Is Google Analytics the Killer App? No.

Published by Eric T. Peterson on August 2, 2007 All posts from Eric T. Peterson

For the past two days readers and friends have been writing me asking my opinion of Brandt Dainow’s recent iMediaConnection piece on “Google’s Killer App.” Most of the questions run along these lines:

“Is this guy insane, or did I completely miss the revolution?

I am so impressed with Omniture I have a hard time believing that Google Analytics beats it. I have been in a bit of a bunker trying to keep the magic going here, but can you hook me up with a reality check?”

The reality check is this: Yes, Brent Dainow has apparently gone completely insane. Too bad too, since I kinda liked some of the stuff he’s written in the past.

Let’s consider some of the bizarre statements he makes in his article:

Google has killed the web analytics software industry with the release of the new version of Google Analytics. The new version was released just under two months ago and is simply a quantum leap above any other analytics product on the planet.

This is his opening statement, and I don’t know where to begin. Statements like “killed the web analytics software industry” and “simply a quantum leap above any other analytics product on the planet” are bizarre. Is Dainow paying any attention to the web analytics market? Omniture continues to accelerate, WebTrends has released a great new version of their application, Microsoft is about to release their own free offering, …

And don’t get me wrong: I really do like Google Analytics, and I use it regularly, but there is absolutely no possible justification for saying that Google Analytics is a quantum leap better than other available applications. Google Analytics has some pretty visualizations, a slick UI, and does a good job of integrating with Google’s search marketing products, but a “quantum leap?” I think not.

“Google Analytics version 2 is not revolutionary. It does not extend web analytics software by providing new forms of analysis. Neither does it extend our understanding of websites by offering new approaches. What Google has done is simply take every feature in every product on the market and put them all into one system, and then make it available for free.”

Google has “every feature in every product on the market”? Really? Are you sure? Because I can think of dozens and dozens of useful features that I’ve seen in solutions like ClickTracks, Visual Sciences, Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, Unica, … basically every other solution on the market today that aren’t in the version of Google Analytics I’m using. Features like:

  • Real visitor segmentation (multidimensional, ad hoc, etc.)
  • Custom variables at the visitor, session, and page view level
  • The ability to produce custom reports for automated delivery
  • The ability to define custom metrics and customize reports in the interface
  • The ability to import metadata as an input for analysis
  • Commerce-related reports like browse-to-buy ratios
  • A browser-overlay that can be customized

(This list goes on and on and on, and has been discussed a great deal by folks like Judah Phillips and Phil Kemelor.)

Dainow continues:

“I am surprised by the range of features Google has added. I would have assumed some had been patented by the companies that created them. I can only conclude this is not the case. The range of features Google has borrowed from other products suggests the web analytics software industry managed to do 10 years of research and development without registering even one patent. This must be unique in the history of computing. If Google has stolen patented ideas, then I can only conclude they simply don’t care and will rely on their massive cash reserves to sort it out later.

I suspect that Google does not own the patent for the browser overlay, for path analysis, and the JavaScript page tag. I would not assume that Google believes they have “stolen patented ideas” but you can be sure that some lawyer, somewhere, probably does. Maybe the companies that own these patents are pissed at Google but are hesitant to sue a company with the financial resources of GOOG?

Daniow then gets a little more personal:

“I say this as someone who, until this month, ran a company that produced web analytics software and directly competed with Google Analytics. No more. There is simply no way my organization can produce the range of features Google offers and make them available for nothing. We will keep the consulting arm going but use Google Analytics as the reporting system.”

This is perhaps both the most confusing and most telling statement in the entire article. His statement is confusing because one would have thought that as the CEO of a web analytics software company Dainow would have had a more refined understanding of the features available in the market today, the patent market, and the overall utility of free software.

His statement is telling because it sounds like ThinkMetrics is about to become a GAAC (Google Analytics Authorized Consulting) partner, in which case the bizarre pro-Google rhetoric in this article begins to make sense.

[UPDATED: Brett Crosby from Google wrote me and said that ThinkMetrics was not currently nor was about to become a GAAC partner. Which really only makes Dainow's post that much more bizarre!]
At least, it makes sense that Dainow would want to write a bizarre cheerleader piece like this, I still cannot come up with any justification for iMediaConnection to publish something so strangely biased, poorly researched, and obviously wrong. Perhaps they too have decided that the rest of the vendors are dead and thusly unlikely to buy advertising on their site. I know I wouldn’t be sending a check to iMediaConnection anytime soon if I were Tim Kopp at WebTrends or Gail Ennis at Omniture.

Dainow then makes an even more confusing comment:

“I have been converted to Google Analytics version 2 purely by the strength of the product. It is not just the range of features that is impressive, it is the integration and flexibility.”

