Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resources for #measure

Up until now, the Yahoo! Web Analytics forum as proven to be a great resource, so are dozens of blogs by practitioners, consultants and vendors. Nowadays, the Twitter #measure hashtag is an invaluable gold mine, but you have to be there at the right time. Various tools will let you know who are the #measure leaders to follow on Twitter.  But let’s face it, unless you are already “well plugged” in the network, it’s hard to find the most valuable resources.

Useful resources for the web analytics community

Over the years, several people tried to build lists of useful resources but the way TwtPickin handles the social aspect and the ease of contributing is just brilliant. If you think of other useful lists to create, go ahead (but please be willing to maintain it as there is no way to share ownership in TwtPickin – for now) or let me know and I’ll do it for you.

Get involved!

  1. Bookmark those lists
  2. Vote for the most valuable resources
  3. Add missing resources
  4. Spread the word!

Online Analytics Maturity Model: 2010 year end review

In his “web analytics year in review 2010” on, Garry Przyklenk wrote:
Although Stephane Hamel's Web Analytics Maturity Model is a product of 2009, he really garnered significant attention in 2010 as organizations took stock of their capabilities and enacted changes to transform themselves from "analytically impaired" to "analytically integrated.
This time of the year is ideal to look back, think, and start to plan for next year objectives.

eMetrics & Jim Sterne

I first wrote about the concept of online analytics maturity in November 2008. I was back from the “Industry Insight” day at eMetrics where Jim Sterne asked three simple questions:
  1. What’s the hard part?
  2. What do we need from the tools?
  3. How do we convince upper management?
Those questions remains, to this day, very relevant and pretty much untamed.

Looking back, I tried to address those questions in what would later become the proposal for the Web Analytics Maturity Model. My gratitude goes to Jim for lighting up the little spark in my head and allowing me to share my progress by speaking nearly twenty times at eMetrics.

"Web analytics is hard" - Peterson vs Kaushik

Back in 2008, Avinash Kaushik and Eric Peterson were debating whether web analytics was hard or easy. I was tired of hearing the “web analytics is hard” refrain – certainly not a good way to foster the growth and credibility of our discipline. I was very much into Avinash camp – with all due respect, not to the extent of oversimplifying things as he sometimes does…

Some diverging opinions, when respectful, are a great mean of mutual growth. I wish Peterson and I had never got to the point of "agreeing to disagree" because after all, it's not about any individual in our little field of expertise, it's about the growth of our community through constructive dialog, respect, and sharing. "It's not about you, it's about the community"... Who said that?

Anyway, I'm digressing... I spent months looking at other fields of expertise, listening to practitioners, consultants and vendors, asking questions, reading a lot, and looking into my own experience as a practitioner and consultant. Had it not been of this “debate”, maybe I would not have dug into this subject – so I'm grateful to both Avinash and Peterson!

An Online Analytics Maturity year in review

Fast forward to the end of 2010 – here’s a roundup of what I did in regard to the OAMM:
  • A keynote appearance at the Web Analytics Congress, Amsterdam
  • 8 workshops for a total of over 100 participants.
    • 97% satisfaction - when asked “where your expectations met?”
    • “understanding of the issue” rose from 57% before the workshop to 79% after – which means that participants are coming out of the workshop with a much better understanding of what are the weak points in their practice and how to overcome them.
  • 16 conference sessions in the USA, Canada, France, The Netherlands, Belgium and UK.
  • Taught 60 students in the newly launched graduate-level web analytics class at Laval University and the feedback is simply amazing!
  • Nearly 200 entries in the Online Analytics Maturity self-assessment tool.
  • Appearance in the Beyond web analytics podcast, a number of videos [and here] and mentions on numerous blogs
  • A number of clients, large and small, hired me to help them conduct a maturity assessment of their organization and make some unbiased, honest and realistic recommendations.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I was astonished at the level of interest for “models” and “maturity” at the last eMetrics. It is irrelevant if it is “my” model or someone else’s – as Bill Gassman, author of one of the early web analytics model once said “the first benefit of a maturity model is the conversation it sparks. It puts the team in a mindframe to imagine what could be and to measure where they are”.

Planning for 2011

Other than usual consulting, my new gaAddons project, tutoring UBC and teaching at ULaval, here's what I'll look into for OAMM in 2011:
  • Conferences:
  • A dedicated site for OAMM is coming up - I should have done it long ago!
  • I will publish a summary of the findings from the maturity self-assessment in a paper to be published in the coming weeks.
  • In the fall, the ULaval online, graduate-level web analytics class will be available in English
  • Expect a revision of the white-paper in the coming months
  • I’m working on a textbook – a very long process – to be published eventually… in the meantime, the content is being used in my workshops and the ULaval course.

It's your turn now

Have you applied some elements of OAMM at your workplace? Was it positive?
What do you think is the most beneficial in the OAMM concept?
Constructive feedback is welcome - what do you think should be improved?

For a model to work it needs to be used and abused - it needs to be put to the test of fire and be as widely accepted by the community as possible.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Google Analytics cross domain tracking made easy: gaAddons v2.1.1 released!

Let's face it, unless you are very skilled at JavaScript, have perfect control over the tagging of the sites and have achieved a level of understanding of Google Analytics that you could be a GAAC, cross domain tracking with Google Analytics is a real pain!

gaAddons v2.1.1 stable version available

Thanks to the growing list of supporters of gaAddons, this version fixes many annoying bugs and introduces _setXDomain.

Bug fixes
  • Fixed issues with handling of right-click vs regular click for _trackOutbound and _trackDownload
  • Outbound links and downloads should open in the _self window by default, unless a TARGET is specified
  • Fixed bug with _trackLoadTime where it was always triggered even when onBounce:false
Enhancements and other changes
  • New _setXDomain call
  • Tested for compatibility with Mootools
  • Added wmv, mp4 and flv to the default list of tracked file types in _trackDownload
  • Enhanced options:debug to provide more complete info when using Firebug
  • _trackOutbound and _trackDownload now support a "format" option which gives greater flexibility to track with the taxonomy you want (this is cool!)
  • _setHourOfDay is deprecated since this is automatically handled by GA

_setXDomain: cross domain tracking made easy

This feature handles the most common scenarios for cross domain tracking with Google Analytics:
  • One domain & subdomains
  • Multiple domains & subdomains
  • One domain & sub-directories of another domain
  • A single sub-directory
The same snippet of code is simply added to all pages, on all domains you need to track, and gaAddons takes care of calling _setDomainName, _setAllowLinker, _setAllowHash and _setCookiePath as needed and automatically set the outbound _link and _linkByPost where required.

