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New Data on the Strategic Use of Web Analytics

Published by Eric T. Peterson on October 11, 2009 All posts from Eric T. Peterson

Recently Google published the results of a Forrester Research study they had commissioned (PDF) to help the broader market understand the use and adoption of free web analytics solution.  Google should be applauded for commissioning Forrester to conduct this work, especially given the quality of the research and the level of insights provided.  Without a doubt, free solutions like Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics are having an impact on our industry and driving change in ways few of us ever imagined.

I really did enjoy the Forrester report, primarily because the author (John Lovett) managed to surface totally new data.  When he first told me that over half of Enterprise businesses were using free solutions I have to admit I didn’t believe him.  In a way I still don’t, but perhaps that’s only because I work with a slightly different sample than he presents.  Regardless, John’s report paints a picture of an increasingly challenging market for companies selling web analytics and a new sophistication among end users.

Speaking of sophistication, there are a few points in the report that I question, and since I have pretty good luck getting feedback from readers on big picture stories I figured I’d bring them up here in the blog.  Before I do I want to emphasize that I am not questioning Forrester or John’s work—I am merely trying to explore some data that I find contrary to my own experience in this public forum.  To this end I pose a handful of questions that I would love to discuss either openly in comments or via email.

The first point I question is the observation in Figure 3 that 70% of companies report having a “well-defined analytics strategy.”  Two years ago my own research found that fewer than 10% of companies worldwide had a well-defined strategy for web analytics.  Last year Econsultancy reported that only 18% of the companies in their sample had a strategy for analytics.  To jump from these low numbers to the majority of Enterprises just doesn’t square with my general experience in the industry.

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Remember, the implication of this data point is that 70% of all companies having more than 1,000 employees have a “well-defined analytics strategy.”  According to a 2004 report from the U.S. Census Bureau there were just over 12,000 companies in the U.S. with more than 1,000 employees.  Without assuming any growth between 2004 and 2009, Forrester’s 70% figure would result in over 8,500 companies in the U.S. that have a “well-defined” strategy for web analytics. Does that sound right to you?

Consider that the combined customer count for Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, and Unica combined in the U.S. doesn’t even add up to 8,500 companies.  Even if you use the more conservative 13% who “strongly agree” with Forrester’s statement you end up with over 1,500 U.S. companies.  I may suffer from sample bias, but personally I can barely think of 150 companies that I would identify as having any strategy for web analytics, much less a “well-defined” one.

Most companies I talk to have the beginnings of an over-arching strategy—they’ve realized the need for people and are beginning to reduce their general reliance on click-stream data alone.  But given that I think about this topic from time to time, I think a “well-defined” strategy for web analytics takes into account multiple integrated technologies, appropriate staffing, and well thought-out business and knowledge processes for putting their technology and staff to work.  What does the phrase “well-defined strategy” imply to you?

Similarly, if 60% of companies truly believed that “investments in Web analytics people are more valuable than investments in Web analytics technology” there would be THOUSANDS of practitioners employed in the U.S. alone.  But again, every conference, every meeting, every conference call, and every other data point suggests that the need for people in web analytics is still an emerging need.  Hell, Emetrics in San Jose earlier this year barely drew 200 actual practitioners by my count.  How many web analytics practitioners do you think there are in the United States?

Same problem with the rest of the responses to Figure 3 on web analytics as a “technology we cannot do without” (75%) and the significance of the role web analytics plays in driving decisions (71%).  Perhaps I’m talking to entirely the wrong people, perhaps I’m interpreting these data wrong, and perhaps I’ve gone flat-out crazy, but these responses just don’t match my personal understanding and experience in the web analytics industry.

This issue of data that simply does not make sense, while not universally manifest in the report, manifests elsewhere as well. For example, Figure 8 reports on the percentage of application used segmented by fee and free tools:

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When I look at these responses and see that 63 percent of respondents using fee-based tools and 50 percent of respondents using free tools claim to be effectively using more than half the available functionality, again I find myself scratching my head. As this data appears to speak to the general sophistication of use of analytics I went back and looked at Dennis Mortensen’s quantitative study of how IndexTools was being used around the world.