If by “integration” Dainow means “with Google’s products only”, and by flexibility he means “a total lack of flexibility” then I suppose I agree. Call me crazy, but I think integration means the ability to pass a variety of data automatically into and out-of the application using defined APIs, not just being able to see Google AdWords impressions and costs. And I think flexibility means the ability to collect multiple custom data, to define new data schemas, and to reprocess data if necessary.
I guess we just have different definitions.
Dainow continues to blather on and on (his “Blather Index” is very high in this article!) about the greatness and wonderfulness and amazing beauty of Google Analytics. For example:

“All the tables are clickable so that I can instantly drill down on the elements that stand out. For example, I recently analyzed the performance of a tourist site’s listings in travel directories. I was able to drill down on specific directories and see which pages and descriptions were working and which were not. Within the same directory, I could see some listings that had a bounce rate of 9 percent and others with a bounce rate of 70 percent.”

Well no wonder Brandt’s so in love with Google Analytics: The tables are clickable and he can instantly drill down on elements that stand out! That is certainly a feature not found elsewhere in web analytics …
I’m getting snarky so I’ll wrap this up. Dainow concludes with the following:

“But despite its failings, the overall range and flexibility of Google Analytics, combined with the price (free), leads me to expect the new version to totally dominate the market and drive most competitors out of business. You need an extremely good reason, or three, to continue staying with any other product.

If there is to be any future in web analytics software for any competitor, that company will need to rapidly expand the scope of reporting available and seriously enhance flexibility and drill-down capabilities.

Industry consolidation is sure to follow, and I expect WebTrends to be one of the few companies with the pockets to pursue such a strategy. It is surprising that Microsoft has not produced a product to compete.”

In these three short paragraphs, Dainow demonstrates a near complete lack of understanding of web analytics and the web analytics marketplace. Google Analytics already dominates the market in terms of total domains coded, but dominance isn’t defined by the breadth of your coding, it’s defined by the success your customers have using your application!

I’m not saying that GA customers aren’t able to be successful, but the data suggests that they still have a long way to go before the value of Google Analytics, or any free analytics application (sorry Ian!), can be assumed. Web analytics is hard and “pretty”, “free”, and “Googly” don’t make it any easier. Dedication and commitment make web analytics easier, not free and click-able.
There are hundreds of good reasons for any company to continue to use an alternative to Google Analytics: Dedicated support, “Enterprise-class” (sic) product features, and a company-wide commitment to customer success, not just to gathering all the world’s data, are three that come to mind.
Most of the licensed solutions on the market today have significantly greater reporting, flexibility, and drill-down capabilities than exist in Google Analytics. Visual Sciences, Omniture, WebTrends, ClickTracks, Coremetrics and others have all spent years working on these kinds of issues, and I think their customers largely agree that they’ve done a pretty good job. Visitor segmentation, custom reporting, and data warehouse analysis are all fundamentally important to “real” web analytics and are all basically absent in Google Analytics.

No disrespect to the management team at WebTrends, but don’t you think that Omniture and their $1.16B USD market cap would qualify as “having deep pockets”? Not that Omniture is likely worried at all about the competitive threat described in your article — plus they’re going to save a bundle by not advertising at iMediaConnection!

Regarding Microsoft and Daniow’s desire to sell Bill Gates his discarded web analytics solution … I think Dainow is the only person in the world who didn’t read last week about Microsoft Gatineau!
The comments at iMediaConnection basically all ask Daniow the same question–What planet are you from, dude?–and are best summarized by this comment:

“oh please….. it is lousy — we are now going to move to Omniture because of all the deficiencies in 2.0 — this kind of post must be paid by Google because people who use it for major adspends (Over 1m for us) know what a lousy move this was for us.. hey but I know the bloggers are excited.. while it has a few nice additions the removal of so many key features and the inability to see metrics together that previously were easy to compares are serious detriments.. plus it is not nearly as sophisticated as it once was.. stop drinking the kool-aid ..” (Elxiabeth schachin)

Well put, Elxiabeth.

In summary: I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out for Daniow’s company, especially with the great success that almost everyone else in this industry has been having for the last 24 months. And I wish him all the best as a GAAC partner — the world definitely needs more GAAC partners and smart people able to provide technical support for Google’s wonderful and amazing free application. But the kind of biased, self-serving, and poorly researched rhetoric published in Daniow’s piece has no place in the market today, at least in my humble opinion.
What do you think? Is Google Analytics going to destroy the web analytics marketplace? Is GA2 the best web analytics application in the entire universe? Are you calling your licensed vendor today to cancel your contract, and calling your broker to divest your holdings in OMTR and VSCN now that Daniow has made such a compelling case? I’d love to hear what you all have to think.

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  • Douglas Karr

    I don’t believe it’s a killer app at all, but I do like it. My worst complaint is the absolute total lack of great documentation on setting up campaigns and custom reporting.

  • S.Hamel

    I was really surprised by what I read in the article from Brandt and reacted the day in came out under an evocative title: “Running scared of Google Analytics“. My reaction was softer than yours… but I totally agree, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the claims M.Dainow does.