Lets look at the "Tracking Across Multiple Domains and Sub-domains" from Cross-Domain Tracking on Google Analytics help center.
Credit: Google Analytics Help Center
It could hardly be easier with gaAddons:
_gaq.push(['_setXDomain', {
     domainName: ''

That's all you have to do!

Now, imagine there is a blog on Easy!
_gaq.push(['_setXDomain', {
      domainName: '',
      include: /(

"domainName" is always the main domain under which you want everything to be tracked, "include" is a regular expression that specifies the other domains, directories of other domains or just the directory that needs to be tracked.

I want it!

You can give it a try! gaAddons is free for personal use and non-profits. See Pricing for commercial rights of use for corporate websites, freelancers and agencies.

Please use Support to report issues or just send feedback & ideas for future releases.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Web analytics business education at ULaval (MRK-6005)


I was nearing the completion of my eBusiness MBA at Laval Univesity (Quebec-city). Instead of going the traditional thesis route the program required us to apply our learning in a real business environment. The head of the department, noticing the experience I had in the online field, my passion for analytics and my presence on the honor roll, suggested I could develop a new online class on the topic of web analytics.

The initial version was a classic approach aimed at undergraduate students, starting with "history of web analytics" and addressing the various aspects of analysis: traffic sources, on-site behavior, outcomes, etc. Although the University liked it, the "analytics is hard" debate was raging on - so I went on to study why so many organisations are failing at web analytics and few really achieve outstanding results. The concept of the Web Analytics Maturity Model emerged. Six key process areas were identified - things that must be present to achieve success. This became the basis for one of the first graduate level, full semester, business oriented, 360 degree view of online analytics. The term "Web" was later replaced with "Online", as highlighted by the course objectives.

MRK-6005: Analytiques web

3 credits - graduate Level - 100% online course, available in the following programs (in French):
Language: The course should be available in English very soon, maybe as soon as January.
Licensing: I fully own the rights to this course and collaboration with other approved universities is welcomed.
Fees: Quebec residents ~275$, Canadian residents: ~650$, international students: ~1,500$

Course objectives

If analytics is the science of analysis, and analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it (1) - online analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and transformation of various sources of data (qualitative & quantitative) into insight for the purposes of understanding and optimizing online business processes. Online analytics can be viewed as a subset of business intelligence: the skills, processes, technologies, applications and practices used to support decision making (2) - and business analysis: the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems... process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development. (3)

Specific objectives

  • Develop a data-driven approach to ebusiness and interactive marketing management
  • Allow future managers to make decisions based on the most optimal and realistic solutions in a fast paced and continuously evolving environment
  • Demonstrate how business performance measurement, user-centered design, effective communication, and an analytical approach to problem solving can be leveraged to better understand who are the online users, their goals, and how the business can and should fulfill those needs more effectively.

Learning approach

Each module introduces a new concept, ranging from introductory to more complex business situations, that can be readily applied in a real working environment thanks to the precious collaboration of business partners. Selected lectures, discussion forums, quizzes, weekly short assignments, live chat sessions and videos contributes to the learning environment. A final assignment, based on a real, live business environment, offers the greatest opportunity to put theory into practice.


The course length is 15 weeks/modules:
  1. Introduction: basic concepts of online analytics
  2. Technologies: logs, tags, cookies and other considerations
  3. Concepts: from business goals to online objectives, user-centered design, personas, persuasion architecture
  4. Developing analytical skills: the role of statistics in online analytics
  5. Developing analytical skills: base metrics, multiplicity and conversions
  6. Developing analytical skills: key performance indicators, dashboards and effective communication
  7. Developing analytical skills: optimization through a/b and multivariate testing
  8. The analysis process: leveraging problem solving and methodologies (SixSigma/Lean, Wireframes, BPMN)
  9. Analysis: marketing analysis & optimization
  10. Analysis: social media and mobile analytics
  11. Analysis: site optimization, workflows and competition
  12. Managing analytics: change management, developing the culture and adoption of analytics within political & ethical boundaries
  13. Business intelligence and business analysis
  14. Synthesis: course review, innovations and the future of online analytics
  15. Semester assignment delivery & grading
Additional information and inquiries: visit Université Laval - Formation à distance: MRK-6005 (in French) or contact Stéphane Hamel

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

gaAddons v2.1.1: open beta!

Thanks to those volunteering for the early beta of v2.1.1, I'm now confident to open gaAddons v2.1.1 for wider testing.

The main focus of this release is _setXDomain: a way to make this darn cross-domain tracking easier to implement and make it work! :)
  • Easy cross-domain tracking
  • Handles all common scenarios
  • Takes care of outbound links automatically

Bug fixes

Enhancements and other changes

  • New _setXDomain call
  • Tested for compatibility with Mootools
  • Added wmv, mp4 and flv to the default list of tracked file types in _trackDownload
  • Enhanced options:debug to provide more complete info when using Firebug
  • _trackOutbound and _trackDownload now support a "format" option which gives greater flexibility to track with the taxonomy you want
  • _setHourOfDay is deprecated since this is automatically handled by GA
Note: When participating in the beta, always make sure to take the latest build from the site.

Coming up!

  • YouTube video tracking!
  • eCommerce micro-format support!

Interview on OAMM, the WAA and gaAddons

(if you don't see the video above, please visit the blog page directly)

Daniel Waisberg interviewed me for his great marketing measurement and optimization site, Online Behavior while we were at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit – Washington DC, 2010.

1:50 - I speak about the Online Analytics Maturity Model, what I've been working on for years in order to help companies to succeed in Web Analytics. The model is aimed at sparking discussions and raise awareness. A paper is available and the self assessment tool is a great way to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

3:50 - I provided my perspective and some tips on Web Analytics consulting, both for external consultants and for Analysts inside a company that need to interact with multiple teams. The major takeaway is my belief that our expertise is evolving toward business analysis and business intelligence: answering the needs to understand and optimize online business processes (beyond marketing) and the obvious need to look at more than clickstream data.

