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April 30, 2008

Six Questions with Matt Bailey

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As I get ready to head up to San Francisco for the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, I thought it may be fun to chat with some of the speakers beforehand and see what they’re most looking forward to.

Up first is Matt Bailey. Though he needs no introduction, Matt is the President and Founder of SiteLogic, has over a decade worth of experience in this industry and is one of my favorite faces in search. Onto the questions!

1. One of the things I’ve always admired about you is your ability to break down complicated theories into simple ideas. What advice do you have for inhouse SEOs stuck explaining the importance of Web analytics to the tight-budgeted executives? How do they get them to understand?

The best way is to tell a story or to find an analogy that will help explain the purpose of need without using “geeky” terms. I find that the primary obstacle is the terminology that marketers or analysts use – it just flies over the head of those who don’t speak our language. Finding common ground and training yourself to speak on their terms helps to create understanding, which opens up budgets. Going head-to-head in an ego battle doesn’t help anyone, especially you and your career. Work to be understood.

Also, Forrester research showed that companies that brought in a full-time analyst had an ROI of 900-1200 percent. That’s pretty impressive, and we’ve experienced that same level with our consulting. The important item to note is that it focuses on an “analyst” and not a software tool. The person is the most important part of that equation, and you can’t dismiss the numbers, those are powerful.

2. Okay, say you’re a newbie search marketers just now playing in the field of Web analytics and you suddenly find yourself drowning in all this data – how do you turn it around and make the data actionable? How do you make the transition from reporting towards real analysis?

Ask questions. The fundamental human ability. Asking questions about who comes to the site, what they expected to see, and what they did as a result are all beginning points to understanding actions that need to be taken. Too many people open the dashboard and expect some mystical force to tell them how to improve their website. Action only comes from asking the right questions, and real analysis only happens when you are working to answer those questions.

3. How do things like trending and segmentation come into play when looking at Web analytics? How can search marketers use them to better understand what’s happening on a Web site?

Ahhh, segmentation! You really know how to ask the right questions, Lisa! I think that segmentation is the single most important thing you can do in analyzing your information. It provides context, understanding and helps you to find the mind of the searcher. For example, if I find a large group of visitors coming from a specific website and converting at a significant rate, then it makes sense to segment that group of visitors and see where they entered, what content they saw and what they converted on. Even more important (and often overlooked) is to go to the website they came from and find the links and the content surrounding it – there is your context! This is a third-party endorsement of your website – true word-of-mouth! Only by observing segments can you find these nuggets of informational gold and learn more about your visitor behavior.

John Marshall made a statement that people are not cattle – we aren’t herds that graze from point A to point B – we do odd things: Usability specialists classify user behavior with terms like pogo-sticking, berry-picking, and foraging. These hardly sound like organized and sequential actions, yet we think our analytics will provide organized and sequential information as if visitors were “herds”.

4. Wow, great stuff! What questions/metrics should site owners keep in mind when deciding on what kind of analytics program they need? Does the program really matter?

  • Segmentation
  • Easy segmentation
  • Fast segmentations (so you can segment as soon as you find a new group and not have to wait to see the information)
  • Tying actions to conversions – tying actions to the bottom line value. When you associate actions with money – people listen.

The program matters, but the person matters even more. The primary value is in the person; Avinash Kaushik wrote an awesome article about analytics being 90 percent the person and 10 percent the tool. Your investment should be in the analyst, as they can get data out of any tool or program. However, some tools provide information easier, faster, and better segmented than others.

5. Come eMetrics you’ll be speaking on the Actionable Organic Search Analytics panel. What can conference goers expect from that session? Be honest, will there be another intro on how to save the red jackets (which was AMAZING, by the way)? :)

Thank you, Lisa – and flattery works wonders, which makes you one of my favorite interviewers and bloggers. Yes, I’ll bring up the Analytics According to Captain Kirk – that analogy always seems to help people understand and remember how data is transformed by segmentation – and its fun. I’m targeting people who are befuddled by an analytics dashboard and can’t understand why they don’t understand analytics. My part of the talk will be more about your mentality as an analyst, and the tools you need to ask questions and get the answers to those questions.

My main goal is to liberate those whose primary analytics responsibility is to report the number of visitors and then justify why the number is higher or lower than the previous month. That is a sad existence, when ‘real’ analytics bring so much more excitement to your life!

6. You know you’ve always been one of my favorite speakers, who are you most looking forward to seeing at eMetrics? What sessions will Matt Bailey be sneaking in on?

Aww, Lisa, you are too much! You know I love the line-up at this conference – there are a ton of session that look fantastic. I am looking forward to some of the case studies and new technology.

The session “Fuzzy Science and Hard Numbers: Market research for Web Analysts and Higher Mathematics for English Majors” is right in line with my interests and I like how they have positioned it. It’s all about understanding how all elements come into play when marketing a website, so I’ll be there for that session for sure. Also, any session with Joseph Carrabis is top on my list. One of my analysts attended eMetrics in Toronto and couldn’t say enough great things about Joe. I like Joe’s writings, so I want to hear him live.

I also plan to attend Avinash Kaushik and John Marshall’s presentations. I’m technically on their payroll, so I feel obligated to fill a seat in their sessions ;) Seriously – listening to those two talk is always a learning experience and shouldn’t be missed.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Matt. I look forward to stalking meeting up with you in San Francisco!

Tomorrow we’ll be posting our interview with John Marshall from Market Motive where we’ll dish about whether the influence of bloggers is overrated, his upcoming eMetrics Tracking Widgets and Feeds: Measuring Distributed Content panel, and what sessions he’s most looking forward to during next week’s show!

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