When analytics and reporting become overwhelming

Do ever feel overwhelmed by website analytics or business data?

You have a crazy amount of data at your fingertips — in your website, Google Analytics account, social media accounts, and email marketing software, for example — and each comes with built-in reporting tools.

Yes, data and website analytics are powerful. They allow you to make evidence-based decisions. But the sheer volume of data we can now access at the click of a button makes it hard to know what data to use and what to ignore.

First, let’s consider the problems associated with overanalysing data. If you spend hours, days, or weeks pouring over data — collating stats from your analytics accounts and comparing them to previous time periods — you are probably going into data overdrive. There comes a point at which you’re debating minutiae. In this case, zooming out and spending more time focusing on big-picture decisions might be more valuable for the business. Why?

Because measuring too many key performance indicator’s (KPI’s) doesn’t give you an overview of activity, which is often enough to make a decision and move on. The data also doesn’t always account for internal and external influences, variable factors and business developments. Therefore, your analysis and reporting could be inaccurate. And if that data is then used to inform decisions, it’s likely to work against you.

How do you know if you are overanalysing?

Let’s use Google Analytics as an example.

Do you remember the first time you logged into Google Analytics? From the collapsible menu on the left, you could get website analytics on anything and everything. And after playing around for hours, what did you get?

If your experience was the same as mine — a headache! And no idea what to do with all the information.

So here’s the remedy: before you open a reporting tool, decide what you are looking for. Specify the outcome you want. Using Google Analytics, that might be:

  • Number of website visitors per month
  • Which countries your website visitors are from
  • How many leads each website page generates per month

Also, if you’re analysing a marketing campaign, sticking to the KPI’s you specified to monitor the performance of that campaign will make it simpler.

Finally, when reviewing the data, don’t just present figures, look for trends and pick a conclusion. Instead, recognise and identify any other influences that may have affected your statistics and account for those limitations.

Unfortunately, data will tell you anything you want to see!