Archives for March 2007

Web Analytics Demystified Survey

Eric Peterson is conducting a short survey (I took the survey so can attest that really is short) of web analytics users, practitioners, vendors, and consultants is designed to identify some of the challenges we all face when analyzing our web sites.

This important study is the first of its kind to inquire about specific attitudes towards web analytics usage across a wide-range of participants. This research will be used to create FREELY AVAILABLE industry benchmarks covering many previously un-examined aspects of the web analytics industry and your participation is VERY IMPORTANT.

To encourage you to take this important survey TODAY, he is offering two valuable incentives for your time:

  1. A free copy of the aggregated survey results when they’re available in early May, 2007
  2. 25% discount on the cost of purchasing both Web Analytics Demystified and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators by Eric T. Peterson

According to Eric, this survey is COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS so nothing to worry about. Your answers will not be associated with your email address or any other personally identifiable information. If you have any questions or concerns about your privacy, please feel free to write him at

If you’d like to learn more about the survey before participating, please copy the following URL into your web browser:

Google and Behavioral Targeting

Google, so far, has refrained from behavioral targeting. But I think it is about time and it is the logical next action for Google to start offering Behavioral Targeting to its advertisers and publishers. Yahoo and MSN are both testing their Behavioral Targeting capabilities; their Behavioral targeting depends on the user data generated on their own sites. Tacoda and Revenue Science built the concept of network first and then are recruiting publishers to participate in the networks. Google is taking all together a new route. It is busy putting its footprint all over the web. These footprints will help Google build the largest and the best Behavioral targeting Ad network. Google already has publishers (Google Search, Content Network, You Tube) and advertisers (Adwords and PPC). Visitor behavior will come from various Google applications which are everywhere on the web. Google knows more about the user on the web that any other company knows. Google is every where (almost) on the web.
Let’s start from Google Search. Via user’s search keywords and key phrases Google knows what the user searched for, how many times she searched, which sites she visited, how many times and what time of the day she searched. Google might not know the visitors name but knows the visitor via anonymous cookie.
When a visitor arrives at any site from Google search chances are Google will be present there in form of Adsense, Adwords, Google Checkout or Google Analytics.
Even if a visitor by passes the Google search and uses some other way (yahoo search, live search, bookmark, by directly typing in the URL or any other way) chances are she will visit a site which has Google in one or more of above mentioned form.
Google Adsense/Adwords – A visitor who clicks on an Adsense Ad reveals a lot of about her preferences. Just like search Google knows, Google knows which sites (products, offers) the visitor is interested in. How many times the visitors clicks on the ads and what types of ads she clicks on.
Gmail – Google know what emails a user gets, it knows the content of the email, just look at all the ads that show up when you are reading your email. Even if Google does not have the users physical address it knows how to reach her.
Google Checkout – Google knows what a user buys, where she buys from, how often she buys and voila by using Google checkout she just gave Google her name, address etc.
Google Analytics – This is the one of the best tool (as far as behavioral targeting is concerned) Google has put on the web. Not only will it tell Google which sites the user visits, it will also tell Google where she visits them from, what pages she looks at , how long she stays on which site, what she buys, what keeps her engaged and what does not and list goes on.
You Tube, Blogger, New alerts and several other Google products provide will further enhance the data set Google has.
Google Analytics, Google Search and Adsense is where the majority of the data and the power of the network will come from. Aggregated data of all the applications will provide such a rich set of that that within 2 – 3 clicks Google will know weather user is a good prospect for a particular offer, product, service etc. or not.
I think it is a matter of time when Google start connecting the dots and announce it’s entry into Behavioral Targeting. They might call it something else but at the core it will be leveraging the visitors’ behavior all across the web to better target ad on its network.

Follow the Search

Search, as you already know, is attracting a lot of attention from Marketers. People who use search engines to navigate to Web sites far exceed those who type the URL directly into the browser address bar or use bookmarks according to a survey by Piper Jaffrey Investment Research.

