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Friday, Jun. 19, 2009 at 8:51 am

Web Analytics and Yellow Lobsters

By Bryan Eisenberg
June 19th, 2009

I’ve been curious about what kind of effect the economy is having on how companies use Web analytics. Econsultancy just released its “Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2009.” This is its second annual report, and the results are fascinating.

First, the pleasantries:

  • “Companies are focusing on analytics which help them improve their customer acquisition and customer retention. The recession has helped to bring into sharper focus the importance of understanding return on investment and how individual elements of digital marketing impact the bigger picture.”
  • “There is a prioritization of information requirements which relate directly to business efficiency. The biggest focus is information relating to the cost of acquiring a customer or lead which is regarded as a ‘high priority’ by 59% of responding organizations.”

Overall, the interest in Web analytics and using it to improve continues to creep upward. The report also clearly shows that as the interest grows, so does confusion:

  • “There has been a slight improvement since last year but only one in five companies (22%) have an internal strategy that ties data collection and analysis to business objectives. More than half (60%) of responding organizations said they are ‘working on this’, while 18% say that they don’t have such a strategy.”
  • “There are still only a quarter of company respondents (27%) who say that their Web analytics ‘definitely’ provide actionable insights, with a further 55% saying that this is only sometimes the case.”

Another trend is that more companies are using Google Analytics: 23 percent use it exclusively, compared to 14 percent last year. For Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal, this is why the following is also a key finding in the report:

    There has been a marked shift from spending on technology to spending on internal staff, with companies now spending more on human resources than on software and licenses. The proportion of spending on internal staff has increased from 36% to 42% of total Web analytics spend while spending on technology has decreased from 45% to 38%.

Obviously some companies are hiring analysts rather than paying for analytics or some other technology. A welcome bit for those trying to make a career as Web analysts.

Still, I wonder how these analysts are faring. We all know the challenge in finding qualified candidates. When asked if companies were getting a return on investment from their analytics, a whopping 65 percent of respondents didn’t know or said they weren’t getting a return.

Andrew Hood, managing director at Web analytics consultancy Lynchpin (which cosponsored the report), said: “While the technology gets more and more sophisticated (and arguably more accessible from a cost perspective), the challenges in interpreting and actioning the data only get bigger…Resources [are] still a massive issue, and while companies are looking to increase spend on people, there looks to be an underlying skills shortage operating against this.”

It seems like good Web analysts are like yellow lobsters: they’re very rare.

What’s a Company to Do?

Before you do anything else, define your business goals. What do you need visitors to do to make your company more profitable? How will you measure success? You must tie your business goals with online efforts, or this is all for nothing. When you invest in improvement, you must at least know where the goal posts are.

Next, don’t let budget be a barrier to improving your Web site. What you don’t have in the budget you can pay for with a little more time and effort. Take the time to learn.

I’ve said it before and I say it enough: commit to a culture of continuous improvement, not a culture of set it and forget it. If you only focus on improving a few landing pages here and there, testing a few variations here and there, tweaking creative here and there, you’ll never reach your highest potential number of conversions.

Don’t worry, your customers won’t go unsatisfied. Sooner or later your competitors will figure out how to satisfy your visitors’ needs. Hopefully that will motivate you to get your goals on target by investing in continuous improvement.

What is your company doing with your analytics these days? How do you turn your analytics into actions that improve on your goals? Let me know below.

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Comments (22)

  1. I completely agree that web analytics is a process rather than an end to a process. We have implemented analytics culture and are already reaping benefits of it.

  2. I’m seeing a lot of agencies now simply slapping the GA code in the sites they develop, the same way ISPs provided reports back in the 90s, and telling clients that “Sure, we’ll measure everything”. The end results is often simple traffic reports emailed to managers who stop caring from the 3rd one.

    So, I am not so sure that demand for *analysts* is that strong and widespread, when the prevaling analytical paradigm is “How many visits did we get yesterday?”.

