How to Make Web Analytics Easier

How to Make Web Analytics Easier

Judah Phillips’ recent Mediapost post Web Analytics: Easy? Hard? Complex? It Depends is an excellent, well-rounded discussion.

Judah discusses in depth how and why analytics being easy, hard or complex depends on

“… the tools you are using,
the site you are analyzing,
your company’s requirements,
your team’s skill set, and
the processes you define for analytics.”

I agree with Judah. It does depend. And there is something you should do to make Web Analytics easier:

Ask good questions.

  • Good questions are those whose answers matter.
  • Good questions are those whose answers lead to action that matters.
  • Good questions are those whose answer lead to action that results in measurable business impact.

Pulling data without a question in mind often leads to frustration. There will always be differences in the data. But if the differences don’t matter, nobody will take action and you’ll be frustrated by the time you’ve spent pulling and segmenting data.

So find out what matters first.

I was just about to post, and in the time I’ve been writing this response to Judah’s post, a comment has been posted by Eric Melchor from Smart Digital Spending that speaks to this frustration.

Eric asks “But after hours, days or even weeks pulling reports, how is knowing that visitors stemming from organic search stay 30 seconds longer on the site versus paid search visitors going to change the way you buy media or site design? How is knowing that visitors from Fargo tend to have a higher bounce rate going to change the way you design your website?”

To avoid frustration, first find out what matters to the client in the way of results, and what type of action they expect to take. Ask questions before you begin pulling data and analyzing. Ask questions so that you have a useful analytical context of what matters.

Using Eric’s questions above, hypothetically speaking:

  • If the client is interested in shifting media spend, rather than starting by analyzing the metric ‘time on site’, a question about how media effectiveness is judged would likely have led to a comparison on value events (whatever they are) between media rather than a comparison using the ‘time on site’ metric.
  • Regarding visitors from Fargo …. Are visitors from Fargo part of the target audience?If we knew where we expected our most valuable visitors to be coming from and Fargo was at the top of the list, a high bounce rate should indeed be a concern.If Fargo is not at the top of the list, we shouldn’t even look at the bounce rate for Fargo because there are more important visitors to focus on (and if visitors from Fargo are not the target audience, a high bounce rate may confirm web site design is right on.)

So, it depends.

What do you think?

June Li


By |2019-05-17T11:57:19-04:00September 8th, 2009|10 Comments


  1. Stephane Hamel at September 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    This is a great discussion, in fact, Judah found 5 of the 6 critical success factors I have identified in my research on the Web Analytics Maturity Model. The 6th one, the most important, being “Management, Governance and Adoption”. In fact, “Tools” is probably the least important one!

    My take on the hard vs easy debate: it’s not any harder than other major initiatives undertaken by organizations…

    Hopefully, my MBA research on the Web Analytics Maturity Model will help make it easier! Please take a look at for a series of blog posts on the topic. Of course, I would love to get your own and your readers feedback.

  2. June Li September 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Hi Stephane,
    Agree with your comment that it’s not any harder than major initiatives undertaken by organizations. I’ve observed much the same churn with ERP, CRM, SCM initiatives (funny how they are all 3 character acronyms). IMO, this is typically the result of an imbalance of the People-Process-Technology-Structure-Goals caused by too much focus on one or two factors.

    Regarding the 6 factors in WAAM vs Judah’s 5, I agree there are some overlaps and gaps.

    Is there a definition on of the 6 factors? I see them listed on but cannot locate defnitions.

    Thanks for your comments.

  3. Stephane Hamel at September 8, 2009 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    June: The 6 critical success factors will be covered in a next post.

    The maturity levels are defined in “Web Analytics Maturity Model.

    (hard to keep so much content in a couple of blog posts… the paper will be easier)

  4. June Li September 9, 2009 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Looking forward to further discussion…

    And I haven’t interpreted what you’ve said about WAMM (or any model) to claim that models will will make web analytics “easy”.

    Models help people position and get their head around the problem. Models help make it “easiER” to march up the maturity path, but that doesn’t mean the work will be “easy”.

    • Ilhambdx September 9, 2012 at 1:01 am - Reply

      Jose: The “current” state is really about how much you use the tool, and how boardly you make use of it. But when looking at the “to be”, it’s more about what extent of tool usage and scope would get you there. So there is two views: the current/as is, and the to be/wishful! 🙂

  5. Diogenes Passos October 22, 2009 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Hi June,

    Thanks for encouraging this discussion and for your time.

    First of all, let’s assume the analyst got some nice skills, huh? Cause, once the web analytics team suck, it gonna be a waste of time to make their job easier, right?

    If I was going to answer the post question in a single word, for sure I would bet on this: Interaction.

    Well, of course the amount of variables will increase once the Analyst is working on a fairly big agency or very complex business. Management will be a crucial fator, but it’s still a Interaction way, right? (otherwise maybe the analyst need a new job)

    Looking “outside” the workplace:
    To Make the Web Analytics work easier, the analyst(s) must know their clients’ business; the analytics team need to recognize what are their clients’ Strenghtness, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (yeah, SWOT analysis rules!) and to deal with the data with these factors in mind – to move fast, thinking smart. Is it possible without Interaction? No.

    Looking “inside” the workplace:
    The Web Analytics team should get involved on every process of the projects. Doesn’t matter if the project is a new site or just a upgrade. What about to think on A/B test areas (or even a full layout test, multivariate etc) once the information architecture is being planned? What if the WA team keep in mind all the SEO/PPC team (on small companies they could be the same) objetives since the start?

    Without Interaction, the ways to get satisfaction will allways be longer.

    • Marco September 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Stephane,It is certainly a fantinacisg model. I was taking a look at the presentation and I was wondering: – For the “Tools & Technology” section, do you rate a higher score based on “having” the tools, or on making use of them? – The same as the scope. Do you have a high score based on the scope that has been defined, or on how much of the actual scope is being done?Thanks,Jose

  6. June Li October 23, 2009 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you. An analyst who does not interact, communicate and understand the business will definitely find web analytics hardER.

    As Theresa Kushner, Cisco, said at eMetrics, analysts must be real, relevant and responsive.

    Glad to hear you got value following #eMetrics tweets. It certainly added another dimension to the conference, even for those of us present on site.


    • Alex September 9, 2012 at 3:26 am - Reply

      Congrats Stephane.To anyone who has not yet donolwaded this paper, it is a MUST read. This is excellent read and the WAMM can be used as a powerful communication tool and change management tool.I truly hope that WAA will support it.Regards,Michael

  7. Teiri September 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Good luck Stephane!I am really sad to see you leave DGIG. It was a plaurese to work with you and even more to come to know you better. We will still invite you to our gaming sessions for old geeks… c0 bientf4t!

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