For this installment of the Ten Minutes series we have the great privilege of meeting Brett Crosby from Google Analytics. Many of us also know Brett as one of the co-founders of Urchin.
I met Brett at the start of the year at a Frost & Sullivan event. During that interaction, and all subsequent ones, I have been struck by Brett’s knowledge of the delightful web analytics space as well as his passion for driving Google Analytics towards solving real customer problems.
I had originally sent these questions to Brett for an interview at the end of June. He had agreed to do the interview right away but warned about his busy schedule. And he was right. But true to his word he sent in the interview a couple days back. So while the questions are three months old the answers are fresh, just like the aroma of freshly baked bread!
In this interview Brett shares his perspective on Google, Google Analytics challenges, tips on metrics you can action, how GA will help analyze SEM (Pay Per Click / Search Engine Marketing) & SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and finally, if you need it, how to get help for your GA implementation. Without further ado, here’s Brett……
1. Could you please tell us a little bit about your role at Google?
I am the customer acquisition, messaging, spokesperson, and all around marketing guy for Google Analytics.
There are many things I don't touch such as help articles and things that are best left up to much smarter people. And thankfully I work with a lot of very bright and motivated people. So there is plenty of the stuff I am responsible for, but don't actually do myself. But I also focus a great deal of my time thinking about the future of web analytics and how it relates to our product strategy.
My title is Senior Manager, Google Analytics.
2. How do you make yourself indispensable to a company?
Well, this is an interesting question. The advice I have always tried to follow is to "work on your business rather than in your business". I try to make sure other people can do my job so that I can work on taking the business to the next level. That sounds a little bit as though I am sitting around letting other people do all the work! But I think if you ask anyone I work with they will tell you that I am very hands-on and involved.
In general though, and I don't mean this to sound salesy, in my own biased thinking, if you can prove the value of your ideas by tracking their success, you are going to be much more valuable than people who cannot. If you are the only person who does that, you will be indispensable to your company.
3. What are some examples of activities and surroundings that motivate you?
I come from a startup background, so I am always thinking about work whether I am there or not. In fact, I often get my best ideas while I am cycling, surfing or having an informal conversation without a set agenda. That is why I think it is so important not to get so bogged down with your daily tasks that you can't spend time thinking about the big picture: what you could be doing better and where you have opportunities to take an industry.
4. What did you really love about your last job?
The thing I loved most about my last job about was the people I worked with. But thankfully that has only gotten better at Google. I work with a lot of the same people and many new people who I also greatly enjoy. If you work on a product team at Google, it is similar to running a startup company around that product. So things aren't all that different. I guess if I had to pick one thing that I miss it was having a manageable amount of email ;-)
5. What is Google Analytics's biggest strategic strength?
Google Analytics' actually has two strategic strengths: the first that it is tightly integrated into AdWords and the second that it is free. The first one makes it extremely easy to setup and use, the second gets many thousands of businesses using the data GA provides to make business decisions everyday.
6. What is Google Analytics's biggest challenge, looking into the future?
Our biggest challenge is taking advantage of an enormous opportunity. We are in a position to help so many businesses become more profitable and effective, but we need to execute on our vision in order to do this.
7. What do you think is the biggest change (could be the nicest) in moving from "Urchin" to "Google Analytics"? For you or for the team or for the software?
Well, at Urchin we used to have free bagels on fridays. We thought that was pretty nice. Google provides employees truly gourmet breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. So not having to decide where we're going to lunch is a pretty nice change.
The real change though is the scale of our opportunity.
8. Could you share what you look for in Google Analytics employees?
If you can make it past the Google hiring gauntlet and you are passionate about web analytics, welcome aboard!
(Tip: If you want to work at Google you need to have done well scholastically, professionally, and have an interesting extra-curricular life.)
9. On my blog I talk about the challenge with the mass of metrics available in our tools, what is the analysis that you most wish your customers did but something that most don't?
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry right now in my opinion is getting the right data to the right people at the right time. Some companies are great at using the data, but far too often there is only a small handful of people who use this data regularly. This is partially because vendors, us included, have assumed a basic level of proficiency and knowledge. I think that assumption leads some people to feel intimidated when trying to use the data to make decisions.
