No Goals – No Analytics!

I was reviewing some old articles on analytics when I caught last summer’s DM News Report on Analytics (PDF). I was impressed at the amount of information contained about the business case for analytics, all coming from some very intelligent people. The great thing was the consistent thread of thought throughout the entire report: Analytics is growing – and it’s more than web stats – it is marketing intelligence. Unfortunately, the gold mine is sitting untouched, as many businesses are unaware of the untold riches sitting just a few inches away.

However, this grabbed my attention more than anything else in the report:

“Web analytics works best when measurement expectations are clearly defined in advance, not after the fact or on an ad-hoc basis.”
-Eric Peterson

This is not only the essence of analytics, it is the essence of business. Even greater than that, of life. Your life has to have goals, otherwise, what are the expectations that you will measure yourself against? How can you expect a business to succeed when there are no measurements along the way to provide correction and guidance?
Trend graph
Goal setting and published expectations are natural for those who expect to succeed, and it is not a strange trend that those who practice that also succeed in business. The same is true of websites. They must have a goal, both for the owner and the visitor. Unless that goal is declared, there is no way to determine success or failure.

The only way to sift through the mountains of data, the hundreds of charts and graphs, the pages of “Top 10” lists, is to have a specific set of goals to measure. By measuring against specific goals, the data will suddenly fall away as you remove what is not necessary to the overall goals. Good analytics programs allow you to strip away the stuff you don’t want or need to see. They allow you to focus in on the key indicators that are relevant to your site’s performance.

Bottom Line: If you don’t have clearly defined goals for your online marketing strategy, then no amount of analytics will assist you in making the right decisions.

About Matt Bailey
Matt is the owner and founder of SiteLogic and has over 15 years in the internet marketing industry. He focuses on consulting and training to help companies take control of their websites and marketing strategies. You can find out more by reading his book: Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day

5 Comments for this entry

Craig Geis
May 4th, 2007 on 9:12 am

Thanks Matt!

I like the contrast that John Marshall, of ClickTracks, gives on Reporting vs. Analysis:

“‘Reporting’ requires that you know what you’re going to want to know, whereas ‘analysis’ gives you the ability to learn on the fly what you don’t know and then to know it.”

I totally agree with John.

For example, there have been many times that I’ve randomly looked over a ‘Navigational Report’ and have learned many things about the strengths or weaknesses of a web page.

I also find that ‘light-bulb’ moments happen with or without a plan.

To me, analysis is more of a journey. Sometimes a compass (plan) helps in my discovery, other times it creates blinders that hide important factors.

On the other hand, since ‘speed’ is not a word that is commonly associated with analysis, having a plan is one way to reduce the large amount of time that analysis takes.

Darius Peczek
July 3rd, 2008 on 11:58 pm

What are some of the interesting goals have you seen besides article downloads or email sign-ups?

Matt Bailey
July 4th, 2008 on 9:21 am


I’ve seen many goals implemented by companies, it is really a matter of looking beyond a simple action. I’ve worked with a B2B business where we evaluated the PDF downloads in terms of the sales cycle. The business was then able to aggregate visitors that were in different stages of the sales cycle. The next step was assessing previous visits and downloads prior to filling out a “more information” contact form, and the sales rep would then know which information they had already downloaded or read.

Other factors that can be measured as goals – anything that helps to make the sale – which factors or pages or typically viewed prior to a conversion? One example is a travel company had videos on their site – visitors that viewed the videos converted at a 30% higher rate than the non-viewing visitors. This helped to determine the next steps of developing the website and creating additional videos for visitors.


jason humble
October 18th, 2008 on 11:57 am

Hey Matt!
So….basically everything you’ve stated is true and I wholeheartedly endorse it for business but it breaks down considerably when applied to relationships. The differences between this model and what the post-modern generation is looking for are astounding. It’s just an interesting thought. Thanks for making me think! Now if I can just figure out why you were in Sweden!

November 2nd, 2008 on 7:48 pm

Very informative post about analytics and reporting. It’s very true that the setting up of and analysis of goals is one of the key factor to make one understand what’s going wrong or good in his online marketing strategy.


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