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23 September 2007

Statistically Speaking

If you're like me the word "stats" is enough to make you sweat. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard, high humidity or having to eat something served on Fear Factor. I never liked the class and probably didn't do very well either.

There are people hardwired to crunch numbers (we have a couple on our team that I'm sure God sent us...), but I have never been one of them. I had the class in college and even had advanced stats classes in grad school so you'd think I'd have warmed up to it sooner than this.

Nope. Not until recently that is...

I know stats are important. In the mental health field if you couldn't show you were making a difference, people stopped paying you. And I'm sure it works that way in many occupations. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that those in leadership at the church want to know how the websites are doing.

Here's a tip: "It's going great!" is not the answer they are looking for...

They want to know if the money they budgeted for the site(s) was worth the investment. They want to know if people are actually using the site. The want to know if certain parts of the site are adding value or were just fun to put into place.

So how do you give them the answers? Well, you keep stats of course...

At Granger we use the following:

Google Analytics: Google Analytics is the main application we use to get stats on web traffic and a host of other things related to our sites. It's free, easy to set up and powerful. You can use it out of the box or get in and tweak away to get specific reports run and even emailed to you. We have one account with multiple URL's that are being watched.

StatCounter: Also a free stats package. Easy to set up and good for a variety of reasons. Google Analytics probably makes it unnecessary to continue using something like StatCounter but it was one we used prior to Google Analytics and it's still watching for us.

Various: Statistics pulled from other applications like our online streaming service (LightCastMedia), eNewsletter service (Constant Contact) and our Media Player (stats pulled from our CMS behind the scenes).

I'm currently working with our database guru on a solution for consolidating these stats into one usable report that can be shared with those needing to see it. The obvious choice is dumping the stats into an Excel spreadsheet but I'm still looking just to make sure there isn't something better out there.

I can't say I've become a statistician, but I actually find myself enjoying the process. You can't beat the feeling when you are able to show consistent web traffic to a page that you recently added, or when you can remove pages on the site after the stats show that one person has been there in the last three months...

I don't think I'm ready to say "stats are my friend" but it may not be long...