Data Is the Gold If You Know How to Use It

There are two famous aphorisms about online marketing. “Content is king.” and “Money is in the (email) list.

Both expressions have a point. They summarize the decade long experience of online marketers. Content and email lists are critical components of online marketing.

There is a third component that doesn’t have its own aphorism yet. That component already became the most critical part of many online marketing businesses.

I’m talking about data. We all heard about big data. The term big data sounds like something that can only be used by multinational corporations. That’s not true.

You can make use of data in your small business, even in your personal social media account or blog. I already explained how I use Medium stats to improve my blogging. However, there are two pitfalls for beginners when working with data.

Pitfall #1. Data as Distraction

I published a blog post about possible pitfalls for the first time bloggers called Read This before You Start a Website or Blog.

In essence, when you first start a website or blog, there are a lot of things you can do. One of those things is to install Google Analytics and AdSense to your website.

Then, you hit the refresh button every five minutes to check the number of visitors and the money you made. I know this too well, because I’ve been there too.

Using Data as Entertainment

Google Analytics and AdSense becomes a slot machine for the first time blogger. They hit the refresh button like they’d pull the lever of a slot machine.

Those tools become a tools of entertainment. The first time blogger expects a prize from those tools. As a result, they waste their time and attention on them, instead of working on their blog.

If this sounds like you, I recommend you read my post The Only Tip You Need to Grow Your Audience as a Blogger.

How Do the Professionals Use Data?

I’m a full time software developer. Sometimes, we come across performance problems in our software. When that happens, we use a specific type of software called “profiler.”

A profiler shows us which code parts consume the most resources. Then we optimize those code parts for resource consumption. Our goal is to eliminate those bottlenecks.

Can You See the Difference Between How a Professional and an Amateur Uses Data?

A professional uses data for a specific goal. They use it to make a certain decision. They use it to take a certain action. They use it to learn something valuable that they can use later. They use data only, when it is needed.

An amateur sees data as entertainment. They expect the data to make them happy. They see it as a playground or casino. They keep playing with it without any specific goal.

Data is either actionable or useless. If you can’t use it to make a decision, take an action, or learn a lesson, it’s useless.

Pitfall #2. Lack of Big Picture

How does your data serve your overall goals? If you don’t have the answer to that question, you might be misusing data.

By improving some parameters in your data set, you might actually worsen the overall performance of your business. I touched upon this issue in my post Measuring the Contribution of My Medium Posts to My Content Marketing Goals.

How to Avoid the Pitfalls When Using Data?

If you want to avoid the pitfalls when using data, start with writing down what your objective is. Then, write down which information you need from data to serve that objective. Coming up with a relevant set of questions is the first step to success.

An Example

My goal is to improve the conversion rate of email newsletter subscriptions in my blog. Here are a few questions that would help me with that goal.

  • Which pages are the landing pages of my blog?
  • What is the performance of each landing page?
  • Which landing pages perform better or worse than the average?
  • Why?
  • What are the exit pages of my blog?
  • Why do the visitors exit from those pages without subscribing to the newsletter?

These are just a few of the many more questions that I ask myself. When I have the answers to those questions, I’ll come up with a set of action items based on those answers.

  • Improve the performance of landing pages.
  • Plug the leaks in the exit pages.
  • Promote the pages that perform better on social media.

Conclusion

Data is the gold mine of the day, but you need to know how to use it.

You can use it as entertainment. You can use it to optimize specific parameters without seeing the big picture. Both usages are pitfalls.

If you want to make the best of your data,

  1. Start with a big picture, your overall goal,
  2. Ask a set of questions that would serve that goal,
  3. And take action based on the answers you get from your data.
Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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