off?”
This is a fair question from a marketing manager who just hired Rand Fishkin :-) or any other SEO authority to optimize their organic efforts. But it also comes clear – that even before opening up the web analytics tool one would have to debate / think about HOW to answer this.
- What is the period in question?
- What is the baseline index?
- How do we define “paying off”?
- How do we measure success (traffic, ranking, conversions or)?
- What are the success and failure thresholds (targets)?
- If any specific search phrases stand out, should they get reported on?
- What was the cost of the initiative and where is this data coming from?
- Did the initiative end or are we reporting on the progress?
- What do the manager expect, a simple YES/NO or a detailed report for him to conclude on?
- Should you provide suggestions for actions on how to improve or not?
Keep adding to the list. NOW! we are analysts and not just report surfers! Doing this exercise (asking a business related question beforehand), you avoid the trap of surfing useless reports for an hour every second day!
.. and NOW – off to bed to listen to one off my Bill Hicks shows.
On the same subject: Web Reporting vs. Web Analysis