Dennis reports that fewer than 10% of his customers were using even the most basic “advanced” features in web analytics (report customization) and that fewer that 4% of his customers (on average) are making any “advanced” use of the IndexTools application. While this dataset is somewhat biased towards European companies who I believe, on average, to be somewhat behind their U.S. counterparts it does provide an objective view in how web analytics are used that seems to directly contradict the self-reported responses in Forrester’s figure 8.

Clearly there is a gap between the responses John collected and the current state of the web analytics market.  Since John is a very smart guy I know part of his rebuttal will include the observation that he surveyed people directly responsible for web analytics (see Forrester’s methodology) and that people in general have a tendency towards positivism. Trust me, my son is the most handsome little boy ever born and my daughter’s beauty is only matched by that of Aphrodite … same for your kids, right?

Given the difficulty associated with gathering truly objective data regarding the use of web analytics, this type of self-reported data is usually what we have to go on.  While Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, and Unica all have the fundamental capability to report data similar to that provided by Mr. Mortensen, it may not be in their best interests to expose underwhelming adoption and unsophisticated use (if that is what the analysis uncovered.)  Ultimately we’re forced to accept these self-reported responses and  then reconcile them against our own views, which is why I’m asking my readers what they think about the data Forrester is reporting!

Regarding these self-reported attitudinal responses on how web analytics is used strategically, perhaps the truth is found in the companies who “strongly agree” with John’s statements.  If we apply this lens, as opposed to the more optimistic view, we get the following:

  • 17% of companies recognize that web analytics is a technology they cannot live without;
  • Web analytics plays a significant role in driving decisions at 12% of companies;
  • 13% of companies have a well-defined web analytics strategy;
  • 9% of companies recognize that investments in people are more valuable than investments in technology

These numbers start to make a lot more sense to me.  Likely the truth, as with so much in our industry, lies somewhere in between, but I would love to hear what you think about these adjusted numbers.  Do the lower numbers make more sense to you, or do you agree with John’s more optimistic assessment?

Unfortunately if the lower numbers are correct the implication is that despite the incredibly hard work that companies, consultants, and industry thought-leaders around the world have done for years we still have an incredibly long way to go before web analytics is recognized as the valuable business practice that you all know it can be!

Regardless I want to state that I do not disagree at all with the fundamental thesis in this report, that “free” is creating a whole new level of interest in web analytics and that, given proper consideration, free is an excellent alternative to paid solutions.  Lacking clear strategy and resources, too many companies have wasted too much money on paid solutions for free to not be compelling.  Thanks to the dedication of the Google and Yahoo teams, the world now has access to great applications that are in some regards more compelling than fee-based alternatives.

While I may not have said this a few years ago, today I honestly do believe that “free” is a viable and appropriate alternative to fee-based solutions. While not appropriate in every situation, it is irresponsible to suggest that any company not willing to fully engage in web analytics should pay for ongoing services and support. Given advances from Google and the availability of Yahoo Web Analytics, any motivated company large or small now has access to a wealth of data that can be translated into information, insights, and recommendations.

Conversely I agree with John (and Jim, and almost ever thought leader I respect) who states that you need to “prioritize your business needs and culture for analytics first and then evaluate the tools.”  This goes back to the fundamental value proposition at Web Analytics Demystified: It’s not the tools you use but how you use them. If you’re not invested in developing and executing a clearly defined strategy for digital measurement, you may as well be grepping your log files.

I would love your feedback on this post, either directly in comments or via email. Thanks again to the folks at Google for making this awesome research freely available and to John Lovett for shedding light on this incredibly important aspect of our sector.  Remember: we are analysts—our jobs are to ask hard questions and then ask even harder ones!

