Tuesday, March 25, 2008

eMetrics Toronto is next week!

Just got the latest Sterne Measure in my mailbox. Couldn't say it better, so I thought I would pass this along. And since I will be presenting on Wednesday PM, I want you to be there!

You have just a few more days to register!

Recognizing cultural behaviour

Moderator: Alex Langshur, President and Co-founder, Public Insite
Joseph Carrabis, NextStage Evolution
Stephane Hamel, Immeria.net
Simon Rivard, Canoe.ca

People from different cultures use websites in different ways. Analysis of web data requires sensitivity to these cultural differences. Mouse movements, navigation habits, and language nuances require "localization" rather than mere translation. Learn how cultural segmentation will yield better results and an improved customer experience.

Highlights of the conference

Lots of Canadian Presenters
Lots of industry experts from all over
WAA Base Camp Training on Monday the 31st
WAA - IAB - GTA Panel on all those numbers
Networking like you've never seen
Keynotes from eBay & Microsoft & some guy named Sterne
Web marketing measurement tools to inspect
Multiple breakout tracks:
Marketing Optimization Management
Website Optimization
Optimizing Content-Rich and Mission Driven Websites
Campaign Optimization
Advanced workshop on predictive analytics
Advanced workshop on sizing up a site visitor in 10 seconds
More networking (learning from your peers rocks)
A focus on your desired outcomes for this Summit

Engaging IT in your WA strategy

Someone over at the Yahoo! web analytics group was inquiring about when/how to communicate instructions to the IT team to implement the JavaScript tags. As often, my short answer turned into a long ramble about the role of IT in web analytics :)

As a member of the marketing team, there's often the feeling that IT don't understand, they don't get it, or even that they are clueless... The other side of the coin is that IT see marketing like a windmill, changing as the wind change, coming up with weird ideas that are complex, hard, or impossible to achieve on time, with the current technologies, or with the available resources.

When & how to engage IT in your project?

I've been on the IT side for most of my career but I've developed strong business affinities. Here's my top 3 advices:
  1. Make a friend: Find someone in IT, allow him/her to become your champion. That person is likely someone who is eager to learn, a bit on the techie side but wishing to get closer to the business side, and a good communicator. It doesn't have to be a manager, but it should be a leader.
  2. Begin early, repeat often: the sooner you can get IT to the table the better it will be. They will be able to identify the best implementation scenarios: what are the technical constraints & limits, easier and more efficient ways of achieving a task, naming conventions, where and how custom tagging will be achieved, etc. They will often enforce some form of structured process around the project. IT also has access to other sources of data that contain valuable information that can be merged with web data. They know the size of the sandpit and which toys are in.
  3. It's a quest: IT is used to projects with a clear beginning and a clear ending date. However, web analytics is most successful when part of a continuous improvement process. Sooner or later, you will need to have someone in IT who is readily available to participate in your meetings and answer ad hoc inquiries. You will also need the help of IT to make those little tweaks to the tags within a week instead of a month.

What to avoid with IT?

Three things to do, three things to avoid:
  1. Do NOT provide a recipe: Avoid coming up with a point form instruction list (my wife does that all the time, but that's another story!). My advice is be to share & show IT what you want is your goal, not how you think it should be done. Show what you can do with the information gained from web analytics, how it will not only impact your own job, but also that of the whole company. Simply telling them to put a snippet of code without context is likely to backfire because it's "yet another task on their plate" and they won't even know why it's important. If you've followed my advices above, IT will be engaged early and they will know exactly why and where to put those tags.
  2. Information is NOT a walled garden: You've identified an IT champion, right? Share ALL your reports and analysis with him/her! Treat that person as your true partner. The systematic and methodological approach that IT brings can help explain correlations where you don't suspect there is. You're readying up for a presentation? Use your IT buddy to do a rehearsal. And hey! If he don't get what you say, isn't there a chance you will present to people who won't get it either but will be to shy to admit?
  3. Do NOT be condescending: as far as I know, everything related to the Internet makes use of technology... IT will account, at least for the foreseeable future, for as much as 50% of the solution. Don't forget that without technology, your job is totally useless.
Comments? If you are in an IT team, what are the three things you wish marketing would improve? Marketing people, what are the three things you think IT should do to help you out?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winning content, spring break and analytics

Winning content

A while ago I wrote an article on box plots and whisker plots using Excel 2007. When I wrote it, I had in mind the use of this concept in the web analytics field, but it turns out a lot of people are searching for this information, especially students enrolled in statistical classes. Soon this article got referenced by de.Wikipedia.org and en.Wikipedia.org.

