Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World!

two differentInterviewing candidates for a "data job" (analysts, marketers, ppc specialist) can be surprisingly depressing.

Sometimes they can be unqualified.

Usually they are "qualified". The depression comes from this singular flaw: The candidate's education is limited by the companies they work/worked at.

All I know is ecommerce because that is all my company does.

All I know is lead gen because that's my world.

All I know is PPC because my job involved just Search.

All I know is B2B because that's my company's vertical.

These are summaries of the excuses I hear. They don't actually use their words, but it takes 10 mins of questions for that essential summary to emerge.

These excuses are extremely corrosive and and sadly indicate how the candidates have allowed their environment to limit their full potential, stunt their professional growth.

Here's some bad news: Companies will never give you the time to truly learn and grow.

Sometimes they explicitly won't give you the opportunity, at other times they will give you the opportunity (and even some funding) but you still have your daily work load and you don't take advantage.

Here's a news flash: The world around you is always changing and growing. If you don't keep pace, you become stale. Quickly.

So?

Here's my recommendation:Step out, take charge of your own learning.

Why let your employer take you down? Why let them add just tactical experience to your resume? Why let their online tactics limit your growth?

So what to do?

My own learning about web analytics truly transformed after I started my blog. The total cost was $65 (five bucks to buy a domain and five bucks a month to host it with a ISP).

education 24 7

Web Analytics Education.

Just writing a few simple posts a month got a couple thousand page views a month. That was more than enough for my blog to become my learning platform, a place where I could implement web analytics tools, get to play with real world data and educate myself.

In the last couple of years I have implemented atleast 25 analytics tools on my blog. In fact at this very moment here are the tools implemented on my blog: ClickTracks, Percent Mobile, TigTags, Urchin, StatCounter, Yahoo! Web Analytics, Xiti, GoingUp, Statsit and CrazyEgg.

I have learned so much about implementation, customizing data capture, data analysis, and tracking challenges.

Having all these tools on my blog, or having them on your blog, means that your company, or your mom or your life partner or a bear, can't limit your ability to learn. You are in charge of your own destiny, you are in control of if you want to grow or become stale.

My employer, be it FedEx or General Mills or Florida Oranges or Intuit or WPP, is unable to limit my ability to be smart and current.

[Think starting a blog might be much? That's ok, grab your dad's business site. Ask a non-profit to allow you to analyze your site. Beg your "social media god" brother-in-law for access to this site / blog / media presence so you can do analysis.]

crossing the chasm

Beyond Simply A Web Analytics Education.

It is eternally frustrating to me that "Web Analysts" limit their learnings to Omniture or WebTrends or Google Analytics only. Why?

Why not become really smart about Search Engine Optimization analytics? No, that does not come from logging into Site Catalyst!

Your corporate team has a SEO team who won't let you in. No worries.

Claim your blog in Webmaster Tools from Google and Microsoft (Yahoo!'s offering is quite poor in this regard). Log into the tools and see all the wonderful reports you have and educate yourself about data that is completely missing from Site Catalyst, yet absolutely key to understanding SEO performance.

Want to be smart about Competitive Intelligence? Don't wait for your boss to give you access to anything or approve a PO. Log into Compete, Google Insights for Search, Google's Ad Planner (psychographic and demographic audience segmentation for free!) and … and … and …

surprising online advertising

Online Advertising Education.

A couple years back the company I worked at not do display advertising or use AdSense.

My learning strategy?

Implemented display ads in my RSS feeds and implement AdSense on my blog.

Result? An education by working in the real world worth its weight in gold.

I could have read blogs about online marketing or attended presentations at popular conferences on those topics. But it is the pain of actually doing it and the frustration of actually trying to merge the data sets and trying to reconcile the first party and third party cookies that were the source of my learnings.

Not theory. Practice. And I did it all on my own, no permissions required from anyone.

a social network

Social Media Analytics Education.

Last year I read about a new tool to measure Social Media (twitter specifically). I visited the tool, punched in a few people's names. I quickly came to the summarization that the tool was…. what's a polite way of putting it….. let's just say flawed.

My response? I started a Twitter account .

Each medium on the web is unique. None of my prior work would have given me the knowledge I needed to opine intelligently.

I started my twitter account because I wanted to learn what this new fledgling medium was all about and what impact it might have on Influence and Marketing .

After three months of committed participation and learnings think I finally got it . What makes this medium unique, what success actually means, how to measure it, and, most important of all, how not to be faked out by crap metrics that are floating around.

Almost a year later with 10,802 followers and 2,010 tweets later I might even charge you $1,000 an hour to tell you all that! :^)

But I learned for free!! Ok, not totally free, I invested my time and my passion.

On that same vein I only started a Flickr Photostream and a YouTube account because I wanted to learn what kind of data could be collected and what new metrics could be developed to measure success in those mediums.

All of the above has two powerful outcomes:

1. I learn a lot about online measurement in all its forms.

2. I am able to stay on the cutting edge of the evolution of the web (or atleast try really hard to).

Yes, you are right. It is a lot of hard work above. But nothing worth anything was ever easy right?

start button

Bottom-line On Your Online Marketing & Analytics Education.

Don't let your web analytics vendor or your employer limit your education or your potential. Don't let their business tactics and restrictions make you yet another analyst that can't survive a real world interview.

I hope to stay current, and relevant, by doing all of the above. And it is absolutely not unique. There is no secret sauce.

You can do it too. You can stay current, informed, intelligent. You'll add value to your current employer by being smarter than you are supposed to be, and if you and I ever sit in a interview we can have a fun conversation!

What are you going to do today?

What is one new thing you are going to get educated about in the next three months?

Are you going to be a true Analysis Ninja?

