Web Analytics Hiring: Where to Begin

Now that you are serious about Web analytics and are looking to make it more of an initiative (rather than 25 percent of someone’s job responsibilities) how do you find the help you need?

When we talk to new or prospective Web analytics clients, we often hear stories of how disappointed they are with the performance of the people they’ve chosen to lead their analytics initiative.

There seems to be a major disconnect between the analytics roles companies need to fill and the skill sets available in the current workforce. As director of analytics for an interactive agency, I face this in trying to grow my team every day. What skill sets best serve our clients? What type of people do I need? Who can solve problems our clients and prospects face every day?

Who Can Help You Act on the Data?

A 2005 Forrester Research study found the number one problem companies have with Web analytics is taking action based on the data they collect. That tells me we need people who can interpret the data, tie it to the organization’s business goals, and identify opportunities to improve site performance based on those goals. We need people who can move from data to insight to recommendations to testing plans.

Who are these people, and what types of backgrounds do they have?

Technical vs. Interpretive Expertise

If you search the large job board sites for people with Web analytics experience, you’ll find a number of résumés. There are more and more people listing Web analytics as a skill set, but you must look closely at their experience. Often, these people have played a very valuable roll in their organizations, but most likely in a more technical/tool-specific capacity. This is an important role that many companies need to fill, but it isn’t the skill set that will move you down the data interpretation and implementation path outlined above.

If you search for the term “webtrends” to narrow that list of résumés, you’ll find a number of very qualified people to help you run the servers and Web analytics tool, again a valuable skill set. But, there’s a significant difference between someone who can manage the tool and someone who understands visitor behavior, testing, and Web strategies that can help you act on the data from the tool.

Having people with technical skills that can keep the analytics tool and servers running perfectly is an important role within an organization as it relates to Web analytics. But it’s very difficult to be successful with Web analytics if you don’t have the resources to correctly drive insight and recommendations from the data.

Key Web Analyst Skills

I’m often asked what I look for when evaluating candidates for my team. Here are a few skills, types of experience, and types of thinkers we look for:

  • A Web strategy background. Have they run or been a part of a team running an enterprise-level Web site?

  • An understanding of different data types. The ability to analyze and interpret data types, everything from financial systems to behavioral, attitudinal, and competitive data.
  • Experience in identifying opportunities to improve online businesses.
  • An MBA or MBA-type experience.

We look for people with statistical experience, a business intelligence background, experience in analyzing data from specific tools, and other things. We’ve had the most success with people who can blend their strong Web strategy/business experience with a solid understanding of data.

It isn’t really about Web analytics; it’s about improving Web businesses. That’s the real win in Web analytics investments and initiatives. Analytics are simply a means to an end. Don’t get too caught up in the tools or think that all you need is someone to manage the analytics tool.

If you’re someone with these skill sets, shoot me an email, and I can share some ideas on how to identify the right opportunity.

Meet Jason at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, August 7-10, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

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