The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 8: Gather Insight From Your Metrics (w/ Jon Crowley)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

I remember when I first attached an analytics suite to my blog. It was 2005, and it was a WordPress app called “Mint” — not the financial tracking service, but an independent analytics tracking service that I barely knew how to use.

That was the big point, honestly — I never really knew how to use it. This was in the days before Google Analytics was the main player, but even then it wouldn’t matter: it wasn’t the tool that was causing confusion, but the purpose of gathering that data in the first place.

I never made actionable changes based on what I saw. I never tried anything different, or tracked down new sources. I just used it as basic information: I could see an influx of traffic, at times, and see where it was … and I knew just how little people were reading my posts on the Indiana Pacers.

I often think that I was just naive, but over my 15+ years in marketing and web content, I can tell you one thing: A LOT OF PEOPLE do the same thing. Businesses look at their data and attempt to manufacture changes. They see traffic numbers and make goals to … improve those numbers? They focus on trends that aren’t necessarily relevant.

They do these things because we’re told that analytics make our sites better. In reality, good questions and logical insights make our sites better.

A few years back, I saw Jon Crowley’s talk “Your Funnel Isn’t a Journey: Data vs. Insights.” There’s nothing groundbreaking in here — instead, like any really good talk, it simply reframes the discussion in a way that makes everything click. When writing this chapter, I asked Jon to review it. And now with this podcast episode, Jon was the perfect guest.

From our interview:


On the web, we focus a lot on metrics and numbers and data where you’ve argued that the focus really should be on insights. And so if you could talk a little bit about the definitions between data and insights and kind of where you draw the line.


So this is actually probably the most common conversation I ever have. … I think data is fantastic at telling you what’s actually happening in the world. Whereas insight should be an attempt to explain why that thing is happening. And I think very often people collapse these two distinct camps of thinking into a

… So I think about a Google Analytics dashboard and it’ll tell you everything is an insight. And the insight they’ll give you is 37% of the visitors who click through on this page happen to be men between the age of 18 and 34, or someone will highlight that the bounce rate on a specific page is incredibly high and that’s an insight we need to find a way to action.

One of my big concerns is that’s not necessarily an insight. What you have is a fact, but you have no idea why that fact is the case and you don’t even necessarily have other facts to compare it to.

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