Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is one person impact on the web analytics community?

I especially enjoyed reading Kevin Hillstrom article this morning: "Hashtag Analytics: Removing a Member of the Community". Not only because Kevin is one of the top marketing analyst and writes great and useful articles, but especially because I was the subject of an experiment in the small Twitter #measure community.

What is the significance of "2%"?

I'm not sure which is most disturbing to me "fine young man" or "about 2% of the community no longer participates".

I think Kevin analysis is robust when it comes to the small #measure community on Twitter. However, it's also a bit disturbing to me...
  • 2%: is it a low or high community impact? It's hard to tell without some benchmarking
  • there is no "multiplicity" aspect to the analysis; it doesn't account for any other activities but Twitter.

It's not about me, it's about the community

When Eric Peterson mentioned several times "It’s not about you, it’s about the community..." on Twitter and in a blog post, there were some subtle messages that ended up creating some level of discomfort and misunderstanding in the community. Myself included.

First, we have to wonder what is the "web analytics community"? Is it the Twituniverse? Is it only what happens online and is visible to most? Kevin analysis doesn't account for the non-twitter activities that might be contributing even more to the growth of our industry. Once we understand this limit we can better appreciate the quality of his work.

For example, I salute Eric willingness to recognize others contributions in our community and I was sincerely touched when he said Stéphane "brings an enthusiasm to his work in the web analytics community that few can match and so I appreciate his passion". The recent initiative from Jason Thompson to help bring water to local communities in need - although it has little to do with our web analytics community - is a great cause and several people in the #measure community were happy to contribute. This exemplifies a community of interest that extends toward other causes and important subject matters.

What do I (and you) want from the community?

It's not about "me", but it is certainly about a passion I have for what I do. In "The best promotion I never got: My new year’s resolution advice", Rommil Sandiago puts it this way:
  • I want to make my mark
  • I want to be recognized for my efforts
  • I seek to not only challenge the status-quo but achieve results in doing so
  • But most importantly, I want to be trusted with something strategically important
Regardless of our experience and how involved we are in the community I think most of us are motivated by a sense of accomplishment. At least for me, accomplishment is a much stronger motivator than money!

Accomplishments: personal

While I was enjoying a great job with very good compensation, I still wanted to accomplish something more. One of the key accomplishment of my career was to take online classes to do an eBusiness MBA while working, catering to my family and starting my own business. It took me six years to get my degree. Despite the fact I didn't have an undergraduate degree I ended up being twice on the honor roll - and I'm now teaching a graduate class on web analytics which I'm especially proud of.

Make a mark; be recognized; challenge status-quo and shift toward a more strategic role.

Accomplishments: for myself, for the community

Helping the "community" can take different shapes and forms - be it our little #measure community, raising money to provide water in poor countries as Jason did, or being a volunteer medical first responder - as I did - but that's not the point... Here are some of the personal accomplishments I'm proud of, most of which had an impact on the web analytics community:
  • Web Analytics Solution Profiler: I pioneered the first true "in context" QA tool for web analytics in 2006. Since then, other products have emerged, be it tools like Ghostery which allows you to block web analytics tools or ObservePoint which came out and offered a slightly different approach. Note that WASP is now fully owned by iPerceptions. Maybe, in some ways, I have contributed to an increased awareness of the importance of tagging quality and made a little step toward Tag Management Systems - thus my interest and recent announcement of my involvement with TagMan.
  • Online Analytics Maturity Model: see the little story behind the Online Analytics Maturity Model.
  • gaAddons: enhancements for Google Analytics, is more recent and is gaining great momentum.
  • Web Analytics Association: I've been deeply involved with the WAA - to the extent of publicly taking a stance when folks where bashing it (think member value, globalization and Certification). Volunteering on a number of committees like Education and Certification. Spending two years on the Board and as Treasurer and countless hours doing volunteer work "behind the scene".
  • Web Analysts Without Borders: Adam Laughlin, myself and a bunch of volunteers gave their time to literally become team members of SaveTheChildren.org.
  • UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics: over the years, I have tutored over 650 students and the feedback is always very positive. Students likes the fact I'm going beyond the course content and share my experience, tips & tricks, and like my teaching style.
  • ULaval MRK-6005 web analytics, graduate level class: this is another way of getting involved in the community. I could spend more time consulting - it would be much more profitable - but teaching isn't just about sharing my knowledge, it's also an amazing way for me to continue to learn. Also, as part of the learning process, we helped the Sainte-Justine UHC Foundation.
  • Web Analytics Wednesdays local meetups: I started doing Web Analytics Wednesday in 2006 but eventually realized the WAW solution wasn't right for me: it was in English while my audience is French, I could as well find local sponsors and email members in my community directly.
  • Web Analytics Canada - Québec LinkedIn Group: I created the group about a week ago and it's already over 100 members strong. A small step toward an official WAA Chapter! This is in addition to the 400+ subscribers to my "Analytique Web au Québec" newsletter.
  • eMetrics and other conferences: with San Francisco and Toronto coming up, it will be my 15th time speaking at eMetrics. Being part of the community also means I invested time & money to get there, share and learn.