Marketers are spending more and more money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) activities to boost their organic search listings. However, nobody really knows how search engines index various sites and pages in their organic listings. So many times I have seen that a keyword search will show a site’s page (mostly home page) even though that page is very generic and has little to do with the keyword that was searched. The page might have had the content related to that keyword sometime in past or that keyword is still there but there is a lot of other content too, the content that is not really relevant to the keyword that drove the visitors to that page.

Note: Even in Search Engine Marketing efforts, there are a lot of marketers who spend a lot of money buying keywords and then send the visitors who click on their paid listings to a very generic page, most of the time to the home page. Not only are they wasting money on these clicks they are losing an opportunity to convert those visitors into customers. I will cover this in a future article.

A visitor, who types in that keyword and lands on the site, gets confused because he/she does not find what he/she was looking for. Visitors are very impatient, they do not have time to go through all the content on the page to search (yet again) for what they were looking for. As a result visitors immediately bail out causing a very high bounce rate and a lost opportunity for the website owner.

So, as an owner of the site, what do you do?

Simple answer is “Follow the Search” in 5 simple steps. The basic idea of “Follow the Search” is to provide user with a relevant content that will drive them further into your site and hence drive up your conversion. Don’t assume that visitors will find their way because they won’t. Give them an immediate reason to stick around, show them they have arrived at the right site.

Here are simple 5 steps of “Follow the Search”:

  1. Capture the search word – As soon as the user lands on your site, capture the keyword user searched on a search engine to get to your site. This can be accomplished by writing a simple code on your page to look for the referring url that drove the visitor to your site. Note: If you have the money then you can also use tool such as Offermatica to do the same.If the referring url contains one of the search engines (you can create your own list of search engines that you want to track but for simplicity I would suggest looking for major search engines and the top search engines driving traffic to your site) then extract the keyword from the referring url. Google, MSN and ASK have the keyword in query string called “q”, while yahoo has the keyword in query string called “p”. Example of the Google referring url is

  2. Build a list of links to the content (or products) that that matches the keyword user searched on the search engine. You can use your on-site search technology or human defined list of content (or products) relevant for your top 50 or 100 (depends on the resources you have) keywords.
  3. Use a highly visible area of your home page (or any other page) to display the list that was built in step 2. You can use left side, right side or main content area of the page but make sure it is in the highly visible area of the page, I recommend conduction A/B test to figure out the best location. Use a catchy label such as “Top 10 Resources for [XYZ keyword]” or something similar. Visitors love the top 10 or Top X lists and by tying it with the keyword they searched on the search engine you will make their life so easy that they will not abandon you.
  4. When a user arrives from a search engine, capture the keyword (step 1), use the list of content related to that keyword (step 2) and display it to the visitor (step 3).
  5. Save the search keyword in session or cookie – Save the search keyword in session or cookie so that you can display the results every time user comes back to the entry page (the page where search engine sent him/her). By saving in cookie you can even show the same results in subsequent visits.

Don’t forget to configure your Web Analytics tool to measure your success – Some of the things you might want to track are

  • How many visitors or visits clicked on items in these lists?
  • Which links are getting the most clicks?
  • What is the conversion rate (whatever your end actions are) by visits (or visitors) who click on these links?
  • Change in end action conversion rates
  • Change in bounce rates

Here is an example:

Here is a screenshot of This is the page visitors gets when they arrive on Note, home page above has very little to do with “Roommates”. It has top navigation link and maybe some listings mixed in with classifieds.

When visitors searche on Google for “Portland Indian Roommates”, they get Home Page of as the 1st listing. As I mentioned above this page has very little to do with “Roommates” search keyword that user searched.

However, when the visitors arrives on the site via this keyword, the site follows the above mentioned steps and presents the visitors with the Home page with a section called “Rentals and Roommates” right in the middle of the page.

Questions? Comments?

Presidential Candidates and Behavioral Targeting

I read an interesting article by Michael D Jensen titled “What do the Presidential Candidates use for Analytics?”

