Web Analytics: Two Things People Want, But Will Never Get

I’ve been helping a customer try to understand their web statistics. They get reports from AWStats, Google Urchin and Google Analytics. Needless to say, they are confused by different numbers each system gives and want to know which one is right.

People often want the following two things from web statistics:

  1. Some sort of industry benchmark that is a fair comparison to their site so they can tell how their site measures up.
  2. Absolute truth in web statistics instead of approximations and interpretations.

The reality is that they will never get either one.

Page views and visitor sessions are interpretation of what happened on a site. Every analytics package measures these slightly differently.

The only statistics that matter are your own statistics. You have to measure your site consistently, make improvements to the site, and then see if the improvements result in an increase in your key performance indicators.

Think of web analytics like runners measure their personal best times. Day-in and day-out, you’re measuring yourself against your time yesterday and trying to get better. What your competition is doing doesn’t matter nearly as much as improving your own performance.