Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Q&A on web analytics

Yesterday I got a nice email from an advertising student at University of Oregon. She had just a few questions, but very good ones!

What's the most...

... important thing I look for in a web analytics product?

To me it's ease of use, which translates to segmenting data the way I want, get insightful reports that are accurate, visually appealing and easy to customize.

How do I...

... use web analytics in my job? What has it helped me do?

In one word, "understand". In 3 questions: where they come from, what they did, were they successful? (and if not, why?) Then I can communicate my insights (some would say "make a good story") and help decision makers take the best possible course of action.

Is there one...

... product I believe is best?

There is no clear winner (otherwise there would eventually be only one product on the market!). I can only talk about the products I've implemented or used. Coremetrics is great for ecommerce sites because it includes the notion of ROI in almost every reports, WebSideStory HBX Active Segmentation feature is really great for segmenting the data, Omniture SiteCatalyst is often considered to be one of the best (for a number of "small" edges over their competitors). Google Analytics best argument is obviously that it's "free". Webtrends was one of the early player and remain one of the few log-based solution. The newly released CMS Watch Web Analytics Report might help you decide which one is the best for your needs.

What sort of people or business...

... have the most potential as future web analytics customers? At what point does a business decide it needs analytics?

The field of web analytics is as old as the Web itself since logs existed from day 1. However web analytics as it stands today is still in its infancy, so there's lot of opportunities for those who want to make a career shift. I'm probably one of the few practitioners with an IT background, most people seems to be coming from marketing, and some from a statistical background. The "need" for web analytics most often comes from the marketing/communication department because they want to better understand how the money is being spent on advertising, and if the site is effective.

What has been...

... my worst experience with a web analytics product?

I wouldn't say "with a product", but rather "as an analyst". Failing to "sell" web analytics to a large organization that could really have benefited from it. They focused on the price of the solution, while I should have been a better salesperson and made them focus on the benefits of web analytics (and the risks of not doing it!).

... my best experience with a web analytics product?

Analysis of a local ecommerce site similar to Amazon.

Where do I...

... get information on web analytics?

The web analytics field is in full "ebullition", I read all the books I can (see the sidebar at the right of my blog for some recommendations), but I also track, on a daily basis, something like 50 blogs from US, Canada, Europe, vendors or consultants and practitioners, etc. I'm the organizer of the local Web Analytics Wednesdays, so I get to meet fellow practitioners from nearby, and I helping Omniture organize the first Omniture Café in Montréal, on May 16th. The eMetrics Summit I'm attending next week (and being the speaker for the Web Analytics for Site Optimization workshop) will be a great opportunity to meet "face to face" with some of the best people in the field.