Site analytics track your website's performance. With just a few keystrokes, you can check and compare the number of visitors, conversions and more that your site experienced during a variety of time periods. You'll learn what happened on your site and when, but you won't learn why it happened. Fortunately, you can do something very simple to answer your “why?” questions.
Getting the answer to why a particular aspect of your site's performance changed is very important; it can help you understand whether something positive or negative happened, and if it's bad, give you some idea as to how to fix it. As Mike Fleming noted, in some cases a 20 percent drop in conversions could actually be a good thing. But how would you know?
Every analytics program provides space for you to note any changes made to your site. Typically, these programs refer to this feature as “annotations.” Google Analytics provides a drop-down box under its timeline so you can see what you did and match it up to your website's performance during the same period of time.
Why does this matter? Well, when you're examining your numbers from a year ago and comparing them to today's figures, are you going to remember that you ran out of product and were back-ordered for a week and a half in November? How about those changes your developers made to your site nine months ago? Did that spike of visitors really coincide with the PPC campaign you started in February? How about that website change that messed up your analytics tracking and didn't get tracked down for a couple of weeks?
This is why you need to track changes to your website as they're made. Put the notes in your analytics program, and you'll not only see WHAT happened to your website, but have all the clues at your disposal to tell you WHY it happened. Say your conversion rate dropped 20 percent this quarter when compared to last year, as Fleming suggested for an example. That sounds catastrophic, but there are cases in which this could be a good thing. Maybe those who ARE converting are making more big ticket purchases in response to your new advertising campaign. Maybe you started emphasizing content more with a new blog, and a lot of your visitors are checking it out. No business owner can carry all of this information in their head; it's much better to let these notes remember it for you.
When you do have the notes in front of you as you're examining your website's performance, connections may start leaping out at you. You could get a simple answer to the “why” that would take forever to track down if you didn't have the notes. This is the reason that every time someone speaks with tech support about their computer or other powered device, the first question tech support asks is whether the item is plugged in. If it's not right in front of you, it's very easy to miss the obvious. Keeping good notes, and making sure they're in a place where you'll see them when you need them, means you'll miss fewer of these issues, and find the problems much more quickly – so you can apply your focus where it belongs, to solving the problems (or getting on with business when you discover that they aren't problems after all). Good luck!
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