PS:
Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

Comments

  1. 1
    Maia says:

    Hi Avinash. This reminds me of how I got my current job. I tried to learn the ropes myself and just got a good break. Now, I'm complacent and was passing on the blame to others (like my company or clients) because I feel I am no longer learning new things. But hey, this post renewed the commitment to just go ahead and learn. Thanks :)

  2. 2
    Joe Teixeira says:

    True Story: When I was hired by my company in 2005, we did not have any presence in Web Analytics at all (did anyone really? Yeah there were some companies out there, but it's been a big 4 years since then)…I don't really want to pat myself on the back, but I basically approached my boss right away and said "Hey, we need to jump on this Web Analytics thing". I took it 100% upon myself to learn everything about the basics of Web Analytics, using a combo of Yahoo's old Marketing Console, old Hitbox, AW Stats (which I still log-in to) and this new shiny program called Google-something. I subscribed to every RSS Feed that I could find about it, and started learning everything – all while managing PPC campaigns and Search Submit Pro way back in the day.

    Fast-Forward to today – our agency is a GAAC, I've made a guest post on the Google blog (yay!) and Web Analytics is now a big, important part of what we do here. (And, we're not planning on stopping just there). I'd like to think I had something to do with all of that. I'd also like to believe that it probably would not have happened if I didn't take the bull by the horns (not that anyone couldn't have done it – there are extremely smart and talented people here), but I really had to go above and beyond the call of duty to make this happen.

    So, my take here is to really listen to what Mr. Avinash is saying, but don't expect this to be easy in any way – you're really going to have to put on several MVP-type performances to really make it happen for your organization.

  3. 3
    Jonghee Jo says:

    Avinash you made a really great point of taking initiatives for learning. This "Learning by Doing" philosophy will be very helpful for many of us. Thank you always for your wonderful insight.

    Jonghee

  4. 4
    Tina Bean says:

    Avinash,

    You are correct, we are all in control of our own destiny. It's not until we live these tools that we gain mastery and full awareness. I also experience "I only know SEO…. or I only know PPC" syndromes when I interview.

    The truth is, we are looking for a rounded individual that can transcend our companies in all these areas. Single mastery is not enough.

    In addition to your article, books like "The Whuffie Factor," by Tara Hunt, will aid folks through the understanding of an entirely rounded approach to social media.

    I think together, if people take our advice, we can raise their marketability and net worth substantially!

    You're speaking my language:)

    –Tina Bean

  5. 5

    Great article, i loved it. If they start these things in university, they will take this advantage much more than the others.

  6. 6
    Abdullah says:

    I consider my self the first maybe the only one who went in love with web analytics.

    I implemented it on some websites for free at the beginning just to learn more.
    and now Im running GA and implementing web analytics tools at a website with more than 22 millions monthly pageviews.
    I get a good salary too ;)and Im lunching my blog this month too. yeaa

    Thanks for the web for making its easy and unlimited to learn.
    thanks for Aviniah for making the world of analytics even better.

  7. 7
    Mike Sarnoski says:

    Great post! I recently decided to expand my knowledge outside the area of the traditional Marketing into Blogging, Web Analytics, Web Design, etc. As one of my first steps I purchased your "Web Analytics: An Hour a Day." So far it has been a valuable resource in learning this new field.

  8. 8
    Mark Cijo says:

    Great post Avinash. It opens my eye and I am just wondering why only few companies in India got GAAC. Does that means we are not using Analytics to its idea? I have GA installed in all our website and Woopra (Another Analytics too, I din see u mentioning this – Is that not popular) Do you recommending having more than one tracking system in a website? I am gona try out few other new tools I have noted down from your posts. I am happy with GA so far and I started looking at it very seriously after reading your Analytics demystified. Looking forward to attend your sessions when u are in India. ;-)

  9. 9
    Jorge Cunha says:

    Avinash, I am always doing "learning by doing", because, I believe that is the best way to learn.

    The employer don´t want to invest because they are short minded, but there are exceptions, normally these exceptions are companies who think their major asset are the people.

    Another great post Avinash, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. 10

    Avinash, you're soooooooo right! The one good thing about the internet is that you can start with almost nothing and be successful by just being curious and hard working.

    Mh, tonight I'll try to implement an image slider on a blog with jQuery … never done that before ;-).

  11. 11
    Emily Clark says:

    Thanks for the article. My company uses WebTrends, but my own personal experience implementing various tools (Google Analytics, StatCounter, etc.) has proved an invaluable at work. I've also come to the same conclusion about blogging being a great form of self-education which is something I'd recently decided to do (not in the analytics world, but for another passion of mine). World, watch out. :-)

  12. 12
    Alice Cooper's Stalker says:

    Avinash,

    Great topic and excellent suggestions.

    I was fortunate enough that the first employer I had out of college made all new employees take a class entitled 'The Self-Managed Career.' The class taught you to learn about yourself (your skills, your likes and dislikes, your constraints), your goals, the marketplace, and resources available to you. In short, it helped you learn to create a map for getting from point A to B. Resources can be people that you know, your company's tuition assistance program, classes that are available to you, tools that you can you use, etc…etc. I've kept the book for the class…going on 13 years now. I look at it from time to time and I've used the general guiding principles to make career changes. None of my other employers since then have offered that class and I've seen a real difference in people's career frameworks. Some people are overly dependent on their employers. Not the people that took 'The Self-Managed Career' class though.

    Large companies hire people to do specific jobs and to do them extremely well. Continuing to get that specific task done is their priority. Your continued marketability is not your employer's priority. Having said that, big companies tend to have great training opportunities that people should take advantage of.

    I think that all of the readers of this blog have a continuous-learner mentality or they wouldn't be visiting your blog and trying to learn from it each week.

    When I've wanted to put some skills I've learned to test in the 'real world' and those opportunities haven't been there for me at work, I've looked for non-profit organizations and volunteer opportunities to do so. I made a transition from a COBOL programmer in mainframe environments to a web developer at one point. I took classes on the web development technologies and my employer wouldn't let me use them. I found my school's local alumni club chapter was in need of a webmaster at the time. I ended up taking that volunteer job for 5 years. I had a portfolio to show potential employers. I also greatly expanded my network. So many alumni from my school owned companies in the area…some big companies! It was a great experience. I ended up getting another job because of my volunteer experience.