6:00 - My role as a director of the Web Analytics Association and the Get - what you can get as a member of the association, Do - what you can offer to the community, and Be - what you can become: better educated about web analytics, become a Certified analyst, become a speaker, etc. This strategy was discussed at our last Board meeting.

8:15 - And I concluded with some info about my latest project, gaAddons: a collection of useful enhancements to improve the default Google Analytics implementation.

Thanks again to Daniel for the opportunity, you can watch more eMetrics Summit videos in the dedicated channel. I will be speaking about the Online Analytics Maturity Model again at eMetrics Toronto and San-Francisco, and maybe Paris and London (hint, hint - bug Jim Sterne & Mattew Finlay to get me there!). I just confirmed my presence at the Click Summit in Charlotte, NC, April 14-15. See the complete speaking appearance list. The schedule for spring 2011 is getting loaded but I'm open to other speaking opportunities.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

gaAddons buzz & adoption

The twittersphere is getting active and there are already some reviews of gaAddons appearing on blogs all over the world:
Thanks to the agencies adopting and endorsing gaAddons, the quality and feature set is quickly evolving:
If you use gaAddons I would love to hear from you - how you use gaAddons, how it's helping you, new features you would like to see, etc. I obviously want to grow the user base and adoption, but I'm also looking for additional testimonials, blog posts and twitter buzz!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A short Q&A on gaAddons

My latest initiative: gaAddons is being received with great interest by practitioners, freelancers and consultants. In case you don't know, gaAddons is a collection of useful enhancements for Google Analytics. Here's a little questions & answers session about it.

Q) What does gaAddons do?
A) Right now, it can easily and nicely handle outbound links, downloads and mailto tracking, real bounce rate, form analysis, set day of week, page load time and more

Q) What’s unique about gaAddons?
A) It is the only solution that seamlessly integrates with the regular GA async calls! If you can put the GA tags on a site, you can use gaAddons – it’s that simple and no other technical knowledge is required. It’s very easy to use individual call options to customize them to your liking.

Q) Ok, but GAAC and even Google provides the info to handle outbound links tracking (and other tricks). Why is yours better?
A) The GA documentation provides very basic “how to” and most blog posts or even scripts provided by GAACs miss very important elements. See "Outbound links tracking with Google Analytics" for an example of the numerous things considered in the implementation of the _trackOutbound call. Extensive experience and collaboration with a number of practitioners, agencies and consultants are put in common in order to define and carefully asses the best ways of handling each gaAddons call.

Q) What’s coming up for gaAddons?
A) easy/automated cross-domain, microformats support (especially for ecommerce), Youtube video tracking, internal campaigns and more!

Q) How can I use it? How is it licensed?
A) It’s free for personal use and very cheap for freelancers, consultants and agencies. See licensing info.

Q) Yeah… but you are not a GAAC!
A) That’s right, but this isn't the first time I create ground breaking solutions to make web analytics easier. I’m known in the market as the creator of WASP - the first ever tool specifically created to audit web analytics tags - and I have two decades of experience in development and web analytics. Google won’t allow an individual person to become a GAAC… being totally independent is actually interesting for agencies and consultants: they can leverage my work without fear of competitive issues. Also, consultants and practitioners do not have to spend long hours developing their own solutions and can leverage a professionally developed and thoroughly tested solution.

Take a look at gaAddons, you'll like it! Your feedback and inquiries are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

gaAddons: outbound links tracking with Google Analytics

Over time I have seen numerous agencies, consultants and practitioners suggest ways to track outbound links with Google Analytics. Even Google offers an overtly simplified perspective to manually track clicks on outbound links. Sadly, most of the time the proposed solutions lacks quality and elegance or simply miss on several points commonly found "in the wild". Here are some of the things I have taken into account while developing the _trackOutbound call in gaAddons:
  • should outbound links be tracked as events or page views? (see here to decide!)
  • because it's firing another call to Google Analytics, tracking on the 1st page view of a visit will impact the bounce rate, is this what I want? See "to bounce or not to bounce?"
  • do you take into account the GA call might be cancelled before having enough time to complete - and GA suggest to add a 100 millisecond delay (which causes other issues...)
  • should I blindly track all outbound links or use include/exclude regular expressions to narrow down the tracking on what's really important for the business? 
  • do I really have to  manually go and alter every link on every page if I want to track outbound links?
  • if I already have an onclick event on specific links, what will happen if I blindly parse the Document Object Model (DOM) to replace the onclick handler?
  • how is the "target" attribute of A HREF handled? Are links going to open in new windows or the existing one?
  • what should really be collected? The URL as a whole with all of its arguments? Just the domain name? How do I "classify" those links?
  • what happens with links that are within the cross-domain tracking?
  • how do you handle right-clicks?

gaAddons to the rescue

_trackOutbound is one of many calls found in gaAddons that can be seemlesly integrated with your regular Google Analytics async code snippet. Simply follow the integration instructions, add _gaq.push(['_trackOutbound']) and voilà!

What is unique about gaAddons?

  • ease of integration: you can tag GA? you can use gaAddons!
  • independent development: gaAddons was created so it could be used by agencies, freelance consultants and practitioners with a simple "fair use" licensing model
  • growing support: the more it's being used, the more it's undergoing the test of fire, the better it will get for everyone!
  • ever expanding: other great features are on the way: automated cross-domain tracking, internal campaigns, micro-formats support, etc.

Take a look at the enhanced gaAddons website, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

gaAddons v2.1.0 open beta!

Update: gaAddons v2 is available at

I would like to invite everyone to get a glimpse at gaAddons v2.1.0!

