Friday, August 28, 2009

Definition of Web Analytics

In the previous post I gave a quick background on the Web Analytics Maturity Model. This time, I'm giving a jab at the definition of "web analytics". Now that we know what is a maturity model, we need to agree on what is "web analytics".

Although some elements of performance measurement were technically available at the inception of the World Wide Web in the early '90s, interest for measuring web business performance has been on the rise over the past couple of years. If anything, three disruptive circumstances might explain this level of attention for web analytics:
  • Google democratization of web analytics with the launch of its free Google Analytics service in 2005
  • Marketing uncovered clear benefits of Web performance data to optimize online marketing activities
  • The economical downturn of 2008-2009 forces ebusiness initiatives to be measured and accountable for success.

A Marketing centric definition of web analytics

The Web Analytics Association defines web analytics as "the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage". This definition  centers on Internet data and website optimization from an online marketing point of view, whilst the broader scope of analytics, process and business optimization isn’t specifically addressed.

Definition of "analytics"

Davenport and Harris, in "Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning" are among the few providing a conceptual background to analytics and business optimization. In their book, the authors define analytics as being "the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models, and fact-based management to drive decisions and actions". This definition, much broader than that of "web analytics", is considered to be a subset of business intelligence: "a set of technologies and processes that use data to understand and analyze business performance".

Proposed definition of "web analytics"

I'm defining web analytics as:
The extensive use of qualitative and quantitative data (primarily, but not limited to online data), statistical analysis, exploratory (multivariate testing) and predictive models (behavioral targeting), business process analysis and fact-based management to drive a continuous improvement of online activities and improved ROI.
As we will see in the Web Analytics Maturity Model, the earlier stages naturally focus around online marketing, and the higher level match the lower realm of Davenport definition of "competing on analytics".

Want more?

This post is part of a series extracted from my MBA thesis paper. Comments and critiques welcomed!

Coming up:

What are the components of a maturity model? Critics of 6 current models, the WAMM model itself and several case studies.

View all posts on Maturity Model topic.

For further information regarding the WAMM and its future evolution, including speaking, consulting and training, visit the Web Analytics Maturity Model area on