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Categorized under General Web Analytics, Research, Web Analytics Business Process, Web Analytics People

  • http://www.webanalytiker.dk Jacob Kildebogaard

    Hi Eric

    You have some very important points here. Your arguing of people to have a tendency towards positivism is very true.

    If the respondents were asked a few year ago they may have been positive as well, but without the same knowledge. In the past year the firms have learned that they should have a clear web strategy and many have heard about Avinash´ 90/10 rule regarding employee.

    So everybody wants to confirm that they are doing what they have been told are the thing to do.

    It reminds me of the old story about how a magazine similar to playboy had a larger number of prints, than number of readers. The opposite way, but the same effect.

  • http://www.analyticsevolution.com John Lovett

    Hey Eric,

    I don’t wholly disagree with your interpretation of the data you questioned above. Clearly my glass is half full, but I will point out that you zeroed in on the only attitudinal question included in this rather comprehensive data set. I’ll bring to your (and your readers) attention that all of the 198 individuals who represented the enterprises in this survey were responsible for their Web analytics programs. As such, I offer that these respondents showed their own positivism regarding their programs and Web analytics strategies. You, preempted my thunder here, but no one (including you ;) likes to admit their baby is ugly and Web analytics managers are guilty too.

    I’ll also offer that this “attitudinal” data is self reported. If you or I were to evaluate the strategies of these enterprises, we may deem them less than “well defined”. And further, simply having a strategy for Web analytics does not imply success. In my experience, strategic planning is the first stage of analytical program development – a vision conceived by high level marketers – yet when the put into motion, numerous impediments – including staffing, deploying advanced metrics and integration – challenge the strategy.

    We agree that this industry does “still have an incredibly long way to go” – and that evolution will require new thinking and significantly deeper utilization of tools to prove their merit. In fact, my first write-up of this data expressed just that – woeful underutilization of tools indicates that strategic development of web analytics is lacking. I went on to write, Overall 30% of organizations surveyed admit that their Web analytics strategies are not well defined. Yet, organizations that do have well defined strategies tend to utilize more of their Web analytics solutions. Thus the crux of this issue – if your organization is not equipped to take advantage of expensive technology – don’t squander your money. Instead invest in people or guidance necessary to build a strong foundation for Web analytics.

    Further, I agree with Jacob in that most Web analytics practitioners want to do the right thing. They’ve heard the speeches and read the books about what to do regarding Web analytics strategies and staffing – yet, organizational culture all too often gets in the way. It’s my belief that many enterprises do sincerely believe that people are more valuable than the tools, yet selling this concept to upper management is a significant challenge.

    I too am curious to hear what others think. I welcome your comments and feedback.
    Cheers,
    John Lovett

  • http://www.bryaneisenberg.com Bryan Eisenberg

    This is all a discussion about the definition of terms. You said it perfectly, “What does the phrase “well-defined strategy” imply to you?” This may be where the bigger problem is. Maybe, companies that have these report jockeys that distribution data around the organization, or companies that give their employees access to all these report, think that they have a “well-defined” strategy.

    You know what they say “Ignorance is bliss!”

    I am just going to file this in the BS folder. I think this may be a classic case of poor research design.

  • http://twitter.com/exxx Emer Kirrane

    Hi Eric,

    70% of companies probably THINK they have a “well-defined analytics strategy.” It depends who you ask – you ask the web analyst in the company and of course, they’ll say that WA is vital. Ask the CEO the same questions, will he say the same thing? There may be company departments who feel this way, but this may not extend outside of their six cubicles and the kettle.
    Having said that, I would hope that we are moving in this direction. But I think we still need to convince companies that having a tool that measures the 20,000 page views since last Tuesday, and knowing that most visitors came from Kansas is not really a “web analytics strategy”

    Cheers,

    E

  • http://www.redeye.com Garry Lee

    I’ve got to agree with Bryan that this comes down to a definition issue.

    What us purists’ would call a well defined strategy is in reality very different to the average user, from experience I have walked into many a meeting to be told that a strategy is in place to simply see a series of reports, often without any purpose for there existence.

