Web analytics is hard!
Published by Eric T. Peterson on February 5, 2008.
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The blogger Avinash Kaushik recently won an award for his post that largely echoed the content of my first book, Web Analytics Demystified. While I have never heard of the award, I am happy for Mr. Kaushik and excited because his repeated mention of my book’s title is driving incremental sales. Thanks Avinash!While I’m happy for Avinash, I have to wonder about his repeated insistence that “web analytics is easy.” I wrote as much in a comment I posted to his blog. The comment has not yet appeared (not sure why, maybe Avinash is on vacation) but I’m interested in your reaction to my position so I figured “hey, I have a blog …” and have published the comment below.
Basically I think that web analytics is hard — not easy or necessarily complex — but I think that this is very good news! “Hard” is something that all of us can overcome with determination and effort, just like the New York Giants did this past Sunday … all we have to do is recognize the level of effort and determination that is required and set expectations accordingly.
The verbatim content of the (missing) comment follows:
Congratulations on your award. I’ve never heard of the award but I don’t work nearly has hard on SEM/SEO as you do. Regardless I’m sure winning this award is quite an important accomplishment for you.
I also wanted to thank you. As the author of “Web Analytics Demystified” — the classic work you say your post pays homage to — it was interesting to hear your take on the subject. More interesting was how your post positively impacted sales of the book — direct sales were up nearly 40% from the month previous!
Perhaps your post reminded people that some of us have been around “demystifying” web analytics for a long time.
Either way, despite some people’s complaints that you were inconsiderate in your attempt to game my brand and copyright, I can assure you that I do appreciate your willingness to continue to bring awareness to my work, both as an author and as a consultant. And I sincerely hope you didn’t mind my tongue-in-cheek title for my AMA presentation …
Still, I wanted to ask you one question: Do you think the Giant’s thought that winning the Super Bowl was complex? Or do you think they thought it was hard?
I ask because you seem hung-up on my assertion that “web analytics is hard”, going out of your way to try and convince people that it is “easy but complex, not hard” and that somehow complex is preferred.
And while I’m not sure why you’re so violently opposed to my assertion, I do disagree with you — web analytics is hard, and that is fantastically good news! Web analytics is hard just like an underdog with a young quarterback winning the Super Bowl is hard. Nothing good is easy, but anyone, anywhere can do something difficult simply by being dedicated to the end product.
- Sacking Tom Brady is hard (hell, very hard) but the Giants defense did it again and again and again
- Converting on third down is hard, but Eli Manning and his receivers did it when it counted the most
There is nothing particularly complex about football, perhaps save contract negotiations, and there is nothing overly-complex about web analytics. In my experience the complexity that does come up in web analytics usually comes from “over-promise, under-deliver” and end-user needs for basic tools like segmentation and data integration that are lacking in some of the most popular applications, not from the practice of web analytics itself.
- Web analytics is hard, but anyone with enough motivation can overcome this obstacle and, in your own words, create amazing, magnificent, and wonderful success!
- Web analytics is hard, but simply by recognizing this and moving beyond the “web analytics is easy” hyperbole companies are able to create the right expectation about the effort required to be successful.
- Web analytics is hard, and that is excellent, excellent news. Because if web analytics were impossible there would be no need for Google Analytics or any of the other great applications available today, but if web analytics was easy, most of us would be massively under-performing.
- Web analytics is hard, but just like the Giants and every other Cinderella team in the history of sports, hard can be overcome through sheer determination, effort, and a well-formed plan for success: often the result is greatness.
I hope you’ll print this comment, and I know my thoughts will do nothing to dissuade you from your “web analytics is easy” mantra, but I had some time (ironically waiting to fly to New York where I hope to catch a Giant ticker-tape parade this week) and wanted to comment.
Some have accused me of “over-messaging” on this point and pointing out the obvious. Perhaps, but as long as I keep seeing the relieved look on my client’s and audience’s faces when I tell this simple truth, and as long as people continue to come up to me and thank me for clarifying expectations about their use of measurement technology, I’m going to stay on message. “Web analytics is hard” seems to match well with people’s experience, and more importantly, nobody appears too perturbed about this statement (except for perhaps Mr. Kaushik and his business partners.)
What do you think? Is web analytics easy? Is it complex? Is it hard? Does it matter? Are you perturbed by my assertion? If so, why? What am I missing?! I’d love to receive your feedback …
About Eric T. Peterson
Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
Want to speak with Eric? Contact Web Analytics Demystified