Digital Analytics, Back to School ! 2 must-read

Digital Analytics, Back to School ! 2 must-read

What’s in this post: 2 Books recommendations – Summer read for Digital Analytics addict: Fundamentals in Digital Analytics & broader Customer centric view

It’s been a few weeks since summer is over and we are now in Back to School mood, showing off our nice pic and how tanned we are… And here comes the fateful question “What did you do this summer?”. Well, now that I am a full grown up and am living in Asia – I don’t really get this feeling of end of Summer in September, as it’s still 30 degrees in Hong Kong and it’s not going to stop before November approximately and I don’t really get the fateful question anymore as in Asia July/August are month like any other ; the activity is not slower.
Calvin-book-reportAnyhow, I don’t blog in July/August and treat September as my Back to Blogging month. And instead of showing off how tanned I am, I’ll show off how studious I was this summer and share 2 books I read during my trip back to Europe this summer.

  1. Web Analytics: An Hour a Day (2007) – Author: Avinash Kaushik
  2. It Only Looks Like Magic: The Power of Big Data and Customer-Centric Digital Analytics (2013) – Authors: Jennifer Veesenmeyer, Peter Vandre, Ron Park and Andy Fisher (MERKLE)

Back to the basics with Avinash! “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day”

I had this book since a while in my bookshelf, over 5 years to be honest – eyeing me and vice versa – I finally got to read it ! Holidays and long hours flight are the best. Even if it has been published a while ago, Web analytics, one hour a day is a great book full of insights, supposedly destined to beginners but even for advanced analytics expert I believe it’s always good to take a step back and make sure that you master your basics. As this is still 400 pages to digest, and my memory would never be as organized as my Mac, I took some notes and highlighted my favorite passages of the book along the way so that I can make a book report of it later.

analytics_hour_a_day Web Analytics: An Hour a Day
Author(s) Avinash Kaushik
Summary If you are a tiny bit interested by the digital analytics world, you would have heard of Avinash Kaushik. His blog is full of ressources and when I started working in the field I spent hours reading through his posts and still do, his book – which has been renewed since this 2007 version, is a good deep dive into Digital Analytics. Avinash share his thoughts about multiple topics: data collection, data-driven organization and analytics skills and fundamentals. Even though the title mentions Web analytics, it’s not an under statement to say that beyond website analytics ; you’ll learn about search analytics, market research, testing, statiscal concepts inherent to analytics and optimization…
Best parts & tips
  1. Reporting and KPI: This section covers the best practices to do great reporting, with the best advices of all “start with desired outcomes, not reports”. In a nutshell, the author explains that the best way to design your report is to first and foremost think ahead of your strategy: what is your website goal? what is each of your pages goal is the overall strategy, starting from there you’ll design a better tagging implementation and a better report. This echoes pretty well to my article: Successful Digital Analytics Project Workflow
  2. The power of benchmarks and survey: Benchmarking and surveys are great tools to expand your measurement insights. Avinash mentions several examples of how to leverage them and why they are so useful. Benchmarking either internal or external are crucial to put context around your metrics, it’s a better way to tell the story of your figures. Some tools are listed in different sections to achieve that such as Hitwise, ComScore, Alexa…
  3. Statistical significance and Calculating Control limits: We are often challenged by our clients about the data, there is deep feeling of mistrust around the data delivered especially when the results goes against a personal opinion. And even if you are not challenged, it’s should be a core part of your own work to challenge your results and be absolutely convinced by what you are presenting. In diverse part of this book, you’ll find tools and examples of how to achieve this and rely on tangible tools to demonstrate how much your data and reports can be trusted: statistical significance calculator, sample size calculator… are some of them.
  4. I just cited a few of what’s available and was at that time relevant to me but there is more… I won’t spoil you the rest of the reading… and more especially I would advise to read the 2.0 version “Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity

I still had a few hours flight left to burn and decided to continue my reading journey… Digital Analytics is a moving discipline and there is always to learn. So I devoted my time to this other fantastic book focusing on

advanced customer centric analytics “It Only Looks Like Magic: The Power of Big Data and Customer-Centric Digital Analytics”

The title though quite self explanatory do not give the full view of what to expect. In 168 pages, you will go through a pretty comprehensive view of steps and consideration to have when embarking into a customer centric approach to pilot your business.

it only looks It Only Looks Like Magic: The Power of Big Data and Customer-Centric Digital Analytics
Author(s) Jennifer Veesenmeyer, Peter Vandre, Ron Park and Andy Fisher (MERKLE)
Summary In their own words, the purpose of this book is to “enlighten analytic minds to the power of a fully coordinated effort to use multi-channel data to drive insights, measurement and decisioning that create optimal outcomes“. This book covers multiple notions essential to achieve this goal: best practices to capture data in a multi-channel, multi-devices/screen world, pitfalls that you’ll encounter but also top notions and basics to master before kicking off a customer centric project. Which parties should be involved, at what time and why… How to work with your IT folks, which tools and strategy to consider (MMM, Attribution, Segmentation, Optimization and Testing) etc… How different media channels are connected and what can be achieved in this mindset.
Best parts & tips
  1. Data capture: How to create an optimized cross-channel tracking ? In this section of the book, the authors point out a very important and well-know challenge of defining a unique identifier that can be used across your different data sources. This exercise is quite challenging as we know we don’t always have all access to the details of one individual in one place. How do we connect individual activity outside the website to activities onsite when the user is not identifiable – which identifiers are strong identifiers (cookies, email, telephone, IP, visitor ID…)
  2. Effective email data integration strategy, this section emphasis the importance of email data. Emailing being one of the best tool to capture individual information with the conscious agreement of the person ; it’s crucial to take advantage of this channel to better connect offline and online data. Even though emailing often comes at the end of the journey this is the chance to maximize knowledge of our customers.
  3. Mix modelling and Attribution: Top down versus Bottom up approaches. This section covers both approaches and how each of them contribute to measuring your marketing performance, but also the limitations of each of those solutions and how bad interpretation/utilization of those tools may conduct to bad media optimization strategy and why market research can supplement to a combined approach for a better “truth”.
  4. Predictive analytics, Controlled testing… I won’t spoil you the rest of the reading…

