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January 23, 2008

2007: A Turning Point For Web Analytics?

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ClickZ’s Neil Mason posted a great interview with Avinash Kaushik today where the Web analytics legend dishes on the state of the industry, what’s coming and why he feels that 2007 was the turning point for Web analytics. The whole interview was delicious but it’s that last part that really got my attention.

Was 2007 really something of a turning point for Web analytics?
Having attended exactly 4 million conferences last year, I can definitely say that analytics seemed to be getting far more attention from both business owners and SEOs themselves than it did in 2006. Not that that’s particularly surprising.

The Web has become big business. Site owners want to know what is happening on their site and what changes they can make to improve ROI. At the same time, SEOs are using Web analytics as their number one signal for understanding where improvement need to be made and for monitoring (and when necessary, proving) the effectiveness of a search engine optimization campaign. As the amount of dollars being thrown at the Web increases, so does the need for accountability.

And the increased interest in analytics gave way for a monumental amount of new tracking platforms to sprout up. Every time you turned around new companies were forming and consolidating, both in the States and throughout the UK. Omniture acquired Visual Sciences, Offermatica and Touch Clarity. Google acquired DoubleClick. Microsoft acquired aQuantive. And those were just the brightest spots on the radar.

The need for accountability combined with the availability of technology leaves business and SEO companies better equipped to fight for that all elusive single view of their marketing effectiveness. They have people breathing down their necks asking which is the most profitable sales channel, what consumers are most interested in, why no one is filling out that form on their Web site, how offline promotions are tying in with online creations, why newsletter subscriptions just died, etc. Web analytics provides an answer to things like traffic fluctuations, the number of unique visitors, abandoned shopping carts, conversion rates, etc.

But it can only do that when you use the information to effect change. You can’t just sit on it and congratulate yourself for being so proactive about your expanding data collection. Your company is not a museum. Stop storing things and putting them on display. Get someone in there who can read the numbers and decipher what they mean and then apply that to improve all site activities. There are different metrics for Measuring Reach, Measuring Retention, and Measuring Conversion. Learn it, live it, love it.

All that being said, I’m not sure people are any better informed this year than they were last about how to really use Web analytics, and that’s a problem. We know it’s important but it’s still something of an ordeal trying to collect the data and then figuring out how to use it in a way that is actually useful. That’s what needs to be improved upon in 2008-the education. I know Bruce has revamped the analytics section in our SEO training course and the numbers of Web analytics conferences are growing by leaps and bounds. Hopefully people will take advantage of the growing opportunity and really learn how to use these new analytics tools and what is Web analytics. It’s worth noting that we’ll also be adding the San Francisco eMetrics Summit to our liveblogging calendar this year and I, for one, am panicked. Not because I’m not interested in Web analytics but because I have very little understanding of how it works and what’s important and how I should be looking at all this new data I’ve collected. I think a lot of business owners are the same way and hopefully this year we’ll change all that.

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