One that caught my eye was John McCain, who is using Revenue Science. I don’t think John McCain is using revenue science for web analytics but I think he is using it to participate in Revenue Sciences’ Behavioral Targeting network. Interestingly enough I saw Revenue Science tag on only the home page, other pages did not have any code. Maybe he is still “Undecided” and is testing it out.

Participating in Behavioral Targeting is an interesting concept for Presidential Candidates. In my opinion they can influence a lot of votes by participating in Behavioral Targeting.

Here are some of the ways how the presidential candidates can use Behavioral Targeting (provided they put the tracking code on every single page).

  1. Retargeting – If a visitor lands on candidate’s site and then wander over to some other site in Behavioral network, the candidate can advertise to this visitor when they are anywhere on the network. By visiting candidate’s site, the visitor has just shown interest in candiate and so he/she can make sure that this visitor never looses the sight of the candidate(think opposite of out of sight out of mind).
  2. Undecided – John McCain has a section called “Undecided”. Any visitor who goes to that section and view 2 or more pages is definitely undecided. Target them with a message (ad) that makes them decide in your favor, this can be used for both on-site and network targeting.
  3. Segment Visitors – Segment users based on what content they read or interact with on your site. Using this behavioral understand where they stand in their decision process and then targeting them, on the network or even on-site, with relevant message.
  4. Contributions – Say somebody starts a contribution process but never finishes it. Target them with a message that drives them to contribute to your campaign. This can also be done both on-site (after visitor abandon’s the contribution process but still remains on the site) and on-network, follow the user as he/she moves around the network.
  5. Use visitor’s off Site Behavior to understand what really makes them tick – If the behavioral targeting network is big enough and have wide variety of sites. Understand which sites visitors visit before they arrive to your site. When they come to your site, show them a message that will align with their off-site (on-network) behavior. Say I care about education and visit sites or blogs (participating in the behavioral network) on education; when I arrive on your site, show me your stance on education. This will help me make my decision.
  6. IP Based Targeting – Based on the geo location candidate can
    1. Do more media buy and targeting in the geo locations where they don’t get a lot of traffic from.
    2. Segment user visitor based further and see what the visitors from their top geo locations doing on their site. This will allow you to fine tune the on-site messages.

I am sure more and more presidential will participate in targeting advertising such as Behavioral Targeting.

What do you think? Do you have any more ideas on how they can use Behavioral Targeting? Send those to me.

Referring Domains Demystified – Part II

In part I discussed how the referring domain and pages are reported by a web analytics tool. In this part I will discuss why your own domain shows up as the referring domain.

There are following three main reasons why your own domain name shows up as the referring domain.

1. If a user waits for 30 min (or whatever your session time out is) before clicking on the next link on your site.

It is a standard practice to use 30 min session time out. This means that if a visitor waits more than 30 mins to click on a link on the website, the click constitutes a new visit.

As in my last post, let’s take an example of visits for one visitor. For this example I am only showing 5 fields (s-ip, data, time, URI stem, cs(referrer) )

Below is the data for a visitor:

The visit started with a referral from The referring domain in your web analytics tool will be

Let’s assume, this visitor goes on a lunch break leaving the site open in her browser. Come back after an hour and clicks on the home page links, here is how the log file will look like as

This constitutes a second visit (I am assuming a 30 min session time out). The referring page will be and the referring domain will be for this second visit.

If you are a content site that has long articles or have downloads that takes more than 30 mins to complete, chances are you will see your own domain as the number one referring domain.

2. If you intentionally or un-intentionally exclude one or more of your pages from analysis either by not including javascript tracking (tag-based solutions) or specific exclusions that does not allow that page request to be tracked(this applies to both log file-based and tag based solutions)

Let’s assume, the home page of is not tagged with the web analytics JavaScript code or for some reason is omitted from the analysis (hard exclude either intentionally or unintentionally).

