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Web Pro Interview: Avinash Kaushik

Posted on 7.31.2008

In advance of the upcoming Search Engine Strategies conference and exposition in San Jose, California on August 18th through the 22nd, Website Magazine's SEO Expert Dante Monteverde posed some questions to Avanish Kaushik about analytics and his upcoming presentation. Avinash is the author of the recently published book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day and the Analytics Evangelist for Google.

As a thought leader Avinash puts a common sense framework around the often frenetic world of Web research and analytics, and combines that with this philosophy that investing in talented analysts is the key to long term success. He is also a staunch advocate of listening to the consumer, and is committed to helping organizations unlock the value of web data.

WM: For those webmasters who are just starting to analyze their website’s incoming traffic and track online conversions how do they know if Google Analytics the only software package they need? Is there a way to determine if they need a more robust analytics package?

Kaushik: I had written a post on my blog a while back that covered this precise topic: How to Choose a Web Analytics Tool: A Radical Alternative. It essentially outlined these steps for ensuring that you pick the right tool for you:

  • Step 0: Assign optimal ownership. (Day One)
  • Step 1: Implement a web analytics solution. (Day Two)
  • Step 3: Teach yourself the limitations of web analytics, tagging, numbers not matching, need to go redo your website IA / URL’s / ID’s / Cookies / data providing facilities. (Day 17)
  • Step 4: IT “rules”! Cross your fingers, dive in. (Day 27)
  • Step 5: Do a honest and deeply critical self review of where you are. (Day 57 or infinity)
  • Step 6: Celebrate.

I also feel that people don't do enough of an accurate self assessment before they pick the tool for their company. I address that by providing three (and only three) questions that any website owner should ask themselves before they start the selection process: Web Analytics Tool Selection: Three Questions to ask Yourself.

WM: What are some of the most common areas you see people misreading their analytics? What do you recommend to avoid this?

Kaushik: I think the most common mistake is to just dive in before putting any thought about what "outcomes" are desired from the website. We live in a world where there is a ton of data available to us and its one of those cases were "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

My recommendation is to always start by answering this humble yet difficult question: "Why does your website exist?" Identify the macro and micro conversions you are driving. Then start looking at your data and now your efforts will be focused, they will impact your business bottom line and, most of all, you'll know which mountain of data to ignore in your quest for success. Here is a post that has specific examples of Macro and Micro Conversions.

WM: With Social marketing campaigns becoming more and more popular, how do you recommend measuring these campaigns successes? Are social campaigns more for branding or is there an exact metric for ROI?

Kaushik: I think the correct answer is: It depends. Social media marketing is very nascent and in as much we are all participating in a new experiment and learning at the same time. There are no set answers at the moment, and that is quite ok.

Here is what has not changed: We are still interested in measuring impact just as we would with traditional campaigns. Are we getting traffic to the right sites? Is that traffic doing something of value (revenue, brand impact, customer satisfaction, etc?) The metric you measure will depend on the campaign, and it is not necessarily just for branding. One of my favorite examples is the Dell Outlet Twitter channel. They tweet when they have excess inventory to sell. The tweets are received by only those people who are interested in hearing about that campaign (hence a highly relevant audience.) Dell is able to measure precisely the outcome and ROI of their twitter channel.

WM: How does Google Analytics approach the problem of Ajax or Flash based websites?

Kaushik: Most Web analytics tools used to (and many still do) rely on the page view, or more accurately fake page views, to track rich experiences. Google Analytics had released a feature called Event Logging that allows you to track Ajax, Flash, Flex, Video, Stream Audio and all such matters using a new and scalable model to collect data. This means no more page views but also a great deal of additional flexibility in what you want to collect and how you want to report on it. There is more information here: Event Tracking Overview.

WM: Any teasers as to what you will be discussing at SES San Jose?

Kaushik: My hope is to share with the audience three specific challenges that are posed when it comes to measurement in the 2.0 world. Ideas that will challenge their current belief system while providing new alternatives. One of those, will be tracking rich media. I am also thinking of sharing some social media metrics.

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