  • Judah

    The article is simply wrong and the author quite misinformed. The idea that “What Google has done is simply take every feature in every product on the market and put them all into one system” is absurd and just plain wrong. I’d even call it ignorant. Completely ignorant.

    Writing a piece of spin like this on the midst of getting a GAAC is disingenuous. Coming from a CEO too? Uck.

    I guess Brent Dainow thinks the whole world should experience multi-day outtages and have no access to raw data or control over processing. It’s seems obvious that he’s never done advanced web analytics on any large or global enterprise scale that required any cross channel integration or reporting.

    At the end of the day though, this is really an op-ed piece, not serious journalism. I wonder where are the editors and fact checkers at IMediaconnection?

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  • Bhupendra

    Amazing article once again Eric. You make and break the general market views with your research and depth of understanding of the subject.

    GA is wonderful but it certainly has long way to go before it sweeps the WA market. It is in the good line and I have my wishes for Google folks to make that happen. If good web analytics is given for free by Google, then other WA folks can probably look at other areas, more deep or the satellite topics :). Overall world becomes more productive.

    My take is Google Analytics is a reporting tool as of now and not Analytics Application. I wrote a similar article last week on Google Analytics and my take is almost same as yours.


  • Jay Calavas


    Wow, I think now more than ever it is evident that people are not aware of exactly how an enterprise analytical solution can affect their organization. I struggled with this fact during my 7 year stint in the WA community, articles like this turn the clock back for organizations ready to embrace enterprise WA/BI platforms like Omniture and VS. I see a great divide beginning to form between ‘Web Analytics’ vendors and ‘Customer Analytics’ vendors. Companies such as Visual Sciences, Omniture and Unica are taking the market driven cues to push their platforms towards a true 360 degree view of the customer.

  • Matthieu

    It sounds so funny and I can’t believe a real “web analytics specialist” said all this on a public blog…
    Thanks for this analysis :-)

  • summitbum

    Now that is how you take somebody to the mat.

  • Bryan C

    I simply love its one segmentation variable, it’s all anyone would ever need! Though maybe it’s just my inexperience and there’s more. I’m still waiting on a response from Google’s support team on that one…

    No matter, as long as I only get 4 goals per profile and can never have new profiles populated with old data I’m quite happy.

  • Jacques Warren

    Wow! Would that be the first case of “Suicide by Love of Google”? Anyway, I won’t comment about the deficiencies of that article, you did it yourself well and for good.

    However, here is some stuff I have had in my mind for some time now:

    Myth #1: Google Analytics is free. No it ain’t. It’s subsidized! If you’re paying thousands of dollars a month in AdWords, you ARE paying for your GA, and mine by the way (which I am thankful for).

    Myth #2: GA is a killer app. Well, no! It is VERY good, for sure. I do like it a lot, especially since I went solo and I couldn’t afford WebTrends anymore. It lacks many things (see your list, Judah’s, etc), and it’s hard to believe Mr Daniow has not been in the field more than a few months for not knowing it.

    Myth #3: It’s flexible. What? Where are my logs? I’d LOVE to have a look once in a while.

    Myth #4: It in enterprise class (sic, I know) application. One of my clients decided to throw it out this morning for the exact reason that GA is not able to connect with the backend systems.

    Myth #5: GA is a web analytics product. Or is it? I know the obvious answer is yes, but think for a second. As a measurement application that easily links with the Adwords accounts, GA is plain fantastic, and it was very nice from Google to make it available to all (kudos too for Optimizer). But all this calls for a deeper question: is Google in the BUSINESS of web analytics or not?

    Did they get all excited by the challenges? We know all those smart people love a good challenge. But what is Google’s long-term vision? GA 3.0? 4.0? and when we’re there, what will that application be? Another Omniture? Visual Sciences? There’s a difference between offering something nice, good, and free that goes well with your other products, and going after a market.

    Is Google in for taking over the web analytics market? If they decide that it is yes, well, of course, with all those engineers and money…

    And if the answer is no, well, GA is definitely something really good for you if you’re starting in web analytics, and you’d be crazy not to try it out. And one day, you’ll grow out of it.

  • Rich Page

    Great article – I agree that while Google Analytics is an amazing app, its certainly not goig to kill the industry. In addtion to the points you raised regarding what Google Analytics lacks, here is a list of other missing pieces:

    Rich Page

  • Ian Thomas

    This kind of cr*p drives me crazy. If it’s any consolation, in my six years in the web analytics market in the UK (during which I had plenty of opportunity to meet with the UK’s finest hucksters, shysters and ne’er-do-wells), I never came across Brandt Daniow, or his company. Never met him at a round-table, never saw him pitching his wares at a conference, never read about him in the press. So his “Authority” on these topics is not high, IMHO.

  • eric

    Wow, I got back from Tokyo to a TON of comments on this post (and a bunch more in my email!) I’ll try and address all of the feedback in the next few comments.

    Douglas: I like Google Analytics too, I like it a lot and use it frequently for my analytics reporting. I haven’t really looked much at the documentation but I have heard other people complain about support and documentation. Too bad about that since documentation is easy to produce!