Taking the same example as above, the log file will look like the following

Note that the first log line

is no longer there. The log file won’t even contain as the referrer because the visit did not begin at (since it was not tagged or was excluded). In fact, according to the analytics tool, the visit began at /seattle/bollywood.asp and was referred by the non-tagged (or excluded) page, the home page of In this case /seattle/default.asp, the page which is not tagged will show up as the referrer and the referring domain will be the domain itself

Note: I have seen a lot of unintentional excludes that affect the reporting. It is highly recommended to use a third party accuracy audit to make sure your reports are configured properly. Contact me if you need more details or help with this. We do this all the time.

3. If you have sub domains that have their own reporting profiles or suites (or whatever you call them) they could cause your own site to show up as referring domain.

Let’s take an example of which has several city-specific subdomains e.g., etc. Any reporting that excludes home page will show a lot of referrers from its own domain i.e.

Here is the log file of a user who searches seattleIndian on Google and then clicks on the link to seattle support page ( from home page.

Say you want to create a profile for Seattle area only i.e. exclude everything else and only report on traffic to domain. If you only include traffic from (or s-ip of in the example above) in your reports then the referring domain will be, i.e. your own domain.

I hope this was helpful. This concludes my two part series on Referring domains and pages. As always send me your comments and questions.

Referring Domains Demystified

A while ago a user of the yahoo webanalytics group asked why their own domain was showing up as the number one referring domain. Interestingly enough another person asked me the same question the same day. I have also seen this question pop up several times in past so I thought why not clarify for everybody.

Note: I know the images on this post are very small. I am trying to figure out how I can make them bigger but had no luck so far. As soon as I figure out hot to fix it, I will update this post with better pictures

This will be a two part series. In this part I will explain how Web Analytics tools report the referring domains and pages. I think this is a very critical aspect before we dig into why your domain shows up the referrer in referring domain report. Part II will explain why your own referrer shows up in the referring domain.

So let’ begin with understanding what a log file contains:.

What is contained in a log file:: (Note: Even tag based solutions generate a log file, although they don’t call it a log file. This log file is in the vendor’s proprietary format but for this example you can assume it looks the same as the example below).

Every log file contains a line for each of the server ip, request file (URI stem of the file), with time stamp, a cookie (if one exists), and the referrer (URL of the page that referred user to the current file/page). There are other fields as well but they are not required for this example. The assumption here is that if you are using your server logs and they are in W3C Extended Log File format or you are using the JavaScript solution of your web analytics vendor.

Here is a list of all the fields in W3C Extended Log File Format:

Here is an example of the log file

You can read more about is at:

Below is a an example of the log file from

#Fields: date time c-ip cs-method cs-uri-stem sc-status sc-bytes cs-version cs(User-Agent) cs(Referer) cs(Cookie)
2007-02-21 07:07:30 GET /Seattle/moviepictures/bollywood.asp 200 33453 HTTP/1.1 Mozilla/4.0+(compatible;+MSIE+7.0;+Windows+NT+5.1;+.NET+CLR+1.1.4322;+.NET+CLR+2.0.50727) USERID=1234;+RID=3423

In this log file /Seattle/moviepictures/bollywood.asp was the current page that the visitor viewed and it was referred by Every log line has the referring page that contains the URL of the page that referred the user to the current page.

Let’s take an example of visits for one visitor. For this example I am only showing 5 fields (s-ip, data, time, URI stem, cs(referrer)

Below is the data for a visitor:

The visit started with a referral from The referring domain in your web analytics tool will be

Let’s assume, this visitor goes on a lunch break leaving the site open in her browser. Come back after an hour (note the time change) and clicks on the home page links, here is how the log file will look like

This constitutes a second visit (assuming a 30 min session time out). The referring page will be and the referring domain will be for this second visit.

This is one of the reasons why you will see lots of visitors referred by your own site. We will cover other reasons in Part II.

