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Jul

Analytics 1.0 – A Case of Velleity

Velleity is a word that has dropped out of the general vocabulary, unfortunately. I am attempting to bring it back, as it has more relevance now than ever.

Velleity is a desire to see something done, but not enough desire to make it happen. Wow!

Reporting v Analyzing
In my analytics training classes I ask the attendees about their analytics reporting routine. Sometimes I make fun of the in-house analyst that has to report numbers like unique visitors, hits and sessions. Then, they spend the rest of the month justifying why that number was higher or lower than the prior month. Unfortunately, as I make that statement I see too many heads nodding in agreement. I feel for those people who are locked in a never ending cycle of velleity. Caveman AnalyticsCompanies that understand that analytics can be valuable, but not enough to change their culture, provide the analyst with the tools they need, or provide them with the freedom to make changes that will improve the profits of the company itself.

These are what I call “Caveman Analytics.”

Unfortunately, too many businesses are trapped into thinking that big numbers are impressive. Big numbers = big business, right? But what do you do with those numbers? How does that affect your strategy?

Questioning the Strategy
As soon as someone starts asking questions, the house of straw blows away. Simply reporting numbers is not an analytics strategy, and it certainly will not lead to any amount of website improvement. And yes, I do know of some companies that include “Hits” in their monthly reporting.
(If that is you, reporting hits, stop. Hits are not a count of any relevance for your marketing. It’s just a big number.)

Questioning As a Strategy
Questions are the foundation for our learning. They expose motivations and require explanations. Many corporations and businesses are famous for encouraging the heads-down, lock-step agreement survival tactics. Asking questions is not popular, nor is it encouraged. Asking questions is perceived as rebellion, rather than progress. In the 60′s the radicals told us to question authority. Now that they are in authority, the last thing they want is to be questioned.

Neil Postman speaks about the importance of questioning, saying “question-asking is the most significant tool human beings have.” Even more important that software, servers and summaries, questions are an analysts’ primary tool. Postman even suggested that the reason why we don’t teach the ability to question in schools, is because eventually the students will question the teacher. Questions are subversive, but they result in people finding answers.

Questions – The Cure for Velleity
Velleity is what keeps companies locked in this mindset of reporting useless numbers. Desiring, even expecting to someday have an epiphany of change, but not willing to change the mindset or the culture of locked-in reporting to achieve it. Nor are they willing to ask the hard questions in order to uncover what must be done.

Related Articles:
No Goals = No Analytics!
Marketing Without Metrics
The Lost Art of Sales

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

4 Comments for this entry

Andrea Hill
July 3rd, 2008 on 10:15 pm

I’ve been bugging the analytics guy at work with all sorts of questions about the relevance of the various reports and numbers (is a high bounce rate on a contact us page really a bad thing, as you can assume the visitor achieved their desired task?) and thinking that I really needed to dive into it more. Seeing it mentioned here on your blog has just driven that fact home again.

Data is just data unless we know what to do with it. Then it’s information…

David Temple
July 4th, 2008 on 2:06 am

Great post as usual Matt. You’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head.Asking questions is indeed the quickest way to moving away from velleity. The trick is in asking the right questions. Analytics should be based on ultimate business goals. Why would anyone’s business goal be more hits, more traffic or even shudder higher rankings?

Matt Bailey
July 4th, 2008 on 9:10 am

Thanks, Dave! Great to hear from you – back from your travels?

Andrea, good question – high bounce rates aren’t necessarily bad, as long as the goal is accomplished. Your next step is associating goal completion with bounce rate. Ultimately, it is all about context.

Numbers by themselves are just information, they need context in order to create understanding. Even then, making the leap towards “what to do” requires questions to create even more context for knowledge.

I feel another article coming on . . . the information hierarchy!

A dust collecting fool
July 14th, 2008 on 3:20 pm

Wow, this is the first time I have ever heard of this word before. I see these folks on forums all the time. All they seem capable of doing is wanting.

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Analytics as a subversive activity - SiteLogic - Marketing Logic, July 22nd, 2008 on 2:11 pm

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