Web Analytics — From The Top

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Posted November 21st, 2008 by Jim Sterne

The single most frequently asked question I get about Web analytics is, “Where do I get started?”  It’s a fair question and one I am always happy to hear. It means more people are becoming interested in improving their online results and giving their customers a better online experience.

The first step on the path to Web analysis is understanding the scope of the subject matter. Web analytics means click-throughs and page views to some — while to others, it includes everything you can learn about people online.That would include survey information, purchase history, social media interactions. general surfing patterns, etc. It’s a lot of ground to cover.

So, in the tradition of every journey starting with a single footstep, here is my list of resources, literally in order of “start here.”:

For a description of Web analytics, start at Wikipedia, which begins, “Web analytics is the study of online behaviour in order to improve it.” You’ll notice the King’s English spelling of “behaviour” illustrating the dilemma of citing Wikipedia – you never know who’s been there last.

Once you’ve read the above and are ready to dig a little deeper, it’s time
to pick up a good book. Here are the acknowledged leaders of the pack in the
proper order:

“Web Analytics Demystified: A Marketer’s Guide to Understanding How Your Web
Site Affects Your Business,” by Eric Peterson

“Web Analytics: An Hour a Day,” by Avinash Kaushik

“Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions,”
by Jason Burby & Shane Atchison

“Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results,”  by Bryan and
Jeffery Eisenberg

Keeping up to speed with any subject requires keeping an eye on the blogs. In this case, you can simply check out the blogs of the authors mentioned above. You’ll find thoughtful, current, sometimes-deep and sometimes-light
commentary on the ever-changing landscape of Web analytics. Once you start reading, you’ll notice they often point to others’ observations with internal links and a long blogroll listed down the side.

Should you come across phrases, comments, or opinions that are counterintuitive, contradictory or just unfathomable, it’s time to turn to the community at large to explain things. For that, head over to the Yahoo
Groups, The Web Analytics Forum. The conversation there is active and runs the gamut from “Where do I start?” to the parsing of specific query string parameters in particular Web analytics tools.

The most formal organization you’ll find in this realm is the Web Analytics Association. The WAA now has 1,900 members and is focused on advocacy, research, standards and education. There are several published standards
documents that provide industry-approved definitions of the most common concepts.

When it comes to education, there are two forms to consider. First, there are the WAA Base Camp workshops. These one-day tutorials cover the basics in three  flavors: an introduction to the subject at large, online campaign measurement, and Web analytics for site optimization.

Second and most significantly, you can earn an Award of Achievement in Web Analytics from an online course developed by the WAA and conducted by the University of British Columbia, or a Certificate in Web Intelligence which starts with the former and is finished off (also online) by the University of California, Irvine. These courses are very popular and have been continually sold out since inception.

The highest level of education, right before good, old-fashioned hands-on experience, is to be had from the Web analytics vendors themselves. Companies like Coremetrics, Omniture and WebTrends all offer their own
training courses which specifically teach you what button to push. They are very specific, very to the point and very valuable.

So whether you enjoy books, blogs, online discussions, social events, formal college courses or tools training, there are many places one can learn how to measure the success of a Web site and optimize your online marketing
return on investment. But it’s up to you to get started.

This entry was posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 12:45 pm and is filed under Metrics, Jim Sterne.

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