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Allow me to explain… I am a very data driven person and happen to be an avid cyclist over the past several months. I bought a road bike towards the end of the summer and since my very first ride I have been keeping statistics such as length of ride, time of ride, average speed, whether it was a group ride or solo, and even the temperature and style of ride. This has given me a wealth of data that I can analyze. The following is a chart that is an aggregate view all all my rides including forecasting trend lines with average speed on the left axis and miles on the right.
So how is this similar to web marketing? First there is a lot of data and it can be difficult to understand trends without knowing how to properly segment and read the data. This is like looking at an all traffic channel report in Google Analytics. It looks interesting and catches your eye but you really need to filter down to relevant information and understand the trends that emerge withing individual segments. Segmenting the cycling data by the type of ride I can better understand a trend-line and the performance of a source/segment of data. In the example below, I have segmented the data to show only solo rides in combination with a “speed” style versus a distance, interval, or fit rides.
Now that I can view and analyze a specific segmentation, I can better understand the performance metrics and better yet create a relatively accurate forecast trend line so I can set expectations as to where I should be within a given amount of time. Things appear to be improving. This is very similar to web marketing data analysis in that you take the same type of approach. You start with a bunch of data that can be somewhat meaningless by itself but by digging deeper and creating segments of data you can better understand how specific channels are performing.
So the next time you open Google Analytics and see a top level trend that appears to not make a ton of sense, dig deeper and start analyzing individual channels. Determine strengths and weaknesses and where you need to either increase your efforts in training for cycling or investment for web marketing. BTW… For anyone wondering about the last two data points on the first chart, those are actually the winning data from two stages in the 2010 tour de france. I use those for motivation!