Clients often ask me to validate or reconcile the statisitcs that Google Analytics or Urchin Software provide. This is an almost impossible task that can take weeks to accomplish and usually provides inconclusive results. I advise clients to begin by focusing on trend in the data over time rather than laboring over the details of the numbers. Then, when they make specific changes to their site or advertising they can dig deeper into the data because they know exactly what changes were made.
So why do I bring this up now? I read two interesting things this morning that reminded me of this tenant.
First, Bob Cringely has a great piece about Google and their AdWords customer service. The article was actually about a friend who was fighting Google over some AdWords charges. In the article Bob references some visitation data that his friend used in his fight with Google:
Visitor Sessions per Month
Jan 06 = 386 visits (Google account active = $555.99)
Feb 06 = 328 visits (Google account active = $1,893.26)
Mar 06 = 348 visits (Google account paused)
Apr 06 = 410 visits (Google account paused)
May 06 = 916 visits (Google account active = $751.03)
These data show the number of visits and the Google AdWords cost per month. The numbers are interesting for the client because the visitation increased even when his AdWords account was paused. Those are some pretty important numbers, especially when you’re evaluating the value of your Google AdWords account. Notice they’re not some obscure statistic about the number of times a manager clicked on a blue icon. It’s just visits per month, a nice standard analytics number that can help the individual make an informed business decision.
Second, Avinash Kaushik has a fantastic blog post titled Data Quality Sucks, Let’s Just Get Over It concerning the quality of analytics data and how to make informed decisions based on your comfort level with the data. He stresses that you will not get 100% accurate data but that doesn’t matter. You can still make informed decisions with the data that your analytics solution provides. It is a really great post and I highly recommend giving it a read.