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How to protect your engagement data

Written by David Harry   
Thursday, 13 December 2007 07:27

It's My Data and I'll Hide if I want to

It's pretty late at the moment, but I was just thinking about some recent site development strategies I have been implementing and why exactly, I am going about things the way I am. And so why not walk together right? I thought so.... let's go this way...

 Much of it revolves around Google Web services and the potential ramifications they may have to a site used prematurely or recklessly. What do I mean by prematurely? Bear with me a little longer and I shall enhance the picture for you. To start with let’s look at a few common tools and incursions that the average webmaster may employ.

You know the types; Google SiteMap - Google Analytics - Google Site Search - Google AdSense

Each of them has the ability to digest a great deal of information about your site and the actions of users on a page by page or site wide (global) basis depending on the implementation and tools being used. Add to that the myriad of other bots that come to your page, (indexing, filtering, spam bots, etc...) . a search engine can begin to build a clearer image of an over-all perceived value of your page(s) statistically, far better than they could without such additional data. I don’t bloody care what anyone says; there is an inherent risk in giving away any type of performance metrics from your site…. So what to do?  This is where I look to the systemic fauna that grows out from this conundrum. In short, what's the easiest way to account for this potential problem without breaking a sweat?

 

Puzzle Pieces - the 3Ms

In a world of search marketing that has roots growing ever closer to human interaction measurement, analysis and application in tandem with other existing scoring methods, there is only one thing to be feared; A poorly developed website.

A website experience that is about as engaging as the proverbial paint drying on the grass you’re watching grow is not going to incur a positive response from users nor Search Giants alike. And so I say to you, take down all of those goofy gadgets and give the site a good check up and an over-haul if needed. It is time to put the horse back in front of the cart. Be gone data suckers, be gone (don’t worry, they’ll be back).

 

Here’s what I do after removing those spies; (these are client sites with existing traffic)

Measure - let’s go and get some non-search engine owned analytics (hosted, or even better, on YOUR server) and get your patient (the site) hooked up to the life support monitoring system. This will be important going ahead. Get them up and running and start to learn about what you are looking for and setting Key Performance Indicators as well as other performance metrics (bounce rates for example). In simplest terms we want a baseline for the site to come back to later.

Mess With – you go through the motions of testing the site to see where there are potential bottle necks (traffic flow problems) and look to see if you can increase your ‘call to action’, conversion and bounce rates to maximize the as best as you can. Never obsess, there is much to do. Just always get into the ‘continuous improvement model ‘ frame of mind and the analytics are there to tell you how the patient is feeling. Learn to feel as much as a hiccup.

Mature – I now go through these motions, monitoring SEO and PPC traffic activity, working always to improve the end user experience and ultimately conversions. I would at very least work this for at least 4-6 weeks. At the end of this period if you feel you are at a place with the site that you are pleased with… begin to move forward.

 

Release the Hounds

When we start to integrate these little data monsters back into the site again, we can be confident that what data they may intake will be our best foot forward and with any luck, the primed conversion and engagement data will be a positive factor in your websites perceived value as a result. We now have nothing to fear... at least not from an on-site user performance metric standpoint. It Is Time to slay some other dragons.

These points and ideas can certainly be argued, but I think it is simply good form on many fronts(including greater over-all conversions). More and more I do find myself considering the ramifications of performance metrics in my daily operations. It is never wise to take a product to market before it is ready for prime time, I would say this should be heeded in a similar light as far as the level of availability where your performance metrics are concerned.

Keep your performance metrics to your self and don’t show them off until you are proud of them.

 ADDED:  As always when I am up late my moon howling mate Bill seems to be as well. He is timely as ever and managed to have a quotable that relates to this entire performance and engagement metric concept;

That enables Google to collect even more information about how people use the search engine and how they browse the Web, and associate that information with a specific user.

We’ve seen a good number of patent filings from Google which indicate that user based data is a growing part of how pages may be ranked by the search engine, and which ads may be shown to searchers.

From; Google Toolbar 5

You may now take your tin foil hats off again… Peace…

 

Comments  

 
0 # Nic 2007-12-14 19:59
This one hits close to home for me...

I have envisioned several exit stategies for one of my main sites and one could invlove a sale to Google (likely to happen...who knows, but not one that's been crossed off the list yet)

In any case I have often thought about removing a lot of the G tools that are on the site as I would rather not show all my cards. In reality, anyone like Google would do a heck of a lot of due diligence anyways but i like keeping a certain amount of 'mystery'. Hey you can't put a price on mystery can you? :D

I use gmail a lot and often doubt if i should. G could find out a heck of a lot about me by just pouring through some of my emails. Not that i have anything to hide but still...2 dimensional mail can be interpreted many ways.

save me dave....
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0 # Cheap web hosting Phil 2007-12-14 23:17
I'm starting to find the extent to which Google can intrude webmaster's data a bit worrying. That's why I have only one site tracked by Analytics. And that's only to compare the stats to Webalizer and AwStats.

I've abandoned Google Sitemaps as well. That was just a hassle and didn't have much effect. And the data in there wasn't all that insightful either.
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