I played Jesus in a local production of Godspell twenty years ago. I’ve been humming those tunes for the past week because I met someone who actually recognized me from that show all these years later. She liked it so much she went to see it twice. I’m surprised that I didn’t recognize her, because despite a glowing review in the local newspaper, that show produced historically low turnout; most of the seats were empty each night.
I remember a few weeks before opening night when the house manager came to tell us that ticket sales were struggling, and asked us to spread the word. Though I didn’t voice my flat-out refusal, it was certainly in my heart. I’m the actor, I thought. Why should I have to sell anything?
Only the actual experience of singing my heart out to empty chairs turned me around on that—a little too late to do any good.
I’ve never done this before, but today I want to gush about an analytics service I recently signed up for: Lead Forensics, based on a true story that happened last week. But let me set this up the right way.
I think of Analytics as a "long con"…in the most empathic sense of the term, since I don’t just drink the kool-aid, I prepare it! In fact, people like me spend their careers trying to convince our coworkers that problems can be avoided and opportunities seized by monitoring website behavior.
This morning on the Yahoo Web Analytics forum a question was posted about best practices for campaign tracking when companies are using both Google Analytics and Omniture. This particular company was apparently switching from GA to Adobe Analytics, but I should note that many companies don't only experience this challenge during a transition; many companies place both Omniture and Google Analytics code on their sites and keep them there for the long term.
I spent a good portion of the day devising a plan: how I would do it if I were in that situation. I should say that I'm a big fan of campaign tracking (obviously, seeing as I've built a company around tracking code preparation), and I love to push the limits of technology and squeeze as much juice out of its engine as possible. But, in the case of campaigns, I generally lean towards simplicity and automation, because anything you choose to do today, you have to keep doing tomorrow and the day after (if you want your campaign reports to mean anything).
My recommendation, at least during the transition phase, would be to mimic precisely the Google Analytics campaign reports within SiteCatalyst using Classifications, and the best news is that you can set it up to be entirely automatic!
Today is the last day I’m 42. It has put me in a reflective mood, because on my last birthday, I remembered that the number 42 was the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, according to the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I read in my youth. The existential zinger of that book was not only that the answer was laid out without any explanation, but also that it was based on bad math (six by nine equals...).
But that did not prevent me from setting some high (yet similarly undefined) expectations for myself over the past year. In some ways, I’ve responded. You’re reading this blog post on my website, which a year ago did not exist. Today it houses a solution that I’ve actually been imagining and crafting for nearly ten years, ever since I entered the field of web analytics. So even though it may not seem like much, it has been no small endeavor for me to see it through. In addition, this year I made my first-ever presentation at Adobe’s annual conference (formerly known as the Omniture summit), which according to two separate sources at Adobe received top marks from the audience feedback surveys—although I’m still waiting for my invitation to the awards show.
My Career Path in Web Analytics
With that intro, I want to reflect on my career so far in web analytics, and offer what I consider to be the core skills I’ve developed to help me succeed.
No Single Answer is Right for Everybody
This is the fifth time I’ve tried to write this blog post. It’s just really hard to talk in general terms about code structure, when that structure does (and should) vary greatly from one company to the next.
When Omniture released SAINT over a decade ago, they included a custom code generator which is still available in the tool today. Have you ever noticed it? It’s right under the SAINT Classifications link in SiteCatalyst’s Admin menu.
[caption id="attachment_266" align="alignnone" width="873"] Auto Assignment causes each new tracking code to receive the next number in line.[/caption]
But even though it enjoys such a prominent placement, in all my years I’ve never encountered a company that actually uses it to generate their marketing codes.
Too Many Daves (and not enough Dougs)
A decade ago, I delivered what I believe was the first-ever class on SAINT. It was early days at Omniture, and I was the seventh Account Manager to be hired. Back then the AM team did all the support as well as the training for SiteCatalyst, long before Client Care existed or the two Dougs took over the Omniture University program.
I started the class by reading, in its entirety, the Dr. Seuss poem, "Too Many Daves." I wasn't trying to warm up the crowd; I really felt that Mrs McCave's predicament was central to the concept of classifying key values. If you're not familiar with the poem, the point is that Mrs McCave made the unwise decision to give all of her 23 boys the same name: Dave.
My business partner Mike Baird is a UX genius. He drives me crazy. While I'm trying desperately to build a product that works in beta, he'll say something nutty like this: "Instead of focusing on what our product needs the user to do, let's talk about what the user wants to do with the product." That's actually a direct quote from two nights ago.
He was talking about the step where the user defines the pattern for their new codes. Admittedly, it's the most confusing piece of the puzzle, because marketers don't want to think about how the tracking codes are formed, they just want a new tracking code. Just like I don't want to know the etymology of the word "cheesecake"; I just want cheesecake. Specifically, I want a slice of that turtle cheesecake they have down the street at Kneaders Café. Are they still open at 10pm on a Thursday night?
Seriously, It's Not That Complicated
Adobe Omniture's SAINT tool is pretty basic: it's a way to organize your campaign initiatives. If you're sending out your 150th newsletter today, you might want to know if it will be your most successful newsletter ever, so it needs a new tracking code that's different from the 149 newsletters that went before. But somebody else in the organization may want to know how much traffic came from all of the newsletters put together.
That's where SAINT comes in. You have one report where each newsletter gets its own value, and another where each value is the same, i.e., "Newsletter". You upload that table to Adobe, and both business users are going to get what they need.