Ever wondered whether the data you collect is actually telling you anything? In reality we find ourselves measuring nothing but with a huge amount of precision and in lots of detail. Let me explain. Yesterday I took a good look at my own business’ web stats. I got lots of interesting facts. I found out what countries my web visitors came from, I learned what sort of browsers the people that had viewed my posts had used, and I learned where they had been referred from. I could even follow their progress through the site, the page they landed on and the page they left from. I started looking at twitter too, found the number of followers, the number of people that had un-followed me, the number of people who aren’t following me back.

“Awesome!”, I hear you say, “thats loads of information Kevin, it must have given you a great insight into your business”. Well guys, here’s the truth, it didn’t. All it did was waste an hour of my time.

Recently I was discussing the performance dashboard for the communications team at one of my clients. They proposed page views on the website as one of their KPIs. We had a good debate about this. Firstly we have no idea whether the people viewing the pages are the target audience for the communication. We also have no idea whether the site visitors found the information they were looking for, and if they didn’t then the page view information might be quite misleading. I’ll give you a hypothetical example; Suppose some of our web visitors want to contact the organisation by phone, and there is no phone number on the site. The visitor arrives at home page, and clicks around 7 or 8 pages looking for contact information before giving up. Looking at the stats, page views generated from this visit are high, bounce rate is low. Satisfied customer? I don’t think so.

Thing is, today, theres loads and loads of data available, and it’s really really easy to measure “stuff”. I can measure “stuff” with a huge amount of accuracy, and we can get stats on just about anything. Data and Stats are not, by themselves, useful information. To make this information useful I need to ask a few questions first.

  1. Whats my business strategy?
  2. What are my short term goals?
  3. What are my critical success factors to achieve these goals?
  4. What role does (fill in the blank: e.g. Web; Media strategy; customer satisfaction. etc) have in achieving the goal?

If I don’t know where I want the business to go, and the role of say, the website, in taking it there, then how can I possibly know whether I needed 20 new visitors to the site yesterday or whether my target should have been 200?

It may be that most of my potential ideal clients will never visit my website regardless of what I do, so all of this interesting information from Google Analytics could be totally irrelevant.

That still doesn’t tell me what I need to measure. Measurement and action need to go hand in glove. I need to measure stuff so I can see the outcome of my actions, and so that I can see where I need to take action in the future

So, I need to think about a couple of other things to tell me whether the measure is useful.

  1. If I measure this and the value changes significantly does the change actually have an impact on my business?
  2. If I can say yes, and it has an impact, can I do stuff that makes this move in the right direction, or to stop it moving in the wrong direction.

So, think carefully about whats important in your business, and only take notice of measurement that is useful rather than getting lost in loads and loads of data.

For more information, check out these posts:

5 reasons KPI don’t work

Never choose KPI from a list


Image created by coolpix supplied by freedigitalphotos.net