If you were familiar with v1.0 or v2.0, you will certainly notice a major face lift to the website and a more GA-like design. The Documentation section has been extensively reworked to provide much better information. Please have a look and share your thoughts!
_setDayOfWeek custom variable

Among the new features in gaAddons v2.1.0:

  • A bunch of minor big fixes & enhancements...
  • Now seamlessly integrates into _gaq standard push() calls!
  • Introduction of _formAnalysis!
  • Optimized and reviewed the code structure
  • _trackDownloads, _trackOutbounds, _trackMailTos are now deprecated in favor of the same calls without the trailing "s" (_trackDownload, _trackOutbound, _trackMailTo)
  • Since gaAddons is a true extension of the _gaq object, there is no need to have the "tracker" option anymore

If you want to give it a try:

  • The GA Debugger extension for Chrome is causing havoc to gaAddons - see Troubleshooting for details.
I haven't been so excited since the early days of WASP when I initially solved the challenge of a generic web analytics tags debugger!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Would you like me on your team?

I've been doing analysis for over 20 years - ok, I'm cheating, I started in computer science deciphering business requirements and turning them into solutions involving databases - and as you can tell from my blog posts/tweets/speeches/gaAddons/etc. I'm just a tad passionate about what I do!

The only regret I have is there is only one of me (my wife would say it's not a bad thing!). I am frequently approached with fascinating consulting/employment opportunities around web analytics, online maturity, dashboard creation, implementation challenges - but I am often forced to miss out on working with great companies because there are only twenty four hours in a day. The challenge I face, similar to many of you, is that too much of my time is spent on tasks that have lower value  – tagging, data exports, creating reports, writing recommendations – leaving less time for critical work in strategic planning and helping to inform the business.

I have previously mentioned my relationship with Napkyn, where I currently sit on the advisory board. In the last several months I have tightened the relationship with Napkyn, referring a few of my contacts into the managed web analyst program. I have seen the following things happen:
  • Faster impact through ongoing analysis and performance dashboarding, both to the analyst and the executive.
  • An organic increase in online analytics maturity. Ongoing analyst support and executive dashboard support allows the entire organization to take next steps around strategy, tools and alignment.
  • I can help more organizations. Having the Napkyn analysts providing day to day web analysis work means I can be continually involved in the strategic and ongoing online maturity evolution, allowing me the ability to work with more companies and add maximum value.
I am looking forward to working with many more great organizations by leveraging the managed analysis services of Napkyn. If you would be interested in bringing more analysts into your team, let me know!

PS. In order to kickstart this great collaboration, Napkyn has agreed to create a custom price for the first few I will refer them. Contact me if you want more detail.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The importance of Online Analytics Maturity

The eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit was just a few weeks ago and I wanted to think back on the major outcomes I got out of my 12th eMetrics attendance.

Models and Maturity

I didn't get to see all the presentations but one of the thing that strikes me is how often the terms "maturity model" and "analytics maturity" were mentioned by vendors, consultants and practitioners. The doubt of a few years ago, mainly stemming from strongly voiced opinions that maturity models are useless, is giving way to more serious interest. As organizations come to the conclusion that "web analytics is hard" they face two choices: keep complaining, blame the tools and the analysts, and gradually lose their interest in web analytics; or seek to diagnose what is wrong and act on it.

All along, the spirit behind my work on the Online Analytics Maturity Model: to make organizations realize web analytics can be easy if we identify and understand what are our strong and weak points in our web analytics practices. The common pitfalls we are facing aren't unique to web analytics and the use of technologies such as online analytics to foster a cultural change needs to address several key process areas or they are bound to fail: Management, Scoping, Objectives, Process, the Team and lastly, the Technologies.

Measuring Your Organization's Web Analytics Maturity : strategy - creativity - analytics

I presented a session where we started with business strategy and drivers of success, did a detour toward creativity, and concluded with an online analytics maturity self-assessment. A keynote-style presentation which, based on the feedback I got from Jim Sterne and Matthew Finlay, scored a nice 4.27/5. Second to best!

I also did the Roadmap to Online Analytics Success workshop - with great attendance from managers of all kinds of organizations. The feedback is always positive - with some tweaks to do here in there - mostly in the area of hands-on exercises and managing a tight schedule. When asked "Were your expectations met?" the answer from over a hundred participants so far is a resounding "yes!" (at 97%).

I'm already confirmed for a session and workshop at eMetrics San Francisco, March 13-18, 2011.

Note: the session is a keynote-style session, with lots of imagery and few words - you need to be there to appreciate it. Therefore, the slide-deck is NOT available for download..

An evolving industry in search of unity

Interestingly, one of the symptom of a maturing industry is the number of people seeking to define key practices and drivers of success by defining models and frameworks. The actual state of our industry is a plethora of different models proposed by vendors (often biased by their own product offering) or consultants (biased by their own service offering) with varying range of credibility and rigor.

Of course, having renowned author Tom Davenport publishing not one, but two books on analytics maturity is  bound to raise interest. As good and inspiring Competing on Analytics and Analytics at work are, I'm of the opinion, and some of the feedback I got is confirming it, that what Davenport talks about is perceived as several years ahead of our "web" or "online" analytics realm. Still, those are two strongly recommended books - just don't think you can achieve the level of success he is talking about just because you installed Google Analytics a couple of months ago. In the meantime... maybe it's worth taking a look at the Online Analytics Maturity Model?

In order to pursue my work on the Online Analytics Maturity Model I was hoping to get some vendors and consultants to sponsor the work. Interest was high until they realized there would be no form of exclusivity. There is no value in having yet another vendor or agency-specific model, to the contrary, there is a huge need to lead, unite and foster the interests of industry practitioners, vendors, consultants and educators worldwide - exactly the mission of the Web Analytics Association. I still have some hopes of bringing the model under the WAA umbrella. Then again, this is easier said then done. Among the roadblocks are: some claimed it would cause undue bias toward a specific model; how can I protect the intellectual property and all the efforts I've put into it?; and not the least important, how can this work and research be financed?

If you have ideas, I would love to hear them!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

gaAddons: enhanced website

gaAddons v2.0
I just rolled out a more complete website for gaAddons v2.0, along with enhanced documentation.

What is gaAddons?

It's a collection of useful enhancements to extend and improve upon the default Google Analytics implementation. I was surprised by the level of interest for gaAddons - practitioners, freelancers and agencies have started to integrate it and several people participated in the beta, contributing to increased quality and a huge list of future enhancements ideas.

Why use gaAddons?

