We need to analyse things to decide whether or not they’re working. But it’s way too easy to over-analyse them and use that as an excuse to not actually do anything.
Over-analysis is by no means restricted to internet marketing – government reports often go on for years and produce thousands of pages of reports (that are reported in news bytes of a few hundred words at most) and are often completed so long after the event that any conclusion they draw is really only for historic purposes.
It’s important not to do the same in our internet marketing endeavours.
You can spend hours poring over statistics but unless you act on what you find, it’s really only for academic value.
And it’s not always easy to identify cause and effect anyway. Since the major search engines decided to stop letting us easily analyse the keywords used to find our sites (albeit sometimes with limited information inside areas such as Webmaster Tools) it’s become even more of a guessing game to find out where traffic to our sites comes from.
That’s before you add in the complication ever-more personalised results. So that even if you and I are sitting in the same room, using the same internet connection and typing in the same search, there’s a good chance we’ll get different search results. Not to mention the different results you get depending on whether or not you’re logged in to Google and whether or not you actively (rather than passively) allow them to personalise the results.
Essentially, apart from seeing which pages get the most traffic, we’re flying blind.
Which makes too much analysis a fool’s errand.
If you can only see part of the picture, you can’t hope to understand the bigger picture.
Naturally, that’s what the search engines prefer.
The less we understand, the less easy it is for shadier webmasters to game the system and influence the search results.
Plus the more likely small businesses are to buy adverts, which is really the main purpose of the search engines. Getting decent enough search results is only a side effect – the results have to be good enough that we don’t switch to a rival search engine. Not that there’s much choice there anyway – currently in the Western world it’s a two horse race with Google taking the majority share of searches (nearly 87% here in the UK, almost 64% in the US) and usually Bing as the distant second.
So unless Google do an even worse job at serving up decent results than Bing – not something I’ve noticed yet – then the results merely have to be good enough.
Years ago, people would analyse where they showed in the search results and there are still services out there which promise to tell you. Even though the biases that I’ve mentioned earlier make this closer to inspired guesswork.
Nowadays, I’d suggest that those kind of services aren’t worth paying for and are barely worth a glance even when they’re free.
Of course, if you’re selling SEO services to clients then they fall into the “better than nothing” category but that doesn’t apply when you’re analysing your own figures.
I’d suggest that you take a close look at the amount of time you spend analysing what’s happening.
Often, just a quick check through once a week will be enough.
You’ll see from your weekly stats inside your hosting control panel or using something like JetPack (cut down to size with JetPack Lite) inside WordPress will be enough to tell you what’s happening. Or a check of video views inside your YouTube account or document shares inside Slideshare or wherever.
You’ll get a quick idea of which pieces of content were the most popular over recent days or weeks.
Which should give you plenty of ideas to create more of the same.
Most of the time, page views will follow the 80/20 rule so the majority of the page views you get on your site will be on a handful of pages.
Personally, I like to follow the more popular topics and then expand on them – typing in the phrase into Google’s search and examining the suggestions that pop up. You can do the same in YouTube’s search box if you’re creating videos.
Sometimes I’ll choose a topic from further down the list if it grabs my eye and I think it would benefit from being tackled again.
Doing that means most of the time is spent on creating more content rather than analysing the past.
Because creating more content is much more likely to deliver more traffic (and hopefully sales) than just figuring out what’s happened in the past.
So do yourself a favour and cut down the amount of time you spend analysing or over-analysing stuff and spend that time more productively by creating more content!