Web Analytics Association: What’s in It for You

You may have heard the buzz about the newly formed Web Analytics Association (WAA). What does it mean for you?

The WAA’s effect could be tremendous in coming years. Until now, opportunities to share experiences and learn more have been limited for those focused on analytics. One of the only ways to get involved with analytics was to grab a Web analytics tool and learn as you go. Obviously, this leads to a very steep learning curve for people entering the field.

A number of months ago, my company was asked to participate in the WAA as a co-chair for the Standards committee. Since being invited and working with board members to create the WAA site, we’ve become very enthusiastic about some of the things the WAA has the potential to do.

Speaking the Same Language

I’m particularly excited to co-chair the Standards committee with Guy Creese. We’ll work with others in the industry to develop common vocabulary, definitions, and standards for measuring and reporting Web metrics.

Corporate sponsorship from many of the major players, including WebTrends, Omniture, Coremetrics, WebSideStory, Visual Sciences, and others, helps build momentum and industry-wide credibility. I believe the WAA will also attract many other members across a number of industries and role types.

Overcoming Common Issues

The potential benefits the WAA could have in the areas below really excite me. These are some of the primary reasons so many companies and individuals still struggle to act on Web analytics data and use it to improve site performance.

Today’s analytics tools can provide incredibly rich information. Often, the tools provide too much information. Without proper training, users can’t focus on the most relevant, actionable data. The WAA will help create an environment to overcome the following common Web analytics issues:

  • Help for corporate Web analysts. The position of Web analyst often evolves from another role (Web strategist, producer, business analyst, etc.) as a part-time responsibility. When the company recognizes Web analytics data’s value, it either turns to an outside firm to help them analyze the data or makes the job full time. Most frequently, the person who becomes the Web analyst is self-taught. Until now, there hasn’t been a centralized organization to turn to for information. Yes, the tool providers train end users on how to use that specific tool, but often there’s not enough focus (or expertise) on how to actually use data to improve business results.
  • Standards across the industry. It’s currently nearly impossible to compare metrics across different industries, as everyone has different definitions for the same term or uses different terms to describe the same thing. Tool providers name reports using marketing terms that can provide similar data points, but the way they collect and process data can be different. By creating standards, we can at least agree on common definitions and understand the differences. With this understanding, it’s easier for new Web analytics data consumers to get up to speed. It will also allow for metric comparisons across sites, industries, and tools.
  • Training and best practices. By creating a group of people interested in Web analytics, we can begin to learn more from our peers’ experiences. The industry can evolve much faster if we’re able to leverage our collective expertise.
  • Expansion beyond tool providers. The Web analytics industry is currently dominated by tool providers. Though they’ll always play a major industry role, right now they’re the only major voice in Web analytics. By adding the unified voice of Web professionals who use the data generated by those tools, we can work for our common benefit.
  • Advocacy for the industry. Numerous issues are floating around that could significantly affect our ability to accurately track visitor behavior. Cookie use is only one example. Often, the benefits of some of these elements are misunderstood. A group focusing on these issues can help share the benefits and not be blindsided by decisions down the road.
  • Research/trends. The WAA will encourage and facilitate the sharing of information across industries.

The WAA won’t have huge effect in these areas overnight, but over the next few years, it will significantly benefit the industry and the actual use of Web analytics data within organizations.

I hope you’re as excited about the WAA as I am. Check out the site we created for the cause.

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