    I would argue the thing this report highlights most is that us practioners are clearly not doing a good enough education job in helping people understand exactly what a good strategy is!

  • http://measureup.wordpress.com/ Bansi Patel

    Great post, and still thinking about many of these points… finding the 70% figure, hard to believe.

    Re: your second question, when I think of the elements that make up good web strategy, there are so many things that come to mind. Starting with definition and clarification of web goals, metrics/KPIs, data collection methods, validation and maintenance, reporting and analysis, acion and post reporting, rapid resonse plans, communication of marketing wins, improvement processes, encouraging an analytics culture, strong testing programs, exec sponsorship, training… The list goes on, but all important aspects that need to be covered.

    Again, hard to believe that 70% truly cover all of this in their web strategy plans… If they have, and covered it on paper, i’d have to see it to believe it =)

  • http://immeria.net Stephane Hamel

    As John, Bryan & others have mentioned, the 70% figure is certainly biased by self-assessment. Self assessment consistently leads to inflated results, at least that’s what I’ve found so far using the Web Analytics Maturity Model I’ve been working on for 18 months. Simply put: don’t be judge and party… Beyond attitudinal information, which is still valuable, the only way to have quantitative data is to apply a rigorous, unbiased and clearly defined maturity grid. But this, of course, is also directly tied to the industry acceptance of said maturity model!

  • http://www.ForeSeeResults.com,www.FreedYourMind.com Larry Freed

    Eric, Great post. And credit to John Lovett for a discussion provoking paper. We all love a great debate, or at least those of us that are not afraid of a debate.

    As you and others said, it all comes down to how one defines “well-defined”. It takes a strong individual to step up and say their strategy is not well-defined. There can also be a huge difference between a well-defined strategy and a successful implementation of a well-defined strategy!

    I also struggle with the often used definition of Web Analytics. Clearly the topic of John’s paper is clickstream analytics (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.). A truly well-defined web analytics strategy includes the integration of many sources of data, from clickstream to financial to customer satisfaction. Maybe a better phrase to describe this space is Customer Experience Analytics.

  • http://www.jasonegan.net/?cid=bl_wad Jason Egan

    Eric, I agree with both you and Bryan on the point that there’s a lot to be said for what makes something “well defined” and the likelihood of the study participants to respond favorably. As consultants were we both deal with fortune 500 companies, I’m sure that we both often see examples of analytics strategies at very large companies that are far less than well defined.

    And also, I’m sure that my kids are better looking that yours.

  • http://www.blackbeak.com Steve Jackson

    Of the 50 or so enterprise clients we currently work with at Kwantic I could say that 4 have well defined strategies. 8%.

    Yes many of them have ideas, plans and are taking steps towards defining an enterprise wide strategy but the 4 I am talking about are the ones which have top management buy in and have a core analytics strategy in place with resources allocated.

  • http://makingmarketingactionable.com René Dechamps Otamendi

    Hi Eric,

    Great post and yes I completely agree with you. I have to say that I join Steve saying that very few companies in Europe have well defined strategies. I can’t disclose numbers, but I would tend to say that in my experience at OX2 we were under 10% as Steve mentions for his case. Having attended many eMetrics Summits in the US, I don’t think that this is very different there as you state in your post.

    Joseph Carrabis, our CRO has been conducting a study in the last months regarding the state of Web Analytics and I can tell you that the results are very different from what has been ‘self reported’ by US companies in john’s report… I’ll keep you posted when the study is available.

    Have a safe trip back home, give my best wishes to your family (I hope they’ll get better soon) and CU next week in DC!

    Cheers,

    René

  • http://www.kaizen-analytics.com Michael Notte

    Very interesting discussion! And comments as well.
    When I heard the figures of 70% of companies reported to have a well-defined strategy, I was quite surprised. Of course, I am not an expert and just an humble practitioner who’s experience is rather limited. However from what I heard & read, this sounds quite “optimistic”.

