For any business, two pieces of information are most important to its survival. One, in order to make decisions, a business needs to know the ground reality of where it stands in the market now. Second, in order to plan forward and determine progress, it needs to know where it stood in the market in the past. These two sources of information individually don’t convey much information. But combined together, they provide actionable insights. Where am I now and where was I is what you need to know if you need to plan for where I want to go.
Making parallels to web analytics, current set of tools (unfortunately) only provide information on what is happening now. Your favorite tool will churn out data on number of visitors, page views, countries, referrers and what not. This exactly tells you how your website is doing today. However, this completely misses out macro trends. Sure, you can see a historical graph of number of visitors and all sorts of other metrics but that is only the first step towards knowing what has changed.
Ideally a web analytics tool should go deep on the segment level and mine signals in the (historical) data and correlate different metrics automatically for you. Here are some of the examples that I expect an analytics tool to mine automatically for me:
- Accounting for other variables, correlation between Twitter activity and number of organic searches. (Which isn’t obvious but could indicate that I’m doing a great job on Twitter building my site’s brand)
- Show meta-trends in the drift of the type of traffic I’m getting, countries visitors are coming from or the time spent on page. Am I slowly getting more traffic from niche blogs as compared to Google? That tells me what I am doing is working with niche blogs and should probably do more of that stuff.
- Automatically deduce what content or website sections see atypical visitor behavior so that I can act fix it (if it leaks) or use it for further gains (if it works).
- Tell me top 5 common paths my visitors take on the website and if there has been a significant shift over time.
- Source data from all different inputs: social monitoring tools, newsletter tool, etc and automatically correlate my activities outside the website with what is happening on the website.
Most of what I have written above isn’t super hard. Some of it can be done by having simple heuristics built into the tool. Moreover, data mining and machine learning has progressed a lot and I am surprised web analytics industry has been so slow at adopting the methodologies. Though Google is taking the right steps with their intelligence feature but it still it leaves a lot to be desired: where are correlations, recommendations, trend mining and other interesting stuff? Nuconomy was doing the right stuff but they took far too long, didn’t innovate a lot and end up getting bought by a company for in house analytics.
Web analytics shouldn’t be simply a data collection and reporting tool. It should actually be collection, reporting and mining tool. My tool gives me 100s of metrics to look at which I can’t keep looking at day after day (unless it is my full time job). Instead it should mine all 100s of reports for me, and show me interesting nuggets on what has changed (and possibly what could change). So I ask: where is the innovation in web analytics? All I see around is dumb reports ready to get mind by a human.
What is your perspective on this? Do you think web analytics is ripe for a major change?