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In Google Analytics Essential Training, Corey Koberg shows how to use the Google web analytics platform to generate and evaluate information about the visitors to a web site, including data on site traffic, user behavior, and marketing effectiveness. This course covers the out-of-the-box functionality, from account creation to reporting fundamentals, and explains how to glean insights from the vast array of data available.
Misinformation is often worse than no information. In this example, I'll demonstrate two things. First, that it is dangerous here at lynda having so many people who are handy with Photoshop, but also, that averages can lie, even if the underlying data is 100% accurate. For example, if I told you that I've been very involved with charitable giving lately, where we've been delivering Christmas presents for children. How involved? Well, if you believe the numbers from NORAD, my partner here and I personally delivered presents to an average of over 750,000,000 homes per year.
It was quite exhausting, because to do that, we flew an average of 36,000,000 miles; exhausting indeed! Now for the moment, let's agree to forgo discussions of my partner's existence, and focus on my stats. My math is accurate, but the statements are extremely misleading. Considering the fact that Christmas last year fell within a week of the due date of my son's birth, you can bet I wasn't out delivering presents thousands of miles away. In fact, I barely left the house. But the stats of 750,000,000 houses and 36,000,000 miles are still true, because my partner did all the work, and I'm just taking credit via the average. Now granted, this may be an extreme example, but we see similar types of this phenomenon all the time in Web analytics, where averages and aggregates can lie and mislead, even when the numbers are completely accurate.
For example, if you have a hundred visitors to your site, and 99 of them don't do a thing, but the next one spends $1000. Would it be accurate to say that on average visitors to your site tend to spend $10 per visit? Well, yes, technically it's true, but it leads us to conclude the wrong thing entirely in our analysis of visitor behavior. Averages and aggregates have their place, but most often, the real insights lie when we can segment out groups of visitors, and understand their behavior. Then we can see who's really driving the success, and who's just using averages to take the credit.
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