6 Questions With Analytics Guru Avinash Kaushik

If you tuned in yesterday, you saw our interview with The Kelsey Group’s Michael Boland where we dished about local search and the many panels TKG will be running during next week’s Search Engine Strategies NY. As part our continued blogger outreach (read: I get to stalk and annoy famous people), today’s interview features the always awesome, and always engaging, Avinash Kaushik.

Here’s my interview with Avinash (with thanks to Eric Lander). Enjoy.

1. You’re perhaps most well known for your role as Google’s Analytics Evangelist. Can you provide our readers with an overview of what that role entails? What attracted you to that position?

I am a consultant for Google and, like many others, the attraction of Google for me was a mix of: the ability to (yes this is cheesy), change the world in a small way, to add value to some really cool products, the opportunity to work with some amazing people, and yes, the great food! If you want to do something amazing, Google makes it easy for you to do it. Can’t beat that. [Aw – Lisa!]

Much of my time at Google is spent working with the various analytics teams to help make them better. There are at least seven customer-facing analytics products at Google (I think). My background is that of a Practitioner, and in as much I help influence product strategy and road map, customer centric innovation and making complex data easy to understand.

2.) Most identify you as the brain powering improvements made to the Google Analytics toolset. Another less public role of yours is the integration of GA with other Google products. Are you satisfied with where GA stands, or are you anxious to assist with stronger integration? If so, what tools can you see integrating with GA next?

That first part is not true, Lisa. I am lucky to be a small part of an incredibly talented team of people who together are passionate about trying to improve our little analytics space.

I do care very much about integrations and extensions with Google Analytics and beyond. It is part of the Web Analytics 2.0 mindset; clickstream data is great but the radical evolution of the Web mandates tapping into different datasets.

Google Analytics has done some great integrations (integration with Audio / Radio Ads was just announced last week!). But there is a lot more opportunity out there.

In terms of what’s next, you’ll understand that I can’t be specific, not after taking my Boy Scout oath! I feel opportunities exist with Web 2.0 technologies and data, with offline data, other islands of data like RSS or SEO, CRM systems that are inhouse or asp based…so much opportunity, so little time!!

3.) Google Analytics has always been a free resource — and you have publicly been thankful for having other, paid tools available. Are there plans to offer a premium GA product in the future? If so, what features should users expect?

Google Analytics is and will continue to be free. There are no plans that I am aware of to offer a paid version.

If the number of features released since May 2007 (launch of Google Analytics version 2) is any indicator, then the users should rest assured that Google Analytics will continue to become more of a “premium product”, but will be offered at no cost.

Bonus reading material for your readers: Chris Anderson: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. I am a believer in this mindset, personally.

4.) Based on recent advancements (audio, industry benchmarks, etc.), it’s clear that Google is committed to improving the GA platform beyond a simple tracking tool. What new features can GA’s users expect in the future?

I have to take the fifth on the specific features Lisa, so sorry. [Drat! But I had to ask – Lisa]

Speaking a bit generally, I think you will continue to see the core platform get better with more data available more easily and presented in ways that make it easy for a Novice or an Expert to find actionable insights. There is a lot of interest in extending the platform. I also see this as a distinct possibility.

5.) What has motivated Google to share industry benchmarks to users? Over time, can the information acquired in these benchmark reports rival services provided by Compete or HitWise?

The biggest barrier to making decisions from your clickstream data is one simple thing: Context.

How do you know if the trend or a metric you are looking at is great or sucky? How do you know when to ask for a bonus or when to quit your job? Context is king. [No, Avinash, Content is king. (rimshot) Sorry. – Lisa]

Google Analytics has always been great at providing context. Almost everywhere in the tool you’ll natively see the metric you were looking for, but also a comparison to site average. So for example, you’ll know that keyword “lisa barone rocks” has a bounce rate 25% lower than the site average (prompting you to feel great instantly, and perhaps start a new PPC/banner/affiliate campaign).

The second thing you can also do instantly is compare data to different time periods. How does conversion rate look this year vs same month last year, or trends in visits, time on site, recency vs. frequency.

Both of these give you a inward look. But users have been asking for quite some time for an external view. “How am I performing compared to my competitors?” It has been perhaps the most consistent request over the last year or so. It was released recently to meet that demand.

Now you can see that your time on site has improved from three minutes to five (great news, by the way!), but the average for your industry is 19 minutes (work harder!). One more key piece of context to help you find actionable insights.

Compete and HitWise (both services that I am rather fond of, by the way) are solving for something different than providing straight benchmarks, and in as much I see them as complementary services.

6.) Lastly, I know you’ll be speaking on the Web Analytics: Measuring Success panel on Day 1 at SES NY. Can you give readers a taste of what they can expect during the session?

I get ten minutes. : ) My hope is to share three tips that practitioners will be able to action as soon as they can find a Web analytics tool. I am going to focus on PPC/Search Engine Marketing analysis (seems like the thing to do at SES!).

I also got some great tips on presenting that I am hoping to try out: 9 Ways To Bore The Audience at SES New York! : ) [Aw, that Avinash sure knows how to woo a girl.]

Thanks so much for the opportunity to do this interview Lisa. I love your writing, keep it up!

No, thank you, Avinash. You’ve always been one of my most favorite speakers and it was great getting to chat with you a bit.

That wraps up our pre-SES NY blogger interviews. We hope we’ll see you at the show next week, and if not, be sure to check the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog for tons of liveblogging fun!

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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