analytics_are_kingIn today’s world analytics are king.

As an online business owner, understanding how to read and interpret analytics data is extremely important in optimizing your site over time. It allows you to see real user behavior and make adjustments based on how your individual users are actually engaging with your site. You can spot trends and patterns, and play with adapting your content and layout over time.

But a question remains: how often do you check your website analytics?

The Two Extremes

Most business owners and internet marketers fall into one of two extremes when it comes to analytics. They either check their results too frequently and try to make assumptions based on insignificant data, or they don’t check the results often enough and miss key opportunities.

If you fall into the first camp, checking your results too frequently, try to break the habit. I will occasionally fall into the habit of checking analytics everyday, only to realize that it does nothing but drive me insane. One tip I use to get out of the habit of doing so is to ask myself what, exactly, I’m gaining by looking at the results so frequently. If I don’t have a specific reason, I force myself to stop.

On the other end of the spectrum, many individuals who don’t check analytics at all often fall into the category because they don’t understand how to interpret the results, and thus see the effort as futile, or even have simply never considered that understanding your site analytics can be essential to long term success.

If you fall into this latter category, I strongly recommend you seek out a comprehensive analytics training to improve your skills and knowledge.

Finding the Right Balance: A Few Guidelines

How often you should check your site depends on several factors, but the most important fall into two categories: traffic generation and user behavior.

Traffic Generation

The first category is traffic generation. If you’re trying to evaluate trends in how users are coming to your site, the raw number of users visiting is less important than the distribution of those users over time.

I use a minimum 2 week time window when evaluating this metric, for several reasons. The first is that some of the prime sources of traffic, like organic search results, will take time to filter into my analytics reports.

However, the more important reason is that there is likely to be variation, and sometimes even extreme variation in results. You will drive yourself crazy if you attempt to understand why you got 100 clicks from a keyword one day and then none for 2 weeks.

Instead, it’s much better to consider the average over time, and check to ensure that your overall average is increasing month by month.

User Behavior

Behavioral analytics is the concept of leveraging your website data to understand how and, if possible, why users interact with your site in the way they do, and using this data to convert affiliate links into high performing leads.

Unlike traffic generation, the key element here is not time sensitive, but deals with generating a significant sample size to make viable conclusions.

For me, I feel like a statistically significant sample falls somewhere in the 1,000-5,000 user range. If the sample size is less than 1,000 users, it’s definitely not worth my time to analyze the behavior, since user action is likely to be somewhat diverse to begin with, depending on how they came across my site and what material they engage with.

If your site has fewer than 5,000 visitors per month, I would only look at the analytics once per month. The exception to this rule is if you are beginning a new campaign and are trying to run several smaller test groups to get an initial impression (but statistically insignificant grasp) of outcome.

The other reason I think of analytics in terms of 1,000+ user chunks is because I like to evaluate my site ROI per thousand users. This gives me a nice sample basis to use and extrapolate assumptions from there.

Whatever balance is right for you, my point is simply to point out that you should set firm guidelines about when and how you’re going to interpret your site analytics data. For me, that number is 1,000 users and usually once a month. How often do you check?