Let’s assume that this user clicks on a link on that takes her to a new domain, This domain is identified by a different server ip ( in the log file. Here is the log file for this other domain

Referring page for this visit will be the referring domain will be and are both owned by the same owner who wants to see the combined traffic. Let’s assume you were to combine both the domains in one profile (or reporting suite) and assume they were using the same third party cookie. This is how the combined log file will look like

When your web analytics tool parses these log lines, it will report 2 visits

One visit started at 10:59:50:00 and ended at 10:59:50:04 and the referring domain was

The second visit started at 11:59:50:05 and ended at 11:59:50:13 on, the referring domain was

Now let’s take an example where user goes out to another site and then comes back to the site

In this example: The visit started by referring domain being, the user leaves the site from bollywood.asp page and comes back via yahoo search to aboutus.asp page. In this scenario the visit started via google so yahoo will never show up in the referring domains (that is the case with most of the web analytics tool).

Note: If you run a campaign on Google and Yahoo and tag them so that your web analytics tool can track them, then you can configure the tool to show either the last or the first campaign. However; the out-of-the-box referring domain report will only show the first referrer of the visit.

Hope this clarifies some of the confusion around referring domains and pages.

I would like to thank Brad Gagne for helping me the flow of this article. Brad is also responsible for making me split this article in two parts.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be out of the country for next 10 day so you will see Part II when I come back.

Web Analyst Interview: Joel Collymore

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts here is my interview with Joel Collymore. I will be out of the country for about 10 days so the next interview will be published when I am back that is after 15th.

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?

Currently I am a Business Intelligence Associate at Dennis Digital which is a division of Dennis Publishing US, which is based in New York. Our online properties are,, and I also have a small freelance company and I work with a local interactive marketing firm. For them I report on some of the different marketing sites they operate. The freelancing is another avenue to gain experience.

How long have you been working in Web Analytics?

I have been doing this for about 12 months, started March 20th.

Tell me about your work, education prior to making a switch

Before I was started web analytics I worked for an HR benefits company called Hewitt Associates. There I was working as a Business Analyst doing 401K and ESOP plan administration and quality assurance. There was nothing in common with the web analytics work that I am doing now.

Why did you decided to go to Web Analytics?

My educational background is in Computer Science and I have an MBA, with a focus on Strategic Management. My interest has always been to work in the Internet field. Some of my prior work experiences were in online development including my internship with Standard and Poors.

Since I wanted to do work in this field I decided to start my freelance work. When I asked in the Yahoo group user forum how to get started in a career in web analytics I found there were not many entry level jobs. Most jobs require at least a minimum of 2 years of experience. I was given advice to start working on a friend’s site to gather experience, so that I could get my hands on the data. I took that advice and ran with it. I posted a comment on the user forum that I was willing to work on websites for free or cheap. I told all who were interested “As I grow you will grow”. Through that I started my company. I had some experience with a company in NY while I was reading all I could about Web Analytics. I also took courses at UBC, to get the Web Analytics Achievement Award.

I was at the first WAW in NY, with resume in hand, not knowing what to expect. There I got to learn more about the day to day of web analytics positions and made some great connections.

Was the UBC course helpful?

It was helpful for me. The courses gave me an excellent understanding of the online industry.

How did you find your current job?

The position was posted in the Yahoo Web Analytics Forum. I reached out to the poster, and went in went for two interviews. Though I did not have any experience and they were interviewing other people with experience, they were impressed by my enthusiasm. I was tested and given tasks to complete, to show what I would recommend to optimize their site, and how I would present data in front of the President. In the interview they were interested in hiring someone who could communicate their ideas and back them up with insights. I later learned that I was wrong on some of my recommendations, based on the uniqueness of the business structure, but the fact that I could back up what I was saying was valuable.

Where did you get your MBA from?

I attended Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield Connecticut and graduated in 2004.

What are you responsibilities in your current job?

Right now I am running pilot tests and implementing Omniture Site Catalyst and WebSide Story.
I set goals, and manage the relationships with the vendors. We are setting high goals and holding the analytics systems to a higher standard than we had with our previous implementation. We have created unique success events and defined variables to measure our successes. One thing that is different is we are now using commerce and product variables for a media site.

