Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Starting a career in Web Analytics

Web Analytics is one of the hottest fields these days. A lot of people are planning to switch careers and many students are looking to start their career in Web Analytics.
“I am very interested in Web Analytics fields”, “It is a very interesting field, but how do I start a career in Web Analytics?” I have come across this question (and variations of it) a lot. So I thought, why not write an article to help people who are looking for a career in this field.

Skills required to be a Web Analyst

First and foremost you need desire and passion to be a web analyst. Desire and passion will get you where you want to go. I believe (and this is my opinion only), if you have the desire and passion then you can acquire other skills. Not everybody will agree with me but again that’s my view.

Other most important skill that you need is Analytical skill. If you are a person who always looks at the problem from a different angle than most of the other people, you have what it takes. If you can put different pieces of the puzzle together to form a complete picture you have the skills to be a web analyst. If you can critically look at things, you have the skills.

Other Skills and education that will come in handy are
1. Business
2. Marketing
3. Statistics
4. Technical

You don’t need a college degree but a lot of employers look for it and I look at it when hiring a candidate. Business, Marketing, Accounting, Statistics and Technical degrees will be very helpful in getting you the job but I have seen Web Analysts having diverse educational background.

Learning about web analytics

There are several resources available to learn about Web Analytics. There are several blogs on Web Analytics where you can get all levels of information on this subject.

First and foremost you should join WebAnalytics group on Yahoo. This forum is a great source of information. You will find all levels of web analysts in this forum. This is a free for all forum, even if you want to stay on sideline and just read message, you can learn a lot. If you have any question on this subject, feel free to ask at this forum.

Buy a copy of Web Analytics Demystified by Eric Peterson, this is the best resource for all levels of web analyst especially for those who are just starting. Other books that I recommend are also by Eric Peterson.
1. Web Site Measurement
2. The Big Book of KPIs

If you are prefer to learn in formal way then I recommend, the course offered by University of British Columbia. You can learn more about this course at http://www.tech.ubc.ca/metrics/curric.html. (I am one of the associate instructors for this course). This course is offered in partnership with Web Analytics Association (WAA)

Reading blogs, articles and whitepapers is another way to expand your knowledge.
Most of the blogs are of advanced nature, so I would recommend you familiarize yourself with the Web Analytics field (see above) before reading these blog. Two of the blogs that I recommend are Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik and Web Analytics Demystified by Eric Peterson, the author of the books mentioned above. Both of these blogs have a list of lots of other blogs on Web Analytics. The more you read the better you will understand this field.

Gaining Practical Experience

Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics) has made it real easy for anybody to get a web analytics tool. This tool is completely free with all the documentation to help you get rolling. If you have a website, deploy this tool and play with it. This will help you understand how web analytics tools and reports work.
To gain further experience, tap into your network, I am sure somebody (a friend of a friend of a friend…) will allow you (especially if you are willing to do it for free) to provide reporting and analysis on their site (real site).

Getting Paid, while you learn

There are several companies who are looking for entry level analyst. You don’t need any experience, all you need is desire to learn and grow. They will hire you, train you and provide the support to help you grow in this position.

Since you have read this article in it’s entirely, I am convinced you have the desire. Now let me see your passion. Go ahead and email me your resume if you want to get paid while you learn.

Note: I just added a list of books on Web Analytics, you can check them out at Web Analytics Bookstore

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Calculating Behaviors on your site

I recently came across a press release from Revenue Science claiming that they now reach 1 Billion behaviors per day. http://www.revenuescience.com/site/media/press-releases/2006/20061107.asp. So what is this all about? In my opinion Behavioral Targeting (or any kind of targeting) is about reaching users/visitors /customers not behaviors.
Anyway, even if they are reporting their reach in terms of numbers of behaviors, then how are they counting behaviors? The way I think of behaviors, Revenue Science is underreporting reporting the number of behaviors they reach everyday, it has to be way more than 1 Billion. Let me show you how a single visitor can exhibit over a Billion behaviors.

What is an online behavior?