Parting thoughts

In this day and age of social media and ease of getting all kinds of metrics it's easy to fall for popularity contests and boast ourselves of being among the top in any given industry. At the end of the day, when finally getting to bed after a long day of work, can we look back and feel we've accomplished something useful and positive for ourselves, our family and our community?

No metric will tell you the answer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

gaAddons v2.1.2 released!

The gaAddons user base is growing and I'm happy to announce the general availability of gaAddons v2.1.2.


Bug fixes

  • _trackDownload & _trackOutbound are now "stackable" - meaning you can have them appear multiple times in a single push() call.
  • Fix CSS3 selector for _trackOutbound, _trackMailTo, _formAnalysis
  • _setXDomain now add parameters only when the click/mouseup event is fired instead of automatically changing all links (which caused issues when the page was reloaded)
  • _setXDomain now excludes email links automatically
  • Removed support for "area" elements in _trackOutbound and _trackMailTo

Ideas for the next release

Now that the code base is pretty strong & stable, I will be able to shift gear and work on other cool features such as:
  • Internal campaign tracking
  • Social media tracking (like the Facebook like, ShareThis, AddThis and such)
  • YouTube video tracking
  • eCommerce micro-format support
Please let me know which ones you would like to see first - or any other ideas!

Using gaAddons? I want to hear from you!

The user base is growing steadly with the addition over 125 new site owners testing or already using gaAddons in just a month. I'm receiving lots of positive feedback and I'm grateful to the early adopters who continues to help with the beta releases cycles.

I'm tracking the number of downloads and obviously keeping an eye on sales, but one of the thing I'm not doing very efficiently right now is keeping a tab of which sites are really using gaAddons. This will change in the coming weeks with the addition of a Google authentication requirement and some cool benefits for subscribers.

In the meantime, if you have stories to share about how gaAddons helped you I would love to hear them!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Joining the Tagman advisory board

Paul Cook, CEO and founder of TagMan, a Tag Management System (TMS) with real-time attribution announced that Mike Peralta, COO of search re-targeting business Magnetic and myself have joined the company's advisory board. The announcement comes a few days after Series A funding round.

To celebrate the fundraising, Tagman released a funny short video spoofing Star Wars (see it on YouTube).

I'm really excited to join the other members of TagMan's advisory board: John Marshall, founder of ClickTracks and Market Motive, providing training courses and certification in online marketing; Calvin Lui, former President & CEO of Tumri; and Tom Sipple, a Vice President at Interactive Corporation leading the monetization strategy, direct sales, aggregator partners, mobile and advertising operations groups for Dictionary.com

About my role with Tagman, Paul said "Stéphane is a leading voice in the enterprise analytics technology community" - I'm bringing my experience in resolving tagging challenges and will be sharing my views of the web analytics evolving market. Tagman pioneered the tag management system space and have developed a robust and effective approach. This is a logical step; with WASP, the Web Analytics Solution Profiler (now owned by iPerceptions), I pioneered the concept of “in-context quality assurance of tags”. I believe WASP contributed to increased awareness to the need of serious tag management solutions.