So far, it includes the following features:
Current Google Analytics enhancements include:
Future enhancements will include:
  • form analysis
  • internal campaigns
  • micro-formats support
  • even more seamless integration with Google Analytics

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From good to great: web analytics at Dell, by Ed Wu & team

My good friend Ed Wu, Head of Online Analytics & Testing at Dell and fellow WAA Board Member, delivered a great keynote at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit last week in Washington DC. Ed posted a summary of his speech entitled "From Good to Great, how online testing is evolving at Dell" and made his presentation available. On my end, thanks to SAS, I won a Flip video camera giveaway at the Web Analytics Wednesday so I thought I could put it to good use and film Ed's presentation. Sadly, it wasn't fully charged so I missed the last part of it - when Dave Nelson was presenting. Still, you can enjoy Ed and Carol Gohl share great insight about how Dell is managing web analytics and optimization.

Part One

Part Two

Or head to YouTube to view part 1 and part 2 of Ed's presentation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Web analytics, privacy and the WAA code of ethic

The Wall Street Journal did a whole series on “What they know”. Online marketers - especially when it comes to ad networks, web analytics and behavioral targeting – are depicted as evil spies and Cookie Monsters. Call it sensationalist, biased or even lies and fallacies; it depicts what is generally perceived outside of our little web analytics industry. If we listen to the WSJ, even underlying concepts of Web 2.0 such as embedding widgets on a website is evil. Their analysis revealed content (and most likely, cookies) being served by a 3rd party… Bad, bad, bad! It goes beyond web analytics, but when threatened and called upon, people react and as is often the case, external events forces us, web analysts and the WAA, to act.

A fundamental misconception of web analytics

Over the year I have taught over 700 people on the fundamentals of web analytics trough courses at UBC, ULaval and my workshops. Oftentimes, a fundamental misconception about web analytics takes the form of "With the help of Google Analytics (or whichever tool), I can find dimensions such as number of visitors from a city, the source and frequency of their visit, recency of visits, keywords used, etc., however, how can I find "who these visitors are?" How can I find their contact details so as to start a personalized initiative?"

First, we need to understand the fundamental difference between Web Analytics and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Web Analytics

Web Analytics is about a “statistical population”, "segments", "margin of error", "outliers", etc. The goal is NOT and should NEVER be to identify unique people, but to look a trends and patterns of online behavior shared by different groups of visitors. Web analytics pertains to the realm of inbound and onsite marketing and customer-facing optimization: campaigns, web sites, social media, etc. Period.

We are not in the business of tracking users’ journey on the Interweb.

Behavioral targeting

Behavioral targeting doesn’t necessarily look at unique users; it looks at pattern of similar user behavior to determine what worked and what didn’t. However, admittedly, there are more advanced solutions where specific individual behavior is analyzed and the persuasion scenario tailored accordingly.

This can be done without ever using any PII.

Customer Relationship Management

CRM is about one-to-one customer relationship, keeping track of “touch points” for each individual person, regardless of the communication channel they use – phone, email, web, etc. At its core, the goal is to improve the relationship with prospects, clients & customers by optimizing processes around all communication channels, all touch points, at all time.

We are at the opposite end of the spectrum: Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as name, phone, email and even more are critical to CRM.

Ethical & legal aspect

It is unethical and illegal in most cases to collect uniquely identifiable information such as contact details (phone, name, SIN#, complete address, etc.) without express user consent. Although it is technically possible, especially with advanced solutions, to collect custom data such as PII, contact details should be collected within corporate systems and used within the limits of the applicable laws (US, Canada and the European Union have laws & guidelines regarding when, how, for which reason and what you do with the collected personal information – see Privacy and PIPEDA for examples).

Offering a customized experience on Amazon because it recognizes you is CRM, not web analytics. Facebook happily using all the data you give it, reselling it or making whatever they want with it is CRM, not web analytics – risky business, but done with user consen – well… kind of. Services using Flash Cookies, be it ad networks, web analytics tools or web sites themselves storing data without user consent and rebuilding it even after the user consciously deleted it is illegal in my book… and it seems I’m not alone thinking that.

My take

Eric Peterson drafted a web analytics code of ethic and I’m glad he accepted to publish it under the umbrella of the Web Analytics Association instead of on his own. After calling on the WAA to be the voice of the industry, it would have been awkward to do otherwise! Lots of people talked about it on Twitter, commented on the blog, bloggers posted their own point of view and some vendors, like Webtrends, publicly took a stance (tip of the hat to them!). On my end, I updated my privacy policy to reflect the proposed code of ethic.

Certainly all good things. However, the WAA as an organization has about 1500 members, the whole web analytics engaged practitioners and consultants’ base represents about 5000 people worldwide. Let’s be realist… The WAA is a small fish compared to other, well established organizations such as the IAB, and honestly, pretty much insignificant when faced with structured privacy lobbying groups. It seems web analytics vendors are still more interesting in competing, purchasing and killing one another than joining a coalition and lobby for the future of the industry.

Other associations are already ahead, like the IAB Privacy self-regulation compliance icon which is being developed in collaboration with the Future of Privacy Forum. The WAA simply doesn’t have the resources and lobbying power. Considering Microsoft, Adobe and Yahoo are already members of the Future of Privacy Forum, I think the WAA should simply rally the IAB and the FPF.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Join me at eMetrics Washington DC, Oct 3-7

This time around will be my 14th time speaking at eMetrics - 4th year in a row in Washington DC. Call me crazy or call me a real web analytics advocate, from October 3-7, web analytics best and brightest will converge to share, learn and connect in Washington DC for eMetrics 2010.

