Are you letting your analytics mislead you? Don’t make this common mistake

If you want to get to the important truth, you need to dig more deeply.

That wisdom applies to life in general, but it’s especially important in business analytics. With the power of the Internet and all the software that we depend on each day, we are able to access all kinds of “analytics” and dashboards. However, if we just scan the top levels of information, we can miss some important facts.

I’m going to use visitor acquisition to my website as an example.

I have Jetpack statistics installed on my WordPress-powered website and I check them frequently. I was looking at “Referrers” recently to see the rates at which my social media sites were sending visitors to my website. I noted that, according to Jetpack, 31 visitors had come to my site from Facebook and 14 had come from Twitter.

A little later I decided to touch bases with my Google Analytics to get a better picture of social media acquisitions. To do this, log into your Google Analytics account then on the navigational sidebar click ACQUISITION, then Social, then Overview.

When I got to Google, the default reporting period was a little different than what I was using on Jetpack, so the numbers aren’t identical. However, the overall trend was about the same. It showed that I tallied 42 sessions from Facebook and 26 from Twitter.

Now let me go down a little – but important – side path. These metrics, by themselves, are meaningless; they are just numbers on a glowing screen. You put meaning into them when you take action based on what they are telling you.

I’m a believer in putting most of your effort into the areas where you will enjoy the biggest gains. And, if I want to apply that principle to social media visitor acquisition, this first look at my data would tell me that my greater opportunity would be to invest more in Facebook than in Twitter.

However, when I viewed the full report on Google Analytics (click on view full report), the story took a sudden, and unexpected, twist: Even though sessions from Twitter were fewer in number, they accounted for more page views and more time spent on my website than their Facebook counterparts. In other words, they were far more deeply engaged with my content.

Visitors from Twitter looked at an average of four pages per session and stayed on my site for nearly five minutes. Facebook visitors looked at a little more than two pages and were on my site for just over a minute on average.

Which visitors do you think are more valuable to me? I would have to say that the visitors who come from Twitter are far more serious about what I’m doing than those who come from Facebook.

Had I merely looked at the top level of Jetpack referrer and Google Analytics acquisition statistics, I would never have seen this important truth about visitors to my site. I would not have realized how much more value visitors from Twitter are than the average Facebook visitor.

Whenever you can drill down in your analytics, take the time to do so. Otherwise you may be misleading yourself.