    Maybe the GAAC partners will start contributing more documentation back to Google?

    Judah: Agreed. But one important note: Apparently Daniow ** is not ** in the process of trying to get certified in the UK, this according to Brett Crosby who wrote me directly. I suspect we’ll never know, but I would ** love ** to hear from Daniow what his motivation for writing this piece was (assuming it was more than just his great love for Google Analytics …)

    Bhupendra: Thanks for the kind comments. Ironically people do complain about some of my viewpoints (but no surprise, it’s almost always people with a vested interest in my not speaking up!)

    I sincerely, sincerely doubt that Google Analytics, or any single application, will ever sweep the market and achieve the kind of “category killer” status that Daniow describes. Why? Because I think that analysts are pretty smart and pretty fickle people and we all more-or-less appreciate choice! Some people choose the freeness of GA, some choose the slickness of Omniture, or the flexibility of Visual Site, or the commerce focus of Coremetrics, or the history of WebTrends, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, we’re still going to see some more consolidation. With so many web analytics companies (small and large) up for sale right now, and given that I sincerely doubt that any out-of-market acquisition will actually work (SPSS and NetIQ are good examples of why you don’t want your vendor to be bought by a big company that knows squat about web analytics.) So yeah, by the end of the decade I bet we’re down to two or three licensed solutions and maybe one or two free solutions.

    And yes, obviously, Google Analytics will be one of those left standing. But again, they will not be standing alone.

    Thanks to each of you for your comments!

  • eric

    Jay: Hey man, great to hear from you again! How’s Peter doing, and how’s the sun in L.A. treating you?! While I still gag every time someone says “360 degree view of the customer” (which I think is one of the worst fantasy ideas that vendor, consultant, or analyst can perpetuate!) I agree that Dainow’s article doesn’t help matters. What’s funny is the comments he’s been getting, which all run along the lines of “is this a joke?” and “are you insane!”

    Matthieu and summitbum: Agreed. And I’m not normally such a cynical and harsh old man, but damn the kind of vitriolic puke in Daniow’s piece pushes all the wrong buttons in me. I like Google Analytics a lot, and I like the team at Google even more, but no application is perfect and I’m really getting tired of all the hype and rhetoric.

    Yeah, I need a nap. I know.

    Bryan C: But wait, Daniow said that “Google had taken all the features in the market today and gave them away for free!!!” Which implies that GA has the unlimited segmentation in Visual Workstation and the custom metrics in SiteCatalyst and the customer support from Coremetrics, right?

    Yeah, let me know when you hear back from support ;-)

    Thanks to all four of your for your comments and feedback!

  • eric

    Jacques: See the comment from Ian Thomas below. Ian is as close to an authority on web analytics as I know from the UK so his note carries some weight (again, IMHO). All of your points are excellent, and I love your question “Is Google in for taking over the web analytics market?”

    Here’s what I think: I think that behind the scenes at Google there is someone who doesn’t give a crap about web analytics, they just want all the world’s data. DoubleClick, all the search data, YouTube, and now 1.2 million sites around the globe coded with Google’s code, sending data back to Google.

    Imagine what you could do with that much data! Optimize page rank, target advertising, build a huge network of information about the inter-relatedness of web sites and visitor behavioral patterns. I mean, if you’re into data, you should try and work at Google because damn they have a lot of it.

    Now, when I raise this point with folks at Google Analytics, I just get a funny look. I’m not sure if it is the “you’re so paranoid” look or the “we’re sending the black helicopters” look, and of course this looks is followed by a very earnest “but we would never do that, we’re not evil!” One senior person even ridiculed me over beer, commenting “and who exactly would be looking at that data? Marissa Mayer?! Larry!? Sergy?!”

    Yeah, okay. But Google is a data business, and all the world’s data is starting to belong to Google and their ability to write algorithms and monetize information.

    So I definitely think the core GA guys — Crosby, Avinash, Veen, etc. — are dedicated to the idea of building an excellent web analytics solution. And I do not deny they’re doing a fantastic job of that. Nor do I deny that Google Analytics is probably good for AdWords (which I hear constantly but have never seen one shred of evidence …)

    But I wonder like you do, what Google Analytics will ultimately become. Because if what GOOG was trying to do was collect a lot of data, they’re done. Game over.

    Thanks for your extremely thoughtful comment!

  • eric

    Rich: Great comment! Didn’t you get a note from Avinash about rolling some of that functionality in?

    Ian: Dude, why would this kind of crap drive you crazy? Oh yeah, because you’re going to head-to-head with Google in a few months. Right!

    Here’s an idea: Find someone to write a similar piece about Gatineau! Here’s the headline: “Microsoft Murders Measurement Messengers!” Now all you need is someone else crazy enough to commit career suicide by blog post and you’ll be all set.

    I believe Daniow has come to Emetrics a few times and I’m pretty sure I saw him speak in Santa Barbara. Ironically (as I commented) I have enjoyed his work in the past, which is all the more irksome since now I will never be able to read a word he writes again.

