We at SEMpdx had the great fortune to host two industry luminaries at this past Hotseat event on Web Analytics. Eric T. Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified book and blog and Ian Lurie of Portent Interactive agency in Seattle and Conversation Marketing blog spoke at our monthly Hotseat group of 40 SEMpdx members and friends. For those of you not familiar with our monthly Hotseat events, we host an industry expert where they spend 30 minutes talking about a specific subject within SEM, web site optimization, social media, or web analytics and then they, along with a panel of 3 other industry specialists review 2-3 sites from the audience. Hotseats are a great way to learn about a topic in great detail, have your site reviewed by industry experts, or learn about what to do and not do on your own site. And of course, it’s a great way to network with SEM professionals in the greater Portland area.
There were many wonderful questions from the audience, some that I thought we should include on our blog as a reference for those who may have missed the event. So I sat down (virtually) and asked Eric and Ian to answer questions that are on many marketers’ minds. Web analytics and site optimization is especially important with marketing budgets being squeezed.
Hallie: What advice can you give a company on how to determine which analytics platform to use? What’s the difference between Google Analytics (beyond being free), Omniture, and WebTrends?
Eric: Aside from cost, the Omnitures and WebTrends of the world are typically much more feature rich than Google Analytics and other freely available solutions. My friend Paul has a good post on this subject. In general I recommend companies first determine what their web analytics needs are and then look for a vendor who best fits their needs.
Ian: Omniture tracks based on visitors and can provide sophisticated reporting about how individuals purchase on your site. Google Analytics is session-based and better at aggregate reporting. It’s also far, far simpler to implement than Omniture.
I always compare Omniture to a Ferrari and Google Analytics to a BMW. Omniture is faster, and dang purty. But it’s expensive and may require a lot of upkeep. Google Analytics is snazzy, fast and efficient, but in a flat-out race Omniture will win. Assuming it doesn’t stall. Also, Google Analytics is free. Omniture is about as far from free as possible.
Hallie: What KPI’s should every B2C put in their dashboard?
Eric: Conversion Rate, Revenue per Visit, and a list of the top five pages on their site by Bounce Rate. I have a ton of KPIs appropriate for B2C companies broken down by business type in The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators.
Ian: Visits, pageviews/visit, time on site, traffic from search, goal conversions and sales.
Hallie: What KPI’s should every B2B put in their dashboard?
Eric: Lead Generation Rate (or something similar), a measure of Engagement, and the top five internal searches on the site.
Ian: Visits, pageviews/visit, time on site, traffic from search, leads.
Hallie: What books should a newbie analytics person read? What about advanced books?
Eric: For beginners I like Web Analytics Demystified an awful lot since the basic principles of web analytics have not changed since it was written and it is generally considered less-dense than other books on the subject (but am somewhat biased in that regard.) For advanced readers I think the only really advanced book out there is still my Web Site Measurement Hacks from O’Reilly & Associates.
After that, I actually go online. It’s hard to find really great, current advanced content. I do recommend reading more advanced books about statistics and data mining, though.
Hallie: Same with blogs – what are your favorites?
Hallie: What are the common site design and usability issues do you see when reviewing analytics?
Eric: Sadly there are too many to list easily. Probably the biggest things I still see are poorly designed forms, poorly designed buttons, and poorly thought-out calls to action.
Ian: Ugh. Where do I start? Developer or Designer-driven interfaces, failure to track conversions, an aversion to buttons that look like buttons, failure to use a clear semantic outline…
Hallie: How do you track mobile traffic? Set up a mobile site?
Eric: Mobile is one of the next big battlegrounds for the web analytics vendors. We’re seeing a ton of small companies moving into the sector trying to solve one specific problem (the measurement of mobile-based traffic) and while these companies are all doing good stuff I think that ultimately the realization will be that you shouldn’t have multiple solutions in place to track digital visitors across different access channels (e.g., computers, mobile phones, etc.)
For now measuring mobile is more difficult than it needs to be, but I think that will change. Certainly as the handsets become more sophisticated (e.g., more like the iPhone) but also as the traditional web analytics vendors invest more in understanding the core problem associated with tracking visitors on older handsets.
Ian: I’m not a good person to ask about this. We just do super standards- compliant code and let the phone browsers sort it out.
Hallie: Any other questions you get asked a lot and think are important for SEMpdx’ers to know about?
Ian: No, you cannot estimate the ROI you’ll get from analytics. Yes, you should always, always be testing. NEVER stop testing!