    Seems like figures differ based on how one interpret the notion of a “well-defined” strategy.

    For me, “having a well defined strategy” means having a company vision for WA with visibility on (higher) management level (where we want to go in 1-year time,in 3-year time…). A strategy that is aligned with business strategy (otherwise makes no sense :-)). It means to have governance in place, to have processes & methodologies to implement the strategy, it means having resources & budget… Somehow, I think it can be related to “maturity”. A company can not be stated as mature (from a WA perspective) without a well-defined strategy.

    From here, I will refer to Stephane Hamel’s WA maturity model (http://blog.immeria.net/2009/09/web-analytics-maturity-model-maturity.html) – that I find really interesting (even if I know that you, Eric, not fully agree with it – if not mistaking).

    Steven Jackson’s input is really interesting and there, doesn’t surprise me. More & more companies are starting to get involved and doing Web analytics in Europe and even in our tiny country, Belgium. But doing Web Analytics does not equal to having a strategy.

    Where I work, we have realized the importance of having such well-defined strategy. We have many of the required pieces but we have still work to do to put all these together. It is a long road to get a well defined strategy, to get mature. But we are working on it. We know where we are. We know where we should go. just takes time, patience & perseverance.

    Cheers,

    Michael

  • http://www.wattproject.com Andrés Flores

    Hi Eric,

    Last year we did a survey to evaluate the development or maturity of the online measurement/web analytics strategy among Spanish companies. We send over 1500 invitations to a qualified contact base and obtain 104 survey responses of which 84 were complete enough to consider as valid.

    I know the sample is small but our finding was that less than 1/3 (27%) of Spanish companies have reached a high (23%) or very high (only 4%) maturity.

    Even considering the gap between the American and Spanish market I think 27% to 70% difference is too much.

    Cheers,

    Andrés

    In case anyone is interested in knowing more about the survey and since all the results are in Spanish, here are few lines:

    In this questionnaire we asked for the use of specific tools/practices such as:

    A/B and MVT testing
    Building, tracking & distributing KPIs and Dashboards
    Tracking offline/online correlation
    campaign optimization
    Integrating web analytics data with other areas
    And a few more…

    Respondents had the chance to say if they had done/used each and if they do grade its impact.

    With these answers we build an index from 0 to 100 to represent the maturity of the web analytics project/strategy. We then build 4 equal sized bins resenting 4 maturity levels low, medium, high and very high (23, 38, 20 and 3 companies in each bin respectively).

    Here is a link to the document (only Spanish):

    http://bit.ly/3LoJfh

  • http://www.amyafrica.com Amy Africa

    Last week, I spoke at ECMOD in London. After one of my sessions, the MD of a 500,000,000 pound mail order company wanted some FREE advice on manipulating the limbic system and how you’d conduct a test to track it accurately.

    When I asked him what stats package he used, he replied “Feedburner.” And no, he was not kidding. And yes, I would bet my house that if you asked him if he had a “well-defined strategy,” he would have wholeheartedly said yes. (Incidentally, they use Coremetrics but it’s not tagged properly and they don’t know how to read the data, thus don’t use it, instead preferring GA.)

    I’m definitely not a #measure brainiac so I don’t have much to add to that end of the discussion. What I can say is that I think it’s very difficult for the “average” bear to respond accurately to any of these type of studies. (Lovett is known for being a smart guy and I know firsthand that the client had input so I’m not going to even pretend to guess how they ended up with what they did.) Needless to say, there’s only “so much stupid” any one person’s neocortex is prepared to commit to at any given time. Not to mention it’s rather vogue to say you are a data whore.

    Other comments:

    I do think over half the enterprise businesses could be using free solutions. Many of them run Google Analytics in addition to Omniture, Coremetrics, or the like. ESPECIALLY if they are running PPC campaigns or are using Google Checkout.

