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Why Web Analytics Users Are Falling Behind The Industry

Categories: GA & GTM, Metrics Understanding / Comments: 4

In my post form last week, I commented on Econsultancy’s 5th Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2012. An area that stood out for me in that report was the 8% market share of GA Premium, the paid version of Google Analytics. In this post I wanted to spend more time sharing my thoughts on the wider points raised by this report…

My views on web measurement and strategy in 2012

The Econsultancy report is a  snapshot on where web analytics is right now – both as a process and as an industry. My personal findings are that as a process, web analytics usage is stalling. This is due to a general lack of resource available within organisations (i.e. time, energy, money, expertise) to go deep into their data. By this, I do not mean tool adoption, or the desire to use web measurement. Rather, the inability to go beyond the basics of visits, pageviews and ‘random’ testing experiments.

Yet as an industry, things are moving forwards rapidly. The new features released in 2011 for Google Analytics alone is quite staggering. The report from Econsultancy is focused on end-users i.e. the process of web measurement. It also reveals a stalling of web analytics usage. This is from the reports’ executive summary:

Half of all company respondents (50%) listed a lack of budget and resources as a barrier to effective online measurement. This was followed by a lack of strategy (31%) and a siloed organisation / lack of co-ordination (26%). Around a fifth listed a lack of senior buy-in and ownership (21%) and too much data (20%) as obstacles to success.

Why are things stalling…?

unfortunately web analytics is still considered as icing on the cake for most organisationsIn my view, this is because the industry is moving so fast. To put it simply, most companies and agencies cannot keep up. But this (digital) is a fast moving medium. If you are going to succeed online you must keep up, and by that I mean have a good quantitative understanding of the drivers and levers on your site. Therefore, I find it amazing when I work with organisations to discover they still consider web analytics as the icing on the cake. A must have, sure. But just a thin layer sprinkled on top in order to tick the box of requirements – rather than using web analytics data as the key driving/supporting force for all online decisions.

BTW, the organisations I am referring to are are large well-known brands with tens of millions of Euros/USD/pounds resting on the success of their online presence. And they certainly do have the budget for this – if only it can be prioritised.

The difficulties…

Keeping on top of a complex and rapidly developing product is hard work! I have worked with Urchin/Google Analytics pretty much every day since 2003, built the European team at Google, and written 3 books on it. Yet I even struggle to keep on top of the product! Combine that with pace of web innovation in general (search, social, advertising, web development) and it is easy to get left behind – to a point where the barrier(s) to get on top of the subject just look too daunting and time consuming to be an attractive job role/project/process to take on.

Its enough to make your brain hurt – believe me, mine does often! But solving that problem and finding solutions to unlock opportunities is a big part of the fun of my job…

The keys to measuring success…

Actually there is just one key – time. That is, you must invest time in the building of your measurement strategy and processes. Obviously time = money, so a good understanding of the value of our website is important in order that you invest a proportionate amount.

If you don’t know what your site is worth, estimate how much you spend on it each year. That is, web development +design +digital marketing. This is your agency fees, media spend, staff salaries (or part of). Then multiply this by 10. The reason for the multiplication is surely you expect a 10x return on your investment… Of course you can adjust this factor and the end result does not have to be exact. My point is, your site must be worth more to you than the sum of its outlay and you should have a good idea of what the value is.

A case in point:

I recently worked with a client who had a marketing person (a generalist for all on-/off-line marketing campaigns) who only had one working day per week allocated for all things digital. And in that 1-day per week were expecting to gain insights from Google Analytics and requested suitable training to do this…

Their website investment for 12 months is approximately $300,000 i.e. their site is valued at around $3 million per year! Clearly, only investing a few hours per week in web measurement is a huge  under investment in a site that is worth almost $60,000 per week.

Whose time is it anyway?

Time is the biggest stumbling block for web analytics

In addition to unrealistic time investment, what is often a big part of the stalling of web measurement is that the person’s time who is allocated to understanding web metrics is usually junior – from a business point of view. That is, they can be technically and analytically very knowledgeable, but are not part of the strategic business core of the organisation.

A “junior” person driving website change – be it how to best drive traffic to your site, or how to optimise your conversion of an anonymous visitor into a customer, is always going to end in frustration. Because the powers that be don’t trust the business accumen of the person advocating the change.

It is not just senior buy-in that is required

Every senior manager, director and CxO I have met buys-in to measurement. Its a fundamental part of business success. But change is always a difficult obstacle for any organisation – there is a whole industry built around change management. However, change is the raison d’être for web measurement. What exasperates the difficulty is that change in the digital world takes place so fast.

Essentially, it takes a special type of organisation to take on board the need to change, and be prepared to do this continuously and rapidly. There are some organisations out there like this, but for the majority of web analytics users, the process of web measurement is stalling…


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Comments (most recent first)

  1. Josh says:

    Many Web Analytics users are stuck at the basic level. Management is not seeing the time – money equation to having advanced Analytics improve the ROI on their website investment. It will be competition that pushes this adoption forward.

  2. @Andrew Warren-Payne – you hit the nail on the head when you say “Will we have to wait until “junior” staff in web analytics roles climb into management and have the political power to start affecting change?”

    Some organisations are ahead of the curve with this. I can name Belron (the Autoglass empire) and Red-Gate Software as two UK examples where rapid fire change is built-in to the organisation mind set. In Europe at least I see a lot of resistance form Travel and traditional retail sectors…

    Essentially, for the gap to narrow and indeed close, the ‘web natives’ need to replace the ‘web immigrants’ at CxO level. I say it will be 2020 until web analytics users catch up with the industry…

  3. It still amazes me that companies (especially huge companies) often fail to see the value of having a strong online presense. Content is still king and is the best way to achieve steady results in search engines. Good post!

  4. Thanks for this blog post Brian and your insights on the report. I definitely think you have hit upon some key issues which will provide some food for thought for next year’s survey.

    Out of interest, do you see a time when process will catch up with industry, or at least a time when the gap starts to narrow for the majority of organisations? And if this does occur, what will be the catalyst behind it? Will we have to wait until “junior” staff in web analytics roles climb into management and have the political power to start affecting change?

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