    Oh well. Thanks for the comment!

  • Dennis R. Mortensen

    Hi Eric,

    This is the post I wanted to write (.. but could not, being a Vendor). Your sublime commentary on the post from Brandt is simply out of this world funny (true and actually very accurate, which makes it even more hilarious)… And by the “closing” from Elxiabeth schachin: “..stop drinking the kool-aid.” .. I was laughing my arse off :-)


    Dennis R. Mortensen, COO at IndexTools
    My Web Analytics Blog

  • eric

    Dennis: Thanks for the feedback. That is pretty much the tone of private emails I have been getting from my vendor friends — more or less “That email needed to be written, thanks!”

    It is worth noting that I do have a great respect for the work that Google has done on Google Analytics. But I, like many people (who are largely too shy to say so) have gotten pretty tired of hearing how great Google Analytics is. I would much rather read some great case studies about how companies are saving huge amounts of money and still coming up with fantastic, money making insights using GA.

    These case studies are largely absent, and I know that Google has no incentive to write any such document, but someone sure should! Free is great, but free ** proven useful ** is SUPER GREAT!

    Thanks so much for your comment and I look forward to seeing you soon!

  • Marshall Sponder
  • eric

    Marshall: I saw your post, thanks for commenting! One thing, I’m not sure that anyone really knows why Mr. Daniow wrote that post. Brett Crosby from Google wrote me personally and said that Daniow is not trying to join the GAAC program so I was wrong about that.

    Maybe Daniow, having tried to build an application of his own, was just expressing his frustration for what GA is doing to the low end of the market (in your words.) I pretty much agree with you there — and think that GA is okay for companies new to web analytics, but is maybe not the most appropriate application for someone with more experience.

    Anyway, thanks for cross-commenting!

  • Marianina Chaplin

    Interesting discussion. GA is fantastic at the lower end or for companies who haven’t yet fully bought into web analytics (at the same time there is extra stuff you can do with GA using advanced filters that alot of people don’t use). However, as everyone else here has mentioned to fully give clients/companies proper analysis you need the segmentation and database access that paid-for solutions for. This is from the personal perspective from someone who runs GA on over 50 sites including household names such as Saab, and also uses paid-for analytics solutions for the larger sites.
    Cheers, Marianina

  • eric

    Marianina: Good point, but interestingly enough I see both Google Analytics and Coremetrics/SurfAid on the site, which I think points out inadequacies in both applications but is certainly worth noting.

    I’m a broken record at this point but I do believe that solutions like GA and the upcoming Gatineau release from MSFT are highly appropriate for “companies who haven’t yet fully bought into web analytics” (your words) of which there are many (as evidenced by the continual sales of my books!) But I also agree with you — that GA has its limits and limitations.

    Your comments are always greatly appreciated!

  • Dustin

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to use professional web stats stuff, and a lot of the open source stuff doesn’t do individual analysis well at all, or any kinds of advanced analysis. And the biggest problem with google analytics is that it doesn’t handle logfiles.

    So I built my own open source analyzer. :)

  • Dan

    Great Post.

    Google Analytics (GA) is a good tool to use as a starting point for those organizations that are trying to build out the analytics capabilities or have a limited budget to implement measurement. Once organizations see the power of web analytics using GA, they can move up to the big boys (Omniture, WebTrends, etc…) to maximize the learnings and insight about sight behavior.

    GA’s interface and aggregate reporting ability are both good. But mining the web behavior/interaction is not up to par for truly valuable enterprise solution for the advanced web analyst.

  • eric

    Dustin: Sounds very cool. Where can people learn more about your open source analyzer?

    Dan: Thanks! I could not agree with you more.

    Thanks to you both for your comments!

  • Matt Lillig

    Wow, that was some sweet advertising for Google Analytics! Apparently sliced bread and Google Analytics go hand-in-hand these days. Maybe I can get Mr. Daniow to hype up my blog for more traffic.

    I remember when Google Analytics launched and recall reading all of the press about how it was going to crush the “enterprise” analytics vendors. Yes, WebSideStory’s stock did drop that week. But then nobody paid enough attention to realize that weeks later, WebSideStory hit their highest stock price. Some dent. More like a brush off the plate.

    Like many others, I too use Google Analytics. Definitely a good free tool for basic reporting analysis. Visual and easy to use. But remember, Google purchased Urchin mainly for the purposes of getting good reporting to their advertisers to help them manage their AdWords campaigns better. With paid search taking off, Google realized that they needed conversion tracking for their advertisers. This is why AdWords tracking was built right into the analytics tool. Sure, they threw in some basic site optimization reports, but the main part is for AdWords tracking.

    I’ve been around a lot of advertisers who have both GA and an enterprise tool and they sure aren’t using the enterprise tool for tracking campaigns. Why? Because it’s more difficult to set up campaign tracking in the enterprise tools, but it’s built right into GA.

