One of my rants is about web analytics data. Not how accurate it is, but where it belongs. For the majority of people the default reports in a given web analytics package are completely adequate. New visitors, returning visitors, campaign tracking, click path analysis… they’re all very helpful and can be used to optimize your advertising and site content. But, in my opinion, once you really start to dig into the data you begin to realize that no application will support the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are specific to your business model. And that really is the key. What are the specific performance indicators for your business and how do you measure them?
What’s the solution? Set your data free! Export it from your analytics package and move it to a venue where you can perform your analysis based on the KPI’s that you’ve defined for your business and your website. You could use something as simple as Microsoft Excel. Eric T. Peterson has an outstanding book called the The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. It comes with an Excel KPI worksheet that you can configure for your use. If you haven’t worked with analytics data outside of your analytics application give it a try, it’s very liberating! And Eric’s book is a great place to start.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “But there is no easy way to export my data from my analytics application.” Believe me, I know. We use Google Analytics & Urchin Software and neither are very friendly when it comes to exporting data. There are export features in both but they require someone to manually click on a link in a report to start the export. Not very usable, especially when you need to export data every day of the week! This shortcoming has not stopped us. We have pieced together solutions that automatically extract an XML or text export of the data so we can work with it in other applications.
For Urchin, there is u5data_extractor.pl, a Perl script on the support site that can be used to export data in text format. We use this script to automate the delivery of analytics data to the appropriate analytics. Then the analyst can import the data to another application for analysis. Depending on your needs you may be able to automate the extraction from Urchin and the insertion into your analysis application.
Getting your data out of Google Analytics is a bit more difficult. I don’t want to give away the screts, but if you know some basic web scripting (including cURL) you should be able to write a script that extracts data from the GA reports.
Do you feel empowered? I hope so. Get out there and start extracting your data!