Why Outliers Don’t Matter, Except When They Do
The reason you hire technical writers, SEO experts, and marketing writers is to drive traffic to your pages. But how do you know if the content you post is performing? Analytics, which provide numeric and visual stories of how users interact with your pages, can provide an accurate idea of page performance, but you have to beware of outliers.
What are Outliers?
Outliers are points in your data that are outside of the normal values. For example, if you review page traffic on a regular basis and see that a page gets between 200 and 500 views every day, a sudden surge to 900 views on one day could be an outlier if page views return to normal trends the next day. The same is true of a sudden drop in page views one day.
Why Shouldn’t You Act on Most Outliers?
Outliers are data points usually associated with temporary events that are usually explained by some circumstance or action. They don’t always require action on your part—in fact, acting on outliers can cause additional problems in your content marketing.
Consider the example about a sudden, temporary drop in page views on a single day. A drop to 25 page views from 200 regular views doesn’t mean you should rush to overhaul your page. If page views return to normal the next day and continue as expected, then content is not your issue. It’s more likely that a server outage kept people from the page for a while.
When you see sudden changes in your data, you should investigate them. If you determine that the change was caused by an outside circumstance or event, then you can remove the data from your analysis so it doesn’t incorrectly impact data-based decisions you make about future content.
When Do Outliers Matter?
While many outliers don’t matter in the ultimate scope of content analysis, some outliers can point to future issues or opportunities. A sudden and temporary increase in views might be traced back to a link on a certain blog. While the outlier might not be relevant to daily content analysis, the information gained in investigating the outlier offers insight into possible relationships or new target audiences for future content. In some cases, your own content could explain the outlier: perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a trending topic you can exploit for future traffic increases.
Sometimes, outliers become trends over time. A single day of downtime or low page views isn’t concerning. If an outlier seems to occur every Tuesday, a bigger issue is at play and you might need to contact your hosting service for troubleshooting assistance.
By keeping a regular eye on content analytics, you can quickly identify when pages and content aren’t performing as expected. Investigating those outliers provides you with valuable information for the future and helps you identify critical issues with your processes.
Sarah S is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. She uses her project management and statistical analysis experience to help clients develop content that performs.
NOTE: hire technical writer – I added an S in the content for grammatical purposes