    As long as there are crazy web sites with new development technologies, there will always be a need for enterprise analytics and more insightful analysis.

  • eric

    Matt: Thanks for your comment and good memory about the market’s response to Google Analytics. I haven’t heard from Mr. Dainow yet but am not hopeful that he wants to talk to me.

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  • Aaron
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Hiring in the competitive analytics industry is no easy feat. In most organizations, it can be hard enough to get headcount – let alone actually find the right person! These three foundational tips are drawn from successful hiring processes in a variety of verticals and organizations.

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Slack Demystified
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

Those of you who follow my blog have come to know that when I learn a product (like Adobe SiteCatalyst), I really get to know it and evangelize it. Back in the 90′s I learned the Lotus Notes enterprise collaboration software and soon became one of the most proficient Lotus Notes developers in the world, building most of Arthur Andersen’s global internal Lotus Notes apps. In the 2000′s, I came across Omniture SiteCatalyst, and after a while had published hundreds of blog posts on Omniture’s (Adobe’s) website and my own and eventually a book! One of my favorite pastimes is finding creative ways to apply a technology to solve everyday problems or to make life easier.

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Profile Website Visitors via Campaign Codes and More
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

One of the things customers ask me about is the ability to profile website visitors. Unfortunately, most visitors to websites are anonymous, so you don't know if they are young, old, rich, poor, etc. If you are lucky enough to have authentication or a login on your website, you may have some of this information, but for most of my clients the "known" percentage is relatively low. In this post, I'll share some things you can do to increase your visitor profiling by using advertising campaigns and other tools.

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A Primer on Cookies in Web Analytics
Josh West, Partner

Some of you may have noticed that I don't blog as much as some of my colleagues (not to mention any names, but this one, this one, or this one). The main reason is that I'm a total nerd (just ask my wife), but in a way that is different from most analytics professionals. I don't spend all day in the data - I spend all data writing code. And it's often hard to translate code into entertaining blog posts, especially for the folks that tend to spend a lot of time reading what my partners have to say.

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Excel Dropdowns Done Right
Tim Wilson, Partner

Do you used in-cell dropdowns in your spreadsheets? I used them all the time. It's both an ease-of-use and a data quality maneuver: clicking a dropdown is faster than typing a value, and it's really hard to mis-type a value when you're not actually typing!

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The Downfall of Tesco and the Omniscience of Analytics
Michele Kiss, Partner

Yesterday, an article in the Harvard Business Review provided food for thought for the analytics industry. In Tesco's Downfall Is a Warning to Data-Driven Retailers, author Michael Schrage ponders how a darling of the "analytics as a competitive advantage" stories, British retailer Tesco, failed so spectacularly - despite a wealth of data and customer insight.

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Creating Conversion Funnels via Segmentation
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

Regardless of what type of website you manage, it is bound to have some sort of conversion funnel. If you are an online retailer, your funnel may consist of people looking at products, selecting products, and then buying products. If you are a B2B company, your funnel may be higher-level like acquisition, research, trial and then form completion.

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10 Tips for Building a Dashboard in Excel
Tim Wilson, Partner

This post has an unintentionally link bait-y post title, I realize. But, I did a quick thought experiment a few weeks ago after walking a client through the structure of a dashboard I'd built for them to see if I could come up with ten discrete tips that I'd put to use when I built it. Turns out…I can!

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Exploring Optimal Post Timing ... Redux
Tim Wilson, Partner

Back in 2012, I developed an Excel worksheet that would take post-level data exported from Facebook Insights and do a little pivot tabling on it to generate some simple heat maps that would provide a visual way to explore when, for a given page, the optimal times of day and days of the week are for posting.

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What I Love: Adobe and Google Analytics*
Tim Wilson, Partner

While in Atlanta last week for ACCELERATE, I got into the age-old discussion of "Adobe Analytics vs. Google Analytics." I'm up to my elbows in both of them, and they're both gunning for each other, so this list is a lot shorter than it would have been a couple of years ago.

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Top 5 Metrics You're Measuring Incorrectly ... or Not
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

Last night as I was casually perusing the days digital analytics news - yes, yes I really do that - I came across a headline and article that got my attention. While the article's title ("Top 5 Metrics You're Measuring Incorrectly") is the sort I am used to seeing in our Buzzfeed-ified world of pithy "made you click" headlines, it was the article's author that got my attention.

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Bulletproof Business Requirements
John Lovett, Senior Partner

As a digital analytics professional, you've probably been tasked with collecting business requirements for measuring a new website/app/feature/etc. This seems like a task that's easy enough, but all too often people get wrapped around the axle and fail to capture what's truly important from a business users' perspective. The result is typically a great deal of wasted time, frustrated business users, and a deep-seated distrust for analytics data.