Again, I will be very active on the floor and I hope to see you again, or meet you for the first time in real life!
  • October 5th, 4:05pm - You might have heard about it on my blog, on twitter, or from dozens of practitioners, vendors, and consultants who praised and referenced it: the Online Analytics Maturity Model. I will introduce the concept in a very fun and interesting way in “Measuring Your Organization's Web Analytics Maturity”. Don't miss it!
  • October 6th, 2:10pm - Submit your questions to in time for the “KPI Clinic, The Doctors Are In”! June Li, Angie Brown and myself will answer all you ever wanted to know about KPIs. well… we’ll try our best! And you can help us! Sure to be a lot of fun! :)
  • October 7th, full day - The session is just a teaser, if you want to go beyond the tactical aspects and really understand your organization dynamic when it comes to online analytics, come to my full day workshop entitled “Roadmap to Online Analytics Success”! A hundred people participated in this workshop throughout the world with a satisfaction rate of 98%! It's not too late to register.
The rest of the time, I will hang in a bunch of great sessions, listen to keynotes or hang out in the hallway where we'll have a chance to talk about things such as the evolution of the industry, the Web Analytics Association, my take on the WAA proposed code of ethicUBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics, business analysis or ULaval master-level course I'm teaching, meet people from iPerceptions, the new home for WASP, or share ideas about my new gig - gaAddons.

 That's a lot for a couple of days! And did I mention the lobby bar? :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

#measure flash mob!

I just conducted a pretty cool experiment I think nobody ever did before.

A #measure flash mob!

What is a #measure flash mob?

In the spirit of real life flash mobs, a #measure flash mob is
“a group of Twitter #measure people who assemble suddenly in a virtual place, crowd source their knowledge for a brief time to tackle a problem, then disperse.”
  • A simple problem statement or question
  • A rallying call on the #measure Twitter channel
  • One hour to tackle the question, after the delay the editing access are removed (but the raw document remains available for viewing)
  • @immeria will review & format the results which will be freely available as a blog post

What are the rules?

  • Every change is tracked with your Google id... so people won’t mess around deleting stuff and changes are monitored live.
  • Content should never be deleted, it is highlighted and the Insert/Comment feature is used
  • We don't worry about formatting...
  • Participants add their twitter name to the participants list

What were the results?

  • The first question was "Custom built or vendor? Is it better to use a vendor solution (either tags or logs) or develop your own custom-built solution?"
  • It was really cool to see the document coming alive as other people simultaneously edited
  • We used the chat sidebar to discuss at the same time
  • We could see people coming and going but sadly, we see them as "Anonymous #", although every change is tracked with the actual Google username
  • 34 #measure tweeps came to see the document
  • 8 actively edited something

Can we see the result?

For sure! The raw document is available in Google Docs and an edited version will be available shortly. Also, a #measure flash mob folder has been created to hold all project files.

I like the idea, when is the next one?

That's the trick! It's a surprise! I'll try to come with interesting topics and do it again. Why not send in your question and vote on submitted ones!

A big thank you to @gprzyklenk @aaronfossum @samuelhalle @keithmacd @vabeachkevin @rmanzanet @judah for their active participation in this first experiment!

Friday, August 27, 2010

How do you debug your Google Analytics tags?

In the wake of the Google tool to debug your tracking code announcement I thought it would be worth sharing some of the experience I gained trough years of implementations of various web analytics solutions, developing the Web Analytics Solution Profiler and conducting web site quality control.

The new Google tool is interesting and useful, but it might be a bit overtly simplistic and still requires a lot of manual intervention. Obviously, this topic is close to my field of expertise and I though I could share some tips.

Quality assurance of tags: an old issue

For the little story, I made the first version of WASP available in October of 2006 and before that I had spent a lot of time doing implementations and was faced with the quality assurance process issue. I guess I have spent a significant amount of time on this! For those who might have missed it, here are some of my previous posts on the topic of tags quality assurance:

How much can you test manually?

There are huge challenges in the QA process cycle. Manual testing is long and error prone (either with Firebug, HTTPWatch, Fiddler, IEWatch, Charles) and external scans (like Observepoint or SiteScanGA) are not always the best solutions for sites under development/behind firewall/secured.

Testing content areas driven off templates is fairly easy: identify a couple of pages using each of your templates and test only those, not the whole site. In WASP, you can start a crawl by specifying a local text file where you simply put the list of specific links you want to test.

Testing "processes" (checkout, registration, etc.) is particularly difficult but if I may preach for WASP again, one of the huge benefit is being "in context" - it can record the data as you go. You can use a session recorder and playback solution (I used DejaClick from AlertSite) but there are whole suites specifically built to facilitate the QA process in web development. Basically, you can record this part of the session and simply play it back whenever you need to test... and WASP will happily record the data so you can export it to Excel and check it out afterward.

A simple approach

Simply put, make tags QA an integral part of the overall web development QA process - whenever a template is modified or a process is touched it should be QA'ed again. There are usually "repro scripts" that are used to make sure the latest bug fix (related to tagging or not) doesn't break anything. Use those exact same scripts for tagging QA. It certainly requires IT & marketing collaboration, but I guess there is no easier alternative. Anyone who's been involved in web development knows no automation tool will magically pinpoint errors on your site... Make "quality" an integral part of your job!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How do you debug Adobe/Omniture SiteCatalyst implementations?

There is a fascinating discussion on "How do you debug Omniture SiteCatalyst implementations?" on the LinkedIn Omniture Enthusiasts group.

People proposed various tools and the conversation is evolving into the tagging QA process. Obviously a topic close to the work I have done on the Web Analytics Solution Profiler.

Quality assurance of tags: an old issue

For the little story, I made the first version of WASP available in October of 2006 and before that I had spent a lot of time doing implementations and was faced with the quality assurance process. I guess I have spent a significant amount of time on this issue! For those who might have missed it, here are some of my previous posts on the topic of tags quality assurance:

How much can you test manually?

There are huge challenges in the QA process cycle. Manual testing is long and error prone (either with Firebug, HTTPWatch, Fiddler, IEWatch, Charles) and external scans (like Observepoint or SiteScanGA) are not always the best solutions for sites under development/behind firewall/secured.

Testing content areas driven off templates is fairly easy: identify a couple of pages using each of your templates and test only those, not the whole site. In WASP, you can start a crawl by specifying a local text file where you simply put the list of specific links you want to test.

Testing "processes" (checkout, registration, etc.) is particularly difficult but if I may preach for WASP again, one of the huge benefit is being "in context" - it can record the data as you go. You can use a session recorder and playback solution (I used DejaClick from AlertSite) but there are whole suites specifically built to facilitate the QA process in web development. Basically, you can record this part of the session and simply play it back whenever you need to test... and WASP will happily record the data so you can export it to Excel and check it out afterward.

