The Market Motive Master Certification Manifesto: Web Analytics

Being Unique Many of you are aware that I am the co-Founder of Market Motive, a delightful little labor of love whose mission in life is to provide bleeding edge education via quarterly, what we call, Master Certification courses.

There are seven courses in all: SEO, PPC, Social Media, Web Analytics, Conversion Optimization, Marketing Fundamentals and Online PR. Each course is taught by a world class expert who passionately loves teaching. It really is a fun group.

At the start of each quarter I send a letter to the students enrolled in the web analytics certification course.  My hope with the letter is to set clear expectations about the course and how to maximize their chance of success in it. My hope is to inspire them to put in the immense effort required (John and I are tough graders). My hope is to give them the guide rails they need. My hope is to share my belief that it is not the certificate they get in the end that matters, it is what they do to get the certificate that matters. Small, but substantive, difference.

I love writing the letter, and in this post I thought I would share the one I wrote the last quarter with you.

Regardless of the method of ongoing education you have chosen, I hope that you'll find the guidance contained in it to be of value. You'll most definitely see my unique brand of web analytics woven through the manifesto.

Here we go. . . .

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Hi,

I am thrilled that you have chosen to take the Web Analytics Master Certification course. My thanks to those of you who dialed into our first weekly call today (I cannot stress how important this is. You are in a very high expectation, high input course).

From your questions today it is clear that you are learning and already frustrated (a fabulous thing, by the way).

There are many ways to succeed and do the best you can with this course. There are an equal number of ways in which you won't.

To help you, I have written a little manifesto. It contains the recipes of what I think it takes to win. The secrets, if you will.

Print it, keep it handy, refer to it all the time.

We are supremely excited that you are here, and we can't wait to make it all the way through to a successful conclusion. If you have questions, bring them up in the weekly calls, or better still, don't wait and post them in the forum (and include screenshots and as much detail as you want!).

And here it is…. the manifesto…. good luck….

-Avinash.

What it takes to do well in the Market Motive Master Certification course.

#1: Focus on the business.

This course is about data and analytics, but it is also a lot about the business of online business and the business of online data.

Focus on learning the frameworks (there are so many of these throughout the course: the So What test, the PALM rule, the Web Analytics Measurement Model, the KPI life-cycle, the 10 principles of amazing business analysis, etc., etc., etc.). The thing that will accelerate your career is knowing the frameworks, developing a structured thinking capability, because they scale and can be applied in many different scenarios. Not your ability to pull a metric or a report out of your bff tool.

Visit the websites you are analyzing. Go through the whole process. See, actually see, the pages. Find the pain, and awesomeness. Talk to people who are around you, people you are helping. Understand the business.

Most people fail here.

#2: Pick two great websites to study.

Don't short circuit this part.

Like in any good course, you'll learn a lot of theory, yet greater than 50% of the value will come from doing the work. If you don't pick good sites to work with, you are simply not going to learn as much. That is the reason 100% of the weekly homework, and the super critical final dissertations, will be for real websites.

What's a good site?

    + You have access to *all* of the data (or at least enough source and behavior data and at least one solid outcome data).

    + You have access to the person who owns it so in the rare case when you need to you can ask  that person questions.

    + The site's using a good tool that allows analysis (you don't need to use Google Analytics or Omniture, but if you only have access to Statcounter data then choose a different website).

Choose one website that is non-ecommerce and one site that is ecommerce based. I want you to exit this course as a well-rounded Analysis Ninja. We are particularly biased here against one trick ponies. : )

If you don't have one of each you can use Occam's Razor and Brainwaves Toys.

If in doubt, choose Occam's Razor & Brainwave Toys.

If you can't analyze something solid, you are not going to win (in life, in this course).

#3: Be creative.

There is nothing that will keep your career down more than copy pasting what you have read in books or blogs or from so called gurus. Or just doing what you've always done.

Think broader, think of things / ideas / elements invisible to others, think of new ideas, think of two things you would do differently in your current actual job. Every single video in the course is built to expose you to new ideas. Use them!

