Rethinking Web Metrics

When websites were fairly simple, fairly linear experiences, getting insight into user behavior with web stats was pretty easy. Page hits tells you how often users access a page. Time on page tells you how much time they spend there. Download stats tell you how often PDF content is accessed.

But as we do more with our sites, the definition insightful web metrics changes. We want to know who is coming to our site, what they are doing, and – most importantly –  how they feel about the experience at our website. Did the site motivate them to our desired call to action? Is the site engaging? Will they be back?

Knowing how many times a page is accessed doesn’t get you to any of these user engagement issues.

Metrics services are taking two approaches to getting more insightful data, using panel data and using web analytic data. Neither is a slam dunk, as explored in a recent Editor & Publisher article, “Can You Count on Web Metrics? Debate Continues.”

Since most of the web world isn’t in a position to invest in the services of web metrics firms, I am working to learn how to make the most insightful use of Google Analytics. I am currently reading Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analyticsby Brian Clifton, a former Google employee.

While I am still processing and digesting the insight in the book, I still have more questions than answers on how to translate data into behavioral analysis. I wonder if any of you have found a way? Please share.