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 EverybodyThis 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.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 ComplicatedAdobe 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.