Web Analytics Is a Function, Not a Career

On Monday, March 5, 2012, the Web Analytics Association announced it is changing its name to the Digital Analytics Association. The announcement was made at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit.

Why? Because times change.

Web analytics started when a curious website owner wondered what information could be gleaned from server log files. The number of click-throughs, page views, and visitors was engrossing. More today than yesterday; more this week than last…it was addictive.

Webmasters were thrilled with the chase of this new data stream. Log file analysis was joined by web beacons, URL-tagging, JavaScript page tagging, cookies, packet sniffing – anything that might yield more data.

Ten years ago, big companies came to realize that the expense of running a web presence warranted an investment in tools and services to monitor the value. What was the return on their interactive investment?

Those companies turned to the web designers and developers and started asking more wide-ranging questions. What about the success of our email campaigns? How well is our search marketing doing? Can you tell us anything about how TV ads are driving traffic?

Eight years ago, the Web Analytics Association formed, giving the community a hub of learning, research, and interaction.

Analysts were now optimizing campaigns, running split tests, and automating the campaign process. In 2007, the Emetrics Summit, The Web Analytics Conference changed its name to the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in recognition of the total value this sort of analysis generated.

Chief marketing officers realized that the underfunded skunk-works called “web marketing” had access to vital marketplace information. The web analytics data held answers to questions about the success of all of their marketing efforts; not only which campaigns were getting the most attention, but which resulted in the most long-term value to the company.

Those web analytics professionals were wringing more profits from their own online work and showing compelling numbers about the success of different messaging to different market segments. They started attending product strategy meetings with valuable insights about potentially profitable directions the company should be taking.

These erstwhile web server log nerds were now sharing analytics tricks with the business intelligence community, addressing more and more data streams from an optimization angle. They started using panel data, survey data, customer satisfaction data, retail sales figures, and even weather reports to create predictive marketing models and marketing dashboards for senior executives.

Integrated, multichannel marketing analytics became the goal. Everybody threw themselves at the “Big Challenge” of bringing all the streams together…until…

The 2009 economic crisis hit just about the same time that social media became a “Thing.” Measuring where every dollar was spent had top priority, followed closely by measuring the value of social media. Those that were able to do both, flourished.

Today, the world is being introduced to the concept of “Big Data.” More data (volume), more types of data (variety), and faster data (velocity) have come together with new technologies that make analyzing petabytes possible.

Throughout the past eight years, due to the tireless efforts of its members, the Web Analytics Association has done a terrific job helping organizations wrap their arms around all of these issues.

But one grievous error threatens to plague the WAA unless action is taken immediately: the “web analyst” is still thought of as that functional techie whose world is limited to click-throughs and page views.

While that is an appropriate appellation for the function, it no longer reflects the activities of the people involved and no longer serves an organization whose members are trusted business strategy advisors. It no longer suits the association’s Board members who have titles like:

VP of strategic insights and research
Director of customer insight
Vice president and general manager
Vice president data and analytics platform
Digital analytics director

Related reading