Why Behavioral Web Analytics is not enough

For a decade we have put our trust in Google Analytics and similar tracking-based web analytics software.

We’ve learned so much about our customers interaction with our websites that we can guide them towards the actions we want them to take. We know more about their behavior than they do themselves. But in reality we’re fooling ourselves by only looking at KPIs like session time and bounce rate. We still have almost no clue as to how well our web sites work in the eyes and heads of our customers.

The problem is not that web analytics software is bad, because really, it’s not. Most web analytics software is great and give you a ton of insight. The only problem is that you are missing out on the most actionable insights. Unless you’re Facebook or Pinterest you’re likely to have a task oriented web page that people go to in order to perform some tasks like: check opening hours, find directions, contact customer support, book room, apply for school and a wide variety of other tasks. The single most important analytics data for task oriented web sites addresses the questions: “whats the most important tasks for my customers”, and maybe more importantly “how well do the web site perform on those tasks”.

If all you have are the regular KPIs like 70 % bounce rate and 3 minutes session time, as well as the click path of the user, you simply cannot know what the user tried to do. 70 % bounce rate can imply a) The users did not find what they were looking for, and closed the page b) The users found what they came for, and closed the page c) The users realized they had to run, and closed the tab before looking at it Put bluntly, statistics for bounce rates and page views are weak indicators for user experience and whether your website does the job you want it to do or not.

What about session time? If a user spends 5 minutes on your article, which is true? a) The user read everything, not finding anything and getting properly annoyed before closing the page b) The user read everything and was content with the information and recommended the page to others c) The user just left the computer and his daughter came back to it after 5 minutes and then closed the page

Tuning the Signal

The problem with web analytics based on tracking the users behavior is that it doesn’t provide any answers about the users intentions or accomplishments. It doesn’t connect to the user as a human being with wishes and intentions, and it fails at giving you the most important signals.

For your web page, the antidote to the web analytics disease is to start taking control by talking to your customers. You need to realize that pushing your business goals is just half of what your business is about, serving the users tasks is the other half, but the real purpose of your being is to deliver on the intersection of the users tasks and your business goals. This is where you can move from mediocre to great. It’s in this small part of the whole picture that you can deliver a great user experience on what matters to both you and your users.

This is what it means to give top tasks main priority. It’s not about ditching behavioral web analytics — they’re also a part of the analytics suite you need — it’s about making sure your priorities aligns with those of your customers. Top tasks simply is whats most important to focus on, it’s the most important signal you listen to.