Analytics! Why I love Web Marketing

December 7, 2010

Over the last week I’ve been reading Avinash Kaushik ‘s book, Web Analytics 2.0Web Analytics 2.0.  Avinash’s personality, which carries through his writing, actually makes the subject of analytics engaging.   I first met Avinash about 5 years ago, when he and I were on an expert panel together at a Frost and Sullivan Conference.  At the time, he was working for Intuit.  Since then, he has gone on to become the “Analytics Evangelist” for Google, and has built quite a following, (and well deserved!).

Before the Internet, I was always reluctant to recommend massive investments in off-line advertising.  The question was always “Do people really read that?”, “How will we know if this ad was a good investment?”.  While there were always measurement tools and services, such as Nielsen, there was always a shortage of data, and the statistical projections were never complete.

Today, with Internet marketing, the challenge is not that we don’t have data, but rather how to find meaning in tremendous amounts of data.  The web enables us to track clickstream in precise detail, and there are enough free and inexpensive tools to cut and chop the data any way you wish. With all the data available, there are no longer any good excuses for bad marketing decisions.  We must find a meaningful way to get out from under the data to an understanding of what site visitors are doing, and then making the right decisions to win at your business.

Avinash makes an interesting point in his book, which I wholeheartedly support.  He suggests following a 10/90 rule.  With all the free or inexpensive tools out there, don’t spend a lot of money on tools, maybe 10% at most.  Spend the 90% of your analysis budget on smart people who can see beyond the data, and develop insights that can turn into action.

I don’t pretend that I can summarize the 475 pages (plus a CD) of techniques that are presented in the book, but I’ll point out my five key insights that I believe are key to using analytics for successful web marketing:

1:  Experiment!  Take risks with crazy ideas!  The beauty of the Internet is that you can change things every day, instantaneously, to try something new.  Not only that, you can actually measure what works, performing A/B tests with free tools such as Google Website Optimizer. I don’t usually quote Rupert Murdoch, but I agree with his point when he said “Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow”.

2:  If you have limited time, focus on your bounce rate.  This is your most important measurement.  If people are leaving your site without even clicking past the home page, you’ve got a problem (which could be on the site, or could be in your keywords that drive visitors to you).  That’s the first thing you need to fix.  If you can’t keep them, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve begun.

3:  Learn to use Google Analytics!  Create custom reports.  Drill down to what’s interesting. Track to your goals.  And remember, even if you are selling product, you may have more than one goal.  In an ecommerce site, it’s just as valuable to have a visitor go to your store locator, as it is for them to buy a product.

4.  Figure out how to integrate data from outside the clickstream to get a full picture.  Include your social media results and even your off-line results if you can.  The data’s not perfect, but the trends should be apparent.

5.  Overall, don’t get analysis paralysis.  With a robust site, you’ve got more information than you will ever need.    Find insights, use alerts, and always come back up for air!  If you do, you should be rewarded everyday with a slight improvement and movement of the needle.  Don’t worry about industry benchmarks; instead focus on ensuring that you are improving results on your site every day.  It’s a competitive world out there, so enjoy success in the numbers, but remember that the endgame is not what the numbers say, but rather what you learn from them.

Good luck, and keep experimenting!