Who Cares About Web Analytics …


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Who cares about web analytics … at companies that get web analytics right, i.e. those that are able to turn reports into business value? Eric Peterson, one of the greatest web analysts of all time, has answered that question already in 2005. Yet, I still regularly encounter companies that would benefit from studying Eric’s advice more closely.

Eric is the man behind Web Analytics Demystified. Over the years he has been working at numerous web analytics vendors and has authored many books on the subject. I had the pleasure of co-presenting a webinar with Eric during his time at JupiterResearch in 2005. As part of his best practices advice, Eric presented the triangle of the three key relationships for web analytics:

Original by Eric Peterson while at JupiterResearch, 2005

Here is the gist if I may put it into my words: Successful web analytics requires a tug of war between technical resources, web data analysts, and business people (or marketers). Take one of these three corner stones away, and the triangle falls over.

  • As the business staff you are responsible for instilling a metrics-driven culture which means: A.) Insist on driving the business by the numbers, B.) prioritize the top 5 to 20 most important metrics, and C.) set specific goals for improving these metrics in the coming time period.
  • Then web analysts will translate these business objectives into measurement requirements and see that the necessary click and customer data can be collected and reported.
  • Technical people are needed to instrument the web site with tags or integrate web data with customer data. (Of course, in the case of an in-house solution for web analytics they also run the application.)

But if the people in these roles don’t do their part, or no staff has been assigned … forget about it!

The role that is most frequently understaffed are web data analysts, especially at smaller companies. Yet, marketers left to their own devices typically don’t dive deep enough into analytics to turn them into value.

  • Business people don’t have the time.
  • They don’t know their web site and its URLs in enough detail. Knowing the dynamic key-value pairs in their URLs that are key for interpreting them is – not – their job.
  • They should not have to learn advanced analytical features of their web analytics solutions to deep dive into data.

As a consequence, if web analytics is left to just IT and business people, it doesn’t get done. The company may typically get a bunch of out-of-box reports, but the valuable capabilities of the analytics solutions are not configured and employed. Ouch!

Business people (or marketers) in general are rarely lacking – but ones that use metrics in a savvy way often may. If marketers don’t narrow down the set of web metrics to the most important 5 to 20 and don’t set goals for improving these, then web analysts are left without direction. Eric Peterson brought it to the point: “You will have beautifully collected data that is annotated and presented with exquisite grace … in reports that nobody reads and nobody acts upon!”

Technical resources are required

  • not just for tasks such as instrumenting the web site with tags
  • or running the web analytics application in case it is in-house software.
  • But without the help of IT, web metrics are likely to remain a silo separate from other customer data.

Web analytics is growing beyond its silo’d status today and becoming the driver of the intelligent online enterprise. Yet, that thought remains wishful thinking if technical people are not handy. Judah Philips, the director of web analytics at Reed Business has written beautifully about the role of IT on his blog (and the rest of the team too!).

The point is, companies that want to get value from web analytics need to staff all three corners of the triangle.


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