Any one can pick new vs. returning visitors. Anyone can point to a standard report. Anyone can screenshot the standard Site Catalyst dashboard. Anyone can use the standard segments in Google Analytics (how lame!).

Life is better if you use the word custom in front of everything you do. Custom segmentation. Custom report. Custom dashboards. Custom frameworks.

All of that takes creativity.

My personal way of being creative is to fail a lot and figure out everything that's wrong, so I just happen to bump into what's right. Try that.

#4: Start now.

This is not a web analytics course, this is a web analytics 2.0 course.

If you need to use a different kind of tool on your site, implement it today.

If you need to use a competitive intelligence tool, find it and start poking around now.

If you need to have more data try and get it now.

If you need to….. start now.

This course is deliberately built to "snowball."

Everything you learn this week (and learned three weeks ago) will be required in the following weeks. Every single subsequent submission you make will have to be ever more complex and better than the one before (and include all the knowledge from the course up to that point).

So start now, retain as much as you can and keep getting better every week.

If you are not doing well let's *together* figure it out fast, and now, rather than at the very end.

#5: Make time.

You can't sail through this course. Sorry, that's not right… you won't sail through this course. It is a lot of work. I know that sounds tough.

You have made an enormous financial commitment to do this, and I am sure an enormous personal commitment. So make time.

Make time to review the material carefully and take notes.

Make time to come to *every single* office call.

Make time to experiment and play with the tools (a lot!). We have so many at your disposal.

Make time to submit your essays and quizzes and submissions on time and make sure they are complete.

Make time to review the feedback.

We are here to make you a hero. It won't happen without your help.

I am personally in awe of your commitment to do a full time job, have a family and still invest in your education through such an intensive course. I also feel a burden of responsibility, and am personally committed to your success.

In closing, I assure you that if you follow this manifesto you will do well and the fact that you'll earn a certification, (earn is the key word there,) won't be a surprise (to you or us). Anything less than what is recommend above will cause you to fall short (and now that won't be a surprise to you either!).

I wish you all the very best.

Carpe Diem!

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What do you think? Would it inspire you to give it all you've got?

In some sense, there is nothing about the items outlined above is unique to Market Motive. I think these guiding principles should prove to be relevant regardless of if you are enrolled at Market Motive or the analytics courses at the University of British Columbia or the University of California at Irvine or Universite Laval. Or for that matter preparing to take the Google Analytics IQ certification exam.

Whatever your path, I hope you invest in becoming a true Analysis Ninja.

Okay it's your turn now. . .

What is the best advice you ever got when it came to education? What principle / mantra / magic trick has worked the best for you? How have you maximized the ROI of your education? What are you doing today to ensure your knowledge stays current tomorrow?

Please share your tips / feedback / best practices / secrets via comments.

Thanks.

Comments

  1. 1

    This is a fantastic post! As a long time tutor of the UBC program and now teaching a graduate level class at Laval University (Quebec-city, in French), I sum it up in two words: discipline & perseverance.

    In my opinion, point #1 is the most important one. The tools will get you anything; business focus will land you a great career and a fun, challenging and amazingly rewarding and motivating job! :)

    Stéphane

  2. 2

    I focus a lot on my business, and I monitor other sites in my niche to see what their doing.

  3. 3
    Chessie Little says:

    As a past Market Motive student I can attest to the fact that the Web Analytics course is incredibly demanding and makes you learn to bend your mind around what are sometimes really tough concepts and pushing yourself to look at them in meaningful ways. But I can also say that it’s so incredibly rewarding to go through that mental yoga and come out on the other side with such a thorough understanding! I’ve been working in my industry for 15 years and hadn’t done any real coursework since college until the MM course. Granted, I’ve been to many, many seminars, roundtables, summits, etc., but those all just review high-level theories….MM actually TEACHES the super-granular detail of how to apply something to your everyday world and make it work better.

    All of that to say…my piece of advice is to let yourself be humble when you’re in the process of learning. The knowledge you have from your lengthy career positions you to use new ideas in a proactive way and contribute immense value, but you have to be willing to be vulnerable and look at things differently than you have before. If you fight against learning a new skill or way of thinking, you will struggle….surrender yourself to truly embracing knowledge and you will flourish!

