Web Analytics Demystified: A Simple Calendar for Solopreneurs

Ok, you’ve done it. You’re an internet entrepreneur now. Whether you’re a freelance writer, a marketing consultant, or a UX designer, you’ve got a website you use to sell your services.

And on that website, you’ve probably already installed a web analytics application that collects data about your visitors. You know you’re supposed to “do” analytics. You’ve heard there’s a lot you can learn from that data. But there’s just one problem.

When it’s time to consider the numbers, you don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry. It’s a common lament. With a seemingly endless array of metrics to track, reports to run, and stats to analyze, analytics can easily become more confusing than practical – especially if you don’t have a team of data experts scrutinizing numbers and making suggestions.

But guess what? It doesn’t have to be so hard. Here’s a simple, one-month web analytics calendar that should demystify data collection for just about any solopreneur.

Week 1: Do absolutely nothing.

Here’s how to tell if your website is generating leads without ever logging in to your analytics application. Ready? Here goes:

If you’re not getting new business from your website, you should change your approach.

Does that sound overly simplistic? It isn’t. The whole point of having a website for whatever it is you do is so you can sell that service, right? So if you’re not getting new contacts on a fairly regular basis, something’s wrong. You don’t need to look at your stats to know that. It’s as obvious as can be.

That’s why the first week of our hypothetical, four-week “web analytics month” calls on you to do nothing. Don’t check stats. Don’t think about a single metric. And for goodness sake, don’t log in!

Your analytics app is already working hard behind the scenes to log what’s going on. If you start checking stats every day, you might start reading into such minutiae as why you got five more clicks from Twitter links on Tuesday than on Wednesday. You’ll spend time wondering about these things, but they’re honestly not that important.

Until you can compare data collected over a meaningful time period to data collected over another meaningful time period, there’s not a whole lot to learn. Maybe there is if you’re a big brand with several thousand impressions per day and umpteen different marketing campaigns driving new traffic, but you’re just one person. You don’t have that much traffic, nor do you necessarily need it.

So hang tight for a week and let the app gather a meaningful quantity of data. In the meantime, you can focus on more important tasks – things like serving clients, creating content, and networking.

Week 2: Check metrics on Monday and Friday.

Just twice for the entire week? That’s right. On Monday morning, you should take a peek at what’s been going on for the last seven days.

Really, though. Just a peak. We don’t want to make this harder than it already is. Hopefully, you’re only monitoring a select number of metrics that are easy to understand at a glance. If so, it should be simple to go over the numbers and think critically about what’s going on.

Is this the kind of progress I’d like to see? Where are my shortcomings? What should I try this week to fix what’s wrong with [insert metric here]?

These are the kinds of questions you should ask as you consider your stats. Do it again on Friday and see whether the numbers are similar or different from what you saw during Monday’s look-see. Then ask yourself why.

While you should certainly think more about analytics during Week 2 than during Week 1, we’re still only giving it brief consideration. Anything more could become time-consuming and distract you from doing important work.

Week 3: Compare weeks 1 and 2. Check metrics daily.

By now, we’ve got real data sets to compare. Here’s what to think about at the beginning of Week 3 as you pit Week 1 against Week 2:

  • Is there a discernible difference between my site’s performance between Weeks 1 and 2? If so:
  • What went right, and what went wrong?
  • Based on these results, what small steps can I take throughout Week 3 that will contribute to improved performance over the long term?
  • What are some steps I could take in near future (but not right now) that could really help with lead generation?

That last point should always be in the back of your mind, although you need not act on it just yet.

Continue monitoring your stats daily throughout Week 3. Just a quick glance every morning should do. There’s no reason to go hog wild – at least not yet. Continue to focus on important tasks, and still ignore analytics for the most part.

By the way, by “daily analytics monitoring,” we’re talking mere minutes each day.

Week 4: Run reports. Compare. Plan.

Whew! You’re almost there. It’s been three weeks, and you’ve considered web analytics a little more each day. Now we’re at Week 4, and it’s time to paint a clear, tangible picture of your performance throughout the month.

That’s right. This is when you get to run those reports.

But don’t get ahead of yourself. For the first three days of Week 4, continue doing what you did throughout Week 3. Simple, daily analytics consideration is the name of the game.

However, by Thursday or Friday, it’s time to run one or more reports. Isolate your key metrics – ideally you’ll have just a few – and generate a graphical representation of your site’s performance. Now’s when you can take notes, compare numbers side-by-side, and really plan for the upcoming months.

Instead of keeping those long-term steps in the back of your mind, now’s the time to actually act on them. Every month, be sure you save these reports so that you can compare them to the ones you run the next month. That way these little end-of-the-month analytics strategy sessions will become more useful over time.

If it wasn’t apparent from the get-go, the point of this calendar is

  1. to make analytics more practical and less of a guessing game with no set timeline, and
  2. to eliminate some of the time you’re probably wasting on technical, administrative “stuff” like web analytics so you have more time to really serve clients.

That’s it – really. The solo entrepreneurs who put this calendar into practice will be ten steps ahead of those who fumble with data but rarely do anything with it. That, and they’ll be spending less time on analytics while enjoying a greater benefit from it.

To me, that’s a win-win. And win-win relationships between humans and technology are what keep us focused, improve productivity, and boost profits.

Are you currently using analytics to track your site business? What tools do find especially helpful?

Aidan Grayson is a freelance copywriter, cloud app evangelist, and analytics minimalist (if that’s even a thing). He contributed this post on behalf of the R big data experts over at Revolution Analytics.


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