Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Job Hunting - Web Analytics 2.what?

I recently got laid off from my job and was thrust back into the search for new employment. While this is stressful it was also an awesome opportunity to learn what others are doing in the field.

Naturally I want to stick with Web Analytics so I started looking on all the big job sites, i.e. Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, Indeed, etc... What I found was pretty discouraging. There were a few web analytics jobs out there but not many. A lot of them were Business Analysts, Marketing Analyst, or Reporting Analyst positions which only had web analytics as a small subset of their job descriptions.

For the ones I did find it was an interesting interview process to say the least. You keep reading on blogs and in books about Web Analytics 2.0 and providing actionable, customer centric insight but few companies are there yet (at least not in Dallas or Fort Worth, granted, not exactly the analytics hub of the country). A lot of them have just started with Google Analytics or some are hiring because they just got a big tool like Omniture and they don't know what to do with it. When I would bring up things like competitive intelligence or voice of customer (VOC) analysis I would often be greeted with blank stares or a long pause and then I would get something like "I think we have a Customer Insight group in the marketing department that handles that."

I guess my point is this... From an employee perspective I was hoping to find a company that was involved in all of the Web Analytics 2.0 stuff so that I could go in and suck it up like a dry sponge but all the people I have talked to (and there have been many) either A) have not ventured beyond click stream analysis or B) don't know that there is anything beyond click stream analysis, or C) I guess there could be companies doing everything and just are not hiring an analyst right now :)

At first I was hugely disappointed in my findings then I began to think of the enormous opportunities out there. These people only have the tiniest insight into what true web analytics can provide for their business and for someone willing to lead them down that path I have no doubt that glories and riches await. Instead of going into a company and trying to leach knowledge off of someone that has already done the heavy lifting we have the opportunity to go in and be the hero. Time to turn academic theory and knowledge into customer satisfaction and profit!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Word of the Day: HiPPO's

I've seen this term a lot in a few blogs so thought I would pass it along.

HiPPO = Highest Paid Person's Opinion

It's fun to use and now you know what it means.


Monday, March 22, 2010

What's Your Favorite Site?

I love Woot.com. I visit that site everyday to see what new product and shirt they have and to read the content.

It's funny because when you walk around the office you see people on their favorite sites weather it is Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, or whatever it is you normally don't see them on the site for the company they work for. Now this isn't huge problem for a lot of people but when you work on the web team you would think you would know your site inside and out.

I was recently helping someone with their site. They were doing an A/B test and need help doing the analysis. No problem, glad to help. After a couple of weeks I gave them the results and the alarms instantly started going off.

"Is this right?"

"Did you look at the right stuff?"
Let me double check, yes

"I need to see your code, this can't be right."
At this point it was obvious, it wasn't that they expected a certain result it's that they didn't understand something fundamental about the test, so I asked them "What is it that you were expecting to happen and why?

"Well the total conversions from the test don't equal the total site conversions."
Yeah, I know...so?

"Well, why?"
Well, because, the two test pages are not the only places on the site to convert from.

"But we are testing two floating pages that the customer can't get past unless they convert. They have to convert from there."

That's when I sat down with the guy and showed him his site. The page leading to the test had at least 7 links on it that went down a different conversion path. It wasn't immediate but it ended up there.

This was a guy that had been working with that particular site for at least a couple of years and was supposed to be the expert on it. It's not that he was stupid or that he didn't care it's just that he spent so much time in the weeds doing stuff that he never took the time to surf the site he was working on.

Over the years this has been a reoccurring phenomenon that I have noticed and yes, I'm ashamed to say, I've even fallen prey to it before. We get so busy checking page tags, running reports, analyzing A/B tests, and looking for low hanging fruit that will bump conversion half a percent that we sometimes forget to use the product we're trying to improve and not just use it from an analysts point of view but try using it from a customers point of view.

Take an hour a week while your watching 24 or something and surf your site. Do searches on Google, Bing, Ask, etc... to see how your site ranks, clink on the links to see what pages it takes you to. Do searches on your own site, does it return results? A couple of times a year actually buy something from your site and compare it to your favorite sites, how does it compare? Obviously there's a ton of stuff you can do but you get the point. Do it and it will provide just what the doctor ordered, insight!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A 1000 Words But Do They Form Questions or Answers?

How many of you have seen a graph like this?

What does it tell you?

