Our latest poll showed that while web analytics usage by our readership was strong for a good number of you, more than 65% of respondents have significant work to do.  Here's a review of the results peppered with the opinions and commentary of some experts in the analytics space.

The Importance of Good Web Analytics

It really shouldn't be a surprise to any organization with a web presence today that they need to do some kind of analysis of what's happening on their website. How else do you know what's working and what's not, what to make better or what to get rid of?

But as much as we'd all like to believe otherwise, understanding and using your web analytics to drive business decisions is not an easy process.

Last week, we ran a poll asking readers, "How Useful is Your Web Analytics Data?". There were 849 responses. Here are the results:
 

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A General Lack of Understanding

The top two responses are polar opposites: Roughly 31% say they understand and use more than 80% of their analytics data, using it to drive business decisions. Yet at the same time, 27% don't feel they use the data they have well at all.

In fact the general trend is that respondents are not maximizing their web analytics' potential. So what does this mean exactly? Is it a technology issue? A training issue? Or a governance issue?

It's not easy to say with a simple poll, but some educated speculation is useful.

Eric Peterson, CEO and Principal Consultant of Web Analytics Demystified says the data does seem to highlight the general trend he sees in his work, and that "most companies still don't make good use of their investment in web analytics." He points to part of the problem being a lack of trained resources running the technology.

Phil Kemelor, Vice President of Strategic Consulting Services for Semphonic and lead analyst for The CMS Watch Web Analytics Report, agrees adding that organizations who are satisfied have a clear concept of web analytics strategy and governance.

"They've (organizations) spent the time determining the metrics that are important to run their business; they have defined roles and responsibilities around who is managing and using the web analytics solution; they have devoted resources to train people on how to analyze web analytics reporting. These organizations view web analytics as a key element to their business...they are way beyond viewing web analytics only as a software purchase."

Not a Technology Issue

Jeff Cram, Chief Strategy Officer at ISITE Design, says that this is really not a technology issue. There are a lot of web analytics solutions available. For example, Google Analytics, while free, is still accessible and powerful says Cram.

"The majority of organizations can drive very meaningful decision making from this data. But few take advantage of it."

As Kemelor has seen, organizations that aren't happy with their analytics are usually just creating basic reports that provide an overview of web traffic. In many cases these organizations don't have the time, resources or support from upper management needed to make this really work.

It is certainly a side effect in this scenario that the analytics solution purchased is not a good fit ...being either too simple or complex for the real needs of the organization.

Peterson says that they are starting to see a group of companies pulling ahead and truly competing on web analytics. "These are companies who understand the need for smart, capable operators for these systems and, more importantly, understand the need for a strong governance model for web analytics."

Identify Metrics That Matter

So what does your organization need to do to take better advantage of your web analytic software? Cram sees the fundamental problem for organizations as trying to align their website goals to their overall business and marketing strategy.

He says you need to identify metrics that matters and be prepared to continuously optimize based on those metrics. And you don't need a huge dashboard full of data -- a few focused KPIs should do the trick.

A good place to start is to make sure you're actually investing in the people to analyze, evangelize and take action from the data. It's surprising how much money gets spent on analytics technology and how little gets spent on the resources to leverage it. Funny enough, very similar to the story with web content management.

What's Next?

You are not alone -- most of us have a rather large field of improvement to traverse. Elevating the importance of analytics in your organization, or in your professional life is a lofty goal, but one which will bear some sweet tasting fruit. Here are some resources to get you moving: