On The Internet, the Rules Are Made Up And The Points Don't Matter

— 2 minute read

Again linking to Uncle Dave - this time on website analytics:

If I, or some hypothetical manager, put too much stock into these metrics I could see it causing a firestorm of reprioritization based on bot traffic. We’d be chasing the tail of a health check bot somewhere in Germany.

Your eyes may glaze over at the thought of reading about website traffic data, but it's worth a read as Dave compares a couple of services (Netlify vs Fathom) and finds massive discrepancies in their reporting. It's not that anyone is doing anything shady or illegal either. That's just how unreliable web analytics are.

And yet I know there are people, businesses, and even yours truly who have made pretty big decisions on projects based around these kinds of numbers. I kept doing a podcast because my analytics told me there were potentially hundreds of listeners when in fact it was somewhere under 50. I've written blog posts chasing Google traffic that I thought was legitimate, when actually a lot of it was probably bots.

My ego wanted to believe the lies. My brain kind of always knew there wasn't anyone actually listening.

Probably old advice, but you need a mixture of quantitative AND qualitative data to make good decisions.

I don't think you should throw out web analytics completely. If you have a lot more traffic one month than the previous, that still might mean something. But view it all with a healthy level of skepticism, and try to keep your the core DNA of whatever you're doing with the website intact.