Monday, May 2, 2011

Bob - here's Web Analytics. Web Analytics - please welcome Bob.

The following email from Bob (not really Bob, but let's call him Bob anyway) is representative of many emails I receive from people who want to do a career shift toward digital measurement and optimization, or web analytics if you prefer:
Hi Stephane,
The UBC Web Analytics Award of Achievement has been highly recommended to me to learn more of the technical side of SEO. I saw a comment you made on Lawrence Dyson's website and also recognized your name from the UBC website. I have always been interested in marketing and while I have experience in digital marketing, I want to get more technical experience in this area. I am 36 years old and taking these courses is part of a plan to shift careers. I've been an entrepreneur for the last 12 years, but am interested in going to work for an interesting company and being able to provide value in the marketing and management of their website. What are the job opportunities for someone graduating with the Web Analytics Award? I currently reside in the UK. Thank you in advance for your response!

Best regards,
Here's what I replied:
Hi Bob,
I strongly encourage you to do it – not that it is really "technical" about SEO (in fact, not at all), but mainly because it provides a very strong foundation on web analytics. With your entrepreneurial and marketing background, coupled with experience, I’m confident you can easily shift toward analytics – or in fact, maybe not as much a pure "web analyst" (spending your days looking at data & making recommendations to others) – you could be that manager who understands the value of data and make the decisions!

But that’s just my 1st thought based on what you’ve provided – you could ask the same question on the Yahoo! Web Analytics forum to get more input.

Over the years tutoring the UBC program I have witnessed dozens of people with very diversified backgrounds entering our field. I often get asked about "a good bacgrkound to be an analyst". There is no such thing as a good or bad background - there are only people who want to leverage their own unique skills and experience. I've been told so often I didn't have a degree, or that I was just a techie and therefore too stupid to understand the business that I would never judge anyone who has the guts to make the plunge.

If anything, tutoring has given me this ability to easily spot who has the potential of becoming a top of the crop analyst... and who needs a little more help and guidance to be a decent one.

Other offerings

We hear a lot about UBC, but there are other offerings: USF, UToronto and of course Market Motive. Other universities are also integrating elements of web analytics in their marketing curriculum - a little survey of universities in my local market revealed USherbrooke, McGill and HEC covers web analytics - although they typically do not offer full semester classes. For one, I'm also teaching a full semester, graduate level class about "online analytics from a managerial perspective" at ULaval. Those students, of which many have real work experience, are the ones who will soon define online marketing strategies and manage businesses with a strong online component. The course is available online in French and I'm still working out the details to offer it in English. See Web Analytics Business Education at ULaval for further details.

What about more hands on, practical/technical training? Cardinal Path, which I joined recently, offers the popular Seminar for Success for Google AdWords and Google Analytics and there are many other offerings from vendors and agencies.

A note about the WAA Certification

If you read my comment from almost a year ago on Lawrence blog, you'll notice I was talking about the WAA Certification. Since then, nearly 50 people received the Certified Web Analyst title and I have myself proctored the test twice. More web analyst professionals are enrolling for the test and although it took a little longer then expected, awareness of Certification has significantly increased - not only for practitioners and consultants, but also for employers and clients.

My take

The industry is shaping itself and is answering a diverse array of educational and training needs - and that's excellent! If I had one complaint about the current WAA Education approach it would be its innability and seamingly unwillingness to list more academic and training resources (others than UBC and Irvine - both of which have close ties with the WAA). Personally I would prefer to see a more complete list of resources - even if not officially "endorsed" by the WAA - for the benefit of its members diversified needs and geographic considerations.

I have created a list of Web Analytics Academic Resources - please add, vote and share! Are there any other University programs you know of?

Any thoughts and comments about web analytics education are welcome!
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