It is easy to get seduced by real-time numbers. When you work on a website, all the visitors are remote, often relegated to numbers in a spreadsheet or weekly report. So real time analytics can seem like the perfect answer – you can see what visitors are doing RIGHT NOW on your website.
Look, there they are, in this specific millisecond… the region they are in, the device they are using, the page they are on, where they came from and more. It attracts, it engages, it hypnotises.
Pause… wait a minute… rewind! Before we get drawn in, we need to better understand the value.
Even before it was introduced into Google Analytics, a client of ours used a very well known service in this sector called ‘Chartbeat‘. It was easy to install, cheap to run, and we quickly got it all set up. And it works.
You feel like your at the wheel of your car, with little ‘speedometer’ tickers swing left and right. Greens lights for good. Red for bad. Numbers flicking up and down and a reel of pages ticking over as people go back and forth. A graph meanders across the screen titled ‘Engagement’. It’s appeals to the gadgeteer, control freak and analytic all at once.
It took a few months of regular visits to our dashboard for someone to introduce the smelling salts. It started with a very simple question in an internal meeting in our office: ‘how do you use this data in your marketing decision making?’
We looked around at each other. Anyone? Does anyone use this data?
So, rather than blame the tool, the first thing to do was to question ourselves – perhaps we had not fully understood how they were to be used. Maybe we had not spent enough time working out where realtime data is best applied.
We took a few weeks to attempt to tackle this apparent paradox. Met again and came to the simple conclusion that real time tracking is just not very useful for 99% of websites.
Sure, it is fun to watch, and perhaps for bigger publishers who can afford to have staff employed to stare at screens all the time, perhaps then there is a need for realtime. But we could not come up with a single client who would be able to be more efficient or effective using realtime tracking. In the end, we came to these conclusions:
For clients who have low traffic websites, the results from real-time analytics probably have the most value as every visitor matters, but increasing your traffic is a greater priority than closely watching the few actually visiting your website.
For clients with medium traffic websites, analytics and metrics are crucial, but you also need to use your resources wisely. Use reports and analytics to make decisions based on what you read from your website traffic – but don’t use real-time. Weekly report should be enough for you and campaign reports based on email and marketing activity.
For high traffic websites, the only reason why you’d use realtime is if you have a means of responding to what is seen. This means human resources. You can get everything you want out of other forms of tracking, but the only area where you may lose out is in the responsiveness, but only if that matters to your business model. For most, it doesn’t.
It just underlines one of the important ‘learnings’ of online: the activity of one site visitor does not really matter to you, you need to look at the trends. Any business that used individual feedback from every prospect would not only have its hands full, but also end up making very bad decisions.
And, in that light, real-time analytics may make you feel like Captain Kirk, but won’t deliver for your particular Starship Enterprise.
Driving traffic with no clear understanding of revenues or profitability
Intent led, tracked and accounted for profitable marketing spend
An unsteady flow of low-quality enquiries yielding little business
Motivated enquiries, in the buying cycle, who fit your ideal target market
Business critical tasks relying on staff time, subject to user error
Make processes more efficient, thorough, predictable and measurable
I spend most of my development budget fixing errors and bugs
Fast and reliable cash-generative e-commerce and lead generation websites
My organic traffic is not translating to the bottom line
Rankings with purpose, targeting your converting keywords
Dated branding which doesn’t match the quality of your business
Modern, digital, flexible brand, guidelines, messaging and identity
Low resolution homebrew quality with little impact
Short, sharp videos designed specifically for the right media channel
Marketing visuals that fail to engage your audiences
Smart, precise imagery demonstrating design with purpose
Lack of regular contact with previous customers and clients
A clearly segmented customer base with fine-tuned strategies for repeat business
I have analytics, but it doesn’t help with our decision-making
A connected analytics layer providing confidence in tactical and strategic marketing work
Vaguely written aggregated words with little meaning
Refined, considered and targeted persuasive copy with calls to action
Finding it a challenge to come up with quality ideas and engagement
Well-considered, precise, relatable and polished content
Occasional ad-hoc generic email communications
Focused varied marketing content, adapted to suit customer profiles
A store where most of your budget fixing bugs and maintaining
A store where the stock, turnover, margins and yield dwarfs the marketing spend
Leads and customers are mainly in spreadsheets and inboxes
Win and retain more business by selecting the right CRM and systems