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Eric Peterson - Web Analytics Demystifier Extraordinaire

Eric Peterson - Web Analytics Demystifier Extraordinaire image
Eric Peterson - Web Analytics Demystifier Extraordinaire

Aquent (the company this blogger works for) is sponsoring an AMA Webinar on March 6, 2007 at 10:00am PST/1:00pm EST entitled, “Web Analytics Demystified: Ten Simple Strategies for Using Web Analytics to Improve Your Online Marketing Efforts.” The presenter will be none other than web analytics luminary, Eric T. Peterson. To quote from Eric’s recent interview with Robbin Steif ofLunaMetrics, this webinar is appropriate for ” Anyone spending money on the Internet. Anyone spending money on website design, website analysis, anyone spending money on AdWords.”

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to ask Eric a few questions of my own. Here’s what I asked and what he answered:

Matt Grant: If someone were to move into “web analytics” from another discipline, which discipline would offer the best preparation? In other words, what skills are most readily transferable to a career in web analytics?

Eric Peterson: Wow, great question given that MBA programs around the country are just now starting to talk about web analytics. (I say this based on the increasing requests for Web Analytics Demystifiedfrom universities and MBA programs.) In my experience, successful web analytics professionals have the following traits and characteristics:

  • They have a serious interest in the business, either from a marketing or operational focus, and are interested being an active participant in understanding how the business can be improved.
  • They are either experienced with or unafraid of the technical aspects of the Internet. JavaScript skills are a MUST, especially as new technologies like AJAX become more popular.
  • They need to be comfortable working with diverse groups and teams (IT in one meeting, marketing in the next, management after that, etc.) and confident presenters and speakers. Analysis is a tool for building consensus, not delivering ultimatums.
  • They must be passionately curious about “why” things happen, online or off. It is the difference between reporting that something happened and reporting why something happened. One is a reporter, the other a scientist.

Given all this, companies do well to look for folks with a background in science, mathematics, analysis, and the like. A premium should be given to people who present well and exude confidence.

Matt: Having made such a move, what does a career path in web analytics look like? Is there an identifiable progression of job titles, responsibilities, etc.?

Eric: Someone just getting into web analytics can probably expect to be given a reasonable amount of “gruntwork” (i.e., generating and distributing reports, as opposed to conducting analysis) for 18 to 24 months as they learn the details of web analytics technology, the business, etc. After 24 months or so, the superstars should be promoted to a more senior role and tasked with conducting and presenting analysis at least 50 percent of the time. The real superstar analysts, depending on company growth, often are faced with management responsibilities within the first five years.

Matt: Is it a good idea to pursue a career in web analytics? Is this a discipline with a promising future or is that still to be determined?

Eric: Absolutely, but keep my personal bias in mind here. Since I first outlined the true value of hiring dedicated web analytics professionals in several reports published by JupiterResearch [both require login] an increasing number of companies have started aggressively hiring web analytics professionals. My research was more recently corroborated by Megan Burns at Forrester Research in this paper [again, login required] and today a very strong case can be made for hiring web analytics talent. Given the relatively small number of qualified applicants searching for new jobs at any given time, juxtaposed against demand, experienced folks are rightly getting good six-figure salaries to conduct the exact kind of research they find most interesting. Slam dunk.

Matt: What can web designers and other creative types learn from the web analytics crowd?

Eric: In a nutshell, the difference between “attractive” and “effective”. One of my favorite examples of this is a well known car site that is constantly criticized by creative types and brand managers as being “so 1995″ and “flat out ugly!” Unfortunately for these folks, the CTO of this company knows web analytics very well and has clear measurements of success for any new design, regardless of how pretty the design is. You either meet the revenue per visit requirement or you get thrown out. Now, this strategy doesn’t make my friend popular with the creative people on his staff, but his shareholders love him.

Matt: Last question: In this post, Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown asks, “Is your brand a party animal?” What web metrics could we use to determine if our brand is a party animal?

Eric: Engagement, an emerging “Web 2.0″ metric that many people are talking about but few are actually measuring. If you’d like to know more, you can read my posts on the subject in my weblog.

Matt: Thanks, Eric!

Intrigued? Then by all means, tune in to the webinar!

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