Web Analytics

27 Apr Fishing for Data Freedom, Landing an Unwelcome Surprise

fish-1013690_960_720It was a staple of the cartoons from my childhood: Seated on a river bank, an eager fishing enthusiast casts a line into the water and begins reeling in the line, imagining trout for dinner. Cue the laugh track -- what breaks the surface of the water is a sodden old boot. And so it is with marketing teams, enjoying the newfound freedom being pitched to them by various ad platforms. These platforms emphasize their ease of use in launching new campaigns. “You don’t have to wait for internally-generated Tracking Codes to deploy your marketing,” they say. “You can get the data you need with no hassle.” And marketers respond to it, because it’s mostly true. The vast majority of campaign tracking codes are no longer generated by human analysts, but by the Facebooks and Doubleclicks of the world. Within their ecosystems, these platforms accurately track and monitor, dutifully feeding data into the tag manager. But this presents a challenge to marketing analytics, one that can sneak up even when the tag management system is humming perfectly. When it comes time to analyze performance holistically, it works against your integrated marketing picture to have outside ad platforms creating cloned variations of codes that were carefully designed by the analytics team. Marketing teams don't realize that in reaching for "freedom," they’re also pulling in a lot of noise.
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15 Mar The Challenge and Promise of Digital Campaign Tracking

2017-03-08_12-00-47Have a look at this image. Sound familiar? Web analytics has held out the elusive promise of being a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. “Set up your reports, and the data will fill itself in.” That promise has largely held true -- for every part of web analytics except Marketing. That’s because with marketing, the web page you have today isn’t the one you had yesterday. There’s constant change: new information, new deals, new parameters. What everyone wants is a system that runs itself. Otherwise, as the figure shows, you spend all your time making sure the reporting is right. Spending time on data correction takes time away from the analysis that will really help the company. It’s a necessary evil. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get marketing data to the same set-and-forget kind of place as the rest of our web analytics?
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13 Mar Interview with CEO/CFO Magazine: Craig Scribner

"Companies have an ongoing challenge handing over all of the right pieces of information to their analytics system, in order for the system to tell them how their marketing campaigns are performing... We allow analytics pros or the BI team to go in as administrators to set up patterns that are relevant and targeted for the different marketing teams." Read the full interview.
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23 Feb Test-driven Development in Analytics

checklist-1622517_960_720In the 2017 world of IT and systems engineering, Test-driven development (TDD) is quickly becoming the new mantra. No one writes a line of code these days without the intent to have that code check/test itself. If there is bug in that code, it gets caught and fixed before it goes live, reducing any risk of breakage. This kind of system has never been deployed on the analytics side. By convention, analytics work has relied on hacks; quick and dirty patches that frequently go awry, and are just as likely to backfire and cut down the analyst, as to cut down her obstacles. If the analyst is winging it, to fill in a little gap in the proverbial data wall, he can unwittingly create a huge chasm with a single stroke. Bringing a TDD approach to analytics would go some way in changing that. It would require that whenever you make any change to your analytics, you make sure the change is fully tested before it’s deployed. This method takes more time -- and may frustrate management -- but will result in better quality control.
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15 Feb The Importance of Data Cleanup

cleaner-1816361_960_720 One of the biggest changes in the world of marketing technology in the last decade has been the rise of Analytics. We’ve arrived at a point where Analytics is an accepted word and a legitimate specialty. But (and I know I’m preaching to the choir here), we shouldn’t break out the bubbly just yet. As it turns out, it is a lot more difficult than anyone thought it would be to reap the benefits of all our new data streams. To put it simply: though we have the tools to create bits of data, making the bits work together is hard. Jim Sterne, founder of the Digital Analytics Association and Tracking First advisor, recently shared a startling anecdote. The good folks at Analytics Demystified have created the Analytics Exchange, a place where analysts can meet up with like-minded industry colleagues, to find mentorship around analytics best practices. According to Jim, almost everyone comes to the forum for the first time with questions about how to streamline and synchronize their various data flows, in order to make sense of it all. And virtually every time, the answer is, “Your tags are a mess. You have to redo everything.” Every time.
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31 Jan Accountability and Governance – new features for Tracking First