Google Analytics has focused a lot of development on delivering on the core promises of web analytics: our interface is easy to use, the product is easy to setup and has status checks as you go, it is deeply integrated with AdWords, and we have a wonderful educational resource at www.ConversionUniversity.com. But there is still much to do.
10. Are there any special enhancements made to Google Analytics that make it the best tool to analyze SEO and SEM efforts that companies are executing on? My hypothesis is that perhaps being a part of Google helps.
Good hypothesis. Google Analytics is deeply integrated into AdWords. If you connect your Analytics and AdWords accounts (which simply requires checking a box), you don't have to add tracking code to your destination URLs. Google Analytics automatically imports your cost, impression, ad group, and keyword position data for you. This is a huge time saver and removes an often error-prone process. This is just the beginning of what is possible and there are many other integrations on the drawing board.
As for SEO specifically, there is a lot we do well already and even more we can do better. We have many plans on our roadmap that I should probably avoid disclosing, so let me touch on one of my favorite reports in GA that we designed as an SEM tool, but is also a great SEO tool. This is the "Keyword Considerations" report. This report shows you the organic keywords that are converting well then subtracts the keywords you are buying. The resulting list is great for finding new keywords to buy (SEM). But it is also great for discovering new organic terms that are driving people to your site (SEO), some you might not even be aware of. This is also a great report to keep an eye on to monitor how the vernacular about your industry or product changes. And you can see which products and features people really want, not just the stuff you are selling/marketing.
11. IMHO Google Analytics is creating "data democracy", anyone with a website can now suddenly get access to fairly sophisticated web analytics data. This is cool. But GA is still a fairly complex tool to use (just like the big boys :)). Beyond Conversion University are there other efforts you are considering in order to drive up the level sophistication / usage of the tool for the newly democratic masses?
This is a good point. We have the most extensive support options available in the market already, so let me first mention those:
- GA HelpCenter is in 16 languages: www.google.com/support/analytics
- The GA user forums: groups.google.com/group/analytics-help
- The GA blog: analytics.blogspot.com
- The Conversion University: www.ConversionUniversity.com
- Tech Support in 16 languages: www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/request.py
- Dozens of channel partners who offer paid technical support and professional services: www.google.com/analytics/support_partner_provided.html
Beyond that there is more we can do. The four main areas we are focusing on going forward are:
- more integrations that save people time and money
- developing the product to be even more intuitive
- increasing the prominence and number of channel partners
- and continuing to develop our existing resources.
12. I am sure you have many favorite clients who use GA/Urchin but probably one closest to your heart. Could you share some reasons why this anonymous client is your favorite? What is it that they do that is unique? What can the rest of us learn from them and emulate?
You are right Avinash, I have many favorite clients. But one of the most interesting involves millions of dollars, a Paris Hilton video, and a major industry trend. Interested? It is the story of how CKE, Inc, (Carl's Jr and Hardee's) promoted their new Spicy Chicken Burger with a TV commercial staring Paris Hilton washing a car and eating a sandwich. But my favorite part of this story isn't the ad content. It is fact that this ad ran on TV only once, then it was moved to the web and tracked with Google Analytics.
The goals of this promotion were viral marketing using a "forward-to-a-friend" button, coupon downloads, visits to the restaurant locater and of course interaction with and recognition of their brands. What they found is that not only did they reach their target audience at a much higher rate than they could have on television, but they also saved millions of dollars on advertising and were able to track the success of the campaign.
This is just one example of a very large and very lucrative shift from offline to online advertising that works for big and small companies alike. We are seeing much more of this than in previous years and I expect the trend to grow dramatically.
13. What is the one thing about the future of web analytics that none of us know, but you do? :)
Google is just getting started in this space…
Please share your feedback via comments. Did you have a favorite answer? Is there a question I should have asked but you think I did not? How can I improve future interviews?
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PS: If you missed the last episode of The Brett Crosby Show you’ll find it on Manoj’s blog. :)