    I think that your post has reminded me of so much more that I've been doing…mainly learned through this blog. Your inventory of other tools outside of your base web analytics packages has reminded me that I should update my resume with these items while I'm thinking of it.

    Thanks, Avinash.

    Alice Cooper's Stalker

  13. 13
    Shivika says:

    Avinash,

    I am a recent subscriber to your blog and I am absolutely hooked!

    I am very interested in becoming an Analytics God! The field fascinates me! I am currently helping a company become a WOAC and knee deep into analytics world. Also, I am doing a M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. This degree combines creative marketing and data analysis.

    Anyways, I was wondering which blog platform you would recommend. Which one would allow the most flexibility for all kinds of web analytics? I had one on blogspot.com and used Google Analytics on that. Shall I continue with that and try other trackers? Shall I try another platform or website that would allow for more creative measurement?

    Thanks for your insights!

    Best,

    Shivika

  14. 14

    Avinash…thank you for this post!

    You confirmed something I had a hutch about all along.

    I've been finding that my most high-level, heartfelt (and creditable) measurement strategy advice/analogies I provide to clients, are actually based on small experiences and decisions I've made from having my own blog, websites, freelance client work, etc. Some corporate experience can be too myopic or too specific to a particular industry to share and provide guidance.

    Until the value of having a measurement strategy is better adopted from a corporate perspective, use what ever "free" experience you can gain to tell "common sense" stories about the insights your analytics have gathered and design decisions you have made!

  15. 15
    Lisa says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Great suggestions! I think your comment about 'The candidate’s education is limited by the companies they work/worked at" is also true for many fields outside of web analytics. It's almost always up the the candidate to learn more on their own.

    I've throughly enjoyed your blog after a co-worker recommended it to me about a year ago and I just started reading your book. Keep up the great work!

    – Lisa

  16. 16

    These types of posts get me so excited!

    The thirst for knowledge and understanding seems to be an intrinsic part of excellence – no matter what field you are in. While having a college degree is good, only a true passion for what you do can excel your skills beyond anything else. It is not about money or a title, but about really desiring to improve constantly.

    I think the difference between jobs and careers are a matter of internal(you) vs. external(job) responsibilities. You can have a job that is in line with what you like to do, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to devote all of your time developing a single skill set like Avinash mentions. Seeing the overlap between different skills can really enhance your understanding and can you help see problems and solutions from a different perspective.

    thanks for the post Avinash – and continue learning!

  17. 17

    This post is a wonderful encouragement! I must admit that half of my own portfolio came from volunteer work or from projects for which I “volunteered” at work.

    There is another wonderful source of learning projects and networking – professional associations in similar, but not quite exactly the same area. Plus, these associations are always looking for volunteers (board positions experience could also be useful on job interviews).

    Sometimes, we might want to have access to a specific tool (state-of-the-art e-mail marketing platform, etc.), what can be also available for these associations on sponsorship level.

    We are responsible for our own education, and sometimes, “volunteering” at work may not be possible. However, there are so many smart organizations that would be happy to use our efforts. ;-)

  18. 18
    zyxo says:

    Avinash, you are absolutely right. I just have one question for you : how much hours do your days count ? Mine only 24 !

  19. 19

    Hi Avinash,

    Can't agree with you more. I'm a physicist by training, (Masters), but got involved with the web after I left university, and decided to look for a 'proper job' for a while… The role I landed was that of a web analyst, but I ended up opening a Pandora's Box of exciting studies and projects… and haven't looked back!

    I've recently got a brand-spanking new job working for a web consultancy, and I personally attribute my success at getting the job to some of the other aspects of the 'web-sphere' I've been experimenting with, rather than solely sending reports, and messing around with [INSERT WEB ANALYTICS PROVIDER HERE]

    My extra USPs…

    Coding – from tagging, scripting, HTML, PHP…

    Usability analysis, accessibility – everyone must be able to play with the web!

    Social networking… always a fascination..

    My personal fave: web service API development.

    It fascinates me how you can connect various data sources and skins to build your own interfaces for web analytics applications –
    Big up to pumping web analytics data into Google Visualization, Motion Chart and Maps APIs!

    Not only does this keep me fairly busy in the evenings, but it gives me the sense I'm making some real educational progress, and it seems to have helped me land this great new job!

    So all… don't take your work home with you, take your hobby to work!

    **********

    Here’s a news flash: The world around you is always changing and growing. If you don’t keep pace, you become stale. Quickly.

  20. 20
    mb says:

    This perfectly describes my situation! I face the exact same problems in my current job. 8 months ago I started started learning on my own, investing lots of time and energy in it. Registering on allkinds of social media, twitering, reading lots of blogs, blogging on my own etc. I have learned A LOT. Unfortunately the management don't realise how much i learned, as they dont focus on educating and growing the staff's knowledge. The industry we work in requires that you keep yourself updated every day, because of so rapid changes.

    I think that the companies that dont focus on educating their staff will eventually lose.

    People skills are important!

  21. 21
    Kristen says:

    Avinash,
    My former employer did not encourage participation in external learning opportunities. Their short-sighted perspective was that those events were only for networking and finding a new job. I decided to start sending myself because I couldn't resist the dynamic nature of meeting so many intelligent people who shared my same passion (including you!)

    They benefited from my enthusiasm for 3 years before I went and found a new job that rewarded me for having that passion and seeking out new opportunities to learn. I see it as an investment in myself that paid off in spades!

  22. 22
    keneri says:

    After reading this we all must remember one thing. When we ourselves get into a position to hire and teach new webanalytics professionals, we must give them opportunities and not just chores.