    As for the number of web analytics practitioners, I have no idea. This is probably not the place to be saying it but most of the web analytics folks I know (especially the ones in the big companies) don’t go to conferences like eMetrics or hang out in places like you do, Eric. (That’s not a slam at eMetrics or you, Eric, I’m just sayin’.) A lot of them are old-school direct marketers who have learned the ways of the web through trial and error or are young whippersnappers who’ve taken an online certification course and now think they can run the world.

    P.S. I don’t have kids but mine are much better looking than yours or Jason Egan’s anyway.

  • http://www.whencanistop.com Alec Cochrane

    To quote:

    “More than two-thirds of survey respondents are frequent or power users who access their Web analytics tools as primary functions of their job responsibilities”

    This might help explain some of the results – but it is an otherwise interesting report that’d be useful to benchmark for further updates in the future to see attitudinal changes over time.

    I know you think that we’re way behind here in the UK, Eric ;) but I have to say that one of the things that always amazes me is how many companies have set up systems and then are hiring analysts. That doesn’t suggest that they have ‘well-defined strategies’, it suggests that they’ve caught up a bit late and don’t know what to do with their data.

    Of course it could be that I only find out about these positions from recruitment consultants, but we have a WAW tomorrow and the ‘consultants’ will far outweigh the ‘practioners’, of that I have no doubt.

    Is it a lack of analysts or a lack of positions for analysts? Personally I think a bit of both – one of the things that I’ve always insisted on doing in my jobs is that we promote the use of data within the company and that means giving out use of the systems to as many people as possible. If I get run over by a bus tomorrow, there are 50 people here who have logged in to the system in the last two weeks who could carry on as if nothing had happened. Does that make me redundant? No – it means that I can spend more time looking at bigger picture stuff, outlining strategies, linking data sets together, doing the analysis when one of those 50 users hits a wall in their knowledge, etc, etc. I maintain, if we want to move this industry forward, we have to teach non-analysts how to use the data.

    I don’t have any kids, but if I did they’d be the best looking.

  • http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com eric

    Whoa, so many great comments here while I was away in Europe. I’ll try to respond where questions seem to be asked and thanks to everyone participating in the thread!

    John Thanks first for your comment and being open to gentle criticism about the report. One of the things I like most about you is your willingness to discuss these big ideas!

    We’re in agreement on most of your points but I wonder about this statement: “organizations that do have well defined strategies tend to utilize more of their Web analytics solutions.” Since the question about “how much of your solution do you use” was also subjective are you sure about that?

    I’m not convinced that companies have a good sense of how to really make web analytics work. Sure there are awesome exceptions (and I’ll have some of them on my Practitioner Panel at Web Analytics Wednesday next week at Emetrics D.C.) but in general I think we do have a long way to go.

    Thanks for your commentary and for being willing to challenge your own ideas in an open forum. (And my kids are prettier than yours are and you know it ;-)

    Bryan: I think John addressed the issues of research design and as I said I too can appreciate how difficult it is to assess “softer” data like attitude and perception. One of my concerns about companies who now believe that people are the end-all, be-all solution based on the good guidance you, Jim, I, and others have been giving for years is that people, in the absence of defined process and clear business strategy, are just as prone to fail as software alone.

    Nobody’s saying that yet, are they? Hmm …

    Emer and Gary: I fully agree, we all need to work harder to make companies understand what web analytics is really all about. How can we do that?

    Stephane: (Congrats on selling WASP to Avinash’s company, nicely done! Are you retiring now? ;-)

    While I agree about inflated answers, I am simply not convinced that a generic “maturity model” is going to get us any closer to describing the problem appropriately. Remember: I was the FIRST member of this community to propose a maturity model, and I have been using the JupiterResearch model now since 2005, so perhaps more than anyone I have seen where it helps and where it hurts.

    In terms of “industry acceptance of said maturity model” you do realize you work in an industry where we cannot even agree on the definition of a page view, right?

    I hope to have my blog post on the subject up in time for Emetrics so I’m sure we’ll have a lot to discuss on your panel next week. Thanks for your comments!