I also work with organic and paid search. Developing our search engine optimization initiatives working with a search consultant and our IT team, we analyze the search traffic and re-optimize.

Who are your customers or stakeholders? Describe your typical work day.

My stakeholders are general management, editorial, the Director of Business Development and the marketing team.

My day is pretty free from. I work with the editorial team to optimize search and I provide reporting on various articles and sections of the site. I work with ad operations using Dart for Publishers, to help determine how many impressions we can serve based on request for purchase of our ad inventory.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in your current job in Web Analytics?

It would definitely help to know statistics and modeling.

Which Web Analytics book(s) do have or have read?

All of Eric Peterson’s books. Search marketing inc, by Mike Moran. I have also read Making money with Google, so that I can get a better sense of adsense. I also have Google Analytics but have not finished reading this. WAD (Web Analytics Demystified) was very helpful in getting me the necessary knowledge to land the job.

What were the major challenges that you are facing in this industry?

I have decided to focus my career in the Media and Marketing verticals. One of my reasons is that I see more opportunities to develop in Media. eCommerce is lot more defined than Media, you can tie revenue and product sales into performance. Media you can be more creative in measuring and analytics implementation. It is more of tying ad impression and tying in demographic information from Nielsen and ComScore in to your site’s performance.

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?

I keep up with the blogs and user forums, I read every thing I get my hands on. I read and re-read the implementation manuals for vendors. I listen to my co-workers to find out what they feel is missing.

Do you have a blog?


What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?

First, not to give up and be persistent. Second, don’t be afraid to show enthusiasm for what you want to do and what you want to learn.

Web Analyst Interview: Thomas Carrillo

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Thomas Carrillo

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?

I am working as an Associate Web Analyst at Red Door Interactive.

How long have you been working in this field?

I started last March as an intern and then graduated from college and joined as full time. I have been full time for 7 months.

Tell me about your work/education prior to joining Red Door.

During my senior year of college I worked as an intern for McGrath funds, a San Diego based currency hedge fund where my main responsibility was using the mathematical models that housed the company’s investment strategies to make sure everything was consistent with our current open positions and our current macro outlook on that particular pair. I did that internship up until March of 2006 and after than I began my internship with Red Door Interactive.

Why did you decided to go into Web Analytics?

In school, I took an internet marketing class as an elective. One of the things that we talked about was web analytics and the concept caught my attention. It was very high level of web analytics, it did not get into KPIs and how they tied to online performance. I found yahoo group, started following and group and reading blogs of Avinash Kaushik, Eric Peterson and Jim Novo. I love the internet and its many capabilities, and was confident my Finance degree could be applied in web analytics. So far it has worked out pretty well.

How are you applying your finance background in web analytics?

The majority of my classes in college were corporate finance related. This required analyzing financial statements and making decisions that would provide to most value to shareholders. To some extent that level of thinking is required for web analytics. This class work also enhanced my excel skills significantly. The Internet marketing course also provided some good insight.

Where did you get your education from?

San Diego State University

How did you find your current job at Red Door?

My roommate’s father was director of Search Marketing at Red Door. I started talking to him and he gave the internship. I got trained on HBX, that’s what we currently use.

What did you learn in internship?

How analytics applies to business goals. Learned about KPIs, learned how to apply and then provide those to the clients where they can be reported and be actionable. Every day I am learning something new.

What are you responsibilities in your current job?

My main tasks are to provide the reporting on KPI’s on weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Depending on the client I also tie in search with online data.

Describe your typical work day.

First few weeks of the month are very busy. I usually perform ad-hoc reporting when I come in the morning most of the day. Early in the month also spend lot of time discussing goals of the months. Usually I spend a lot of time on the computer cranking out excel reports. Excel is a must. If you want to be a web analyst you need to have intermediate excel skill if not advanced.

What education or experience you think is lacking hat would have helped in your current job in Web Analytics?