This role is directly aligned with my 2011 objective of strengthening my position as an independent thought leader. I'm already playing an advisory role to iPerceptions and the Napkyn agency in Ottawa. I'm also providing feedback and comments to a number of startups and other announcements are on the way.

Leveraging the Online Analytics Maturity Model approach, I'm also coaching several agencies who wants to further develop their web analytics practice. Of course, I still offer my services directly to clients; however, in 2010 I had to pass on great opportunities because I was overloaded. I was often solicited for consulting or simply for guidance to select an agency or vendor. Especially for agencies, the non-exclusive agreements guarantee prospective clients will be directed to the partner best suited to answer their needs - based on their maturity, geographic region and verticals. This is creating a healthy and dynamic ecosystem where everyone is winning.

Don't hesitate to contact me to know more about Tagman or the services I can offer - be it for maturity audit and guidance or advisory role to vendors and agencies.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Upcoming events, speaking appearance & other stuff

There are a lot of activities going on in the web analytics and social media space, be it here in Québec or far & abroad. I tought I should do a little recap:
  • SWAFF - Soirée Web et Affaires (***free - tonight***)
    January 20th, Québec-city: networking activity for online profesionals.
    I will be there & I have invited the MBA students in my ULaval web analytics class to attend.
  • Conférence Infopresse: Web analytique, SEO et SEM
    January 25th, Montréal
    I spoke at this conference in the past - always a very interesting event focused on online marketing, social media, etc.
    Web Analytics Association members gets a discount!
  • WebÉducation: social media (*** free! ***)
    January 27th, Québec
    This event is aimed at government and non-profits but everyone is welcome. My good friend Alex Langshur from PublicInsite, as well as Catherine Morissette a lawyer with strong experience in ethical and legal aspects of the online world, will join me to talk about social media.
    • Alex will talk about the role of analytics and social media at the Public Health Agency of Canada during the H1N1 crisis
    • Catherine will share her expertise about intellectual property, deffamation and other important aspects
    • I will talk about social media strategy from a business angle and how to measure the impact of our activities
    • We will end the day with a round table where we will (*try*) to answer your questions!

  • Conférence Les Affaires - réseau sociaux
    February 15-17th, Montréal
    Les Affaires is a leading financial and business publication in Québec - and when you get finance &  managers to look into social media, it as a tendency to go beyond Twitter followers and Facebook friends. The conference format is very interesting, starting off with a full day introductory workshop on the 15th, followed by case studies on the 16th, closing up with some additional workshops on the 17th. I will manage a half-day workshop social media measurement and ROI calculation. You might want to join the LinkedIn group created for the event (in French).
    Get a 2-for-1 discount!

  • Le Web à Québec
    February 23-27, Québec
    A new conference in Québec-city. Twenty professionals collaborate to offer a conference, training, workshops and even a competition named "Iron Web". I'm not speaking but my friend Jacques Warren will talk about SEO and web analytics. I hope to be able to free up some time!
  • eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit (San Francisco)
    March 13-18, San Francisco
    This is THE web analytics event of the year in the known world! I will be there to do a repeat of the acclaimed session I did in Washington: Measuring Your Organization's Web Analytics Maturity, repeat the "KPI clinic" with June Li, and close up the conference with the Roadmap to Online Analytics Success full day workshop.
  • Click Summit 2011 April 14-15th, Charlotte, NC
    I will open with a brief introduction on the topic of "Online Analytics Maturity: How Your Organization Compares" and 15-20 peers will then engage in closed-door and confidential discussion.
  • eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit (Toronto)
    April 26-29th, Toronto
    Ok, the above is way cool... but this one is THE web analytics event of the year in Canada! I will be there to do a repeat of the acclaimed session I did in Washington: Measuring Your Organization's Web Analytics Maturity, repeat the "KPI clinic" with June Li, and close up the conference with the Roadmap to Online Analytics Success full day workshop.