Every single action that a user takes on the site determines user’s behavior. Following are some of the different elements that determine the behaviors of users online

1. Every page view
2. Number of minutes on a page
3. Path taken
4. Links/Ads clicked
5. Scrolling on the page
6. Referring Sites
7. Each second in the visit
8. Each visit
9. Total Visits
10. Total Page views
11. each Product viewed
12. Each cart abandoned
13. Each step of the funnel completed/abandoned
and the list goes on…...

Let’s take a site with 30 pages. A single user visits all 30 pages. So how many behaviors has this user exhibited? According to my calculation, way over 1 Billion.

How do you calculate online behaviors? (I am only going to count pages viewed to count behaviors)

Each page view by itself is a unique behavior; so this user has exhibited 30 behaviors by viewing all 30 pages.
Combination of pages 1 and 2 is a unique behavior too, that is one more behavior, so total is now 31.
Every combination of these 30 pages will be a unique behavior exhibited by this user.
So how many combinations of 30 pages exist? I am not going to go into details of calculus but show you the formulas here

nCk = The number of combinations of n things taken k at a time
The sum of all the combinations of n distinct things is 2n.
nC0 + nC1 + nC2 + . . . + nCn = 2n

We won’t count any combination with 0 page views (i.e. the user never showed up on the site) so in our example above
nC1 + nC2 + . . . + nCn = 2n - nC0
i.e.nC1 + nC2 + . . . + nCn = 2n - 1

So, combinations of 30 different page views (behaviors) = 230 - 1
That comes to 1, 073, 741, 823 Behaviors. That comes to 1, 073, 741, 823 Behaviors. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=2**30+-1&btnG=Search)

Yes over a billion behaviors exhibited by 1 user viewing 30 pages.

If I take various other elements that define behavior (see above) than you don’t even need 30 pages to reach 1 Billion behaviors.

Behaviors motivate but people read your content and buy your products. In my opinion, it is not about how many behaviors a BT vendor can reach, it is about how many customers they can reach.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Homepage – How critical is it?

Recently I came across a customer, who wanted to make a cool looking homepage and putting all their promotions and one of the main lead generation links only on the homepage.

Since the beginning of the internet the homepage of the site has been considered the most important page of the site. Till recently, that truly was the case. Visitors entered the site mainly through the homepage; it was the main entry to the site. Cool looking homepage was considered the key to the success of the site.

Visitor’s behavior has changed; homepage is no longer the only entry page into the site. Visitors enter from all sort of different pages and not just the homepage. Homepage is still an important page but not as critical as you might think. Look into the data provided by your web analytics tool before you start changing the homepage in a hope that once the page looks cool everything will be fine. Pretty simple process but a lot of marketers ignore it.

This customer's decision to redesign their site was made without looking into the data their web analytics tool was providing. A simple analysis showed them that only 14% of the visitors were entering the site from home page, and only 24% of the visitors actually saw the home during their visit. They were going to loose an opportunity to convert 76% of the visitors by putting the promotions and the main lead generation link just on the home page.

These days users don't have time to look around. Days of web surfing are long over. Users are generally looking for some specific information/product and once they find it (via one of the factors listed below), they come to the site, get the content/product etc from the site and are gone from the site without checking the homepage.

Below are some of the factors that cause users to bypass the home page.

1. Search Engines – Visitors, now more than ever, rely on the search engines to find the sites or pages which are relevant to what they are looking for. Search engines link into internal pages not just home page, at least that’s the case for well search engine optimized sites.

2. Viral Marketing – Friends referring friends to internal page (pages other than homepage) of the site.

3. Bookmarks – Visitors are book marking the internal pages which have content/products which interest them and then use these bookmarks to visit the site.

4. Deep linking on the other sites – Other sites, blogs etc. are linking to the internal pages with content/products relevant to their content.

5. Online Advertising – Online Advertising (and offline too) drive users to landing pages which are generally internal pages.

I am not saying that you should not have a nice homepage (people do judge the book by the cover, if the see the cover) all I am saying is your redesign should be based on facts and not just gut feel. Focusing just on the homepage is not a smart idea. Your critical promotions and conversion processes should be easily accessible from the top traffic and entry pages, if not all the pages.

As always, I would like to hear your point of view and the stories that you might be willing to share.