  4. 4
    Landin says:

    The best education advice I ever got was don't be afraid to experiment. Sure it's great to do what your professors and instructors tell you to do, but experimentation will help you discover new ideas and answers.

    Especially with analytics, the worse that can happen with experimentation is that it doesn't work. But the benefits of experimentation with analytics is endless.

  5. 5
    Erin says:

    Thanks for the post – I enjoy your work very much. But to your first question, for me it wouldn't inspire me to give all I've got – it seems you've done a lot of explaining *how* to succeed in the MM course, but not provoked me to remember what motivates my desire to learn. The motivation is unique to each of your students, and while the how will apply to all, a quick reminder of "Why do you care? What will motivate you to do well?" that only the students can answer may go a long way towards inspiring each of them to hang in there when the going gets tough.

    The best learning I ever had was for my B.A. – a non-graded, pass-fail, write-your-own-major, interdisciplinary degree. (Web Analytics 2.0 would be right at home!) As a student you had to identify your passion, work through the steps to learn what you needed, and understand that learning is only a vista for more learning. Of course, the freedom of it all didn't make me too good at jumping through hoops, which is a good skill to have as well – had to learn that the hard way elsewhere.

    Hope this has added to the discussion, and thanks for the thinks.

  6. 6
    Josh Braaten says:

    Education and knowledge for the win! What a great overview of the Market Motive Web Analytics course, Avinash.

    I know Rasmussen College bachelor students appreciate the excellent Market Motive content as well. What better way to learn about web analytics than from the master himself?!

  7. 7

    Great way to challenge your students and get them prepared for the session.

    My biggest advice to people is "Its the journey that matters the most and not just the destination". Education is great at any point of your life. If you want to survive in this "dog eat dog world" be prepared and always stay on top of things by educating yourself.

  8. 8
    Ned Kumar says:

    Hi Avinash,
    Great advice & principles. I have always been of the opinion that the beginning of wisdom is the awareness of what one doesn't know. Once you have established that, you just follow the path to rectifying that by experimenting, reading, listening etc.. :-)

    I also want to underline your point on creativity. Sometimes you have to be creative not just from an analytics perspective but even on getting your house set up. In real life you have to work with many stakeholders within and outside your organization and so you might not get what you want immediately. The easy way out here is to give up and forget about it. The more difficult yet fun way is to think creatively on how else you can do what you want to do – and work on creative compromises, alternative tools/techniques, and sometimes even establishing a new tradition/culture.

    And lastly, I would strongly recommend never turning your back on an opportunity to learn something new. As you said, focusing on the business is crucial as this gives you the right perspective when you do your analysis. But even outside your business context, there is an amazing world of knowledge out there – in terms of techniques, methodologies, mental models, frameworks, etc. which can be applied back to your business setting (this also ties in back with being creative).

    Best,
    Ned

  9. 9

    Chessie: Awesome advice Chessie.

    I felt inspired after reading it! Thank you.

    Erin: I appreciate your perspective, thank you for adding it to the discussion.

    My letter goes out to the people after they have joined the course and attended the first weekly meeting. In that context the letter is meant to be a "now here's how you…"

    Students bring their own desire to learn to the course (it costs money after all). John and I try to fuel it each week with the material we present.

    Ned: I love the opening quote. I've benefited from it as I reflect on my own evolution. Wisdom comes from knowing what one doesn't know.

    Over time I've noticed a subtle evolution in my personal approach (perhaps the result of experience, I refuse to say age! :)). I'm a lot move focused on being certain about what I actually know. Understand my real strengths and to the extent possible understand my "weaknesses" so I know what to stay away from.

    And thank you so much for adding your perspective on Creativity and External Learning. I completely concur with you, and upon reflection I think that I've managed to bring a distinct view to the analytics world I live in primarily from the external learning bit.

    Avinash.

  10. 10
    Manjula says:

    Very well said Chessie.