Obviously it tells you that you're doing better this year than last year at getting traffic to your site but what do you think is going to happen when you send this to your boss or present it to the marketing or merchandising teams?

Someone will invariable ask what happened in January and June this year? Undoubtedly, being the analytical Schwarzenegger you are you've already done your due diligence and looked into this prior to the meeting. You immediately reply with "January we had some inventory issues so we pulled our banner ads for that month and June we stepped up the Father's day advertising and had some online only deals".

In my opinion a graph like this should tell a story of what happened and answer more questions than it raises. Why not add some insight to the graph like so...

By taking a few minutes to figure out what caused the dips and spikes in the graph you are providing insight. Plus, instead of spending 15 minutes of the meeting with people asking what happened here and there you save the speculation and guessing and provided a detailed account of what occurred and the impact it had.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hit This!

So I was watching this weeks episode of House last night which was about a blogger that House and team must figure out what's wrong with before she dies...imagine that. Anyway, being the attention hog that she was she had to blog about everything in her life, even serious medical decisions, which her significant other was pretty upset about. His come back was something like you care more about the number of hits you get than talking to me about this.

I've been in web analytics for about 4 years and I've never, ever, used hits to track anything. In fact, hits is such an archaic term that an acronym has been cunningly devised for it... H.I.T.S. - How Idiots Track Success.

For those of you that don't know exactly what a hit is let me explain it. A hit is basically a request sent for something on a web page. Just to show how completely worthless this would be in tracking website success look at a site like Tiger Direct, see all those pictures of products? Each one of those counts as a hit. The Free Shipping offer at the top of the page, that's a hit. 48 Hour Component Clearance on the right side....yep, that's a hit. In all this page has several dozen items that would constitue a hit and that's just one page. If you were tracking 50 hits per page on a site that gets several thousand or hundred thousand visitors per day then you can quickly see how out of hand hits can become as a metric and how worthless it truly is.

It cracks me up that the original vernacular has reached a level of public consumption as to be used in a prime time TV show but that web analytics hasn't been popular enough for people to keep up with the current ways of tracking website success. It's actually kind of ironic given the proliferation of people with blogs and personal sites provided by their ISP or Google.

I guess the question is (and I'll leave this open ended) why don't more people know that tracking unique visitors would be a more accurate way of tracking website success and why don't they know how completely worthless Hits really is? Is it a failure of web analyst for not correcting people enough or getting the word out or is it just the slow adoption of web analytics in general? With the launch of Google analytics I would think that there would be enough tech junkies out there that would employ it and start spreading the word, but obviously not. Would love to get your feedback on this, write a comment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Predictive Power of data

At the beginning of the last century it was thought that the universe was static and unchanging. Some of sciences greatest minds believed it with all their hearts including Einstein. When developing his General Theory of Relativity the equations actually predicted that the universe must be in motion, either expanding or contracting. He ended up fudging the numbers to cancel out this force to maintain his beloved static universe. Either that or he had a Nostradamus like vision that allowed him to predict the presence of Dark Matter & Dark Energy....but I digress.

Eventually it was discovered by observation that the universe was indeed expanding from a "big bang". One of the implications of this was the fact that if everything in the universe started from a super dense and tiny spec then it must have been very hot. Now as it expands it cools but some of that heat should be left over. Tedious calculations determined that that heat should now be in the form of microwave radiation that has an equivalent temperature of 2.726 degrees above absolute zero...this is the temperature of the universe.

In 1989 the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite was launched to confirm this data and the results were announced the following year. The results were so stunningly in line with the predictions that the scientists literally had increase the size of their error bars on the diagram because they were originally smaller than the thickness of the line that made up the graph.

This, in my opinion has two morals that we can take away with us. One is that no matter how brilliant someone is and what the data is telling them there is still personal prejudice and bias that sometimes has to be over come. Einstein later stated that the cosmological constant that he added to his equations to keep the universe static was the greatest blunder of his life but can you imagine trying to argue with him before that realization that the data doesn't support his views? Two, if data can be used to predict the temperature of the universe 13.7 billion years after the big bang to such a high degree of certainty imagine what it can do for your business. We only have one universe to study and can only study it as it is in its current state. For a website we have thousands, of people coming to them every day, the data that we can collect is enormous, and the potential for growth through data based decision making is seemingly infinite.

Welcome to Neural Perturbations where we'll explore those infinite possibilities of data based decision making through web analytics...or any other random thoughts that happen to take over my cortex that day.