Don't Flush Your Analytics

I am desperately trying to potty train Sam, my 3 year old son. I know (and I think he knows) the emotional and rational benefits of making deposits in the potty instead of the diaper. Rationally, it will keep the mess away from him and he will get huge rewards. Emotionally, it will make him feel more accomplished and it will thrill his parents. Even though he is aware of these benefits, every time we get near the potty he screams and freaks out. If we actually get him on the throne, he just sits for a minute and promptly declares "I'm done".

A few weeks ago, during one of Sam's freak out sessions, I realized that potty training a toddler is the same as convincing a company to USE their web analytics. I believe that most companies see the benefits. Rationally, analytics can help them to identify "the mess" and, by fixing it, get huge rewards. Emotionally, they can see success points and thrill their CEO. But, like Sam, some companies freak out when they think of using the data or they look at it for a minute, pull a few flat stats and declare "I'm done".

Because these situations are similar, I've pulled a few tips commonly used for potty training to help get those companies who aren't quite there yet to start using their analytics.

Establish A Routine

Every two hours I force Sam to sit on the potty. Setting a schedule should help him to gain a level of comfort. If your company has a web analytics tool in place but no one looks at the data, why have the tool at all? It is important to look at the data weekly. Yes, there is a ton of "stuff" there and it can be overwhelming. But, by regularly looking at the charts and stats, you will eventually gain a comfort level with the definitions and data contained in the reports. Once you are comfortable and understand what you see, you will understand the power behind the numbers.

Read A Few Blogs

I'm not sure if there are blogs on potty training maybe I should start one! But there are tons of blogs on website analysis. Reading these blogs will help you figure out what you need to track and how to track it.

Set Goals

Our goal is to have Sam completely potty trained within the next 6 months. It is not a totally aggressive goal but it gives us something to work towards. If you do not have defined website goals, how will you know if you are succeeding? Define site goals and use your analytics to measure success.

Rewards & Positive Reinforcement

Ahh the payoff! When Sam does the deed we give him sweet tarts, stickers and potty songs as rewards. If you use your analytics you will be able to figure out what is working and what isn't working. So, you can fix the bad and cash in on the good. This will increase your site's usability, generate more conversions (sales, membership registrations, e-mail sign ups, etc.) and, ultimately, decrease cost while increasing revenue. Your boss will be singing you songs of praise and the reward will, hopefully, be more money in your paycheck. (So you'll be able to buy tons of stickers and sweet tarts!)

Be Patient

In my opinion, analyzing your web stats is not difficult, it is overwhelming. You can get lost in the data. Don't get frustrated just keep trying. Eventually you will be able to see the important trends and it will all make sense. That is what we tell Sam and, day by day, he gets closer and closer to the potty.

Convince your company that analytics are important. If you can't do it now, follow the data for a while and prove the benefit to them. And, in the interim, please feel free to pass on potty training advice. Diapers and pull ups are getting way too expensive!

This was a guest post contributed by Shareen Jordan. Professionally, Shareen has grown up in the internet industry. Over the past decade (and then some), she has worked with most facets of the web, including: development, project management, marketing, testing and analytics. Her diverse background helps her to understand both the possibilities and limitations of online space. As a result, she is able to enhance a user's experience and increase conversions based on web site statistics, best practices and testing.

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