Here’s a Google Analytics option that hasn’t always been there – That would be an easy, single click “previous year” comparison:
This is slick because it honestly used to be kind of a pain to do. The default setting was always (and still is) to the immediate previous period. So for example, September is 30 days long so the default settings take the previous 30 days which gets you a comparison to the period of August 2nd to August 31.
Now thanks to small (but big if you run reports a lot) change, you can easily compare year over year stats.
Metrics by themselves (in other words without context, goals, or benchmarks) are essentially useless. There’s no way of knowing how you’re trending. A stat may sound impressive, but the reality may be very different.
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Year over year metrics are often the best way to start when examining data from a benchmark standpoint. Month over month data is rarely meaningful. You can look like a hero one month and a complete idiot the next.
Let’s say you’re looking at year over year (YOY) data now in comparing September 2012 to September 2011. You may still not have the full picture unless you apply some context and logic. For example, in the US, Labor Day fell on the 5th in 2011. In 2012, it fell on the 3rd. In 2011, there were 8 weekend days. In 2012, there were 10. What difference does that make? It could make all the difference or none at all depending on what you’re trying to report. If you’re a retailer, there’s a huge difference between having 10 weekend days in a month vs. having 8. If you’re in B2B and Labor Day falls on the 5th, then the “work month” really doesn’t get going until the 6th.
A better solution may be to do “same week” comparisons as opposed to hard dates on a calendar. Still, the fact that it is easier to do a year over year comparison now in Google Analytics is a great thing. Just understand what it means and what the relevance is to your business.