Hypothesis #1: Reporting on spring break

The thing is... I'm getting a lot of traffic, good for my ego, but this traffic is for the most part, "not qualified" for my blog goals: talking about web analytics. So here's what happen when students go in spring break: a huge drop in traffic in the last week!

That's reporting: making up an hypothesis and comforting our conclusion with some data extracted from a report.

Hypothesis #2: using analytics

Is this really the cause? After all, I know it's spring break in most regions...

Then I did this:
  • Entry page: identify which pages got the highest drop in traffic: yes, the Box Plot page is the culprit
  • Search terms: double-checked to confirm this was the root cause: yes, there's about a 50% drop from searches containing the word "plot"
  • Referrers: referrers from Wikipedia, is there a drop: no?! Hmmm... why?
  • Segmented search terms by continent: traffic is down by about 50% regardless of the continent... it's not spring break everywhere at the same time!
The real culprit: a change in my blog setup to shorten the page titles using only "immeria::"+post title has got my ranking to fall dramatically in Google!


Doing web analytics often implies starting up with an hypothesis. Then we fall short of digging for a complete explanation and we jump to the conclusion as soon as we have some data to prove us right. However, pushing web analytics a bit further implies using different tools and different angles to observe the same situation. Just like a scientist would describe something with different attributes and different qualities and a team of scientists would bring their expertise from various fields to provide an even more thorough analysis.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are we measuring too much?

An interesting post from Stéphane Guérin (in French), entrepreneur, creator of Percute, a very interesting web analytics solution that is worth a look, and a good friend. He asked if, perhaps, we are too focused on measuring ads or not enough.

Followed a good number of comments, one of them being from Laval University professor Stéphane Gauvin (yeah, I know, lots of Stéphane around here!). Please allow me to quote him (translated from French - italics mine):
To the question "are we measuring to much or not enough?" the answer depends on the cost of measuring, and not on the cost of the marketing campaign (or it's ROI) and the impact it has on the decision to invest in online marketing or not (in the future). Put another way, if the decision to invest in a marketing campaign is irrevocable, there's no need to measure.

Because the cost of measuring is usually very small (compared to traditional means/mediums), we should measure more often then traditional media.

If we measure more, we take (usually) better decisions. The consequences are that for the same level of efficiency, marketing dollars will go toward the Internet, where decisions will be better justified.
Can't agree more! And with the expected economic downturns, we can expect online marketing dollars to be spent more wisely, thus, web analytics will become even more important.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Job: Bell Web Solutions is looking for a web analyst

Relayed from Nicolas Aucher, from Bell Web Solution:

"Bell Web Solutions (Bell Canada) is looking for a Web Analytics and Optimization consultant. The selected candidate will be in charge of providing solutions to clients concerning performance tracking for web sites (e-commerce; media portal; financial services; etc.) and other online activities (interactive campaigns). Services offered span from key performance indicators definition, web analytics tool implementation (Omniture; Webtrends; Google Analytics; CoreMetrics etc.) to reporting and analysis of collected data. Contact nicolas.aucher(at)bell.ca for more information. Position if offered in Montreal (QC).

Company Information: Bell Web Solutions offers a wide range of innovative solutions customized to the needs of its clients which include Online Consulting Services, Web Development, Usability and Accessibility, Web Analytics and Optimization, Interactive Marketing and Promotion, and Electronic Delivery Services."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Home sweet home: my journey through the storm of the century

Continuing my adventures on my way back from the Omniture Summit (check my previous post about "Continental Airline, where's your purple cow?" for the beginning of this entertaining journey).

Being a five star customer...

If I had absolutely wanted to go to Quebec city from Newark I would still be sitting in the airport and starting to smell like... well... cow...

The plane from Newark to Ottawa was scheduled for 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm, 11:00pm. After waiting for several hours in line, I got boarding passes to Ottawa instead of Quebec city. I can tell you, spending days in an airport is an amazing way to learn tricks about traveling. When you are on standby, your boarding pass will show with "STBY" where the seat number should be. Mine showed "*****" but not because I was upgraded to a Five Star customer... The "very comprehensive" agent told me she "didn't understand" that according to sales I had a seat, but according to the seat map there was no room left. Yeah right... I was oversold. Why didn't she simply tell me that?

