Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Five Analytics Points You’ll Wish You Knew

When taking on the task of introducing or reforming analytics within any organization, there are a few things that the experts recommend making sure you are aware of. I’ve compiled the ideas and sentiments into five points:

No Silver Bullet

There is no silver bullet 

There is no one specific tool or process that will work for everything or everyone. At the same time, obsessing about tools and which one will work the best will only have you chasing your tail with no success. Avanish Kaushik mentions in his blog that 10% of your time should be spent implementing tools, whereas the other 90% should be used to make sure you have the structure and organization to support and derive the correct information from what the tool as well as other mediums give you. (Kaushik A. , 2011)

It’s not about the Data, it’s about how you use it

Data is where everything starts. It is the iron ore of the digital world. Without it, nothing of value could be derived. Just as with iron ore; however, it is not helpful to gather as much as you can of everything you can if you are not prepared to use it. Success will not come by how much data you’ve collected, by how well you can use a tool, but more from your business savvy and your soft skills. (Kaushik A. , 2011) Turning data into something a business leader can use is key. Ovetta Sampson in a comment to Sean McGinnis on his blog stated:  “people lie…not on purpose but unconsciously and incrementally. So when you look at analytics you have to account for the whole human thing. Correlation DOES NOT equal causation and if you really want to extrapolate your analytics and measurements to account for consumer behavior then you better brush up on your scientific methodology or hire a Ph.D. scientist because you can’t do it with data alone. A lot of marketers get the data and have no idea what to do with it and use junk science methodologies to make decisions that have no basis in proven reality. Data alone doesn’t tell the story. Humans are known to act against type for all number of untold reasons. Data is better than ever today but it isn’t the whole picture. It isn’t the holy grail and if you aren’t a student of the behavioral sciences – anthropology, psychology, sociology- you won’t know what to do with it.” (McGinnis, 2012)

Start With Outcomes, invest in metrics that matter

Data, Data, Data, It's how you use it. If how you use the data is key, how do you best use it? You start with clear outcomes and invest in metrics that matter. Augie Ray while commenting to Sean McGinnis on his blog stated: “ I wish earlier in my career I’d realized that people will settle for ILLUSION of metrics rather than invest in the metrics that matter.” Aaron Biebert in the same blog mentioned: “What gets measured gets done. If you measure and distribute meaningless stats to your team, they will work on improving them. Measure what matters.”  (McGinnis, 2012)

It helps no one when you measure how many times birds flew past your window on the way to work. Find those things that drive value.  No one will care about data six months from now when nothing has changed. Money is normally one of the best outcomes to tie metrics to for businesses. Non-profits may care more about impact, governments about reduced costs. Find what drives value, and then measure it, use the metrics to drive change and you will be more successful because of it. (Kaushik A. , 2011) (50 Resources for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics)

Be Pragmatic

Being pragmatic means to deal with things sensibly and realistically and to look at the world based more on the practical rather than the theoretical. Theory is great at times, but practicality is where business is done. Some things cannot be measured, tracked, or accounted for. Some things are impossible to do, to know, etc. The human contribution to the science of analytics can throw the whole train off the track. No one is perfect in the world so don’t anchor to what should be able to be done, measured, etc. in a perfect world. Focus on the small ways you can improve business priorities and outcomes. Knowing that and realizing that analytics is not the end all be all will keep you afloat when the world turns upside down. (Kaushik A. , 2011) (Ben, 2010)

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

The field is constantly changing, adapting, and evolving.  Don’t be afraid of change, of using multiple tools. The questions we are searching for so we can answer are hard to find and changing every day. Be willing to be nimble and quick on your feet as you look for ways to improve. Don’t get stuck in a rut just because it has been working. That all can change in a blink of an eye. (Kaushik A. , 2011)

Don’t be afraid of elbow grease

There is a lot of work involved in analytics. Malcollm Gladwell said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, and he was right. Dane Findley stated in Sean McGinnis’ blog post: “My best analytics coming from simply being in the trenches — working on my site every day for 4 years, you just start to get a sense of what will work and what won’t, before you even have to try it. ALSO: I wish I could have told myself years ago that everything works a little bit, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to try “everything” so you have to just pick a couple of key areas, create a strategy, and throw your weight behind those exclusively. Community Management is an essential piece of the puzzle, but it’s a huge time sponge. The more important piece is to keep Google happy (even though no one likes to say it directly like that, it’s so politically incorrect, yet true). The 3 analytics I look at each week are: uniques, average time on site, and referring sites (In that exact order).” (McGinnis, 2012)

Don't be afraid of a little elbow grease with analytics
To become good, you have to put in your time. It may not be actual elbow grease, but the more you put into it, the more you will get out. Avinash Kaushik suggests finding 5 hours a week outside of work, family, school, church, or whatever to devote to yourself to learn, experiment, and seek to become that expert in whatever you desire. (Kaushik A. , 2011)

What are your thoughts? For those of you already in the Digital Analytics industry, do you share the same opinion? What have you seen?

Works Cited

50 Resources for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2013, from KISSmetrics:
Ben, W. (2010, July). Experience Marketers - What are 3 things you know now that you wish you knew when you 1st started. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from Warrior Forum:
Kaushik, A. (2011, January 10). I Wish I Had Known That - Digital Web Analytics Edition. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from Occam's Razor:
McGinnis, S. (2012, December 19). Learning Analytics: What I Wish I Knew Then. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from 321digital:


  1. Very true, all that data means nothing unless you know how to look at it.

  2. I think you make a great point there are so many tools out there. Too many things will not make sense at all!

  3. Exactly. Many of the tools will work in sync with one another, but you have to figure out which ones give you the best benefit and go with those. I look at it like credit cards. There are a lot that give you great value, but it's better to have one or two that give you the best value, than using fifty and getting sunk in debt.