What is web analytics?

So it’s always one of those unanswerable questions: “You’re a web analytics person?  What exactly does that mean?”

Well, I did my best, and it only took me a few hours. Take a moment to read through the web analytics page, where we discuss what web analytics “is”, or what it really should be.  It’s long, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback,so we can come up with a short version to tell our friends and families who say, “Evan does Internet stuff…I don’t get it.”

The important thing to remember is that we’re generalists.  Web analytics people simply cannot be specialists: it clouds the analyst’s judgment.  But being a generalist doesn’t mean that you can’t be good at many things.  In fact, it means you have to be good at a lot of things.  Think what would happen if your doctor wasn’t good enough to recognize the difference between a bruise and a tumor.  He has to know enough to point you in the right direction, and being a web analytics practitioner places a lot of burden on you to know a great many things about usability, design, information architecture, marketing, search engine optimization, the financial fundamentals of your business, and more.  Sometimes you might not be able to solve the problems on your own, but without you, the company may have never even known there was a problem.

So please have a read through it and let me know what you think.  We’ll get started soon on more of the juicy “make you an analytics ninja” content, but I’d love to lay out a good footing for what we’re hoping to do here, so please contribute if you think anything could be better.  There is very little content out there about the fundamentals of what we do, and that’s exactly what businesses need right now: without a basic and fundamental understanding of the value of web analytics, we can never hope to execute on all of the cool things we’ve learned.


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2 Comments

  1. My favorite part is the stress that WA is the measurement of everything online and doing that using everything beyond just clickstream.

    That’s the essence of my own humble stress on the idea of “Multiplicity”.

    The thing I think you should cover, with your background, is how can companies be significantly more agile and nimble. I feel most web analytics implementations are failures because the outcome is predictable reports. The problem is the web is unpredictable and insights come from analyzing, looking, poking and all that. Not from preset predictable reports.

    Good luck Evan!

    -Avinash.

    Posted January 8, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks for dropping by this humble shanty of a blog! I’ll definitely be diving in to those very topics.

    You’re right: it’s interesting how businesses try to learn “something new” by asking for something they already know. I guess addressing that is the first step to creating implementations that enable good analytics. But even before that, it feels to me that businesses have to get out of the mindset that data drives questions, rather than the other way around. Of course, we can always find dips in charts that raise questions, but the real analytics is also in asking hard-to-answer questions first, then digging for answers using the tools we have.

    Not every dinosaur bone was found half sticking out of the ground. Sometimes people have to set out with the intent to find something without knowing exactly where to look first.

    Posted January 8, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink