Beware of Averages

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.

About the author

Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.

Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.

With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.