Internet data are not absolutely reliable

While we are being flooded with a tsunami of data, and increasingly rely upon it to make crucial marketing decisions, at the same time we need to understand that the data that we get from many online sources are not absolutely reliable, although they probably are relatively reliable. I’ll explain the difference shortly.

In terms of Internet data not being absolutely reliable, here are a few examples:

  • There are some people that I know read my daily email marketing tips because they’ve responded to them, but according to my email platform analytics that person hasn’t opened a single one. Email “opens” data are notoriously unreliable because of how different email clients report an open can vary: Is an open the email being seen in the preview panel, or being expanded, or being clicked on?
  • In my work with clients, other email and website tools have shown me absurd numbers of email opens and page visits from some individual people. Some programs count a Web page as having been “viewed” again even though it’s just open in another tab in a browser.
  • Advanced website analytics (yes, there are some programs other than Google Analytics) let you customize settings. One setting is the definition of a pageview. If a person looks at a page for just one second should that be considered a pageview? Or does it need to be at least two seconds? Five seconds? I’ve seen the supposed traffic of a site go up or down 20-30% when they changed analytics programs.
  • If a person deletes their cookies between visits they may be counted as a new visitor.
  • I’ve written in the past about the different definitions of an online ad impression.

And many of the “people” viewing your ads, and visitors to your website, may be bots.

So Internet data may not be absolutely reliable, which is just another reason to not compare your campaign results to supposed industry benchmarks.

But while Internet data may not be absolutely reliable, they probably are relatively reliable. By this I mean that if you are using the same tools and they show that 25% more people are opening your emails, or visiting your site, or seeing your ads than a year ago, then that probably is useful information. This can be a good way to compare month to month or year over year results.

And, as always, the most important analytics aren’t gathered from digital data, those are just used to improve your campaign efforts. The most important figures are business measures like qualified leads, opportunities, and sales generated.