Web Analytics & Search Engine Marketing Analysis – They’re Not the Same

Hardly a week goes by without an announcement of the latest and greatest web analytics package.

Yahoo, Google, Omniture and others have done a terrific job of developing tools to mine every last bit of performance data from website traffic and paid search campaigns. Some companies package their offerings in a more intuitive wrapping than others, but they are essentially the same.

Looking to spend five figures a month on the just released, latest and greatest analytics package? Whoa – Don’t put the cart before the horse.

The real key to success in paid search marketing is in the human powered interpretation of the data spewed forth by the Omnitures of the world. Having all the data on the planet at your fingertips is useless without thoughtful, reasoned, intelligent examination and analysis. Numbers aren’t enough, regardless of the pretty interface and graphs.

What do the numbers mean? What are they telling us about trends? How can they help us identify the causes of problems or the reasons for our success? For example: What factors contributed to a drop in conversions this month over last. Then: How do we fix what’s broken? How do we improve?

Analytics show us the past in a myriad of color-saturated graphs, charts and tables. The best they can do is display real-time data. They can’t tell us what campaign changes and adjustments to make. It’s the analyst interpreting the data that’s the real star here.

I argue that we all are in danger of allowing too much data to cloud our thinking and decision-making. Settle on a handful of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and watch them like a hawk for shifts in trends.

Look at the big picture first. Resist the temptation to dive in at a granular level. What you’re looking for may be more obvious than you think. Often, looking at site performance issues may tell you all you need to know.

When assembling resources for your PPC effort, look first for experienced, knowledgeable, creative and thoughtful analysts. Then give them the tools they need to work their magic. Your bottom line will benefit and your board of directors will thank you for it.

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