How much data does a web analyst need?

How much data do web analyst need?

The other day I had an interesting conversation with a consultant about how companies view data. The discussion started by him explaining the attendance numbers on the Conversion Conference in San Francisco, May 2011. The conference was held in conjunction with Predictive Analytics and Emetrics.

The conversion conference attracted about 300 visitors while the other two attracted about 1000 visitors each. He told me that after the conference they had a discussion with fellow consultants about the attendance numbers. They argued that in a company the potential conversion increase should matter more than just pulling out numbers hence that the conversion conference should have many more attendances. Their main conclusion was that companies have an obsession with data. Or more precisely the control of data. This left me puzzled. I started asking myself is there truly an obsession with data? If so why this obsession? Is data that important for organizations? What do organizations use data for?

To get a fair answer to these questions one probably need to do extensive research although I want to look at my own experience and other web analyst that I have talked to. As a web analyst how much data do we really use? What type of data do we use and what do we use it for? I have written a post on web analytics maturity in organizations (read here) which covers most of my take on analytics maturity but I have not reflected on the true use of data in our day to day operations.

Less is more

My take when it comes to web analytics data is that less is more. You only need to follow a handful of metrics to be able to follow the pulse of your daily business. A few KPI´s for various positions is usually enough for a monitoring level but web analytics is not just monitoring your sites but rather using data to develop your business towards the vision. Doing so does not demand 100% control of your business metrics! I know this might sound controversial for a few of you but what I am trying to say is that the effort that it takes for 100% control might overshadow the benefits you get. With less data you are still able to develop your business as long as it is the right data. What is the right data? It all depends on your business model and what is unique for you.

Further when having an online business gives you the benefit of utilizing AB testing tools. AB testing tools is probably the best invention ever for online business developers. By keeping a very close eye to your KPI´s you can utilize the AB testing tool to make advancements without needing to have 100% of your data in place. Trust me I speak out of experience. We do it all the time.

AB Testing power

The power of AB testing is also very easy to communicate within the organization compared to understanding data which is perceived most of the times as a daunting task. Looking at numbers is not that fun if you don’t put them in context. Most people are not very internet savvy to be able to make sense of the data.

Is data extremely important? Yes it is. Without data you are like a blind mind driving. Extremely exciting since you don’t know when you will crash but not very smart in the long run. Having 100% control of your data is fantastic but remember you probably only need 70% or less to drive the business forward. Just make sure you have the data that make sense to you. As a web analyst talk to your stake holders and understand your business model by heart, then present them with insights based on the data you have. It will get you further than you think, and remember less is more.

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