Training Business Users to Employ Web Analytics Data

Web analytics tools have evolved to provide deeper data, but a gap exists between data sophistication and users’ ability to employ the data to improve their Web sites and meet business objectives.

To put analytics data to work, business users must filter out the noise and focus on the most important information: data tied to their overall site and business goals. They must also become more skilled at interpreting the data correctly, identifying potential problems, determining solutions, and using the information to make changes to their sites.

Tool Providers as Teachers

The big four Web analytics tool providers (WebTrends, Coremetrics, Omniture, and WebSideStory/HBX) all improved their tools over the past few years. Recently, some have also addressed the core issue: helping business users understand what the data mean and how to use it.

Below, what some of the major tool providers have done in the past year:

  • WebTrends rolled out a number of initiatives to support its client base, including:

    • WebTrends Insight Network: This network is “a select group of leading interactive agencies, marketing consultants and Web analytics experts worldwide that work with customers to maximize the success of their online initiatives through the use of WebTrends solutions.”

    • User groups: WebTrends has nearly 30 user groups in cities around North America.
    • Business consulting: The company now offers services focused more on identifying specific business goals, supporting metrics, and helping clients act on the data to improve site performance.
    • Take 10 WebCasts: WebTrends worked with industry experts to create 10-minute Webcasts focusing on common issues and problems.

  • Omniture created a Web Analytics Best Practices Group in late 2004 to “enable customers to realize the full potential of their Web analytics implementations, through customized training, hands-on support, and innovative application of best practices and principles.”

  • WedSideStory announced this month the launch of its Digital Marketing University. The university is “designed for marketers of every skill level and will cover a wide range of material, from introductory courses about Web analytics to advanced courses in search engine marketing and visitor segmentation.” Interestingly, the company is setting the university up for both customers and noncustomers.

Who Else Should Be Teaching?

Are the tool providers the right people to train business users on how to use analytics data, or are they too focused on training people to use their own specific tools? Does partnering with industry experts make more sense? Is there another valid approach? Can tool developers realistically bridge the gap between data collection and Web business strategy? Do they have the in-house expertise to recommend how to interpret the data and act on it?

Over time, the newly created Web Analytics Association will make a significant impact on educating people how to use Web analytics data most effectively.

Only time will tell, but it’s good the focus is changing from just making more powerful tools (which many people have trouble using) to actually helping people interpret the data.

If you’re interested in talking more about this or other topics, I’ll be in New York at the FirstLook 2005 conference this week. Or send me an email and let’s chat.

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