Certain amount of Technical side of web analytics, the implementations side, I feel, is lacking. Many times the issues arise but there is only limited amount that I know about the technical side. Technical aspect of web analytics is not 100% of my responsibility but something that I have to improve upon.

Which book(s) have helped you in your job?

Big Book of KPIs and all the other books of Peterson have helped with my learning. Jim Novo’s Book Drilling Down, is a great book. I highly recommend. It is a good read. I also read WSJ, it is a must for anybody who is in the business world.

What are the major challenges you are facing in this industry?

As I mentioned before, the technical aspect of the webanalytics is a big challenge. I also wonder how valuable I will be or how valuable my skill set will be in the future.
It is great industry but I have challenge understanding where it is heading to.
Another challenge is the lack of diversification I have with analytics tools. A goal of mine for this year is to become more knowledgeable on the other analytics tools that are currently available, although I believe it’s mainly the person not the tool that provides the most value out of analytics.

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?

I spend an hour or 45 minutes reading yahoo group and read blogs on weekly basis. I subscribe to RSS. I use Google news on web analytics and SEM.

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?

I do have a blog, I have actually written few articles on web analytics, overall industry prospective.

What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?

One of the first thing I would say, sign up for the yahoo group. Network, it is a very small group of people who are doing this. Attend eMetrics, learn from people who are in this fields.

Interview with Web Analyst: Michael Notte

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Michael Notte

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?

I work as a Business Analyst / Project Manager for Web projects at the European Headquarters of a major automotive company, based in Brussels, Belgium – Europe. While my official title doesn’t include (yet) the term “Web Analytics”, people refer to me as the “Web Analytics specialist” or sometimes as “Mister WebTrends” (honestly I prefer the first one (smiling)).

Web Analytics represent 60% of my tasks: I mainly work on the Sales & Marketing websites of our two brands – this represents more than 50 sites over 25 European countries. However the demand of “Web Analytics” is growing in other business areas such as After Sales, Corporate, Human Resources, so a very wide scope.

The other 40% are typical Project management, business analyst duties.

How long have you been working in this field?

Almost 3 years ago. I joined in July 2004 as Business analyst. In the first year, Web Analytics only represented 25% of my tasks.

Tell me about your work, education prior to making a switch to web analytics

I’ve studied at the University from Louvain in Belgium. I’ve done a master (5 years), in IT Engineering (or Engineer in Computer Sciences as it is called here in Belgium).
I started to work in 1998 for an IT consulting company in Belgium. I worked as an IT Consultant for 6 years, on Web related projects; mainly as a business analyst / project coordinator (I did some developments in the first years too).

Why did you decided to switch to Web Analytics?

Well, I didn’t really decide to switch to Web Analytics. It just happened. My company was looking for a business analyst for Sales & Marketing web projects. At beginning my job was very typical of a business analyst role: collect business requirements, define functional specifications, follow-up the development,… However at the same time, my company was also insourcing Web Analytics services (i.e. WebTrends 7) originally hosted by an external agency. Page tagging had just been implemented and it needed someone to create and manage reports for the business. I was offered the job and I accepted it because it was something new for me.

At that time I had no idea of what was really behind Web Analytics and that it would be so interesting. And that it would grow as it did (and still does). It literally changed my (professional) life as it opened me an unexpected career path. I’ve never regretted my choice, that’s for sure.

I was at the right time at the right place because I barely knew what was Web Analytics – for me it was just about measuring site traffic 🙂

Two years ago in Europe, you would hardly find an offer for a Web Analyst or WA related jobs. And even today, they’re not that many (except in few countries such as UK or Germany). But things are changing.

What, if any, education or work experience helped you in making this transition?

First, my experience as “business analyst”. Even if I’m from a technical background, I’ve always liked to work closely with the business side – understanding their context, their challenges, their problems and trying to find solutions to these. And you really need to understand your business if you want to work as a Web analyst.

