There have been a few stories coming out lately about numbers and metrics. In our business, we tend to drown in the numbers. Just yesterday, I had a meeting with our team here to talk about the issue. The thing to realize is that not all of us are numbers people. For many of us, myself included, I’m more comfortable with stories than columns and columns of numbers. I love data, but not for the data itself, but rather for the story that’s hidden inside that data. I recently received a presentation from a very well known research company that was presented to a client. Inside the slide deck, there were tons of graphs and charts, all chock full of numbers. But after looking at almost 60 slides, I still couldn’t figure out the story. When we work with numbers day in and day out and get caught up in the micro stories within those numbers, we tend to forget to take a step back and get a look at the big picture. As Bill Wise from Did-It said in a recent column, often in search, it’s the bigger numbers that are more important.
Also, we have to realize that the same numbers can tell different stories to different people. As search marketers reporting to our clients, we have to first know what story each stakeholder wants to hear, and then interpret the numbers to see if that story is true or not. All too often we present reams and reams of numbers, without trying to find the story within them.
That’s my issue with most analytics programs. There’s no shortage of numbers, but there is a distinct lack of meaning. Most analytics programs needs someone skilled to analyze the numbers, distill out the meaning and help us understand it. I’ve talked to John Marshall at Clicktracks about this previously, who takes a refreshingly “big picture” view of analytics. In a recent e-mail summit, John suggested that perhaps marketers are a little too fixated on ROI, and should step back a little to gain a better perspective.
Like all industries, search marketer has a number of metrics that are unique to us. At the practitioner level, each number is important, but only as an indicator of a bigger whole. When you report on the number of links built, or keyword density on a page, or even average bid amounts for a keyword bucket and cost per acquisition, you tend to start focusing on those numbers as the ones being important. But it’s useful to step back and remember that ultimately, you’re going to be reporting on this campaign to someone who doesn’t care about links, or occurrences of keywords on a page, or the fluctuation in bid prices for your number one term. All they’re going to care about is how the campaign added (or detracted) from their bottom line. Ultimately, that’s the story you’re going to have to tell.
At Enquiro, we’re really working hard to keep focused on the story, and not lose sight of it in a maze of numbers. We call it “metrics that matter” Our analytics specialist, Manoj Jasra, has done some writing on the subject. Check out his blog.