    Larry: Thanks for your comment and I agree, it’s great to be able to discuss issues like these and not just pretend that there is no disagreement in the industry. Some folks have called me “anti-PR” which I wear as a badge of honor around here.

    While few would argue (I suspect) that the industry has made great gains in the past three years data like John’s seems to inflate our advances. But that just means that some of us will have to keep working to evangelize, demystify, and bang the drum for truth and honesty.

    (Time for calls and so I hope to respond to others shortly …)

  • http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com eric

    Steve: You highlight the issue perfectly and it’s one that many people have commented on: it’s all about your understanding of web analytics, and the more refined your understanding the more you’ll work to define a strategic vision for what you should be doing.

    Simple as that.

    Michael: Thanks for your comment! You state that, at least according to Mr. Hamel, “a company can not be stated as mature (from a WA perspective) without a well-defined strategy” but how do you become mature ** without ** a well-define strategy?

    It become a chicken-and-egg conundrum which is why I am somewhat pessimistic about the value of models like Stephane’s (and my own I developed back in 2005 at JupiterResearch, just so you’re clear I’m not picking on Stephane!)

    Andres: Too bad I cannot read Spanish since I’d love to understand more about your methodology. Perhaps Stephane reviewed it for his MBA and I can get a summary there?

    Regardless, one thing I would caution you is that “using” a feature and “getting value” from a feature are very, very different. For example, A/B testing … I have talked to many companies that are paying for this service/feature but few who have a well-structured organization to take advantage of A/B testing in a strategic manner.

    Does that make sense?

    Amy: First I’m honored to have you comment on my blog. I’m a big fan of yours! Oh, and if you want to refer that MD directly to me I would be happy to help set him straight … ;-)

    LMFAO at your “it is in vogue to say you are a data whore” comment. I spit milk out my nose when I read that the first time.

    Your comment about most #measure folks you know don’t come to the conferences … an interesting point. I wonder if John would have asked those people the same question how the responses might have changed. I do sometimes get the feeling there are multiple web analytics audiences in the world — those who are plugged in and those that are not. I just wish I knew how to get to the latter group.

    Thanks again for putting in your $0.02!

    Alec: It sounds like you have quite the ideal system in place at your company, I’m jealous. One of my personal hallmarks of “well-defined strategy” is the deployment of a hub-and-spoke organizational model which is sounds like you have.

    You can read more about this model here: http://blog.webanalyticsdemystified.com/weblog/2008/02/what-is-your-web-analytics-communication-strategy.html

    No disagreement otherwise. So how do we teach non-analysts how to use the data?

    (and to Jason, Amy, Alec and everyone else who think their kids are nicer looking than mine … you’re simply wrong, and I have data to prove it ;-)

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  • Stephan S

    Another testimonial from Europe (France)… The high numbers are like living on Planet Mars, the Analytics practice is still in its infancy over here. It’s unbelievably difficult to convince people that they would have good reasons to look beyond mere clickstream data. Correction: unbelievably difficult to convince them they have any reason listening to you altogether.

    And free tools don’t always help. For too many decisionmakers, free means cheap means I shouldn’t care too much – just cut the costs and let the local Web wiz kids or the tech folks play with GA, that should keep them busy together. The 10/90 rule has a long way to go.

    About the definition issue, indeed the research could have been more factual by asking those individuals to position themselves against some WA Maturity Model. Just any is better than nothing – it’s just setting a numerical scale against some set of best practices, valid at one point in time. How could you wait / would you need to wait for a universally accepted model, when the best practices evolve continuously and not every one is moving at the same pace? A maturity model is only as good as it can support dialogue with its intended audience.

    Anyway, it all gets clearer looking at Figure 12 in the report. Only 15% would rate “Ability to set goals/conversion events” as most important, only 9% for “Conversion attribution”… vs. 44% for real-time clickstream. Indeed this is all in line with the “Strongly Agree” low figures. Wow, our Maturity Model is basically all there laid out before our eyes. No wonder most of these people would be satisfied with free tools. Did you say “unsophisticated use”? And don’t just even mention spreading conversion attribution to multiple campaigns.

