Evolve Intelligently: Achieve Web Analytics Nirvana, Successfully

Focus"Most Analysts / Marketers / HiPPO's don't realize the amount of pain and effort that is involved in getting the web analytics data they are seeking. We need to teach them what it takes to get the 'ultimate golden everything' so that they'll make smarter decisions about what to ask for and what to skip."

That's my good friend John Marshall starting yet another 'lets go out and change the world' conversation with me. : ) He is also convincing and I quickly agreed. The result is that you all get these delightfully informative videos!

Two things connect John and I (we are the co-founders of Market Motive):

1] A passion for Analytics, web or otherwise.

2] A love of teaching, with a particular stress on cutting through the FUD and stressing actionability.

We hope to bring those two things together in this blog post through three videos. They share our perspective on how you should go into a "I want everything from my web analytics tool" session.

The videos recommend an evolutionary process for your "meet all my desires now Omniture (!)" sessions. [Of course replace Omniture with your favorite vendor.]

They also share what specific things you need to be aware of in order to ensure maximum success. I am sure your boss (or is it you?) wants it all, x, y and zebra metrics or q, r and parrot reports. Here you'll understand what you can get out of the box, what might need a bit more work and what might need selling your soul!

And I will fail my fiduciary duty if I did not let you know that in some cases we are going to recommend you walk away. The cost of what you want is simply not worth the data you are asking for.

Let's go. . . .

My answer to John's challenge was to sketch this out on the white board (in all of five minutes – comes from being close to the pain for so many years!):

web analytics the journey to nirvana

Clearly I am not winning any awards for my calligraphy. At the end of this blog post is a PowerPoint version of this sketch (thanks to Tyler Link!).

I called my picture (/piece of art) "The painful path to web analytics nirvana", to which John remarked "let's call it stairway to heaven". Much better I think.

If you want join the contest and come up with a better title then please add it in the comments section.

Act One: Basics, Self Service, The Start of Pain. (17 Mins.)

In this video we cover three steps of the ladder.

Stairway to Nirvana Step 1: "Tag baby tag!"

What you'll learn:

    If you implement the javascript tag what do you get?
    What don't you get?
    What's www . hotbrits . com? : )

Stairway to Nirvana Step 2: "Update tool side settings"

What you'll learn:

    Which simple things you can update without needing your IT resources?
    Ideas for goals you could set.

Stairway to Nirvana Step 3: "Campaign tracking / ROI of acquisition efforts"

What you'll learn:

    What does it mean to do online campaign tracking?
    Why will you cry for your mommy?
    What can you do to be successful?

Got your learning hat on? Hit play. . . .

Was that not fun?

Did you realize you could do so much of Web Analytics without really aiming for a 18 month installation of Omniture and WebTrends and any other tool you choose?

That is the amazing part, and the reason for these videos. If you add a javascript tag to your site, update a few settings associated with Internal Site Search and Goals etc then you are off to the races.

Yes the tool won't help you into your underwear quite yet.

But in the name of all that's holy you can start taking action and improve big things (even as world domination and crushing of all competitors by your company will have to wait a little while!!).

web analytics nirvana-what's the cost of the benefit

In step three hopefully you learned why the Web Analytics Trifecta (People + Systems + Process) is so important – and oh so painful to pull off.

Now you can make plans accordingly.

[PS: Here are 30 points of progress you can make with just three hours of your time:
A Primer on Web Analytics for Everyone – you'll be surprised how much you can do.]

Act Two: Money, Money, Money! (11 Mins.)

In this video we try and kick things up a notch, focusing on things that often many of want to track (and should track deeply like Revenue) and others that we feel like tracking (but we might not realize the associated cost).

Stairway to Nirvana Step 4: "Revenue & Über Intelligence"

What you'll learn:

    Where does the standard javascript tag come up short?
    URL, Title, Cookies, what if the data you need does not exist there?
    Who do you have to beg for help?

As Chef Emeril would say: Bam! Bam! Bam!

See there is still hope in the world. If Step 4 has less pain than Step 3 then there has to be something terribly right with this universe. Of course while we talk about pain in Act One, we actually do that scoring in this video. Sorry.

Again here the stress is on the importance of planning and accounting for the Systems and the Process parts of the game. And did you know about the legal stuff?

Also did you notice that we are really having fun? Perhaps as only two friends on a common mission can. :)

Yes, we do need to buy some lights to ensure you can see the sparkle in my eyes!

Act Three: The Price (& Pain) of Greatness! (11 Mins.)

I, humbly, believe that the web became "fluid" a while back, we have just not realized it yet. Well most of us who have grown up in the log file parsing, page viewing, "my site clickstream data is all I need to care about" crowd.

