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Everything You Know About Digital Measurement is Wrong

Let's start at the top. The key to successful dashboarding and reporting is finding a small set of site KPIs that are understandable and immediately actionable. Your measurement department has probably delivered exactly that – a small set of key metrics like Site Conversion Rate, Total Visits Trend, Overall Site Satisfaction, etc. all laid out in big numbers with great fonts, pretty colors, big trend arrows and lots of Tufte-inspired whitespace.

Sadly, these reports deliver neither understanding nor actionability.

Suppose I walk into your office and tell you that your Site Conversion rate is up 5%. You'll probably be delighted. Now suppose I tell you that your search engine traffic is down 20%. That's bad, right? But would you realise that in all probability, the two metrics are related and are, in fact, telling you exactly the same story? As you drive less early-stage traffic to your site via natural search, your Conversion Rate will go up. But in this instance, that isn't a good thing.

In the real world, there are many different reasons why your Conversion Rate might change. There is simply no way to know which of the nearly infinite explanations might be true, and by removing all but a few key metrics from your dashboard, it is almost impossible for you to ever find out.

The simple fact is that site-wide metrics, from Conversion Rate to Total Traffic, are nearly all worthless. To be meaningful, a metric needs to be placed in the context of "who" it's about and "what" those customers were trying to accomplish. If your dashboards aren't built around this simple two-tiered segmentation concept, they probably aren't very useful.

If you're like most marketing executives interested in Digital, it's time you realised that the figures used by your measurement teams are not fit for viewing, much less basing decisions upon. Do the people feeding you these numbers know better? Mostly, the answer is no.

People who never need to actually use the data are all too prone to accept it without question and, odd as it may sound, your measurement team probably never really uses the data. Worse, the idea that senior decision makers need simple, clear numbers has become the guiding mantra of the measurement community. There's nothing wrong with simple, clear numbers of course. But when they lack meaning, misrepresent reality, and hide the truth, simplicity is no virtue. It's up to you to demand more, and by dispelling these common, easy metric crutches from your dashboards, you'll be on the right path to getting the information you need.