    Please use your powers to prevent history to repeat itself. We have the power to change the future.

  23. 23

    I love this blog. I have been teaching myself and learning from others in the process of optimizing my business site and my son's site. It does take time and hard work but has been worth it for me.

  24. 24
    Marco says:

    Avinash you are amazing! I just came across you, your blog, your videos, few days ago and i really love all of the information that comes out from your brain!
    What about job agencies/company that ask for specific knowledge of specific tools (e.g. GA, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics, and so on…)
    In my opinion is not important to know a single tool, but it is important to have an analytical mind… then you learn the tool… once you know one of them, and what you can do, the other is just a matter of hours! isn't it?
    I was quite disappointed with some companies/job agencies that dont even understand what GA or Omniture or COremetrics are… and they just ask this as a requirement for applying for a job… but actually they dont really know what they are talking about.
    In my opinion you dont need to know a specific product in order to do "analytics", but you only need to know the logic and what you can achieve with analytics.
    Best,
    Marco :)

  25. 25
    Beverly says:

    I started reading about the web with a copy of Wired Mag and a baby in my lap in 92 – by 95 I was designing sites in notepad with a toddler at my feet and by 97 while I was printing reams of Web Trends reports for the Director of NH Ski Tourism I asked her "would it make your life easier if I read all this and gave you a synopsis and outline for your board of directors?" (and I had a new best friend.)

    I have a client who is difficult, but keeps raising the bar, which leads to a million new possibilities. After I was able to provide him with a list of emails of people who read his messages he offered to pay for my attendance at several "Seminars For Success."

    It was an eye opener to learn that most people seem to specialize in just one area – for me design led to analytics to email marketing and now I'm learning how to build applications for salesforce and create Adwords. The web was the best thing that happened to me simply because learning is based on interest, perseverance and the willingness to stay up very late or at least until you get it right.

  26. 26

    […]
    After a very long time, I’m back! Today, my all-time favorite blogger and analysis ninja, Avinash Kaushik published an excellent post about how much blogging has helped him in his career. Starting right now, i’m going to take his advice…step out and take charge of my own learning. After all, it’s like Paul Arden says, It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.
    […]

  27. 27
    Jon Whitehead says:

    Hi Avinash
    good points, I am lucky to have a couple of sites where I can implement most things rather than have to ask permission, quite an eye opener! would love to get Yahoo analytics, should happen soon. I got into SEO purely through no-one else doing it and it seemed a natural partner to web analytics

    I actually made a comparison between adwords and banner ads and demonstrated to execs, they where unconvinced by adwords at first until it was shown it was saving $40,000 on one campaign and giving better conversions. I did all the work in adwords myself rather than use an agency and had high quality score and bids down to 5-10c, whilst doubling traffic to the site – great result and very satisfying, especially tracking results right through.

    The lesson for me was don't worry about giving it a go, and remembering they're just tools providing data, it's the analysis that's the important bit. Implementation can be a headache, but its a good reality check
    cheers
    Jon

  28. 28
    Brad says:

    Avinash, this is along the lines of the Ian Thomas interview at eMetrics San Jose.

    For those of you who weren't there, Ian asked Avinash what makes a good analyst. Avinash started off with the most overrated skill being tool-specific knowledge. He then went on to tout the value of life experience, saying he has hired analysts who had a wide variety of backgrounds from accountants to zoologists.

    Video can be found at http://www.vimeo.com/4558883 but the audio is poor so crank your speakers.

    Now, I just have one more question. Where are these companies that are interviewing??? I feel fortunate that my industry is performing better than most but it's a tough job market out there.

  29. 29
    Ravi says:

    This is what everyone needs to follow. But sometimes You have blog/Website and you can try Some free tools like Google Analytics and a lot of other tools. If we are talking about Indian Job marketing then there are not much companies are working into Web Analytics. Bangalore is the job hub for Web Analytics. Dell, HP, GE, Lenovo, Deloitee have their in house teams and all are using Omniture. Service providers who are working for clients like Sapient, TCS, Wipro and interactive agencies has main clients who are using Omniture so the main skill employer here in India is looking for Omniture specific skills.
    Now the problem is Omniture is paid and most of the small in house companies are not using this expensive tool so how an individual can get hands on experience of this tool.

  30. 30
    Bhagawat says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I am not only reading your blog regularly but also implementing the innovative thoughts that you pervades through your amazing blog.

    I inspired by your thoughtful support and started a blog on blog spot http://webanalyticsbybhagawatjadhav.blogspot.com/

    This post is incredibly excellent and rendering unbridled energy and conviction to all of us towards continual learning process.

    Thanks,
    Bhagawat.

  31. 31

    You are the true Ninja :)

    I have followed your recipe a half year ago, and started up a danish webanalytics site and blog called webanalytiker.dk (web analytician). I made it as a playground for myself and my mission was to spread the word about how fantastic web analytics are. I feel both goals are fulfilled. Not enough y et, but compared to the short period the site has been live it has.

    I started a web analytics forum in june, and soon interviews with Dennis Mortensen and other interesting international folks will follow.

    Currently I have implemented Yahoo! Web Analytics, Google Analytics, Clicktale, Woopra, GoingUp and Kampyle. Omniture wont support the site, and the economy is not to pay for SiteCatalyst, so that is out of range. But Netminers (a fantastic Danish system) will follow shortly.

    On Twitter I have started web analytics Wednesdays all Wednesdays. Every Wednesday at 9 I make one or more tip, and people can get into analytics by following these.

    So I have done almost all you write about here, and it is so true

  32. 32

    Everyone: I am overwhelmed by your stories. Thank you so much for taking the time to share how you are (or are not!) nurturing your careers. You have inspired me, and others who read this blog!!

    Serbay: I am pessimistic that universities will pick up this type of a model. They work off a predictable, text book, things staying flat for a few years etc. Unfortunately that is not the web, that is not web education. Hence my encouragement for you and me and everyone to be in charge of our own future.