Life is now about RSS and Widgets and Flex and Flash and AJAX and Video and Web Applications (and all of them mashed together) all of which make the web experience a lot more fun, a lot more fluid. And a lot more nightmarish to track.

Stairway to Nirvana Step 5: "Rich Media"

What you'll learn:

    Why page views are truly "to die for"?
    Did you realize "geeks" are your BFF's here? [John has a definition for you!]
    What's the most fundamental difference between the "old world" (javascript based data collection) and the "new world" (fluid web)?
    How to make good choices on your path to Nirvana?

Intrigued? Sure you are. . . .

Get a feel for your new life, you are going to have to get out of your cubicle and be something of a social butterfly and get to know your Marketers and Developers and Business Folks and others.

It is your relationships and your pre-planning and huge investment in time and love that is going to ensure that you succeed in this step.

In the video we refer to Event Logging as a scalable non-fake-page views data capture methodology, learn more here: Google Analytics Event Tracking Guide. [A feature that is in wide invitation release, with access available to anyone who asks. :)]

I request other vendors (Unica, Omniture, IndexTools, WebTrends etc) to please add links to their guide in comments.

Nirvana Summary:

As promised here is a pretty version of the complete picture of what was on the white board. . . . .

web analytics the journey to nirvana picture

One step at a time.

Don't overestimate your ability to get things done.

No need for a 18 month web analytics installation, before the tool bears fruit.

Make wise choices, evolve intelligently.

Good Luck!!

Want more such educational videos on Analytics, PR, SEO, PPC, Social Media etc? Check out Market Motive: www.marketmotive.com

Ok now it's your turn.

What has your experience being in extracting value from Web Analytics? Is implement, pause, extract value, evolve, pause, extract value . . . . and strategy? Are there things we completely missed? What has worked for you? What has not?

Please share your feedback, ideas and critique.


Couple other related posts you might find interesting:


  1. 1

    Amazingly insightful videos Avinash & John. I am only done with the first two but I had to tell you that I found them to be helpful.

    Your point on the tools taking the blame for shoddy planning related to campaigns hits the bullseye. Most people don't realize the work it takes to pull those off.

    Great work.

  2. 2

    Very Entertaining web analytics videos! (wouldn't have thought it was possible). Glad you used jw flv player also and not youtube so i could listen to them at work!

    Actually I just discovered campaign tracking a few days ago when trying to track some facebook advertising (not sure what took me so long). I see what your saying how for larger companies how it can be a giant pain but in this case all i had to do was open up the GA campaign url builder and then copy and paste the generated url into the facebook ad creator instead of the normal url.. and boom!

    So i think at least on some levels campaign tracking can somewhat easy. The hard part, like you said coming up with a consistent naming scheme, etc so that you can get maximum value out of it. But for a reasonable volume of email newsletters or non-adwords ads its really not too much extra work to take one more step through the campaign url builder before dropping in the url to your email/ad.

    My favorite new GA report is the "per visit value" by referrer, which shows how much each visit equals in cold hard revenue from different sources. When you combine that with a CPC bid price it seems like you can almost get it down to a science for what you can spend. Also helps determine if you should be spending more time building good will at forums or other sites that send in traffic. It's just brilliant!


  3. 3

    A link i just found regarding campaigns and tracking campaign performance with individual purchases (total value, # items). Haven't tried it out yet but looks very interesting.


  4. 4

    Thanks Avinash and John; nice set of videos. I particularly enjoyed the third one. I thought the emphasis on having to work out what you needed up front in the rich media world was spot on.

  5. 5

    Hi Avinash! I just got through the first video, and I am excited to see the rest of them. Question though: about 5:45 into the fist video, John says that while you get search keywords in the report, you don't know which are paid and which are organic. But if I go into GA and go to the Traffic Sources > Keyword report page, I can segment between total | paid | organic. Did he mean something else?

  6. 6


    That was a fun clip to watch. Here is a thought that popped up in my mind just reading and watching this post – " The first step to Web analytics salvation is the knowledge of the Pain involved in getting there." :-).

    For sure, one of the big 'pain' points for me has been the challenge of sythesizing the information from various sources and generating value — website, tv, print, banner ads, search, survey, intel.

    Looking forward to the Z-dimension :-) and the Zen from you guys in the Art of WA Value Creation.


  7. 7

    Ryan: In step one all we are doing is adding a javascript tag to the site and the idea was that even if you do just that and nothing else you'll still get lots of actionable data, including search keywords.

    But if all you have done is add the tag then you won't (yet) be able to separate paid from organic.

    This is because if you are using Google Analytics then you'll have to go link your AdWords and your Analytics accounts – then you GA reports will be able to split paid and organic. This is not a lot of work, but I would put it in step 2.