rules-1752622_960_720Often, when companies release a marketing campaign, their analytics teams spend the next few days scrambling. As quickly as possible, they need to make sure all the data is pulling correctly. Are the tracking codes working? Are the expected data reportable? When something goes wrong, as it often does, it’s hard to know who made the mistake and where. An experienced analyst can sometimes decipher from context. They may see that the broken code came from an email, or a specific social media channel, but it’s challenging detective work -- and it’s a huge pain. Anything you learn may not help anyway, because the data is already damaged.  Some companies have taken the lead and tried to solve this by creating their own governance systems to monitor the generation and management of Tracking Codes. Companies like Salesforce and HP have developed their own tools. That’s been their only option up to this point. However, these systems are typically expensive and not core to their business. With maintenance and development time devoted solely to maximizing investments they’ve already paid for, these systems can be a real money pit.
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04 Jan Campaign Analytics Tracking – How did we get here?

Increasing ComplexityLooking at the world of campaign analytics in 2017, it can be challenging for anyone who didn’t grow up in the industry to make sense of its complexity. Seasoned analysts and marketers have a history with the technology, but they've often witnessed so much change so quickly that it can feel at times like someone snuck up and piled a bunch of new challenges on top of old ones, before solutions to the old problems were fully worked out. When it comes to URL tracking and campaign analytics, the tools at our fingertips are impressively precise. Not that long ago, the only data you could meaningfully derive from a referring URL was how much traffic you’re getting from various websites. At a high level it allowed companies to see which partnerships and publishing platforms were bringing eyes to their sites, but that’s about it.
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14 Dec Your org chart may be your problem

Org StructureAs humans we’re good at sorting things into piles -- very young children can put all the blocks together in one pile, all the little animals together in another. It’s easy, and we can see the sense in it. Now that we’re grown up, we’re still tempted to group things together that seem similar, but sometimes it slows us down. A lot of businesses group their analytics departments with their IT -- all techies together, we think -- they’ll keep each other company. But there are some genuine costs to this simple choice: when the IT department is in charge of the analytics department, we shouldn’t be surprised if analytics begins to elevate the priorities of the IT department, at the expense of the core values of the company. With analysts under the thumb of IT, the KPIs that are being delivered are about optimizing IT processes.
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07 Dec Why data analyst pushback is good for your company

directing trafficAs a business executive you’ve got a lot to do--your responsibilities are many and varied, and it feels important for the people around you at your company to be team players and smooth the way whenever possible. But what if rather than smoothing your way, that approach is getting in your way, or even causing you to lose your way? Here’s how things usually go: you have an idea about some information that your website can provide, so you go to your web analytics team and tell them what you need. Chances are, you’re going to get it, but maybe you shouldn’t. In order for web analytics to contribute to the core mission of your company, the thing you ought to get from your analytics team is pushback.
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30 Nov Why I love Data

data flow 2Anyone who knows me knows that I work in data analytics because I enjoy it. For people whose brains work differently, this can be hard to understand. Occasionally someone will ask me, “What intrigues you so much about this field?” I look at it like a game of chess. There are problems to be solved, and questions to be answered. The analyst’s challenge begins as a blank slate, with every conceivable route to data reporting available. Then, specific metrics we want to derive act as constraints that pare down the possibilities to just a handful. Once we know what data picture we want, there are still multiple ways to get there: the challenge and the fun of analytics work is creating an efficient path that doesn’t break and that creates trusted data. Then it’s about bending the technology to serve us (instead of us serving the technology), and it’s about getting the people who work with you to ask the right questions, and do the right analyses to answer those questions.
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