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Who’d have thought Einstein was into Web Optimisation

Albert Einstein once had a picture hanging on his wall at Princeton that read: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” He was a smart cookie and often referred to it…and it definitely rings true for web analytics.

Albert Einstein once had a picture hanging on his wall at Princeton that read:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.That picture should be up in every business optimization unit across the globe.

I’ve often said just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  And in many cases, you just plain can’t.

Despite the capabilities of many web analytics applications, sometimes the things that count just can’t be counted by web analytics.  For example, User Experience (did they get really get what they wanted) can’t be counted through web measurement.  It may well be answered through a variety of other methods, such as focus groups or qualitative research, but sadly web analytics can’t provide the answer.  Yet.  Maybe one day, when we’re all chipped, chapped and chafed, and tracked from pillar to post, but in the meantime…well, you get my drift.

Unfortunately, in many cases, companies still measure absolutely everything, report on way too much, and get nothing out of it.  They end up with analysis paralysis, which devalues the optimization proposition.

In a survey conducted by eConsultancy in 2008, 78% of companies don’t tie their data collection strategy back to their business objectives.  Staggering.

Not everything that can be counted counts

It’s vitally important to stick to business KPI’s.

When you’re driving your car, you only want to know a few key things; how fast you’re going; how much fuel you’ve got left are typically your two KPI’s.

On a day to day basis, you don’t need to know how much oil you have in the bottom of the engine; or the temperature of the coolant; or your tire pressure.

So what makes you think that your stakeholders want all that information?

Think about who you are providing insight to.  If it’s your CEO or CMO, think of them as the driver and structure your reports accordingly; your web team might be the mechanics, so they want to know how much oil is in the engine and how hot it is.

What’s important is that you pick out the few key performance indicators that are tied to the business objectives (and campaign objectives) of the stakeholder – and they get narrower the further up the chain you report.

Your CEO probably won’t want to know CPC for an online campaign, but they probably will be interested in how many sales have been generated off the back of it.  Your CMO may be interested in CPC, but probably not (too much information).  Your campaign manager will be interested though, so they can continue to optimize the campaign.

Not everything that counts can be counted

Here’s a tricky one to measure…a TVC brand campaign and it’s effectiveness at driving sales.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there are things you can do that will help, such as vanity URL’s that redirect to another URL so that you can measure traffic through the original URL.  But still, it’s a tricky one.  Despite the advancements and sophistication in the technology, there is still no way to fully integrate offline and online reporting.

Einstein often referred to that picture.  He was a smart cookie; and it definitely rings true for web analytics.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on October 28, 2009.

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