Web Analytics – Aggregate Data vs. Individual Visitor Tracking

Web AnalyticsOver the years, web analytics techniques have evolved from basic log file analysis programs(1993) and hit counters(1996) to simplified js tagging schema for data collection(1997), complex web analysis through Google Analytics(2005) and in-page analytics focused on individual behavior monitoring(present).

Some of these techniques were left behind and forgotten, but some persisted.

And so, there are currently two web analytics methods used alike by online marketers around the web: the aggregate and the individual web analytics.

Although completely different one from the other, both these methods are praised for delivering important and actionable data for webmasters.

But this duplicity of methods is somehow puzzling, right?

Should you use both or is it one technique more suited for your business than the other?

Or is it a recipe to follow for getting the best of both?

Well, although it might seem difficult at the beginning to decide what to choose, once you understand the strengths of each method, you'll be able to easily compile the perfect web analytics routine for your business.

Take a look!

1st: The Aggregate Web Analytics

Through this type of web analytics, the information about your visitors' interactions with your website is processed and transformed into statistical data such as how many visitors reached your website, how many of total number of visitors performed certain actions, followed your conversion funnels or arrived from specific sources, etc.

Keep in mind though, that these are all quantitative metrics.

Aggregate web analytics

PROs: This type of statistical data is essential for understanding the trend and overall success of your business as well as measuring efficiency per different segments of visitors.

So far, this is the optimal analysis for:

  • traffic sources
  • measuring the overall engagement of your visitors
  • get a sense over the content consumption tendency
  • identify patterns for your visitors' actions on the website.

However, there are multiple and complex segmentations that you can apply to your website traffic and analyze through aggregate web analytics, that would bring you valuable information nowhere else to be found. But then again, these will only allow you to measure group level tendencies and discover general areas that are underperforming.

CONs: And so, we get to the disadvantages. With aggregated metrics you can only spot if and where something goes wrong on your website. But with no clear indices of why that happened. You can only guess the reasons and try to improve.

KPIs like visitor loyalty, visitor recency, conversion rate, task completion rate and economic value although essential for understanding where your online business is heading to, won't give you too many suggestions for what you need to do next.

And that is where the individual web analytics comes to rescue.

2nd: Individual Web Analytics

The individual visitor tracking is a more personalized method of web analytics, involving in-depth tracking of various aspects of an user's interaction with the website and is referring mostly to eye and mouse tracking systems, user testing or direct visitor feedback.

Individual web analytics

PROs: Tracking on-site behavior of the visitors enables you to understand the reasons behind the bounce rate or low revenues (if any) detected using the aggregated data.

The web analysis per individual furnishes a series of unique advantages:

  • It provides you with information about the on-page content consumption behavior. That means that you will not just be able to see which pages are appealing the most to your visitors but see exactly which text on the page captures most attention and drives the actions.
  • Gives you valuable data for conversion rate optimization as it enables you to verify the efficiency of distinct on-page items, such as button, forms, pictures etc.
  • Brings you spot-on suggestions for items to test with A/B or multivariate testing
  • It's great for identifying website usability issues and for evaluating user experience on your website pages
  • You are able to interact directly with your visitors
  • Enables you to perform behavioral targeting for the offers or deals you are running on your website

CONs: Through the type of data provided, the individual web analytics are more CRO oriented techniques rather than SEO oriented. Therefore you won't find too much help for issues such as increasing your website traffic or improving organic relevancy.

Also, without having a statistical information to background your analysis, the data provided by individual tracking can be misleading and highly irrelevant for the business as a hole.

Bottom line

Hence, the best choice would be indeed a combination of both types of web analytics tools, in order to get the best of both worlds.

Aggregated analytics would point you towards the areas that need to be reviewed, and individual analytics could provide a better understanding of the reasons or causes, and help you make the right modifications wherever necessary.

So, what do you think? Have you tried combining the two so far? I'd be glad to hear your thoughts!

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About Dana Loiz

Dana Loiz is an Online Marketing Strategist at Caphyon. She is passionate about her job and always in a mood to chat about SEO, Internet Marketing and Social Media. She tweets the news at @LeadConverter and you can also find her on Google+.

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