    Scott: I have often remarked that most of my learning actually started after my formal university education concluded. It is so true.

    Maia: Happy to do my small part! : ) Now Make a goal to learn one new tool in the next three months. Just one!

    Zyxo: My wife keeps track of these things, she says I work 70 hours a week! Sometimes it seems longer. :) On a serious note, I am lucky that I love doing what I do. so for me it is work, but it is also play.

    Marco: I look for some exposure to tools, any tool. But what I look for the most are critical thinking skills, analytical work (in any field) and initiative. If you have that, I can teach you to press any buttons in any tool. :)

    When Recruiters / Employers look for 10 years of Omniture/WebTrends experience they are typically looking for a Implementor or a Reporting Squirrel. Both are types of people you require, but it may or may not be what you are looking for.

    Kenneth: I hope that managers will heed your call. I have lead large teams myself and always did the best I could to empower people to grow.

    But in a corporate environment it may or many not be possible to give employees all the opportunities I would have wanted to. There are rigid turfs in companies, responsibilities are usually very cut and dry and flexibility limited.

    But that should not be a limitation for us any more. Tools were expensive, they are free now. And for tools that still cost money there are still free trials etc available.

    As employees, we now have so much power.

    MB: I think your company will notice the benefit of your superior analysis, thanks to your well rounded knowledge. If they don't you can bet there is a company out there that will. See Kristen's comment on this post above. :).

    Beverly: I love, love, love the sentiment you have expressed:

    "The web was the best thing that happened to me simply because learning is based on interest, perseverance and the willingness to stay up very late or at least until you get it right."

    Oh and the web is the best thing that ever happened to me too!

    -Avinash.

  33. 33
    Jowita Blak says:

    It's so true…you can learn so much more if you DIY. Having your own website and managing its content and structure, learning about sales and promotion, experimenting with different techniques – nothing will give you better insights and experience than that…great article!

  34. 34
    Bruno says:

    What youre talking about here is basic curiosity. Like i always say, curiosity may have killed the cat, but only after it gave it 9 lives!

    Problem starts way back in how we educate kids, were not taught to be curious, and curiosity is the basic building block of any successful endeavor.

    I have learnt more from just going out there and doing stuff than any class room has ever taught me.

    With so much information at our finger tips, it only takes curiosity to accomplish any task, whether this be mastering analytics or anything else, talent is just being really really stubborn and not giving up.

    Cheers to your great blog.

    BTW i am an alltop referrer.

  35. 35
    Dror Zaifman says:

    Just read your article which you put up on your blog earlier today and I have to agree with you on everything you wrote.

    First it's very inspiring and shows the reader that becoming an "expert" is possible but it takes work, time and passion.

    Love how you walked the reader and kept pounding the idea of "Not theory. Practice" throughout the entire article.

    I have greatly enjoyed your articles from the past but I must say that this is one of the best I read so far because you talk from personal experience and show all your readers including "newbies" that becoming a analytics ninja and staying on top of the latest web technology can be achieved but it takes practice.

    Thanks again for sharing your personal experience and I look forward to reading more great content at your blog in the future.

  36. 36
    Eden Jaeger says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I have a large number of websites and I've worked with analytics, advertising, conversion-rates, etc for quite a long time now. But, I never thought of it as terribly valuable experience because it was just me with my small sites. Maybe that knowledge is a lot more valuable than I think.

  37. 37
    Mohit says:

    Avinash,

    I am going to forward your blog to the many folks I have met over the past 2 months who are wringing their hands about social media.

    Jump! has been my advice. Reading your experience reinforces that. Here's a link that you will really, really like:
    http://randomjunkyramblings.blogspot.com/2009/08/sustaining-brand-conversation-behavior.html

    Let me know what you think!

    Best,
    Mohit

  38. 38
    jlbraaten says:

    Hi Avinash!
    You're so right. These days the tools are cheap and easy. Those with the time and passion can go far. Do your research to get you started and then dive in. I just recently started taking your advice and I'm only about 9,700 follower behind :P

  39. 39

    Hi Avinash,

    This blog should be an eye opener to many who complain about their companies for not sending them for training.

    About 6years ago when I first started my first marketing campaign I know nothing about online marketing. I still remember the days when I first set up a Adwords campaign & Google analytics account, now I am a Google certified Adwords certified individual and expert on SEO, SEM, programming, Analytics.

    The only way I developed my knowledge is by reading books, blogs, lots of research on internet marketing tools,tips and now by following Twitter toppers on Internet marketing. Even now I spend 3-4 hrs per day of my personal time on enhancing my knowledge. I am curious and passionate about my job/internet/metrics and I wouldn't be in this position if I haven't done the hard work. My dad taught me that knowledge is the power.Yes he is a Teacher.

    I can guarantee that most of the industry experts has done the same thing in the past to get to the position what they are today. I know every minute I spend on self development & learning will pay off!

    Thank you for great advise and giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts.

  40. 40
    shyam says:

    Hey Avinash,

    Seriously good stuff man. One has to really think out of the box in certain situations & times.

    Great Article

    Thanks,
    http://www.twitter.com/molakaluri

  41. 41

    Learning through blogging is a good suggestion. The best way to "fail faster" (to borrow a phrase) is to make a statement and wait to be b*tch slapped by the community/industry. Speaking from experience of course.

    To anyone that wants to challenge me, I fully appreciate "WTF" or "you're full of it" comments on my own blog at http://www.ppc-advice.com

    Another great way of learning quickly is by being proactive and participating in the community through organizations such as the WAA, SEMPO, or the AMA/CMA really helps. Going to shows like eMetrics, SES, SMX can also be very valuable. The trick is asking questions, even if you think you know everything, talk to experts and get into a deep conversation.

    Great post as always, Avinash!

