When I was in col­lege, I majored in Economics…well, tech­ni­cally I majored in both Eco­nom­ics and Ger­man — but that’s beside the point. I always found Eco­nom­ics fas­ci­nat­ing because it seemed to pro­vide the tools to explain behav­iors and pre­dict out­comes. In other words, it was pow­er­ful dis­c­pline for pre­dict­ing (and prof­it­ing from) the future.

But I also found Eco­nom­ics frus­trat­ing. I was frus­trated because Eco­nom­ics was often too con­cep­tual and the­o­ret­i­cal. One of the core prin­ci­ples in my Eco­nomic stud­ies was the notion of ceteris pere­bus. For those not famil­iar with this term, it means “all else being equal”. If the price of prod­uct X increases, demand will decrease — ceteris pere­bus. The prob­lem I had was that all in the real world, ceteris pere­bus doesn’t exist. It’s a pipe dream. Rather, at any given point “demand’ can be affected by sev­eral if not dozens of fac­tors that skew the actual results. In fact, if the price of prod­uct X increased, demand could actu­ally increase as well. Go figure.

I thought of this Eco­nom­ics frus­tra­tion when I read some responses to my blog entry on Vis­its and Unique Vis­i­tors. One response sug­gested that my rec­om­men­da­tion to use Vis­its over Unique Vis­i­tors was sim­plis­tic, super­fi­cial, and that “you do not want to sub­scribe to these the­o­ries if your job, your com­pany, or your family?s income is on the line.”

While some read­ers of my blog wrote me and said they found this offen­sive, I actu­ally didn’t. Rather, it only under­scores my point. There is a tremen­dous amount of mis­per­cep­tion in the web ana­lyt­ics indus­try today, and there is a lin­ger­ing belief that Unique Vis­i­tors rep­re­sent a truly unique prospect or cus­tomer. To illus­trate just how per­va­sive this mis­un­der­stand­ing actu­ally is, the blog­ger con­tin­ued with “By focus­ing on Unique Vis­i­tors we keep our focus on the thing that mat­ters most: a sin­gle, unique, prepared-to-part-with-money customer.”

Now bear in mind this blog is com­ing from one of the most respected out­fits in web ana­lyt­ics today. But take a look at my other recent blog post­ing 15 Rea­sons why all Unique Vis­i­tors are not cre­ated equal.

Now, do you truly believe that Unique Vis­i­tors rep­re­sent a sin­gle, unique, prepared-to-part-with money cus­tomer? Of course not…because Unique Vis­i­tors are fun­da­men­tally flawed. It is sim­ply inac­cu­rate and unreliable.

So what does this have to do with Eco­nom­ics? Because in the­ory if we could truly mea­sure Unique Vis­i­tors as “sin­gle, unique cus­tomers”, it would be a fan­tas­tic met­ric. I’d love noth­ing more than to have such a met­ric. But in real­ity, we don’t. There is no ceteris pere­bus. There is lit­tle to no abil­ity to account and cor­rect for the 15 issues I high­lighted that affect Unique Vis­i­tors. And in truth, there are actu­ally many more that can fur­ther dis­tort your unique vis­i­tor counts.

So I’d sug­gest a slightly dif­fer­ent take on a recent com­ment I received, do *not* sub­scribe to Unique Vis­i­tors if your job, your com­pany, or family’s income is on the line.

Rather, as I sug­gested in my last post, I would sug­gest focus­ing on Unique Cus­tomers as your proxy for “sin­gle, unique cus­tomers”. So what is a Unique Cus­tomer? I’ll get to that in my next post as this was just a quick entry to high­light just how much more we have to grow as a col­lec­tive indus­try. In the mean­time I wel­come your feed­back and as always, if you’d like assis­tance under­stand­ing how to lever­age web ana­lyt­ics to max­i­mize ROI, please do not hes­i­tate to con­tact me and the Omni­ture Best Prac­tices Group.

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