For the most part site owners are beginning to see the value in tracking their sites performance. Several surveys have indicated that most people gather the data and never do anything with it. That’s not the best idea as reports are nice but the whole point is to measure improvement. However, there is a growing number of people that do take action on the numbers. Unfortunately, many are finding that their actions are negatively effecting site performance. Take time to critically analyse site data to make sure that the prescribed solution is not an oversimplification of the problem.
I recently encountered a site that had been performing moderately well, providing small niche recorded material. The site owner had let data compile for two months and sorted through it to see if he could improve orders. He was reasonably pleased with his traffic but felt that pages were being abandoned too much. He had a 5% order rate.
His conclusion was that people weren’t getting the information they needed because the time on page was small. For his products index page the average time was 2 seconds. Since it had the lowest amount of time per page he decided to focus his efforts there. He set out to increase that time and felt some revised content that was more in depth would help conversion.
Here’s the problem, the products index page only listed the items he had for sale with a photo. It was a good thing that people were only there for a very short period. Page tracking showed that 93% of them moved off to one of his half dozen products. The page was working perfectly by getting people to the information they wanted.
He added descriptions to the links and found that time on page increased to around 25 seconds. He was pleased until he found out his monthly revenue dropped slightly three months in a row afterward. Upon further analysis we discovered that he had gone from a 93% rate of people making it to the individual product page to a 79% rate. Site abandonment on this page went from 4% to 7%. People couldn’t find the product they wanted as easily and were getting lost in added descriptive paragraphs.
The site owners oversimplification of the numbers blinded him to user experience. He tried to apply a “universal rule” to his numbers and found it was actually detrimental.
Understand who uses your site and how. Always think critically about why analytics are showing what they are showing before making changes. Most importantly track changes you make so that if you miss the mark on an optimization you have the ability to recognize the error and correct it.