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Four Web Analytics Gurus On Key Trends In 2011

In a dynamic and constantly changing world like internet marketing, measuring the outcomes of our activities is increasingly important. To get a deeper understanding about the most important developments in 2010 and the biggest challenges lying ahead for us in the rest of 2011, I interviewed four of the most influential gurus in the field of web analytics: Avinash Kaushik, Jim Sterne, Dennis Mortensen and Stéphane Hamel. Their insights and predictions follow.

Avinash Kaushik

Avinash Kaushik is the Analytics Evangelist for Google, co-founder of Market Motive and author of inspiring books like Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics: An Hour A Day. Besides that, Avinash is a well known speaker at the largest online marketing conferences around the globe and his own blog Occam’s Razor is a must read for every marketeer / web analyst.

What do you think were the three most important developments in web analytics in 2010?

I am a little biased here but one of the ones was the introduction of intelligent features into tools like Google Analytics. If you look at Analytics Intelligence and Weighted Sort they both make the job of an analyst incredibly easier by proactively applying math and advanced algorithms. Our tools have been too dumb for too long, I am glad it is changing.

Secondly, I am super excited about the massive explosion in affordable qualitative analysis tools like Kiss Insights, UserTesting.com and ConceptFeedback.com. Finally we can get voice of customer into our daily decision making in innovative ways that were not really possible before.

Finally I love the entire social media data explosion. Social media is a lot less exciting than we think (and I say that as someone who has over 30,000 followers on Twitter!), it is also distracting many marketers for strategies that they should be paying attention to. But there is no doubt that social media throws a big wrench in the way we have measured success, or how we have defined success. I love proliferation of tools and attempts to figure out how to measure what matters (I attempted to in my blog post Social Media Analytics.

What are the most important topics in 2011 for web analytics?

Here is what I think it will be: We will continue to obsess about technical implementations, complain about how no one takes action on any data we provide and be distracted by throwing up massive reports on any data that can be gotten out of Google Analytics or Omniture or NedStat.

Here is what I hope happens: We get out of the silly data puking business and realize that our purpose in life is to solve business problems, then we go on to embrace business centric structured approaches like using the Web Analytics Measurement Model. We, finally (!), embrace testing and optimization as a way of life. Yes it is not easy to deal with, but then again generating millions of Euros of improvement in our businesses never is. We will see some analytics tools disappear (and I mean in the broad Web Analytics 2.0 sense), others appear and others still become better.

What will be the influence of the “do not track” options now being made available in web browsers?

Privacy is a very important concern. Unless users have confidence that websites have been transparent about what data is being collected and how it will be used, it will be hard to stay in business. The development of strong privacy options in browsers, strong privacy opt-out plugins by companies like Google and other actions like that increase confidence of our users. This is a good thing. On the web we are blessed to already collect more permission based anonymous data than we know what to do with. All of us analysts, marketers and website owners will continue to have data to have sufficient permission based anonymous data to improve the ROI of our online programs and investments.

Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is the author of several marketing books, his most recent, Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. Besides that, Jim is the founder of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and co-founder of the Web Analytics Association.

What are the most important topics in 2011 for social web analytics?

I make a distinction between social media metrics and web analytics. Web analytics is all about measuring the behavior of people on your website. Social media metrics looks at measuring the activities out in the “sociosphere.”

In short, the most important topics will be:

  • How do I quantify publicly expressed sentiment and use that information to make business decisions?
  • How do I determine if my social media activities are producing value?
  • How do I integrate data from social media and on-site behavior and offline customer data to optimize my marketing efforts?

This last one is the most important. Marketing data integration was our main goal in the past few years until we got sidetracked by social media.

More and more internet activity will move from traditional websites to social media sites, apps, etc. What will be the impact of this on the traditional collection of data as we know it?

A healthy web analytics industry has developed complex tools over the past 15 years. These tools allow organizations to instrument their own websites at will and glean a considerable amount of information from them. Now that people are building useful applications (including commerce) and entire websites inside social networks, they will become reliant on those networks for that data. The level of data granularity will diminish for a few years until larger organizations throw their weight around and insist that Facebook, Twitter and others provide the desired data sophistication.

Dennis Mortensen

Dennis Mortensen is a pioneer and expert in the analytics industry. Mortensen is an entrepreneur and was COO at IndexTools when it was acquired by Yahoo, becoming Yahoo’s Director of Data Insights. Today he is Founder and CEO of Visual Revenue Inc., sits on the board of the Web Analytics Association, and maintains the highly popular analytics and media blog.

What were the biggest achievements for web analytics in 2010?

We (the industry) finally figured out that this is not about data collection or reporting or displaying up-and-to-right trends. It seems like we’ve come to a point where everybody understands that online data is an opportunity for the organization to make better and more insightful strategic decisions.

What are the most important challenges in 2011 for web analytics and business intelligence?

First and foremost, it is important for those of us in new media not to make a unique distinction between online analysis (web analytics) and that of more traditional business analysis (business intelligence)—as long as we keep the two disciplines separated online comes out on the wrong side of that equation.

My world revolves around online publishers; in particular news media. With that in mind the most important 2011 challenge, as I see it, will be greater data focus and the desire and willingness to be more data driven. Specifically for my target group, editors will be looking to use decision support systems and will be moving towards an environment where machine learned and predicted content recommendations are a daily norm.

Stéphane Hamel

Stéphane Hamel has over 20 years of experience and is the creator of the Online Analytics Maturity Model, WASP and gaAddons. Stéphane is also a frequent speaker at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and other conferences in North America and Europe.

What do you think were the most important developments in web analytics in 2010?

Market consolidation comes to mind, with IBM purchasing Coremetrics, Unica and a slew of other players in the analytics space, and of course, the previous purchase of Omniture by Adobe. I wrote about this on our blog.

Second, and a topic very close to my interests, is the huge progress of anything related to “online analytics maturity,” as if in 2010, lots of agencies & organizations realized the roadblocks they are facing have nothing to do with the tools, but much more with the organizational shift required to truly entrench a culture of analytics.

What are the most important challenges in 2011 for web analytics?

Stop trying to do everything, do what matters. There is a lot of buzz and coolness factor in the web analytics space. I get crazy when I see anything “social media” receiving a ridiculous amount of attention while businesses are not even able to efficiently help their prospects and clients through their “traditional” online channels (like websites, or even call centers!). We have to wonder which is most important: thousands of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter… or satisfied and profitable customers. I’m fearing a “social media bubble;” energy and focus is so out of whack that huge deceptions are bound to happen—especially when any attempt to measure the true ROI of social media as failed, turned out to be ridiculously inflated or biased, or as been anecdotal spurs of success at best.

What will be the influence of the “do not track” options now being made available in web browsers?

Did “no not call” bring down the use of phones? Certainly not—it allowed to set the boundaries of what is ethical, legitimate and legal… from blatant abuse. If I’m going to a site I trust and use often, I will gladly accept their offering, including any profiling and targeting. If the “do not track” feature can block LSO Flash objects using features to track users who do not want to be tracked, I’m all for it. If it blocks rogue third party trackers who do not abide by a minimum level of decency, I’m also all for it!

I really would like to know what you guys are thinking. Please add your comments below about what are the most important topics and challenges are emerging in the web analytics and business world.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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