The human factor in analytics

Jan 11, 2015 · 3 min read

The human factor in analytics -- Made In Helmikuu

It's the beginning of a new year. Your website has had a bad bunch of weeks, your sales are low and you are getting very little contacts about your services. You panic and ask if you are in trouble. Maybe you should shut your site down, make some changes or hey, perhaps you had made some changes and now nothing's working. Yeah, you got to change things back to how they were. If you are a blogger you know how easy it is to get too involved with the measurements. You look at the bounce rate and misunderstand it terribly, you compare your success to yesterday, day before that, or the previous month. This point you have totally forgot that the end and beginning of the year is filled with festivities. People have spent their money and their effort on presents, food, drinks and travelling to see and tolerate their relatives. And now they are back at work and schools, trying to get that whole routine on. They don't have the time, the money nor the strength to be that interested in anything else than what they HAVE to do.

I can myself get way too interested in analytics, counting comments and shares, staring at the bounce rate. Fortunately I have also learned to understand that the numbers tell only half of the story and they don't take human behaviour in account. I know that different times of a year can change the behaviour of people. For example I as a web designer and developer get most contacts right before Christmas and during the first weeks of January. Funny enough these same times are when my website gets the least hits. This is because my services are employed often as part of the serious work that people doing it feel has be done and ready for the end of the year or otherwise as fast as possible. As they are busy with the Christmas preparations or with getting back to work they don't feel they have time to read my blog posts or even take a look at my services. They just need to get things done without any "distractions". There's no time for personal.

The key in being able to understand your website analytics and other measurements is in understanding the human factor. The human factor includes all the personal stuff your blog readers, clients and other people go through while they create the data you analyse. It's in understanding the change, it's in understanding how the economics are affecting their behaviour. You must take a look at any holidays and vacations, the uncertainty of markets, other news and anything that might affect the mood and effort of the people behind the numbers. Even when you offer something for free all these factors can affect the downloads or contacts negatively or positively. Additionally the overall data and it's analytics may give you a twisted image of what's going on. If available, use the demographic and interest data to help you to seek into the human factor. Dig also deeper, see how different pages work, where the people are when they read certain blog posts and which devices they use. Stop staring at the overview, it doesn't tell you much anything. And for the sake of staying sane, don't compare your site to other sites so much, especially those with different types of content and use.

While I think it's great we have all these easy and free ways to analyse the impact of blog posts, website redesigns, Tweets, Facebook shares and more, I think there's a problem with it. The problem is that now everyone is looking at the numbers without really knowing what they are analysing. You might be getting blinded by the numbers. So take a deep breath, step back and look beyond the numbers.

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