A simple approach

Simply put, make tags QA an integral part of the overall web development QA process - whenever a template is modified or a process is touched it should be QA'ed again. There are usually "repro scripts" that are used to make sure the latest bug fix (related to tagging or not) doesn't break anything. Use those exact same scripts for tagging QA. It certainly requires IT & marketing collaboration, but I guess there is no easier alternative. Anyone who's been involved in web development knows no automation tool will magically pinpoint errors on your site... Make "quality" an integral part of your job!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Napkyn - how web analytics should be

Would be analysts, consultants, practitioners and vendors alike often reach out and ask for career advice, coaching, tips & tricks or my opinion of the market. I was lucky to get help, support and advices from Avinash, Bryan Eisenberg, Jim Sterne, Brian Clifton, Joseph Carrabis and John Hossack from VKI Studios early on when I started WASP so I'm happy to "pay it forward". I'm inclined to give a hand as long as it is reasonable - beyond that I'm happy to propose my consulting services, play an advisory role or even defer to other agencies and consultants.

Sometimes I receive job offers, partnership opportunities or very interesting propositions. The answer is usually "thank you - but it took me over 20 years to get my freedom and I really enjoy it!". Plus, my position in the market is due in large part to this philosophy and independence - allowing me to work with many agencies and vendors.

Napkyn: outsourced professional digital analysis services

When Jim Cain, founder, and Nish Patel, first investor in Napkyn, approached me about their new venture, they basically described what could very well be the best approach to web analytics for most organizations: outsourced professional digital analysis services.

There are many ways to get started in web analytics but demand for skilled resources is far greater than availability. Napkyn brings the best aspects of both the consultant and employee approaches.
web analytics Job Trends graph

In short, the benefits of Napkyn are:
  • Answer the need for experienced, skilled resources
  • Reduce the time to recommendations & improve recommendations frequency
  • You take care of your core business while Napkyn's take care of it's own: analytics
  • The approach is cost effective - top skilled team at a very affordable price
You can review Napkyn's Web Analysts program advantages. There are other huge advantages I see in their approach: a) practitioners/employees are often pulled in all directions and stuck in internal politics and b) agencies developing your websites can't be judge and jury by also doing your analytics - by outsourcing to Napkyn you get a rigorous, independent and unbiased alternative.

My - independent - role with Napkyn

I found the approach so compelling that I accepted to be on Napkyn's Advisory Board. I'm happy to share my experience and work closely with the team to enhance their offering. In some cases, I had to pass on interesting consulting opportunities - I can now stay involved at a more strategic and supervisory role while Napkyn handles the bulk of the job. I have to say this is a non-exclusive agreement - I made sure to keep my independence and freedom - guaranteeing the best approach for each unique situation. Basically, Napkyn is another agency I'm happy to help out, work with and foster the continued improvement of the Online Analytics Maturity Model.

Friday, August 6, 2010

WAA member? Win a pass to The Art Of Marketing! Montreal, Sept 30th

I have a pass to giveaway for the greatest Montreal marketing event ever: The Art of Marketing, September 30th. There are only two conditions:

  1. You can make it to Montreal on September 30th - it would be a shame to waste this opportunity!
  2. You must be a Web Analytics Association member.
Contact me on Twitter or email me to enter the draw (I will randomly make the draw on September 1st).

Read more about this great event in my previous blog post.

Web Analytics Association Montreal (WAAM) meetup

You can also register for our next get together at Boris Bistro, September 29th, from 5:30pm until 8:30pm.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't miss this event: The Art of Marketing - Montreal, Sept. 30th

In web analytics and online marketing optimization, Avinash Kaushik, Mitch Joel and Seth Godin don't even need introduction. I'm trilled to see The Art of Marketing coming up to Montreal, September 30th: six authors sharing their cutting edge thinking and experience in a jam packed event!

Six speakers - an amazing day!

First, the speakers I've seen and authors I read:
  1. Seth Godin: ever heard of Tribes, Lynchpin or Purple Cow? Three marketing best sellers!
  2. Avinash Kaushik: web analytics anyone? His books, "Web analytics an hour a day" and "Web analytics 2.0" are on every web analyst bookshelf.
  3. Mitch Joel: Six Pixels of Separation - leading authority in social media
and the authors I need to discover:
  1. Jeffrey Gitomer: The Little Red Book Of Selling is all about selling, loyalty, customer service and more
  2. Max Lenderman: Brand New World, honestly havent read his book yet, but "dive into the multi-billion-dollar racket of brand fakery" is sure to be interesting!
  3. Andy Nulman: author of POW! Right Between the Eyes!

Win a free pass!

Email with your top five list of marketing books and be entered to win two tickets to The Art of Marketing!

I submitted mine. I’m focused on web analytics and business optimization so my pick list reflects those preferences and how they affected my view of marketing.
  1. Web Metrics, by Jim Sterne – considered to be the Godfather of web analytics, Jim was talking about online marketing and optimization way back then. A classic still worth the read!
  2. Web Analytics an Hour a day, by Avinash Kaushik – by democratizing access to web analytics, the coming of Google Analytics was a major shift for online marketing measurement. Through his unique communication style, Avinash basically made it even more accessible!
  3. Competing on analytics, by Tom Davenport – for demonstrating how data-driven management can lead to a competitive advantage.
  4. Marketing Management, by Philip Kotler – the classic intro to marketing and one I really enjoyed during my eBusiness MBA.
  5. The Attention Economy, by Tom Davenport – understanding the new currency of business – attention – was an eye opener for me and influenced my marketing strategy recommendations and even the way I conduct business.

Register early!

I will be there and the event is sure to sell out so you should register early! And for you, my esteemed readers, I have a 50$ promo code! When registering, enter SK23 to get the discount.

And there's more!

On September 29th I'll be speaking at InfoPresse day about social media metrics and during the evening we'll certainly do another Web Analytics Association Montreal (WAAM) meetup (stay tuned for details).

It's not me, it's him! Reaction to WSJ "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets"

The Wall Street Journal - according to their own detailed stats, is read by 3.5M people - "the number speaks for themselves" as they say... I wonder how they gathered all this great knowledge about their readers - but I digress... One would expect such a "leading business publication" to be rigorous, unbiased and seek to get the stories and point of views from all angles.

