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August 14, 2006

Five Problems Facing Web Analytics

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A few weeks back, Jason Burby asked why it was so hard to get marketers to act on analytics data. Today, everyone gets their answer.

Jim Sterne wrote a great article for DM News’ Special Report on Web Analytics that gives readers The Top Five Pain-Points for Web Analysts Today. For me, it’s one of the standout articles of the entire report.

Why aren’t marketers putting as much effort into analytics as they should? Jim says it’s because despite all the advantages that come from performing Web analytics on your site, “it’s not all roses and honey”. Web analytics is difficult to master and few understand its true complexity.

Jim breaks down Web analytics five “pain-points”:

  • It’s Rocket Surgery — To be a good analyst, you need to measure beyond the clickthrough (yes, beyond the clickthrough), identify and optimize discrete business practices, and being able to use Web analytics as a visionary tool to see into the hearts and minds of the marketplace.
  • Good People Are In Short Supply – And by “good people”, he means “math people”. Who else is going to be able to understand and explain Zipf’s law and the Taguchi Method. [Taguchi? That's related to those little eggish-pets teenage girls used to carry around, right?]
  • It’s Much Harder as an Afterthought – Jim compares “retrofitting analytics” to “trying to figure out how to attach a speedometer to a finished car”.
  • It Doesn’t Add Up — No tool will tell you exactly how many visitors came to your site or exactly how many pages they looked at, but over time tracking your analytics will a clearer idea than you would have had otherwise.
  • Best Practices Are Best Kept Secrets – Would you give away all your trade secrets?

So how do you combat these obstacles without resorting to kidnapping mathematical scholars and bugging offices to learn trade secrets?

Marketers need to start out by creating sites that are SEO and analytics friendly. Make sure you’re starting out with the right framework. You may want to peruse our new Design section for hints. Marketers must also acknowledge and accept the fact that Web analytics is an investment and not something that will happen on its own. You need to take steps to educate yourself (takes classes, attend workshops, etc.), to live in the small tweaks of your site, and to throw yourself into controlled A/B testing. Your conversions are in the details.

We believe the risk involved with not having a Web analytics program far outweighs the cost and time involved with investing in one. Without analytics you don’t know what you don’t know. And that could be a lot.

When Eric T. Peterson, vice present of strategic serves at Visual Sciences, was asked why marketers needed Web analytics, he responded:

“How do you know you’re successful if you’re not measuring your success?

If you’re satisfied with beyond average, be average. Most companies I work with strive to be great and they their investment in Web analytics as a competitive edge that will help them achieve greatness.”

The choice is yours: You can be average or you can be great.

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