Time to Be Tested in Web Analytics

If, like me, you are trying to recruit a Web analyst at the moment, then you will know what a tough task that can be. I’m looking to fill a couple of more junior roles in our consulting practice and have got specialist recruitment agencies here in the U.K. on the case. However, it’s not proving to be an easy search. First, the volume of CVs hitting my desk is not that high, and secondly, there’s a real challenge in understanding what the quality of the applicant is likely to be like.

In the U.K. (and I suspect it’s the same in most other markets) the demand for Web analysts is exceeding supply. At an industry level this is a good thing, as it’s an indicator that organizations understand the value of Web analytics in their business and are looking to invest in acquiring specialist skill sets in the area. An Econsultancy report from 2009 showed that 40 percent of client companies surveyed were looking to increase their expenditure in Web analytics on internal staff and at a faster rate than on either technology or consultancy and professional services. So there’s definitely “demand,” but what about the “supply”?

As the market has continued to grow and evolve, there are definitely more Web analytics specialists. You can see that by the number of people attending social networking events like Web Analytics Wednesday compared to a couple of years ago. However, with the kind of growth we see there are some challenges. The main one I have found in my recruitment efforts has been of understanding the professional competency of a potential candidate from the CV before deciding to meet them. Someone with two years of Google Analytics experience could be someone who has run reports and looked at Google Analytics data for two years, or it could be someone who has been creating custom reports, developing interesting visitor segments, and writing regular expressions. Often from a CV it’s difficult to tell, and you find that you end up having to kiss a number of frogs before you find what you are looking for. With some of the vendor technologies, there is some level of certification such as the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) Test, and they can be useful for understanding someone’s ability to drive a particularly technology. But what about understanding a potential analyst’s level of competency overall?

The good news that I heard last week is that the Web Analytics Association is about to roll out its own certification program. This program has been in development for two years and the first certification tests will be run in May at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summits in San Jose, CA, and London. Having been on the WAA board at the time of the inception of the certification program, I know the amount of effort that has gone into the development of it. The certification program’s purpose is simple – to provide a benchmark by which the achievements of Web analytics professionals can be recognized and to enable potential employers to identify qualified potential candidates. It’s exactly what we need.

This certification program isn’t any walk in the park either. There are tough eligibility criteria to be able to take the test. Candidates for the certification test must be able to demonstrate a mixture of formal educational qualifications and relevant business experience before they are permitted to take the exam. The certification exam, which lasts two hours, consists of 100 questions. The great thing about the exam is that the questions not only cover technical aspects of Web analytics such as being able to set up campaign tracking or understanding the different types of metrics used for different purposes, but also includes case studies where the candidate is asked to solve business problems and also to interpret data. The document that outlines the knowledge required for achieving certification runs to 37 pages and it’s not just about the nuts and bolts of Web analytics, it’s also about the ability to generate insights and communicate with business decision makers.

Given my recruitment experiences, at the moment I’m looking forward to the WAA certification program being rolled out. It won’t solve my immediate problem, but in time it will help me identify the standard of potential employees and also demonstrate the competencies of our professional consulting practice.

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