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Friday, Nov. 11, 2005 at 3:31 pm

Clickstream Analysis: People Are Not Cows

By Bryan Eisenberg
November 11th, 2005

As a consultant, I often utter statements that, if overheard by an outsider, would lead him to question my competence and my sanity. There I was, someone who was supposed to be a marketing ROI (define) expert, deep in a discussion, crooning in my confident, Einsteinian manner: “People are not cows!”

On the surface, that’s stating the obvious. Yet to those studying path analysis or clickstream analysis these days, the statement has some not-so obvious implications.

Indeed, people aren’t cows. Possessing this truth will help you to optimize your site paths.

What Is a Cow Path?

The term “cow path” is a new term in the IT lexicon. According to Jim Highsmith, “‘paving cow paths’ means automating a business process as is, without thinking too much about whether or not that process is effective or efficient.”

The practice of paving cow paths stretches into the past. Take city planning. There’s a stunning contrast between Washington D.C. and Boston. Washington was thoughtfully planned in 1791 by Pierre L’Enfant. According to the Explore DC site:

His work would be like “turning a savage wilderness into a garden of Eden,” [George Washington] wrote…. L’Enfant’s plan for Washington is universally considered America’s most notable achievement in municipal planning.

Boston, according to the chair of the Boston Conference Committee:

It’s also a walkable city, although rarely in a straight line. The roads, and sidewalks, were laid out following old cow paths, Native American trails and long-gone shorelines. Getting “lost” is part of the enjoyment of discovering the City.

Although Boston just grew along worn cow paths, Washington was designed to be more efficient and more magnificent than any European city.

How have you planned your site?

Continue reading my column at ClickZ…

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Comments (4)

  1. [...] They must specialize in creating cow paths. Do you need this kind of help? Technorati Tags: cow paths, Email Marketing, Improving Conversion [...]

  2. [...] If you optimize cowpaths, how do you know how high the ceiling for ROI can go? (How do you know you're not simply measuring local maximums?) [...]

  3. [...] If you optimize cowpaths, how do you know how high the ceiling for ROI can go? (How do you know you're not simply measuring local maximums?) [...]

  4. [...] a look at your performance and try to understand what is happening on your site. Although you’re simply tracking unplanned scent trails that your visitors are currently following to try and find the information they came searching for, [...]

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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