Quitting Analytics

Some time ago, I removed all the tracking from my personal site, and I haven’t missed it. What started as a whimsical idea that was part performance-based, part referrer spam overload, and part backlash against Google evolved into a realization that analytics aren’t always all that important. Hits. Visits. Likes. Followers. These are easy to measure, but that didn’t make them important.

I’m more interested in the things I can’t easily quantify. Did I write something that resonated with people enough for them to write me an email? Did somebody take the time to share it on social media? (Admittedly, I’d only know if they mentioned me, but that’s alright.)

There’s certainly plenty of options these days for analytics services that aren’t Google. Server-side analytics are interesting from the standpoint of improved privacy and no JavaScript performance hit, but it seems server-side analytics end up inflated by visits from bots and spiders. So it’s just more noise.

Maybe advertising-based businesses need the data to sell ads. Or maybe huge sites can get more useful information at scale. There are cases where it’s truly necessary, but after spending some time without analytics, I’m happier. I’m writing more. Stats don’t even cross my mind. It’s really nice.

I spent eight years on a product trying to optimize the funnel. I followed that time with almost four more years helping grow someone else’s products. I had analytics. I knew our conversion rates. It was the least enjoyable piece of running the business for me. There’s plenty of folks out there who will tout A/B testing and conversion optimization and the impact on their business, but it’s not for me.

What over a decade of number-crunching analytics has taught me is that spending an hour writing, sharing, or helping someone is infinitely more valuable than spending that hour swimming through numbers. Moreover, trying to juice the numbers almost invariably divorces you from thinking about customers and understanding people. On the surface, it seems like a convenient proxy, but it’s not. They’re just numbers. If you’re searching for business insights, talking to real people beats raw data any day. It’s not as convenient, but when is anything worth doing convenient?

Analytics are a lot less important than endless articles about A/B testing would have us think. Going forward, I’d like to optimize for my joy and that of my customers, and I just don’t see how looking at analytics plays a role in that any longer.