    Garry

  42. 42
    MaryEllen says:

    Avinash,

    I am currently searching for a new position and your blog inspired me! I am always trying to learn something new…. currently getting my MBA, but this reminds me that more opportunities await those who continue to grow.

  43. 43
    Aldo says:

    Hi Avinash,

    This is a real inspiration. This reminds me of the time when I absolutely have no idea of how and what to measure when it comes to my website. I also learned a lot form my peers and now I am trying to learn everything just like everybody else whos limitation is the funding of their own company. Like you, I opted not to seek permission but just to go and test everything in order to learn whatever I learn on a certain medium.

  44. 44
    Elaine Young says:

    Avinash: Now this is a post that is perfect for my students because it applies directly to THEM. You focused on staying current in your career, and the way to start that is to encourage individuals in college to stay current in their field of study — not just rely on us profs to tell them what to read or what to know.

    When I teach the Internet-Marketing class (which I've been doing since late 2000) the tools I show the students might not even exist when they graduate and there are a whole host of things that don't exist that will! When I get them as seniors (2 years after they've taken the Internet Marketing class) I challenge them to tell me what they have kept up on — some have but many don't bother.

    I see this as the hardest part of my work — to convince students that they MUST be life-long learners and that they will have to seek out what they should know constantly — and often no one will tell them what they need to know.

    Case in point — me. I left the private sector in the Fall of 2000. I've been in higher ed since then. If I was still teaching Internet marketing the way I taught it in 2000, they wouldn't know about Adwords! If I can stay up-to-date, not just on the tools but on the trends and how to connect them to solid marketing theory, then for them, it should be EASY.

    Thanks again for a GREAT post.

    Elaine

  45. 45

    Avinash – great post. I linked to it from my blog.

    For a while I got frustrated because there are so many sources online for education on these subjects. However, I found starting a blog is a good way to organize this info and serves as a good reference file for when I need a refresher course.

    As always, thanks for your insight.

  46. 46
    sibel akcekaya says:

    Again, a great post..Just what I have been thinking..When I first started to get to know web analytics, i had fallen for it. That was my dream job that marries web and analytics. But then I realized I could not use all the tools available comes with GA or Omniture in my industry. Then my heart was broken.

    First I had just wanted to experiment everything because I was hungry to learn more and more.And for that kind of knowledge, reading does not help all the time, you need to get dirty.. If you are not a consultant in the industry it is really hard to extend your knowledge. But working in QA process while implementing the product taught me a tons of stuff that I would not learn otherwise since WEB is a deep ocean with lots of tools.

    I had a chance of observing dynamic and static part of it and I found lots of other ways to use some tools that seemingly not suitable in my industry and your blog and other resources helps me a lot to become a real Ninja.. Arigato

  47. 47
    Roberto Ferrito says:

    Avinash,

    I agree with everything you say here and I understand your frustration that the majority of candidates out there are specialized in one specific area (ecommerce or lead generation or PPC or B2B) as you mention at the beginning of this post.

    UNFORTUNATELY, this is what most (if not 99.9%) of employers are currently looking for !!! So it’s a sort of Catch 22 situation in my opinion.

    I live in London, I am 35 years old and I have spent more than 10 years working in “traditional” marketing roles, mainly in the financial services space (a merchant bank, an investment bank and one of the “Big 4” professional services firms). I have an MBA (from one of the top business schools in the UK & Ireland) and I am a member of both the CIM and the IDM.

    In early 2008, I decided to shift my career towards something I really had a passion about and entered the digital arena. In my effort to make myself employable, I completed a Diploma in Digital Marketing at the IDM and while doing that I have worked as freelance consultant for some small websites. Each day I work on educating myself on web analytics, SEM, social media, online advertising, etc… and I did create my own Digital Marketing blog for exactly the reasons you mentioned (proficiency with Google’s wide range of free applications: Analytics, AdWords, Insight for Search, WebMaster Tools, AdPlanner and so on).

    I know I need to join an organization (either client-side or agency-side) to further my education and gain some more hands-on experience but that’s the problem: I have applied for at least 40 roles over the last 3 months and the response I get is always the same: We need people with at least 3-4 years experience in ecommerce OR ppc OR seo OR lead gen OR …. so that’s what employers (most of them) want nowadays, very specific knowledge/experience in one small area. Some of them even ask for knowledge and experience with very specific email or web analytics packages (Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetric, etc…).

    Education doesn’t pay the bills so I am interested to know what you would recommend if you were in my shoes? I would be interested to hear from you Avinash and from any of your blog readers. Thanks

  48. 48
    James says:

    @Roberto Ferrito

    I am 44 (also in London) and wanted to move into data analysis for the last few years after a decade in web project management. You are right it is hard! If I was an employer with a choice between someone aged say 30 who's done the role for a few years or some old(er) guys like us who doen't have solid experience I probably wouldn't hire me.

    But I have got there in the end – the company where I have been project managing is not at all data-driven. This means that with my embryonic data skills and by self-education I could show my aptitude in this area, which compared with anyone else here is now huge! And eventually I persuaded them to give me a new role doing CRM and emarketing data analysis. I still have loads to learn but am heading the right way.

    If you are currently out of work you can't do this so I have two suggestions:

    – Look for a transitional role that requires some of the skills from your previous career, ie a job you stand more chance of getting, but also includes some of new interests

    – I got very close to landing an analysis role with a charity. The pay was very low hence less competition, but it would have been a good start.

    Good luck!

  49. 49
    Alex says:

    Hi Avinash,

    This was a very inspiring post.

    I totally agree with the idea of getting the most out of your job. Of course not everybody has an opportunity to grow and learn new things at their jobs for various reasons.

    I am fortunate in that sense because in a fairly short period of time I had a chance to dip my hands into all kinds of things. Being a "reporting guy" gave me the inherent right to explore analytics in different areas like mobile, search, and your usual web analytics which was not limited to just one tool but instead a whole range of tools.

