Web Analytics and Yellow Lobsters

  |  June 19, 2009   |  Comments

A new report shows that good analytics strategies are as rare as yellow lobsters.

I've been curious about what kind of effect the economy is having on how companies use Web analytics. Econsultancy just released its "Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2009." This is its second annual report, and the results are fascinating.

First, the pleasantries:

  • "Companies are focusing on analytics which help them improve their customer acquisition and customer retention. The recession has helped to bring into sharper focus the importance of understanding return on investment and how individual elements of digital marketing impact the bigger picture."

  • "There is a prioritization of information requirements which relate directly to business efficiency. The biggest focus is information relating to the cost of acquiring a customer or lead which is regarded as a 'high priority' by 59% of responding organizations."

Overall, the interest in Web analytics and using it to improve continues to creep upward. The report also clearly shows that as the interest grows, so does confusion:

  • "There has been a slight improvement since last year but only one in five companies (22%) have an internal strategy that ties data collection and analysis to business objectives. More than half (60%) of responding organizations said they are 'working on this', while 18% say that they don't have such a strategy."

  • "There are still only a quarter of company respondents (27%) who say that their Web analytics 'definitely' provide actionable insights, with a further 55% saying that this is only sometimes the case."

Another trend is that more companies are using Google Analytics: 23 percent use it exclusively, compared to 14 percent last year. For Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal, this is why the following is also a key finding in the report:

    There has been a marked shift from spending on technology to spending on internal staff, with companies now spending more on human resources than on software and licenses. The proportion of spending on internal staff has increased from 36% to 42% of total Web analytics spend while spending on technology has decreased from 45% to 38%.

Obviously some companies are hiring analysts rather than paying for analytics or some other technology. A welcome bit for those trying to make a career as Web analysts.

Still, I wonder how these analysts are faring. We all know the challenge in finding qualified candidates. When asked if companies were getting a return on investment from their analytics, a whopping 65 percent of respondents didn't know or said they weren't getting a return.

Andrew Hood, managing director at Web analytics consultancy Lynchpin (which cosponsored the report), said: "While the technology gets more and more sophisticated (and arguably more accessible from a cost perspective), the challenges in interpreting and actioning the data only get bigger...Resources [are] still a massive issue, and while companies are looking to increase spend on people, there looks to be an underlying skills shortage operating against this."

It seems like good Web analysts are like yellow lobsters: they're very rare.

What's a Company to Do?

Before you do anything else, define your business goals. What do you need visitors to do to make your company more profitable? How will you measure success? You must tie your business goals with online efforts, or this is all for nothing. When you invest in improvement, you must at least know where the goal posts are.

Next, don't let budget be a barrier to improving your Web site. What you don't have in the budget you can pay for with a little more time and effort. Take the time to learn.

I've said it before and I say it enough: commit to a culture of continuous improvement, not a culture of set it and forget it. If you only focus on improving a few landing pages here and there, testing a few variations here and there, tweaking creative here and there, you'll never reach your highest potential number of conversions.

Don't worry, your customers won't go unsatisfied. Sooner or later your competitors will figure out how to satisfy your visitors' needs. Hopefully that will motivate you to get your goals on target by investing in continuous improvement.

What is your company doing with your analytics these days? How do you turn your analytics into actions that improve on your goals? Let me know below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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