Completely useless Web metrics?

octobre, 12, 2009

imagesIt is often difficult to choose the correct indicators to use when we have to decide on how to measure the efficiency of a SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) mission, or when we want to know where our website stands, also when we want to trace the effects of any modifications that we make to it.  It is clear though that some indicators are totally useless and can even be misleading.  Let’s take a hard look at some of these devils:

« Public » Metrics

What I call a Public metric is an indicator given by an external tool and which can be used by all on any given website. We can find Alexa’s tools (which are useless since they can be tampered with by ill-intentioned users), Google’s toolbar Pagerank (who only serves to create endless forum discussions), Backlink’s counting tools (who knows what Google and consorts consider to be important BLs?), the various websites/software that use scoring systems (like Technocrati and Wikio for blogs). The reason why I call the latter useless is that they have been designed to score and assess successful websites and this I find self defeating since success is here measured by success. What’s more, they sometimes use doubtful criteria (number of comments, trackbacks etc.)

Analytic Metrics

I mean by these, metrics which are made by analytical tools such as Xiti or Google analytics.  I don’t mean those which have been designed as a result of measuring audiences and sales results (ROI notion).  Which are the really useless indicators? Very often the answer will depend on the context, such as what the indicator results should make us decide about a website. (this will be looked at in detail in later articles).   Still, there are certain metrics that are just a big joke:

  • Firstly, time spent on the website. Ok, if a visitor spends 2 seconds on it, that’s a problem, but beyond that the measurement doesn’t mean a thing:  Does ten minutes spent on the website mean that the user has really found it interesting? Or has he not just gone off to have a cup of coffee?  Or has he perhaps simply not found the links to navigate around the website?
  • In the same way the number of pages viewed per visit doesn’t mean much (bar the special case where the website monetizes itself CPMwith  +capping in which case everything should be done to have a P/V which is equal to the capping in question), has the user seen 27 pages?  Well that might mean that he wasn’t able to find what he wanted on your website…
  • Pages viewed?  Here again this is a very debatable metric since it will depend on the way the content of the website has been divided up (same as in the P/V case) but also the return rate. Publicity groups have long since abandoned this mode of measurement.

Soon I will make a post on useful metrics, keep reading!

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Picture: courtesy of Abby Blank