    I guess what you're saying is that you encourage folks to be somewhat of a WA masochist/explorer because that's what it takes to be an expert in this field.

  50. 50

    James: Thanks so much for adding your wonderful comments.

    Roberto: There are certainly jobs where specialists are required, and asked for.

    But even in those jobs it is good to be the rounded candidates.

    In general I think you'll find that if you are a well rounded person then a job in Web Analytics will certainly work for you. You are required to know the tools and then knowledge of the fields you mention below.

    If you are going to dive deep into one area (SEO, PPC, Social Media etc) then it is perhaps optimal to have a deeper knowledge in that area and then know just enough about the other areas.

    Collecting actual real world experience is also quite key. At a non-profit or through an internship etc would be well worth it. One good place to start might be:

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/webanalytics

    You can look for opprotunities and also post a brief introduction from yourself and say what you are interested in.

    Good luck!

    -Avinash.

  51. 51
    Doug Moore says:

    This really struck a cord with me, as I've always been one to learn in a creative way. Books (yes, yours included!) and online information are wonderful resources. Combine that with bouncing ideas off of your peers and you can learn almost anything.

    The most difficult thing with analytics as far as I'm concerned is that it's a moving target. I guess that keeps it exciting!

  52. 52
    Alice Cooper's Stalker says:

    @Roberto

    I've always found that I've gotten more variety in roles on smaller teams where they need somebody that can perform a variety of tasks. Larger organizations and larger teams are more likely to have specific positions dedicated to specific tasks. I'd look to join a smaller team or organization.

    Good luck.

  53. 53
    Nikki Piplani says:

    Hi Avinash, enjoyed this post – I agree completely and have used similar methods to keep myself current and get good positions. I was inspired to do my own post on my blog building on yours.

    leftandrightblend.blogspot.com

  54. 54

    Great Blog,

    We will give these career advices to our youngsters at http://www.spirofrog.de

    Warm Regards from Germany

    Thomas

  55. 55

    Otimos textos acabei de comprar o seu livro o Web Analytics acredito que vai me ajudar a cuidar dos meus 84 sites, fico muito agradecido e SUCESSO

  56. 56
    Lindy Dreyer says:

    The informal and networked learning possibilities online are so rich–and nowhere is that more true than in your field. I loved reading about your approach to enriching your development as a professional through your blog and Twitter. My personal approach to my social media and association management education has been very similar.

    I'm also proud to count you among my teachers, though we've never met and you likely have no idea who I am. (Yet… ;-)That's the power of building your network and taking responsibility for your own development. Thank you for all you do.

  57. 57
    Ben says:

    With all of the free tools out there to use and learn about, there is no excuse to not educate yourself. If we expect developers and IT people to be up on the latest stuff, then so should we as analysts.

  58. 58
    vinay says:

    Absolutely right. There is no better way to learn than by experimenting . Until and unless you have a site or blog of yours with which you are obsessed about , you cannot learn this stuff

  59. 59

    Hi Avinash, your work as been the foundation for everything I do professionally! I've had the privilege of listing to you speak at two conferences and am reading your book Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. Thanks for great posts such as this. I'm doing exactly what your advice says, and this post helps point me in new directions and to extra tools to implement! I'm blogging, running several sites, playing with affiliate programs, running PPC campaigns…the works! All on top of my full-time job that doesn't currently fit my dream job. Thanks for all your great advice!

  60. 60
    Sumeet says:

    Genuinely exciting, thanks Avinash! for your valuable guidance. I am sure this will prove advantageous to many of us. I said ‘Genuinely exciting’ because it inspired me to initiate blog and following the practices.

  61. 61

    Hi!

    I really loved your first book and I'll order the new one too. Just like you I am very dedicated to web analytics. I have been at your seminars and also watched you speak on the SEM Conference in Oslo last year.

    Since then I have written two interesting books in the field of SEO and Social Media Marketing.

    The books will be launched to the public around Christmas this year.

    I have written an interesting article (at least people seems to like it) at the following url:
    http://www.moneyonline.net/seo/search-engine-wars-can-bing-topple-google/

    The title is "Search Engine Wars: Can Bing Topple Google?" and would like to have a comment about the last weeks statistics. Are Bing getting closer too Google? What does your statistics tell? :-)

    Perhaps you have some ppt to send me?
    I'll give you a "link" in the book in return :-)

    Sincerely,
    Trond

  62. 62
    Sandy McConnell says:

    Hello Avinash,

    I got your first book and have just received the second book, safe to say I'm a big fan. I'm always interested in your career comments particularly at the moment as I'm trying to break into this field. However I think I've got one big problem – age / salary / function.

    My background is ECommerce – I've been working on WEB sites for 7 years and have introduced WEB Analytics into 2 companies in the UK, both using a product called Speed-Trap which has been very successful in both companies. However I did this whilst working in IT, and I firnly believe not least because the job market in the UK largely indicates it that this is the wrong Dept. to be in for Analytics. Plus I'm 50 and have a salary commensurate with that age.

    How do you break into the right job market for an Analytics role whilst still requiring that salary level, if the Dept. hiring doesn't fit with your previous experience regardless of your prior knowledge. I'm looking at doing the Blog plus looking at the local companies that use GA. to see if I can help them in a volountary capacity. Any other tips?

    Many thanks and a MASSIVE thanks for all these fantastic blogs and insightful, enthusiastic writing. Sandy.

  63. 63
    Kieran says:

    Great post Avinash, Analytics provide hard facts which is just what not only a online business needs but also any type of business.

  64. 64
    Kris Groulx says:

    Excellent advice. I credit your blog with a lot of my initial learning of web analytics along with some good books.
    Another great way to get real world experience is through a new project soon to launch next month: Web Analytics Without Borders. It's a new partnership between the Web Analytics Association and Save The Children. Read more at http://bit.ly/5YODAr

    Disclaimer (if necessary): I am a volunteer with WAA

  65. 65
    Prithvi says:

    Wonderful post Avinash.

