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Beware of Averages

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Are the visitors you drive from search made up of low-income, under-educated 30-somethings, or high-net-worth, highly educated retirees and their grandchildren? You'll never know unless you dig into your analytics program, says Erik Dafforn in his latest ClickZ column, "Search Traffic and Web Analytics: Easy Answers, Hard Lessons."

Dafforn asserts that many marketers spend too much time adjusting to what they see as the average visitor, instead of going beneath the surface to find out what's really going on. Some common problems with analytics and search include failing to separate Web search, blog search, news search; and even lumping Web mail and newsgroups under organic traffic, since it originates from a Google, Yahoo, or MSN address.

It's also important to consider the effect that technologies like AJAX, Flash and RSS can have on your analytics reports, he says. He points out that looking at the wrong metrics can be harmful. For example, focusing on exit points is not useful on its own -- everyone leaves a site eventually. A more useful approach would be to segment the traffic by referrer type, then look at the user behavior to see if visitors are leaving after finding what they needed, or if they are leaving in frustration.

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