The Secret To A Web Analytics Career: Stop Learning Web Analytics!

by DigitalAlex on January 20, 2009

Welcome to Digital Alex, where you'll get Actionable Advice for Better Internet Marketing. If you're new, explore my archives and subscribe to my RSS feed.

This post originally appeared on Corry Prohen’s blog.  You might also enjoy my 10 tips on learning web analytics article and my advice about writing an analytics resume.

Eventually, your web analytics career is going to hit a wall.  Learning interactive marketing as a web analyst, you start with the numbers and then seek context.  When you stop to think about it, it’s really an inside out view, isn’t it?

You can master tags, logs and the many intricacies of implementation and that will get you so far.  If you want to go from good to great, then you’re going to have to stop learning analytics.

Advance Your Career with Action

Measurement craves action.  That’s why site testing (a/b and multivariate) has been such a huge hit.  Your success as a web analyst is defined by the impact of the changes your work inspires: more leads, higher revenue, greater customer satisfaction.

Start your search for by following the money.  In most companies, the budget is often biggest in one of these 4 channels:
1. Paid Search
2. Email Marketing
3. Organic Search / SEO
4. Landing Pages

1. Paid Search

eMarketer predicts that paid search spend will hit $10 Billion by 2010.  Each year, more money migrates from offline advertising to online buys, often starting with paid search (aka pay-per-click or PPC advertising).

Who’s to blame them?  PPC advertising, most often on AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, is among the most measurable marketing investments you can make.  That’s exactly why web analysts need to get up to speed… fast.

The basic structure of paid search advertising is simple: you select words, bid on them, write a text ad and send them to a landing page.  The reality is far more complex.  To get started, I recommend you start with a simple 5 point PPC questionnaire:
1. How are we performing against our yearly and monthly goals?
2. Which campaigns are driving 50% of our cost?  Which ones are driving 50% of our revenue (or similar KPI, such as leads)?
3. What are our ad groups and how are they performing?
4. What is our impression share for the top campaigns?
5. How is competition affecting our brand campaigns?

This is a mix of simple questions, but you’d be amazed how eye opening they can be for a web analyst.  I threw in “impression share”, because it’s a metric that few outside of paid search understand.  It once again highlights the need to move outside of just one tool.

You can get a good overview of paid search with this guide.  For free advice on measuring and optimizing paid search, check out the ClickEquations blog.

2. Email Marketing

Email is a rather unsexy channel.  Most people think of it as outdated at best or spam at worst.  The truth is that email is very much a part of online marketing in a basic way (support email, order confirmation) and more advanced uses (personalized offers, abandoned cart recovery).

As an analyst, you can lead the charge to maximize email ROI by asking:
• How does email stack up against other channels?
• What’s the most effective way to grow our subscriber list?
• What have we learned from past tests?  How can we structure future tests to boost results?
• Which segments of our list are most valuable?
• What kind of from and subject lines boost open rates?

I usually turn to the Email Experience Council to find resources for email marketing.  Their Email Stat Center is a really great collection of research and some stats for comparison.  The Email Benchmark Guide is a good starting point.  For more in-depth training, there is an Email Marketing Summit coming up shortly.


3. Organic Search / SEO

Of all the channels on this list, organic search is most likely to frustrate analysts.  Unlike paid search and email marketing, you can’t know or measure many of the aspects that contribute to successful search engine optimization.

Search engines are fundamentally secretive about what drives rankings to a.) keep their competitive advantage and b.) reduce the amount of gaming of the system.  To top it all off, it can take months (or more) before your changes produce results.

Even with those barriers, the value of measuring and analyzing organic search as a web analyst is huge.  A well optimized site can drive significant traffic with no per-click cost, which means more money for your company and more kudos for you.

Start with some basic questions:
• How has our organic search traffic trended year over year?
• Which pages are bringing in the most organic traffic?  Which search queries (aka keywords) drive them there?
• How does organic search drive our bottom line–profit, new customers, etc.?

Next, dig into some more advanced questions:
• What is your keyword share for our targeted search queries?
• How should we balance our organic and paid search efforts for maximum ROI?
• How do our blogging and social media efforts help SEO traffic?

I keep up with the SEO space by reading Search Marketing Gurus, SEOMoz and SEOBook.  Copywriting has a big impact on organic search efforts, which is why I read Copyblogger.  Their SEO Copywriting series is a good intro.  For something more in-depth, try this guide.

4. Landing Pages (aka entry pages)

Every marketing campaign has to point to a page on your site.  What should that page look like to yield maximum profit?  Welcome to the world of landing pages.

The immediate post-click experience has a tremendous impact on the profitability (or viability) of your tactics.  Paid search is getting more competitive and expensive, while display is as pricey as ever.  If you want to wring out the maximum results, then regular testing of your landing pages has to be a standard practice.

The good new is that there’s tremendous upside in testing for any analyst out there.  It’s all about data driven decision making instead of opinions and guesses.  Not sure which headline is best?  Test it!

The simplest way to get started is just to launch your own test using the free Google Website Optimizer.  If you’re familiar with page tagging, the setup should be pretty straightforward.  The real trick is understanding test design and measurement.

I recommend you start with Jonathan Mendez’s Expert Guide to Multivariate Testing.  Bryan Eisenberg’s blog often features useful testing tips.  I read Marketing Sherpa’s newsletters for new ideas and they have a handbook.

Conclusion

The fastest way to advance yourself, or your own business, is to focus on action and the bottom line business goals.  The more you can partner with marketing and improve results, the more invaluable you’ll become.  Take some time to expand your horizons beyond web analytics and you’ll be a better analyst for it.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 S.Hamel January 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

That’s a great post! In your suggestions, I see a focus on online marketing and site optimization, which is great.

I would like to suggest another career path: being a great web analyst you’ve learned a lot about the business, you have developed the analytical, communication (and political), action driven skills that would make you a great ebusiness manager, or even better, a business analyst. Go beyond the web and apply your skills to optimize the whole business! :)

2 DigitalAlex January 20, 2009 at 9:47 am

Here here Stephane!

3 Billy Ye January 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Great article.

It is good to know that going forward, web analysts will be well equipped to perform and push agendas of making every aspect of online marketing more effective without different groups bottle-necking the overall process.

4 San Diego SEO May 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Yea this is a very important blog to read. I had recently redid my url structure, thought I had everything redirecting correctly but when I looked at my error logs I had realized that there were tons of 404 errors that I was previously unaware of. I’ve sense adjusted my 301 redirecting and now everything is fine. Needless to say that all of those 404s didn’t help me.

5 Bret Bernhoft March 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I agree that learning skills outside of the core set we are certified in is very valuable for an Analyst. They all ultimately feed into each other over time and therefore are valuable to understand.

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