I also learned that if you leave the security area and your boarding pass says 8:00pm and it's now 8:30pm, you won't be able to get back through security even if the flight was delayed to 9:00pm... Go figure... Someone got trapped "outside" and they had to go through all the bureaucracy to get back.

A nice couple ended up being oversold because somehow they went through security and even registered their luggage, but they supposedly didn't confirm their seats. How could this happen?

We have a plane, but no crew and no pilot

Must have bit a hell of a storm because they lost crews and pilots! When planes made their way to the gates, we often heard messages saying "we're sorry for the delay, the plane is here, but we're waiting for the crew to arrive, we don't know where they are". Wow! I thought the Bermuda Triangle was a legend!

Feeling lucky

Finally made it to Ottawa, landed safely. And of course, as I expected, my luggage didn't follow. I was certainly not alone because there were dozens of bags turning around, some piled up beside the conveyor, and a dozen people wondering if they should just grab one of the bag and win a complete new wardrobe :)

Filed the "A32, four copy form" for lost luggage...

During the long wait we had time to make plans... Most people wanted to go to Montreal (about 2 hour drive from Ottawa, and another 3 hours to Quebec city). Some people managed to get lifts from family and helped others. I ended up renting a car and made my way to Montreal with another person, then continued the long trip to Quebec city. At least that part went well, road conditions were fine and we chatted all the way to Montreal. Must admit however that staying awake was getting very challenging...

Welcome to Quebec city

6:00am, had about 4 hours sleep over the past 3 days. Drove straight to the airport, gave back the keys and went inside to inquire about my luggage. Forget it... Now, where's my car? Most of the cars are covered in snow, alarm panic button on the key chain is quite useful in those case! Took me another hour to get out of there... Arrived home just in time to cross my wife going to work, canceled a meeting today and went to bed.

Home sweet home

Woke around noon and had a first glimpse at my front and backyard: snow banks are up the roof.

Tried to call back to check where my luggage were... guess what? They can't find my claim file!

Now let's do some work to pay all those additional expenses...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Continental Airline, where's your purple cow?

It's a long way home... I was supposed to do Salt Lake - New York - Quebec City. I read on a friend's blog and my wife told me this storm was a major one. In the Quebec City area, people got stuck on the highway for several hours and snowmobiles were called to the rescue, highways were closed, and of course, the Montreal and Quebec airports too...
Plane late in Salt Lake, no luck in New York, I will eventually get to Quebec city.
(looks like being tired after a 3hour sleep doesn't stop me from being poetic! In fact, maybe it even help!)

The result is a cascade of canceled and delayed flights, crews and pilots trying to reach their "port d'attache" without success. People sleeping everywhere, the lucky ones on benches, the others directly on the floor.

Continental Airline, where's your purple cow?

It's not the first major snowstorm of the century, heck, airports and airlines are supposed to be prepared for terrorism and other unexpected events. What I witnessed is a very poor execution, a lack of sensibility and for sure, someone who will avoid at all costs getting back on a Continental plane. What was wrong?
  • Emergency situation: staff those darn counters to answer clients questions. 3 out of 5 agents simply walked away even if there was about 100 people waiting and a flock of others coming in. Two others came back about 2 hours later...
  • Disaster recovery: the boarding pass printer breaks, how can it take close to an hour to get another one? Don't tell me there was no alternative!
  • Vouchers: didn't had breakfast because I ran to take a flight, simply to find out it was canceled. Waited for 6 hours in line to see an agent, we know my flight (if I'm lucky) will be at 8:00pm, 9:00pm, but nope... can't get two vouchers right away. It's limited to one at a time, sorry buddy, you'll have to wait in line again to get your voucher!
What they could have done? As Seth Godin would put it, "this means you have to toss out everything you know and do something "remarkable" to have any effect at all". Continental will certainly be a long lasting memory event, but not a positive one!
  • Busses! Doh! Planes were simply canceled, bumping everyone else on standby or booking toward other airports that are as filled as this one is simply useless. Montreal is not that far (6 hour drive): charter buses and get going! Even if we had to pay for it, making the arrangements would be highly appreciated. There is no reserved seats for three days, so they are simply hoping people will get so pissed they will find other ways of getting home.
  • Empathy: why not put bottled water and snacks near the waiting lines? I waited about 6 hours... babies were crying, elderly people were dazing blindly at an hypothetical place that now only exist in their head: home.
  • Communicate: instead of repeating over and over the same (often false) stories, why not stand up and simply tell it to everyone. Why not pick a drywall and write the latest status: "Montreal: next reserved seats on Tuesday, here's the alternatives: ...". Why not tell the 100 or so people waiting in line to group by destination to facilitate communication?
  • Be fair: a lady was told there was absolutely no room but a few minutes later another person got a seat. A lady just in front of me got a reserved seat to Quebec city but I was told there was already 15 people on the standby list!
I got no other clothes, but I got my laptop and wireless access... stay tuned for the rest of this nightmare!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Free book from cScape: are you a winner or a loser?