    Also, thanks for your reply to my email. I agree with everything you have said here "Self Education" which is the best thing to do(with the help of people like you and your posts). I will definitely go thru all of your posts and i'm sure that it will help me in lot ways(in terms of personally as well as professionally).

    Thank you so much!!!

    Cheers, Prithvi!

  66. 66
    Marco Remmerswaal says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I really love your blogs, also this one. It teaches me so much, thank you for that.

    I have a question: I don't know for sure if I want to be a web analytics ninja, because I don't really know what the daily activities are from a web analytics expert. Could you tell me what questions I should ask myself before I want to become a web analytics ninja? Maybe you have already written a blog post about it, but I couldn't find it :-)

    Thanks in advance!

    ps. I have followed your tip and created my own blog and a GA account to learn more about it..

  67. 67

    Marco: Great question. What in God's name do web analysts do all day?

    :)

    A little while back I had written a post on how analysts should spend their day, here it is:

    How Should Web Analysts Spend Their Day?

    That should give you a feel for what they should do (though what they really do depends on the company they work at).

    If you want to drill down to the day to day work then I think you'll find kernels of truth in this blog post:

    Consultants, Analysts: Present Impactful Analysis, Insightful Reports

    All the best.

    Avinash.

  68. 68

    Hi Avinash,

    Thank you so much! I have read the blogs you mentioned and some more. I think that it is a challenging job and I really want to learn more about it by reading more blogs (any suggestions?) and books (I have read your book,it was great! More suggestions?).

  69. 69
    Brad says:

    Marco –

    One thing you might consider is signing up for an Analysis Exchange project. You can read about it at http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com/ae/index.asp.

    Good luck.

  70. 70
    Rahul Manchanda says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Inspirational is the word! Learning by doing is the mantra!

    Thanks a ton!
    Rahul.

  71. 71
    Ankit says:

    Self-education is the best way to learn any thing. Avinash, you keep me motivated always.

    Thanks for this wonderful article! Found it in your archive.:)

  72. 72
    Ranjan says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Thats really a great post, everything you said is correct. But the only issue here is with the company's requirement. Most of the companies in India those who require Web Analytics Professional want expertise in Omniture & Web Trends.

    Small companies are using Google Analytics. In fact our resumes are not even shortlisted If we don't write all those paid tools.

    Again we don't have any option to go through a demo of these paid tools at least to check the different navigations & the reports available so that we can at least gain some knowledge.

    I had also visited one of your website http://www.marketmotive.com but all those video presentations are paid.

    So can you please let me know any method or any links from where I can learn all these paid tools.

    Thanks,

  73. 73

    Ranjan: Both WebTrends and Omniture offer extensive educational courses (and resources) that you can partake in to learn how best to use their tools.

    Omniture Training: http://www.omniture.com/en/education

    WebTrends Training: http://www.webtrends.com/education

    -Avinash.

  74. 74
    Cecilia says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    I could definitely see how this might be an emerging problem because many companies now a days have become very focused on a niche part of the market, instead of honing in on employee skills and trying to do different things with their companies.

    I had such a hard time finding jobs in NJ right out of college, but once I finally found one, I realize that the skills I have acquired are extremely specialized, and will make it difficult to find a different job in the future.

    Great information, thanks again.

  75. 75
    Nilay says:

    "Think starting a blog might be much? That's ok, grab your dad's business site. Ask a non-profit to allow you to analyze your site. Beg your "social media god" brother-in-law for access to this site / blog / media presence so you can do analysis."

    I think blog might be too much for me and don't have any acquaintance that blogs. So just wondering if there is way to know of any start ups / non profits that might be looking for volunteers to help them with data analysis.

  76. 76

    Hi Avinash,

    I am so excited after reading your post! actually i recently started my career as online marketing executive and i damn agree with your few points "The world around you is always changing and growing.

    Companies will never give you the time to truly learn and grow" because facing that situation.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! en Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik […]

  2. […]
    This post about taking charge of your own Web analytics learning by Avinash Kaushik resonated with me. He talks about the ROI of writing your own blog in the form of continued learning. The main reason I started my blog was to create an interactive public research project that I could use to find examples of marketing campaigns that returned a measurable ROI. Joining the online discussion provides me with an instant networking tool by which to do this.
    […]

  3. […]
    Also a must-read in this domain is Avinash Kaushik on Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World!. Gold dust if you want a career in analytics but still applicable to everyone else too
    […]

  4. […] Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! | Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik から。 […]

  5. […]
    This post by my favorite web analytics blogger, has inspired me to start blogging. More to come about who I am later =)
    […]

  6. […]
    Having rambled on about this amazing position – which may seem banal and not interesting at all (if for another company) got me thinking about a blog post by Avinash Kaushik and how he gained his experience. He taught himself web analytics and how to best use popular social media tools – real world experience assigning himself to learn and use them. He comments on how difficult and disappointing it is to interview people who want to enter his world but do not have the practical background. His advice: “Don’t let your web analytics vendor or your employer limit your education or your potential. Don’t let their business tactics and restrictions make you yet another analyst that can’t survive a real world interview.”
    […]

  7. The Impetus | Health and Fitness says:

    […]
    Then, I read a great post by Avinash Kaushik on his site Occam’s Razor talking what he looks for in web analysts and the light really came on and I realized that just because I work in the web analytics field does not mean I can go easily find new jobs in my field. I need to be more well rounded, understand the web, understand what it takes to run and maintain my own website. My true passion is health, nutrition, and exercise, so it makes perfect sense to write about it.
    […]

  8. […] A post by Avinash Kaushik with some practical tips on getting real world web analytics experience […]

  9. […] Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! – Occam’s Razor – Aug ‘09 […]

  10. […] Web Analytics Carrer Advice: Play In The Real World! […]

Add your Perspective

*