The "other stuff"

  • During last week "Web Analytics Meetup" we discussed the need for a LinkedIn group dedicated to the web analytics community in Québec. The group is already 99 people strong!
  • On top of developing and fostering the local community and speaking here and there, I will spend some time to put together a local event focused on web analytics. There are already a lot of great events but we're looking for something different - something focused on the great stuff web analytics practitioners are doing here: case studies by practitioners, a "camp" format, a "web analytics academy" competition, etc. A LinkedIn sub-group has been created to look into it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Case study: tracking PDF documents with web analytics

The scenario

You send a newsletter to a select group of corporate clients. The email contains a link to a PDF document (call it P1.pdf) hosted on your web server. Within that document there is a link to another document called P2.pdf. This second document contains article summaries pointing to several external pages. Your boss asked you to provide the following information:
  1. How many people opened P1.pdf?
  2. How many people click to see P2.pdf?
  3. How many click on external links from P2.pdf?
To make things a little bit more complex, you are sitting in marketing and you know the IT release cycle takes some time. You also only have access to an older implementation of Webtrends and would prefer to use Google Analytics.

Solution path

Here we are facing a classic example: it's very common to find older Webtrends implementation and a tendency to see the Holy Grail in Google Analytics.

Webtrends Analytics (not the On Demand service), because it uses logs, has a built in report to answer this need. But we can also instrument the email itself. Legitimate requests can become quite complex... so let's try to simplify that.
  • Email tracking:
    The starting point, which is easier, is to make sure your email is properly tagged as a campaign (suppose we will call it ABC) Email solution providers will tell you how many emails were sent, delivered, opened, and which links within those emails were clicked. Some solutions will even allow you to tag each email individually so you'll know exactly who opened it and clicked. It won't give a perfectly accurate picture but it will be precise enough - especially if you have a large subscriber base (which isn't the case in this scenario).
  • Opens or downloads? People or requests?
    In Webtrends you won't know how many people really opened P1.pdf or clicked to get P2.pdf - you will know how many devices requested a downloaded from your server [unless you use the unique tagging technique outlined above or have some other kind of authentication before allowing the document to download]. If the document is sent around internally you won't know it. Also, because of network caching and such, you will not get a perfectly accurate account of the downloads.
  • P2 downloaded from P1 or somewhere else?
    In P1.pdf, if you modify the link to P2.pdf to be something like P2.pdf?cid=ABC you will be able to make the distinction between P2 downloaded because of your campaign vs other reasons. But again, the picture won't be perfect but certainly good enough.
  • The world beyond your control
    You are left with external links... Those are within P2.pdf so tags won't work. They go to external sites so you can't just add ?cid=ABC to them... Here we won't have any other choice but using redirects. The concept involves creating a server-side script that will relay the query to it's final destination, capturing data at the same time [it's easy to find such scripts for various technologies, but you'll definitely need the help of IT to tweak it]. Instead of linking to http://othersite.com you would link to mysite.com/redir.php?dest=http://othersite.com. Again, if you are using Webtrends, you will get a server-log request and it will be easy to create a custom report just for that.

Additional notes

  • If you absolutely want to use GA you could use the redir solution for all links. However... I believe measurement should never come in the way of user experience. Customers first!
  • There are some PDF tracking solutions out there but I never personally used any of them and my little research revealed nothing very serious or reliable (I'll update this post if someone prove me wrong).

Most optimal & realistic solution: making web analytics easy

As we've seen, this could become complex and take some time to implement. We want to make web analytics easy - work on what we can control and provide quick incremental ROI.

I would start by making sure emails are properly tagged. Then, if possible, I would use the unique ID technique to know who opened the files. Beyond that, the cost of acquiring the information might not justify the effort. We can also wonder if decisions would be taken differently with additional data.

What do you think? Do you see other alternatives or solutions?
(thanks to @jfmonfette for this great question!)