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by cScape because they found my blog post, “Bubble-burst 2.0”, of interest for a new book entitled “Winners and Losers in a Troubled Economy”. Authors Richard Sedley and Martyn Perks provide an outstanding (and free!) 80 pages book on engagement and how digital media, when used correctly, can not only help businesses today but especially when the economy hits the fan. The book is à propos those days, but it’s also an excellent introduction to online marketing and customer engagement. The topics covered include:
  1. New marketing: the old ways will not do
  2. The changing face of the customer
  3. Creating an online customer engagement strategy
  4. How to create your online customer engagement success
  5. The tactics for creating a customer engagement strategy
  6. Measuring online customer engagement
  7. What role can digital media play during a recession?
I’m honored to have made my small contribution alongside people like Jim Novo and points of views from Foviance, Satama and several others. For me, it’s a reward for growing from my roots in IT and getting a more strategic and business oriented professional profile.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's marketing, stupid!

Continuing on my rant about web analytics being hijacked by marketing and my coverage of the Omniture Summit... I flew all the way from Quebec city to Salt Lake and one of the first thing I see at the airport is a huge banner hanging on top of the baggage claim: "Omniture Summit, where online marketing comes together". I thought Omniture was positioning itself as "the online business optimization platform"!

Impressive start

2000 attendees, a 5 star hotel and even outside lighting changed to "Omniture green". The day started to music and lighting that would make the envy of any discotheque. Rolling statements like "66% of the most innovative companies use Omniture”,"40% of top 100 retailers use Omniture", "9 out of 10 top automotive sites use Omniture", "Omniture process 8.2 billion transactions daily".


The morning was spent on the traditional keynote from CEO, Josh James, announcing a roster of new features and how VisualSciences got integrated into the Omniture Suite. Then Forrester’s Peter Kim took the stage and gave a great keynote. Peter brought us memorable quotes like “TV is just another light source in the room” and some what I found to be a very interesting survey result: when asked if they agreed with those statements...

Ads are a good way to learn about a product78%52%
Buy because of ads29%13%
Companies tells the truth in their ads13%6%

I also liked the other survey result (tried to find the reference but couldn't) stating that 45% of the companies surveyed hoped to improve the online customer experience. Interesting isn’t it? While the room was jam packed with marketing people, it appears the most important thing to work on might not be brand awareness and bringing people to the site, it’s what you do with them once they are there!

Ford’s presentation was also interesting, "numbers are like poetry" and "it’s not the tool, it’s getting people to listen to what the tool say".

Afternoon sessions

There were several tracks for each vertical. I attended the automotive one, then went to Matt Belkins "Think Big: Using Analytics to Win in Today’s Economy". Couple of points made me wonder, like the statement that companies who actually increased marketing budgets during hard economic times got out of it better than those who cut it. Not sure I agree with that based on the evidence that were provided, especially stating that Dell increased 300% marketing budget increase was the reason for their outstanding performance afterward. As web analysts, we should know better... just a percentage without much context is useless. What if Dell’s budget was just 5% of IBM’s one (a likely possibility at the time...)?

Lance Armstrong

The last keynote of the day was inspirational and not related to web analytics at all, but a presentation everyone should see. I took notes during the presentation, thinking of parallels between what Lance Armstrong went through and what we can face in businesses environments, like ignoring the signals and the symptoms or finding excuses for not facing reality. But it wouldn’t do justice to this great person and would be a lack of respect to anyone who’s fighting or had to fight cancer to push the analogies any further.


