5 Web Analytics Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions in web analytics (created by some author/bloggers/experts) though many others have tried to clarify them from time to time but they keep reappearing. I recently had a conversation with someone who was so much in love with one of the misunderstood metrics, listed below, that it prompted me to write this blog post. So without much delay, here are the most common five misconceptions that I come across all the time:

  1. More Page Views are good – Unless you are an ad supported site that sell advertising via CPM (cost per thousand impressions) more page views might mean that the visitors are lost on your site and can’t find what they are looking for. More pages views/visit could indicate issue with your site navigation. For effective analysis, set your baseline and then watch for significant deviations (up or down) from the baseline.
  2. All that bounces is bad – I have written 2 detailed posts showing why all that bounces is not really bad. Bounce rate is one metrics that people overly obsess with. Keep in mind all bounces are not bad. The things that cause high bounce rate are:
    1. Links to external sites that you want visitors to click
    2. Ads on your site take visitors out of your site
    3. Returning visits might bounce because they might come to your site to read your daily/ weekly/monthly update
    4. Visits that are for a specific reason e.g. find your phone number
  3. Focus on reducing the bounce rate and everything will be ok– Well that’s the advice many people give without even looking at the other data points and analyzing if reducing the bounce rate will really help you achieve your goal or not. Reducing the bounce rate might not be the most effective way to increase ROI. You should create a monetization model and determine the impact that reducing the bounce rate will have before you start creating different version of a high bounce page to A/B test to reduce your bounce rate. I have seen cases where you won’t get positive ROI even when you reduce the bounce rate to 0%.
  4. Time on site (or page) shows how much time people are spending on the site – As I wrote in my blog post titled Understanding the “Time Spent on the Site” Metrics there are many issues with measuring the actual time spent on the site or a page. One of the main reasons is that the last page that a user views/reads on your site is not counted in this calculation. So if you have a non-ecommerce sites then the chances are that the visitors spend most of their time reading the last page but that page won’t not counted in this metrics and hence your time on page and time on site metrics will be way off. As long as you know that you need to watch the trend instead of using this metrics as a absolute measure of time spent on site then go ahead and use this metrics.
  5. Referring Sites report shows all the traffic sources including campaigns – Well… not really. There are a lot of reasons for the referring source to be lost from the time the visitor clicks on the link to the time they arrive on your site, two big reasons are
    1. Server redirects – This happens a lot with ad serving. Suppose you buy an ad though a 3rd party company who then uses an ad network to place your ads on a publishers site e.g. yahoo, each party does some processing and redirect of its own. In doing all these redirects the referring information is lost or shows one of the sites that does the redirect. For example, you might see atdmt.com showing up in the referring sites which means you were serving ad via Atlas even though the ad might have been served on MSN.com. Many URL shortening services used on twitter also show up as referring domain instead of twitter.
    2. 3rd Party Apps – This is a big issue with Twitter URLs. A lot of twitter users use 3rd party apps and any clicks to your URL posted on twitter from these 3rd party apps will show up as direct traffic.

If you are running a campaign or posting links in social media, blogs, forums etc, make sure to tag them with campaign identifiers so that you can use campaign reports instead of relying on referring sites report.

Read more: 5 Web Analytics Misconceptions – Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra http://webanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/06/5-web-analytics-misconceptions.html