Also, working on Web related projects really helped me to have a good understanding on the technical aspect of the Internet, websites & web applications. I really think that it is also very important. While a good web analyst doesn’t need to know all the technical details, some basics are mandatory otherwise he/she’ll struggle at some point when it comes really understand what you’re measuring and how to interpret your results.

What are you responsibilities in your current job? Describe your typical workday.

I’ve (too) many responsibilities (smiling)
These includes:
– Gather business reporting requirements, define KPI’s
– Coordinate implementation of WebTrends tags in the Content Management system and web applications
– Set-up WebTrends reports & KPI dashboards
– Define tagging guidelines & rules for external suppliers & agencies
– Analyse results & support/coach business “web” analyst
– Technology & best practices survey
– Vendors coordination
– Manage/coach new Web analyst
– Follow-up SEO related project & reporting

As I work in a Pan-European context, there’s a lot to do. So it is very difficult to describe a typical workday. It is very varied and every day is a mix of all these things.

A new junior Web analyst is taking over the “day-to-day” work while I will focus more on the “strategy” and “business management” work.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in your current job?

Some “marketing” experience would have certainly helped – especially when I started focusing more on the “business”/”analysis” part of the job. Working closely with the business users and showing strong interest in their work helped me to close the gap.

What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?

My library is a bit limited but I’ve the following books: “Call To Action: Secret Formulas to improve your online results”” from Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg, Eric T. Peterson’s “Big Book of KPI’s” and “Web Measurement Hacks”.

Which book(s) have you helped in your new job or finding new job?

Without hesitation: Eric T. Peterson’s “Measurement hacks” is a goldmine! It definitely helped me in discovering what was really beyond Web Analytics and all their potential. It also gave me many ideas to apply or test.

I’m really thankful to the persons who offered me the book (smiling)

What were the major challenges you faced or are facing in this industry?

Competition on the automotive market is very high. Especially in Europe, where it (the automotive market) is saturated. This means that to get more shares, you have to conquest new customers from your competition. The on-line channel is playing a more and more important role in the decision-making. Automotive sites have changed from an information research library to a multimedia and interactive experience. Therefore it is really important to provide the best online experience to our visitors. That’s where Web Analytics plays a strategic and important role.

Working in a Pan-European context makes the work more complex – as you’ve to tackle many obstacles either technical or functional – but also there’re so many things to do and learn. It’s great and challenging environment for Web Analytics.

All in all that’s what makes my job so exciting!

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?

First I keep reading various blogs from WA experts – including your blog – or books. I try to attend seminars whenever possible – for the first time I’ll be at the Emetrics Summit in London. This helps me keeping myself up-to-date with the technology and most important with the best practices. I try to apply them whenever possible. I like to test new things and put new ideas in practice.

The WA forum is also a great place. Finally discussing with our Web Analytics agency is also very helpful.

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?

No. I don’t really have the time between my work, my lovely wife and my 1-year little boy. And there’re already many blogs to read out there. What more could I tell to this world? (smiling)

What is your advice to the aspiring web analysts?

To quote one of my company’s values: “Patience and perseverance”. It will take time and experience to get to the first results, to evangelise your management and get some recognition.
When you read books or articles on Web Analytics, it easy to misinterpret Web Analytics as a “magic” solution that will solve all business problem in a quick and easy way. Well, it is not. Especially when this is something new in the company culture. It is even truer in Europe where Web Analytics is still at the early stage (but it is growing faster and faster). So they really need to start small but think big, going step by step – exactly as the Web Analytics process. Begin with the basics and demonstrate their values and then go on to the next step with more elaborated application.
If you’re patient and perseverant, you’ll get rewarded and it will open you a great, challenging and promising career path.

Ten Simple Strategies for Using Web Analytics to Improve Your Online Marketing Efforts

As most of you know that capturing, analyzing, and interpreting campaign and website data is often a significant challenge. Vast amounts of data, disparate information sources, and confusing analytical tools are only a few of the obstacles between managers and actionable business insights.
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