This is certainly not the case in a recent article by Julia Angwin entitled "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets". The article is getting a lot of attention on social media, generating tons of comments and being perceived as a good educational piece and eye opener... But it is raising strong critics from the web analytics industry thought leaders including John Lovett, Anil Batra, as well as Omar Tawakol on Adage, the CEO of BlueKai cited in the WSJ article. Jim Sterne, the "godfather of web analytics", incidentally wrote on this very topic in You Say, "Creepy." I Say, "That's What I Want", just a few days before the WSJ article was published.

Update 2010-08-05: other blog reactions from Andy Beal and Alex Yoder, CEO of WebTrends

Confusion and sensationalism

Should I say there is a lot of confusion? Do you hear me shouting "THIS IS A MESS!"
  • Ad networks, behavioral targeting, business analytics, web analytics are all mixed up into one big melting pot of "spying and bad boy". Yes, the DNA of business is data - be it your local grocery store owner welcoming a "20-something female" or Expedia "looking at visitors coming from New York seeking for a trip to Los Angeles" or using cameras to optimize the flow of highway traffic during rush hour, it's all about marketing & optimization: understanding the client and making the right offer. There is nothing bad or evil about the desire to understand people, their behavior, and please them ethically, honestly and with respect.
  • Yes, there are spoiled apples in the lot, but serious organizations take great care about the way they collect, manage and use data - one of their most, if not THE most valuable asset. The WSJ article is a sensational piece playing on strongly biased common cultural fear, uncertainty and doubt about "evil spying"...
  • Some reactions have been "look at the WSJ, they use ad networks, web analytics, behavioral targeting and know a hell of a lot about me!" or "others are doing it". However, this is not the right reaction - imagine the thief telling the judge "yeah, but they stole much more than I did!"...

What to do?

As web analytics professionals, as a young and mostly unregulated and disorganized industry, I believe we need to do three things I would call the SIT approach (yes, I love acronyms!):
  • Self-regulate ourselves before legislation does: several countries are in the process or have already defined laws setting the boundaries of privacy and data disclosure. Whenever regulation looks into something like this, the remedy is often worse than the illness, so we would be much better taking matter in our hands and set very strict guidelines and best practices.
  • Identify spoiled apples among us: an independent auditing process and frequently reviewed stamp of approval should be apposed to sites and solution vendors abiding by the above mentioned rules. Just like their are "certified organic" food or "secure seal" on ecommerce sites, there should be a "privacy conscious" stamp of approval for those who merit it.
  • offer full Transparency: sites generally have privacy policies but they are often out of data or incomplete. Furthermore, the common use of 3rd party scripts to enrich and augment the user experience often leads to additional data being collected without even the site manager being aware of it. When I created WASP it quickly gained popularity among non-technical/non-analytics people because it conveniently showed exactly which data was being collected - and if any of it was considered to be harmful by the user. During the development process, I asked several vendors for detailed descriptions of their analytics tags - most of them didn't have the info readily available or plainly refused to disclose what each value-pair of data means and is being used for. We should be able to go on any site privacy page and get a detailed view of all the data being collected, their purpose, time of retention and how to clear them.
In the past we've said we need to "educate" and do "marketing" - we are beyond the obvious. We need to act.

Who can do it?

There is only one organization positioned to offer the independence, leadership and global recognition to address those three points: the Web Analytics Association. Yes, I am biased: I'm closely involved with the WAA and I'm on the Board of Directors, but my wish is there will be more vendors coordination and openness, more vendors, agencies and large organizations alike becoming corporate members, unite and speak our voice. We need to counterbalance the fear and misinformation being spread by articles such as the WSJ or privacy lobbying groups mixing up everything into a big poisonous soup.

How to do it?

The WAA is a volunteer based organization - both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it gives lots of opportunities for those who want to get involved, on the other it makes it difficult to invest in long-term initiatives. SIT can only work if a) there is fund, b) there are dedicated people, c) vendors and large sites enters the program... so a) create a special fund, b) contract/hire the right people, c) start with WAA corporate members.

When do we start?

Friday, July 16, 2010

gaAddons v2.0 - now with async!

Update: gaAddons v2 is available at

I'm currently alpha testing gaAddons v2.0 on my blog and my site - and you can help me simply by visiting any of my sites and click on outbound links, downloads and email links!

What is gaAddons?
It's a collection of useful enhancements to extend and improve upon the default Google Analytics implementation. It actually leverage the popular jQuery light-weight and powerful JavaScript library.

I had created a first version a while ago - still available here - but you are really better off waiting for v2!

What's in v2?

  • Use the new async calls
  • Track outbound, downloads and email links using events ("fake" pageview mode also supported)
  • Track real bounce rate by triggering an event after 30 seconds on a page (default)
  • Avoid affecting bounce rate when events are on 1st page view of a visit (default)
  • Easily customize the default options
  • Use a tagging syntax identical to Google Analytics style
There are a number of ideas and features upcoming - use Support to share feedback & ideas!


You will notice the code bellow is a slightly modified version of the default GA tags:
<script type="text/javascript">
   var _gaq = _gaq || [];
      ['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X'],

   var gaAddons = gaAddons || [];

   (function() {
      var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
      ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '';
      var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
      var gaAddons = document.createElement('script'); gaAddons.type = 'text/javascript'; gaAddons.async = true;
      gaAddons.src = 'gaAddons-2.0.min.js';
      s.parentNode.insertBefore(gaAddons, s);

That's all you'll have to do to start getting additional metrics under Content/Event Tracking.


Wait for my signal before using this code on your own site - I'm currently alpha-testing and there are chances you might screw up your Google Analytics data - and I will not support you!

There will be a beta-test phase where you will be invited to test it on your own site.

  1. Head to the gaAddons v2.0 page and look for the Test Cases at the bottom of the page
  2. Click on  a couple of outbound links, downloads and mailto
  3. That's all I need from you to help me out!
This will a) allow me to quickly get sample data and b) test several conditions using different browsers c) test the unknown!

Please use Support to send in any feedback, ideas, thoughts or just share a comment on the blog.