I seem to start every blog post like this, but every topic seems to warrant it.
Web analytics gives today’s marketers more data than they could ever have dreamed possible. But data in and of itself does not tell you anything. To steal the title of the Distilled presentations, it’s all about how you use and abuse data for you business… You can view the full presentation here.
The key to Distilled presentation is to create an integrated master database, a single source of truth. The way to do this is to use API’s from all internal and external data sources. We recommend doing this using a number of small tools piped together rather than a single, complex program.
Once you have a single source of truth, it is time to make the statistics sing for you. There are a number of ‘boss friendly’ visual interfaces that will allow you to do this. The best of these is GeckoBoard. Now you can compare and contrast key metrics in easy to understand graphs.
Beware: even with key metrics on a graph in front of you….. you need to be aware of the potential dangers of statistics. The truth is that humans are inherently bad at statistics. We are programmed in such a way to extrapolate datasets, without understanding trends and randomness. To give you an example, take a look at the graph below. Your immediate reaction is that the graph is going to keep increasing….
When the box is removed, you see the fatal error that you have made:
Understanding this tendency is important because it can help us stop ourselves when we start to ‘predict’.
Some rules for when looking at statistics:
- Use a dashboard such as GeckoBoard to visually represent data (boss friendly reporting)
- Do not use charts that do not start at zero – these tend to ‘dramatise’ results
- View time series (data plotted over time) – use www.r-project.org to create statistically significant and readable graphs from time series
- Don’t blindly mine for patterns (because you will always find something). Have a hypothesis and test that hypothesis on multiple datasets.
Data is yours to be used and abused!