    For GA that still won't take care of other search engines (YSM, AdCenter etc). You'll have to do campaign tagging (step 3).

    If you are not using Google Analytics then you'll have to:

    1] go to step 3 and tag your paid search campaigns and then
    2] go into Omniture and CoreMetrics etc and "teach" the tool the parameters you are using to tag those campaigns and then
    3] they'll be able to separate PPC from organic.

    [Sidebar: If any web analytics tool tells you that they can automatically split paid and organic search traffic without any work from you then they are not telling the truth!]

    We wanted to highlight, at minute 5:45, that initially you'll get something, later you might get more.

    Dan, Dr. Turner, Ned: Thanks so much for the kind words, I am so glad you found the videos to be of value.


  8. 8
    Jon Whitehead says

    Have you thought about having your own show? "when web analytics goes wrong" :) seriously these are great videos, I know of several "blame the tool" people I could show these to.



  9. 9

    Hi Avinash, Can I get a 'review' membership to Marekt Motive lol!

    Looks amazing but not within my budget unfortunately.

  10. 10

    Hi Avinash,

    Being relatively new to webanalytics, I have really appreciated your blog and some of the insights (I haven't sifted through all of it yet). My employer's site is an enterprise portal not an e-commerce site which creates a different environment for web analytics.

    Currently we are using page views, visitors, and a survey about "perceived business value", but I know that we can do better.

    I feel like we should be defining conversion behaviours and tracking those rather than simple page views. Do you have any suggestion (or know of any other resources) for defining KPIs for internal information sites.

  11. 11

    Avinash & John: you're great. 10/10.

    You couldn't have done this any better in my humble opinion.

    Great explanation for a developer (geek in your words) like me. The past hour has been a rollercoaster into web analytics. I learned a lot.

    Thank you so much!

  12. 12

    Peter: Did you see this post form a few weeks back? I attempted to share ideas of what other things you can measure (micro conversions):

          Excellent Analytics Tip #13: Measure Macro AND Micro Conversions.

    I hope it sparks some ideas.

    I have to admit that for me figuring out what to measure for a portal is no different from any other thing, figure out what the desired outcomes are, find metrics that measure those metrics. :) I know that does not help a lot.

    Also check out this post, perhaps Loyalty and Recency might work in your case:

          I Got No Ecommerce. How Do I Measure Success?


  13. 13

    Wonderful framework. I love the approach that makes it an iterative process, and carefully assessing the tradeoffs to get to the next step.

    Of course I may be pretty biased here – I think you and John Marshall could do a video on how to organize your closet and I would give it my rapt attention ;D

  14. 14

    Entertaining, informative, very valuable: I bookmarked this in order to let you guys do the introduction to my peers who are new to analytics from now on!

    As I am now saving a lot of my time, what can I do for you in exchange? ;-) Do you want an icecream, some sandwiches or a beer?

    I'd rather be interested watching a similar approach regarding the steps to consider in order to create a KPI dashboard (not dashboards as a graphical view in a tool, but "real" dashboards). This idea just came to my mind, it's not an order ;-)

    thanks again and best regards,

  15. 15

    I find the name of this post so appropriate. I am working for a firm who wants to use web analytics on their corporate intranet. In our sharepoint environment, even the relatively 'easy' first few steps are like pulling teeth. This is because there are so many different formats feeding into the our site.

    Long story short, get implementation right on the first try when you have your vendor's professional services on site. Make sure that it is installed and configured properly while they are with you. I joined our firm one year after implementation was over, and it has been painful to try to configure things that should be basic like site overlay.

  16. 16

    Hi Avinash and John, thanks for such amazing videos.. each one of them was so helpful and gave me great insight into web analytics. Now, I definitely think I need to buy your book so that I can learn web analytics even deeper. My company mainly uses GA to track data and there are so many things that we have not touched yet like campaign tracking and synchronizing the Adwords and GA account. I think those are very very helpful data. Looking forward to delve deeper into analytics with your book..

  17. 17

    I was just rereading this great post and it occured to me: Where does testing fall on this path? I would put it above Revenue and maybe Rich Media, too, as development is required for every test from my experience.

  18. 18
    Leslie S. says

    Thank you very much for this blog post. I have just taken over the analytics for all of the clients in my agency and this has helped me wrap myself around the levels of analytics we can expect. The previous person in my position only took it to the first step you discussed (with Omniture), so I have a lot to look forward to. And a little bit of pain to endure.

  19. 19

    Wonderful elaboration of what I read in Web Analytics 2.0.

    Really helpful, especially as I am working with a large organization again and need to think of priorities, processes, resources, etc.


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