    Avinash, I've been in your class and I'd like to add you are a great teacher and inspiration and yes, a tough grader! :) I would never have guessed you could be tough, but now I know. :)

    I say this in a good way tho….reminds me of a Rumi poem:

    "A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
    where it's being boiled.

    "Why are you doing this to me?"

    The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

    "Don't you try to jump out.
    You think I'm torturing you.
    I'm giving you flavor,
    so you can mix with spices and rice
    and be the lovely vitality of a human being. ….."

    As a past MM student, I whole heartedly recommend your course to anyone that asks (or not). I am still sad I haven't been able to fit it back into my schedule. I braved two MM courses back to back and couldn't finish the last project. Not that it has stopped me from applying everything I learned – just don't like to leave something unfinished and of course it's a joy to learn from you and John so I'll be back for more. :)

  11. 11
    Ian Williams says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I genuinely think the best principle I have held in education has always been that, on a long-enough timeline, anyone can succeed at anything.

    I think that we often are too keen to determine a self-image around arbitrary feedback we receive as children, i.e. "The teacher said I wrote a good short story. I must be creative!" or, "I got 10/10 on my maths homework, and my dad works in the bank. I must be great with numbers!".

    Obviously, even worse are the ideas that, "I am stupid", or "I am a slow learner".

    I'm only 26 but I've seen how many times my career, hobbies, and skills have zig-zagged between extremely diverse topics. The only thing that united them was that, with enough perserverance, I could learn to perform well in any sphere.

  12. 12
    Gerald says:

    This is a great post.

    Continuous improvement is key to growing in any discipline. Take notes and complete the hands on tasks. These two steps help me in my studies.

  13. 13

    Avinash,

    Thanks as always for sharing such great information. A lot of what keeps me interested is the work of inspiring people like you!

    I've always endeavored to hang out with people that are more intelligent than me, more successful than me, and more experienced than me so that I can absorb everything they share. A quote I've always associated with is:

    "You are who you hang with."

    With than in mind, I try to chose my friends wisely.

    Another component that is important for me is passion. It's always much easier to strive for success when you are passionate about what you do. It's easier to learn and absorb when you are genuinely excited about the process.

    Cheers!

  14. 14
    Nelson Yuen says:

    A graduate of the Market Motive Master's program, let me just tell the students to not be worried about how far advanced you are in the analytics world. Take in as much as you can, and don't be afraid to fail, even if it's a course by non other than analytics icons like John and Avinash.

    I currently work at a huge international Non-Profit, and let me just tell current students how valuable first hand web analytics experience is in multiple web environments. From big box retailers to broadcast media, the lessons you learn from Market Motive will seem like common sense, but in reality be very complex when putting everything you're learning together.

    So whether it's optimizing SAT registrations for students in Cali, or measuring twitter activity correlating a Jersey Shore web app, getting a core understanding of web analytics will help you translate best practices into other digital verticals.

  15. 15
    Peter says:

    I agree that the guidelines above can help in any course, digital or analog.

    Thanks.

  16. 16
    Rajat Khatri says:

    Sir,

    I understand it's never too late but I really feel if I would had these fundamentals top of my mind through out my education (esp. MBA), I would had all business knowledge and fundamentals clear.

    Thanks for sharing these tips. Indeed useful!!

    Regards,
    Rajat

  17. 17
    Erik Leander says:

    I have a question Avinash.

    I have taken some online courses and have been disappointed. I'm really interested in taking my web analytic skills to the next level. Will your courses do this?

    Thanks for your time!

    Erik

    • 18

      Erik: I encourage you to checkout the detailed course description here: http://goo.gl/rgqQ5

      Please click on the curriculum tab, it provides a very detailed overview of what you will learn week by week and includes sample videos. That should help you decide if this is the right course for you.

      Overall our course at Market Motive focuses almost exclusively on teaching you data analysis. It does not teach you about Google Analytics. It does not teach you about implementing web analytics tools. It touches on data reporting, but barely. It is all about how do you think about web analytics and how do you approach data analysis to find actionable insights.

      Also please check out this post, I've included links in it to other wonderful institutions offering certification courses in web analytics: http://zqi.me/wacareer

      All the best!

      Avinash.

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