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Welcome to Team Demystified: Nancy Koons and Elizabeth Eckels!
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I am delighted to announce that our Team Demystified business unit is continuing to expand with the addition of Nancy Koons and Elizabeth "Smalls" Eckels. Our Team Demystified efforts are exceeding all expectation and are allowing Web Analytics Demystified to provide truly world-class services to our Enterprise-class clients at an entirely new scale.

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When to Use Variables vs SAINT in Adobe Analytics
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

In one of my recent Adobe SiteCatalyst (Analytics) "Top Gun" training classes, a student asked me the following question: When should you use a variable (i.e. eVar or sProp) vs. using SAINT Classifications? This is an interesting question that comes up often, so I thought I would share my thoughts on this and my rules of thumb on the topic.

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5 Tips for #ACCELERATE Exceptionalism
Tim Wilson, Partner

Next month's ACCELERATE conference in Atlanta on September 18th will be the fifth - FIFTH!!! - one. I wish I could say I'd attended every one, but, sadly, I missed Boston due to a recent job change at the time. I was there in San Francisco in 2010, I made a day trip to Chicago in 2011, and I personally scheduled fantastic weather for Columbus in 2013.

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I've Become Aware that Awareness Is a #measure Bugaboo
Tim Wilson, Partner

A Big Question that social and digital media marketers grapple with constantly, whether they realize it or not: Is "awareness" a valid objective for marketing activity?

I've gotten into more than a few heated debates that, at their core, center around this question. Some of those debates have been with myself (those are the ones where I most need a skilled moderator!).

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Advanced Conversion Syntax Merchandising
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

As I have mentioned in the past, one of the Adobe SiteCatalyst (Analytics) topics I loathe talking about is Product Merchandising. Product Merchandising is complicated and often leaves people scratching their heads in my "Top Gun" training classes. However, many people have mentioned to me that my previous post on Product Merchandising eVars helped them a lot so I am going to continue sharing information on this topic.

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Team Demystified Update from Wendy Greco
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

When Eric Peterson asked me to lead Team Demystified a year ago, I couldn't say no! Having seen how hard all of the Web Analytics Demystified partners work and that they are still not able to keep up with the demand of clients for their services, it made sense for Web Analytics Demystified to find another way to scale their services. Since the Demystified team knows all of the best people in our industry and has tons of great clients, it is not surprising that our new Team Demystified venture has taken off as quickly as it has.

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SiteCatalyst Unannounced Features
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

Lately, Adobe has been sneaking in some cool new features into the SiteCatalyst product and doing it without much fanfare. While I am sure these are buried somewhere in release notes, I thought I'd call out two of them that I really like, so you know that they are there.

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Hello. I'm a Radical Analytics Pragmatist
Tim Wilson, Partner

I was reading a post last week by one of the Big Names in web analytics…and it royally pissed me off. I started to comment and then thought, "Why pick a fight?" We've had more than enough of those for our little industry over the past few years. So I let it go.

Except I didn't let it go.

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Competitor Pricing Analysis
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

One of my newest clients is in a highly competitive business in which they sell similar products as other retailers. These days, many online retailers have a hunch that they are being "Amazon-ed," which they define as visitors finding products on their website and then going to see if they can get it cheaper/faster on This client was attempting to use time spent on page as a way to tell if/when visitors were leaving their site to go price shopping.

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How to Deliver Better Recommendations: Forecast the Impact!
Michele Kiss, Partner

One of the most valuable ways to be sure your recommendations are heard is to forecast the impact of your proposal. Consider what is more likely to be heard: "I think we should do X ..." vs "I think we should do X, and with a 2% increase in conversion, that would drive a $1MM increase in revenue ..."

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ACCELERATE 2014 "Advanced Analytics Education" Classes Posted
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I am delighted to share the news that our 2014 "Advanced Analytics Education" classes have been posted and are available for registration. We expanded our offering this year and will be offering four concurrent analytics and optimization training sessions from all of the Web Analytics Demystified Partners and Senior Partners on September 16th and 17th at the Cobb Galaria in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Product Cart Addition Sequence
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

In working with a client recently, an interesting question arose around cart additions. This client wanted to know the order in which visitors were adding products to the shopping cart. Which products tended to be added first, second third, etc.? They also wanted to know which products were added after a specific product was added to the cart (i.e. if a visitor adds product A, what is the next product they tend to add?). Finally, they wondered which cart add product combinations most often lead to orders.

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7 Tips For Delivering Better Analytics Recommendations
Michele Kiss, Partner

As an analyst, your value is not just in the data you deliver, but in the insight and recommendations you can provide. But what is an analyst to do when those recommendations seem to fall on deaf ears?

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Overcoming The Analyst Curse: DON'T Show Your Math!
Michele Kiss, Partner

If I could give one piece of advice to an aspiring analyst, it would be this: Stop showing your "math". A tendency towards "TMI deliverables" is common, especially in newer analysts. However, while analysts typically do this in an attempt to demonstrate credibility ("See? I used all the right data and methods!") they do so at the expense of actually being heard.