    No wonder too that you feel “the need for people in web analytics is still an emerging need”. An incredibly long way to go indeed…

    PS @Eric, re. “Nobody’s saying that yet, are they?”: Avinash did call for utilizing 6-Sigma methods to reduce the human fault rate. But that’s really pushing the envelope for now. Let’s first convince the Hippos that they need analysts (real ones), before we actually let go and transfer our skills out into well-oiled processes. Please don’t kill this burgeoning practice on our dear old continent, give us a chance ;-)

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  • http://www.sarahdeatley.com/blog Sarah DeAtley

    Hi Eric!

    Much delayed reply now that I read this post over a week ago. I agree with most other people’s points about the positivism in respondent’s answers to the survey. What I was more interested in was what Amy alluded to (and what I was going to note): “most of the web analytics folks I know (especially the ones in the big companies) don’t go to conferences like eMetrics or hang out in places like you do, Eric.”

    I know plenty of people who are web analytics professionals and aren’t attending Web Analytics Wednesdays. And that’s free and close. Maybe its because of the structure (or lack thereof) of how the event is in Seattle (I can’t speak for how it is elsewhere)? It tends to be people who are there for casual networking, scoring a job with the host, or sometimes people who aren’t web analytics experts but are interested in it. And there is a discussion section that may or may not get participation from everyone.

    I guess my point is that web analytics practitioners do fall somewhere on a spectrum, but networking events and conferences can be geared toward a few segments in this population, and unintentionally turn off newbies/people without “web analytics” in their title from attending.

  • http://webanalyticslogs.com M Hsu

    Perhaps we will get a whole new level of insight if we were to read the data as “70% of companies [believed] having a ‘well-defined analytics strategy.’”

    To me, it was interesting to (and odd) to compare the positivism of the respondents from the report, who are web analytics (based on John’s own comment) versus the cautionists(sp?) representing the majority (if not all) of commenters here, who I’ll have to assume are also web analytics.

    So my observation is this – It seems like those who are on the job working, when questioned from outside, would like to have you know that they are competent, good at their job, and have everything under control. Regardless of the actual situation, wouldn’t this suggest that the companies they represent would NOT feel additional investment (tool or personnel) to the field is not necessary (hey, our web analyst says he’s got it all covered)?

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  • http://www.whencanistop.com Alec Cochrane

    Apologies for cross posting this on two posts – but the question was up there linking to the post, so I’ve got my comments in here too:

    The hub and spoke model works well in most situations. I like to take the analogy a step further bringing the spokes inwards towards the hub and getting the spokes to spread out to a third generation of users. These aren’t necessarily SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics users, but are users of the reports (at least, initially).

    We want to encourage them to ask questions, to look for insights and work out how they can not only use the reports to help themselves, but to want to delve deeper into the system. This way instead of adding more spokes into the hub, you add more spokes into the spokes. The spokes acting like mini hubs.

    This way you reduce workload on the hub (you don’t have to spend so long answering n00b questions) so that they can do some real analysis and provide tangible recommendations. It also allows the hub to get back to some of that real political stuff of cajoling senior management into giving you more money!

    Alec

  • http://egovau.blogspot.com Craig Thomler

    Without seeing the benchmark for what is a “well-defined analytics strategy”, I can’t even decide if I’ve ever put one in place.

    What I take away from the study is that 70% of organisations believe they have such a strategy. If we believe that this is vastly overstated then there’s clearly an education issue amongst organisations.

    We’re not going to make much headway in improving the standard of web analytics reporting – and the use of those reports in organisations – if the majority of organisations already feel they’re doing a good job.

    What is needed is a set of benchmark criteria on what a “well-defined analytics strategy” includes so that organisations can test themselves against it and form a more standardised view on whether they meet the cut.

    Once they begin accepting that there are significant opportunities to improve their strategy they are at least aware and open to the opportunity.

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