Has anyone else noticed that nerds are taking over America? Numbers and metrics are everywhere – from Major League Baseball to political polls to digital marketing.
I actually love numbers. My brain has always been an odd mix of artistic and mathematical. My family and friends know that I analyze everything. But lately it seems like I’m completely out-nerded. And I’m starting to think we’ve gone too far with letting metrics run our lives.
In baseball, for instance, young executives are being hired from Harvard and Yale to analyze players as if they are robots. There’s even a movie about it, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. Numbers can tell you a lot, but can’t tell you if a player had a bad year due to off-the-field issues, or if a fundamental change in his mindset is to account for improved results.
In politics, we’ve seen the “majority rule” mob mentality over the past few years. Politicians seem to side with whatever polls indicate. I’m sure experienced politicians would say that’s always been the case. But is it really better to follow majority opinion, or are there moral convictions that a politician should prioritize?
Finally, to bring it to my world of digital marketing, I believe metrics have finally gone too far. In meetings, I’ve witnessed clients talking more about a “bounce rate” statistic than about much greater issues, like their website lacking a phone number. People can get completely caught up in numbers they don’t even understand, and miss the point of will drive sales.
Part of my job is to show clients statistics that matter and to filter out the ones that don’t.
Let me give me an example. Most companies look at the “average time spent” on their website. They are happy when site visitors stay longer. But if someone is making a purchase, don’t you want a shorter time, as a signal that it’s easier to check out? Longer is not always better.
Also, there’s the “bounce rate”. Bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who came to your website and left without visiting other pages. Again, that could be a good thing. If you are a restaurant owner and someone just wanted your phone number, who cares if they bounced. They became a customer that day. Awesome!
Further, bounce rate is never better than 30 or 40%. You need to know those standards, and compare to others in your industry.
Otherwise, a lot of numbers can be misleading at best, and ruin your marketing strategy at worst.
There’s little I can do to help the statistical, analytical, metrics-focused “Nerd Revolution” that is happening in America. But I will do my best to help clients understand their numbers in a simple way, and keep them focused on the main goal: increasing business.