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Making Tables of Numbers Comprehensible
Tim Wilson, Partner

I'm always amazed (read: dismayed) when I see the results of an analysis presented with a key set of the results delivered as a raw table of numbers. It is impossible to instantly comprehend a data table that has more than 3 or 4 rows and 3 or 4 columns. And, "instant comprehension" should be the goal of any presentation of information - it's the hook that gets your audience's brain wrapped around the material and ready to ponder it more deeply.

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Automating the Cleanup of Facebook Insights Exports
Tim Wilson, Partner

This post (the download, really - it's not much of a post) is about dealing with exports from Facebook Insights. If that's not something you do, skip it. Go back to Facebook and watch some cat videos. If you are in a situation where you get data about your Facebook page by exporting .csv or .xls files from the Facebook Insights web interface, then you probably sometimes think you need a 52" monitor to manage the horizontal scrolling.

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The Recent Forrester Wave on Web Analytics ... is Wrong
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

Having worked as an industry analyst back in the day I still find myself interested in what the analyst community has to say about web analytics, especially when it comes to vendor evaluation. The evaluations are interesting because of the sheer amount of work that goes into them in an attempt to distill entire companies down into simple infographics, tables, and single paragraph summaries.

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Funnel Visualizations That Make Sense
Tim Wilson, Partner

Funnels, as a concept, make some sense (although someone once made a good argument that they make no sense, since, when the concept is applied by marketers, the funnel is really more a "very, very leaky funnel," which would be a worthless funnel - real-world funnels get all of a liquid from a wide opening through a smaller spout; but, let's not quibble).

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Reenergizing Your Web Analytics Program & Implementation
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

Those of you who have read my blog posts (and book) over the years, know that I have lots of opinions when it comes to web analytics, web analytics implementations and especially those using Adobe Analytics. Whenever possible, I try to impart lessons I have learned during my web analytics career so you can improve things at your organization.

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Registration for ACCELERATE 2014 is now open
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I am excited to announce that registration for ACCELERATE 2014 on September 18th in Atlanta, Georgia is now open. You can learn more about the event and our unique "Ten Tips in Twenty Minutes" format on our ACCELERATE mini-site, and we plan to have registration open for our Advanced Analytics Education pre-ACCELERATE training sessions in the coming weeks.

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Current Order Value
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

I recently had a client pose an interesting question related to their shopping cart. They wanted to know the distribution of money its visitors were bringing with them to each step of the shopping cart funnel.

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A Guide to Segment Sharing in Adobe Analytics
Tim Wilson, Partner

Over the past year, I've run into situations multiple times where I wanted an Adobe Analytics segment to be available in multiple Adobe Analytics platforms. It turns out…that's not as easy as it sounds. I actually went multiple rounds with Client Care once trying to get it figured out. And, I've found "the answer" on more than one occasion, only to later realize that that answer was a bit misguided.

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Currencies & Exchange Rates
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

If your web analytics work covers websites or apps that span different countries, there are some important aspects of Adobe SiteCatalyst (Analytics) that you must know. In this post, I will share some of the things I have learned over the years related to currencies and exchange rates in SiteCatalyst.

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Linking Authenticated Visitors Across Devices
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

In the last few years, people have become accustomed to using multiple digital devices simultaneously. While watching the recent winter Olympics, consumers might be on the Olympics website, while also using native mobile or tablet apps. As a result, some of my clients have asked me whether it is possible to link visits and paths across these devices so they can see cross-device paths and other behaviors.

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The 80/20 Rule for Analytics Teams
Eric T. Peterson, Senior Partner

I had the pleasure last week of visiting with one of Web Analytics Demystified's longest-standing and, at least from a digital analytical perspective, most successful clients. The team has grown tremendously over the years in terms of size and, more importantly, stature within the broader multi-channel business and has become one of the most productive and mature digital analytics groups that I personally am aware of across the industry.

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Ten Things You Should ALWAYS Do (or Not Do) in Excel
Tim Wilson, Partner

Last week I was surprised by the Twitter conversation a fairly innocuous vent-via-Twitter tweet started, with several people noting that they had no idea you could simple turn off the gridlines.

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Omni Man (and Team Demystified) Needs You!
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

As someone in the web analytics field, you probably hear how lucky you are due to the fact that there are always web analytics jobs available. When the rest of the country is looking for work and you get daily calls from recruiters, it isn't a bad position to be in! At Web Analytics Demystified, we have more than doubled in the past year and still cannot keep up with the demand, so I am reaching out to you ...

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A Useful Framework for Social Media "Engagements"
Tim Wilson, Partner

Whether you have a single toe dipped in the waters of social media analytics or are fully submerged and drowning, you've almost certainly grappled with "engagement." This post isn't going to answer the question "Is engagement ROI?" ...

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It's not about "Big Data", it's about the "RIGHT data"
Michele Kiss, Partner

Unless you've been living under a rock, you have heard (and perhaps grown tired) of the buzzword "big data." But in attempts to chase the "next shiny thing", companies may focus too much on "big data" rather than the "right data."

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