The day ended up at The Depot for great food and entertainment. I stayed for the Flight of the Conchords show and called it off for the day (well... after reading my emails, checking the blogs, writing this blog post and finalizing an analysis I have to deliver tomorrow!)... going to bed late in the morning.

(I wished I had some pictures but somehow my camera got very low-res ones...)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Omniture SiteCatalyst 14 released

A few days ago I was ranting about web analytics being too marketing centric. Frankly, there's no reason to use Omniture for marketing optimization... you should use Omniture for optimizing your online business as a whole!

It has become a tradition for Omniture to release new versions during the Omniture Summit and this year is no exception! Those who logged to their SiteCatalyst account today were in for a little treat from Omniture: SiteCatalyst v14 is now available.

The interface

Nicer graphs don't make for better decisions, but usability and communicating just the right information in the right way makes a big difference. The Omniture SiteCatalyst v14 interface is radically different. There is a bunch of little features that makes this version very easy to use: quick navigation, reorganized menu, easier date selection, access to bookmarks, improved dashboards, a crisp reporting interface with more charting options, etc. (click on the picture at right for a larger view)


Custom variables, calculated metrics, custom reports and dashboards, amazingly limitless segmentation with Discover and of course, a powerful API with both SOAP and Excel compatibility are what put SiteCatalyst in a different category than your other free entry-level web analytics tool.

Omniture was amazingly fast at integrating some of the WebSideStory products. What used to be the search solution from WSS is now Omniture SiteSearch. The CMS is also rechristened as Omniture Publish. Offermatica and TouchClarity are now found under "Test & Target" and there a new integrated survey which is the result of their Instadia acquisition. And, by the way, SearchCenter is now at version 3!

Video or Flash?

v14 includes native support for Flash and Flex, as well as Media Player, QuickTime and RealPlayer video engagement reports and milestone tracking. It also support for Flex 2 and Flash 9 applications.

Web Analytics is not a one men (or women) show

There a bunch of additional consideration for teamwork and report distribution, from the new Distribution Manager to contextual help and community support built throughout the product.

Monday, March 3, 2008

When blogging can kill you

(Update: I incorrectly understood M.Tilley had a blog himself, but it's rather other people who used blogs to rant against his business and him personally. I have made some changes to reflect this position. However, I don't think it significantly change the outcome: someone killed himself partly because of blogging...)

Paul Tilley was an executive at an ad agency. People used the freedom of blogging to foster communication and feedback about the industry and ad agencies, from clients and employees alike. That eventually led to open criticism of M.Tilley's management style and decisions: that may have killed him. Maybe not directly, but it certainly contributed to a chain of events that led to his death.

It's a sad story, please allow me to quote Andy Beal:
...stop and consider the personal psychological harm our words might have on an individual. While it’s easy for us to post our scathing criticisms. we’re often desensitized to the harm we inflict–simply because we’re miles away, safe behind our web browser.
I didn't know M.Tilley, in fact I never heard of him before. But I'm nevertheless sadden by this story. It's at the opposite spectrum of the idea I shared several months ago in my post about "the lonely life of bloggers" where I critiqued a book called "Blogosphere":
...blogs are made by human beings, and are read by human beings... how can this be unreal?

On my way to the Summit...

The title can take several significations.

Omniture Summit

The most obvious one is my trip to Salt Lake City to attend the Omniture Summit. I will be reporting about the event until Friday. First thing: not obvious to go from Quebec city to Salt Lake City... 3 flights with hour long connections: total time, door to door was 13 hours. I knew it would be long, so I came in early to be in shape for Tuesday's opening reception at 7:00pm. Spare time? Not really, I will catch up on client work!

Skiing at Snowbird

The other summit takes the form of a 3,000' ski hill; base elevation: 7,000', top: 11,000', on average, 500 inches of snow! My first time on such a huge mountain. On my way in I had a good chat with people who also skied on the East cost. Quite a difference from our dammed icy slopes... I can expect powder up the belt! I'm going there on Friday, I'll take it easy...

A personal high

The last way I can think of a "summit" is how I feel about what I've been doing since the past few months. I wanted to enjoy the "freedom" of being freelance, I wanted to push the envelope of what I can do, I wanted to learn more & share even more. I have not attained the summit, but I feel I'm actually living trough what is a big personal objective.