  3. Bryan, as usual excellent content! I have to wonder tho – since Econsultancy and Lynchpin are UK based, is their data slanted toward that market, or is it indicative of the global market? I can attest to the majority of my clients moving toward GA and leveraging my services as an analyst in favor of paying for WA solution. But then again I’m the small business evangelist so my data point my be biased…

  4. [...] Web Analytics and Yellow Lobsters [...]

  5. I have been using GA for about 1.5 to 2 years now. For about 1 year I just used it for stats, the last year I have been using it to measure experiments and other changes made to my website, GA is a powerful tool.

    Thanks Big G

  6. I especially like the reference to an otherwise irrelevant topic, the yellow lobster. Got my attention enough to click out of hundreds of competitive articles.Obviously following your own advice on writing headers. Well done and a good reminder.

  7. And web analytics is the basic for SEO, conversion etc.

    If you do not meassure, you do not know, if you are improving anything.

  8. @ Charles – Same exact thing happened to me. I’ve read dozens of these articles and didn’t really have the intention of reading yet another until I heard about the yellow lobster!

  9. [...] Web Analytics and Yellow Lobsters [...]

  10. I will be getting my certificate in Web Intelligence through the University of British Columbia and UC Irvine. The program is aimed at producing analysts that can actually make strategic business decisions with the data they collect. After reading this article, I am convinced I am on the right track.

  11. Bryan (Eisenberg): great post and I got to learn about the 1 in 30 million yellow lobster!

    Brian (Induni): even though the report has a UK focus, the respondents were a mix of Europeans, North Americans and a set of ‘others’ including India, Australia and China.

  12. I have been using GA for about 1.5 to 2 years now. For about 1 year I just used it for stats, the last year I have been using it to measure experiments and other changes made to my website, GA is a powerful tool.

  13. It’s a chicken and egg situation. I have worked with clients who say they want rigorous, robust analysis – yay! – but then totally don’t bother to act on the insights/recommendations. What is the point????

  14. It is a cool post
    Definitely,the web analytics is a process.
    we have benefited a lot from the web analytics.
    Thanks for the post

  15. [...] Web Analytics and Yellow Lobsters “It seems like good Web analysts are like yellow lobsters: they’re very rare.” [...]

  16. Thanks for this! Great stuff.

  17. I absolutely agree with the fact that web analytics is really a process rather than an end to a process. We’ve implemented analytics culture with our particular websites and we are already enjoying benefits of it. Because of it, we are using the information to expand our search/traffic reach to segments of the market that we did not originally think of.

  18. “Only one in five companies have an internal strategy that ties data collection and analysis to business objectives.” This is a worrisome statistic. I don’t think companies take this approach with offline information, just online stats. Most companies either don’t understand GA or don’t know what to do with the data.

  19. Great post Brian.Technology is great as long as you know what you are doing with it. Like you say you need to take the time to learn to benifit your business.

  20. I can attest to the majority of my clients moving toward GA and leveraging my services as an analyst in favor of paying for WA solution.

  21. Well, I am fully aware this post was written some time ago, (actually before I even got into SEO, GA and frequently writing on the internet.)

    What triggered me into writing this post was bassinets comment about companies not understanding and not knowing what to with GA. It does not take an astronaut to figure out the basics of neither SEO or GA, and even if that was the case, as professionals it is our job to make sure that they do. GA has come a long way, and is exceptionally user friendly, so watch that percentage go up, and up and up. ;)


  22. @SEO – good point. If you’re having difficulty knowing what to do with your GA or GWO, there are professionals out there who can help:
    1) Google Analyics Authorized consultants – help you get your site tagged properly, and get your goals and funnels set up; create reports; assist you with more complicated set-up of analytics
    2) SEO – help you with keywords and techniques to help your site rank well, and to a certain extent with improving the quality of your traffic
    3) CRO – help you interpret your data, cross-reference that with your site, and give you direction about what needs to be done to get more of your traffic to convert into paying customers (or leads)
    4) Google Website Optimizer Authorized Consultants – help you with setting up the tests recommended by your CRO expert

    Best of luck!

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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