In Analytics, What do the Numbers Really Mean

Analytics is a wonderful tool, it gives us real insights into how people are behaving on our site, but we have to use caution because with analytics there is a dark side, not that kind of dark side.

The dark side I’m referring to is how we report analytics data. So let me give you two pieces of of sample data. The first one is a conversion rate. Let’s say that we have a conversion rate of three percent. OK, now let’s say the next piece of data we have is average time on page, let’s say two minutes and 10 seconds. We have two pieces of data here. And what we have to do is figure out what insights we can draw from this. On the one hand, if we look at conversion data, we are safe to interpret that. That was the intended user action. They submitted their order. They completed the purchase. There’s no wiggle room and what that means. But when we focus on something like the average time on page, this could be open for interpretation. It could be that someone spent a long time on this page because they were really engaged with our content and they read every single word and they loved it. Or it could actually mean that they didn’t understand anything, that they couldn’t find what they were looking for or that the navigation didn’t quite make sense to them. So the first type of data conversion rate, we call this hard data where there’s not there’s room for interpretation. We know what it means, but soft data like average time on page or something like how far down the user scrolls or even whether they use search versus navigation when they first get to the site. Those things require further interpretation. We need to complement those pieces of analytics data with extra insights that we can usually get from usability testing.

Next time you’re presenting or receiving analytics data, make sure that you’re asking those important questions about whether or not the information is reporting hard data or soft data.

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