There are about 5 million web analytics tools out there and twice as many metrics you can measure. What you need to know is: while most stats have merit, they don’t mean anything unless you know what you want to do with them.
Before you collect stats, start thinking about what is important to YOUR website. What do you want people to do?
Do you want them to click a certain link, sign up for your email list, watch a video? If you hire a web analytics firm, they’re going to ask you the same questions, so save your money for an office pizza party and ask the questions yourself.
In the article “Web Analytics Tools: Question Generation Machines”, Emer Kirrane makes some great points about taking the time to figure out which stats are relevant to you and to your website goals.
A great example she offers: “For metrics like Bounce Rate (a visit consisting of only one page view), the oft-accepted view is that a high bounce rate is bad – however, your focus at this time may be on a one-page microsite for a particular campaign, and in this instance a one-page visit is completely irrelevant. So, before you worry about what your metrics are telling you, ask yourself what the metrics will mean in the right context.”
Trying to track every statistic is a) impossible and b) will make you insane. Once you set up your Google Analytics account, familiarize yourself with the different stats you can collect, but more importantly, familiarize yourself with your site and what you want to do.
I am a big believer in analysis and measurement – it helps you understand your customer and can save you from a stupid boss. However, if you don’t know what you are looking for (and what it means), how will you know when you find it?