Complaining about the inaccuracy of web traffic numbers is almost like complaining about weather forecasts. Yes, weather forecasts are inaccurate. We still want those forecasts even though we know that they're not 100% accurate.
Web traffic numbers are inaccurate, but still useful. Some numbers are more accurate than others, but no number can be said to be 100% accurate. Inaccuracy causes major angst when someone has hyped the 'accuracy' of web stats as a major selling point, whether selling a tool or selling the business case for Web analytics.
Allright, as many as 40% of the website visitors delete their cookies via spyware or security settings. That means that we're capturing the behaviour of about 60% of visitors with higher accuracy. In the traditional media world, can you tell your CEO how many people have seen the print ads run in a magazine, each and every time, with even 60% accuracy? How costly (or useful) would it be to gather this information for even the majority of print ads? Online web traffic data beats traditional media measurement hands down, execution frequency, timeless and comparative accuracy.
Make sure you've done the most you possibly can to increase your accuracy. Then, if you mitigate web traffic data inaccuracy by focusing on trends and ratios rather than the raw numbers, you will improve your website or your online marketing campaigns. Guaranteed. Isn't this what really matters, not how accurate the numbers are?
Know and understand the risk and possible variability of the numbers. Manage accordingly.
60% chance of rain? Do I haul my raincoat around for the day? Well, if it's been raining for 3 days and it's in the fall, yes I will. If it's summer, been sunny for a week and the rain clouds don't look threatening, then I probably won't. If we didn't complain about weather forecasts what might we complain about? Likewise for web traffic stats inaccuracies.
Lots has been written about minimizing and working with inaccuracies. It's not easy, but definitely manageable. For starters:
- Don't get blown off course with poor Web analytics data
- Unique visits or visitors - which metric should you use
- 3rd party cookies are dead