I really enjoyed those 2 books for 2 major reasons : (1) The concept and examples are really close to real business questions we have as digital analyst, both books rely on real-life scenario and do not bore you with new fuzzy and trendy concept that won’t help your daily working life. Also those books provide tools, links, how-to, case studies… you’ll finish your reading with a sense of having learnt something new and having the tools at hand to apply it (2) No linear reading. You can cherry pick the topics that interest you and read only 2 chapters if you want, although I will suggest to read it all, some chapters may not be relevant to you either because you already master it or because you just don’t need that level of details.
Hope you’ll enjoy the reading !

If you liked this article, spread the data-love…

Looking for Website Conversion Optimization guidance ? A must-read book to help you out!

Looking for Website Conversion Optimization guidance ? A must-read book to help you out!

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing & Tuning for Conversions. 2nd Edition. by Tim Ash, Maura Ginty and Rich Page.

Though I haven’t finish the book yet, I’ll nevertheless share a glimpse if what I read so far. Out of five part, I just finish the 2nd and there is already a lot to remind. This book is a must-read guide to help you understand how to improve your website, why you should do it and how you should measure it.

Let me rewind quickly: When I first bought this book I was expecting to read about landing page optimization as the book title stand what was my suprise when i realized that I’ll learn far more in this book. To be fair, it’s totally possible that my definition of landing page was far too restrictive.

Let’s first define landing page!

According to Tim Ash book, “a landing page is any webpage on which an internet visitor first arrives on their way to an important action that you want them to take on your site”.
According to me in light of this book and my work experiences, a landing page is in a digital marketing context any page of your owned online presence where a user will land regardless of the fact that he was searching for it or that you pushed the content to him. Hence this will regroup your site homepage commonly, your top entries page for organic searches, paid searches, online advertising… but also your standalone paid search landing pages, your Facebook page… Well this almost every page online 🙂 yes and no, it’s great to think that every page deserve your attention and need to be optimized but just stating the obvious you kind of need to focus your attention on what matters which is what’s driving your business and what is bringing money as when we speak about landing page optimization at the end of the day we speak about bringing value for your customers and $$ for your business to grow. In other words: optimizing your site conversion.

Things to Bear in Mind:

This a very complete book hence I can just suggest you to read it.
Nevertheless, you’ll find below some tips that need to be remembered and hopefully will be helpful in your analyst/webmarketer every day life:

What is conversion? Persuading users to take the desired action(s).

To get there, you’ll need first to follow a simple 3 steps methodology:
1. Define your business goals – For instance if you are an e-commerce website, your main business goal is to increase your online revenue & profit.
2. Define the way to measure achievement / success and the associated metrics / KPI – For instance, you’ll want to measure your daily online revenue, you conversion rate (orders to visits), your AOV and your ROI.
3. List few digital initiatives to get there – For instance, you’ll want to increase the proportion of users who checkout or increase the average order value per consumers.

The inherent challenge here is to know to whom you are adressing these digital initiatives, the book identified them as the ‘Maybes’ : those who may take the desired action. In opposition to the Yesses, who will always take the desired actions or the Noes who will never take the desired actions. The maybes are gold and where lies a chance to increase your conversion.

Which conversion actions for which business models?

Landing Page Optimization : Extract "Which conversion actions for which Business Models"
Each of these conversion actions which are macro-conversions, needs to be split into micro-conversions & associated with their metrics.
For instance, here is a schema of the entire methodology to define your conversion optimization scope:

How could we influence the users actions?

Now that we know what we are trying to improve and which landing page to focus on: in our example, each step of the purchase funnel. We need to define the how-to.
In this step come out your old business school memories: AIDA…
AIDA is a marketing concept by E. St. Elmo Lewis that describes a common list of stages that may occur when a consumer engages with your brand or products.
In Tim Ash book, this concept is used as a framework to follow to get a better understanding of the user decision-making process and to put up a checklist of does and don’t in your optimization journey.

  • A for Awareness
    “Awareness is the stage where your visitor just arrived and is looking for reassurance, recognition and a clear path to follow”
  • I for Interest
    Interest is the stage when you need to capture the user attention and transform is scanning mode to a commited mode.
  • D for Desire
    Desire is the stage where your visitor is paying attention and is in a research mode, you’ll need to trigger the right buttons to increase his desire: make it easy for him to compare, read reviews…
  • A for Action
    Action is the stage where you want your visitors to complete the transaction.

The 2nd part of the book gives excellent tips about details area of your landing pages that commonly need to be optimized or so-called in the book ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design’. This is an excellent starter kit checklist to begin with:

That’s where I will stop, I won’t spoil your pleasure to read the book and learn a lot of useful tips & tricks to improve your website, nor unveil all the secrets ingredients of the entire book here !

Stay tuned for the following part of the book summary and if you liked this article, please don’t be shy spread the love…

Analysis Exchange, a great initiative for Analytics passionate and non-profit in need!

Analysis Exchange, a great initiative for Analytics passionate and non-profit in need!

If you are passionate by Web Analytics and willing to give some of your time for a good reason, please continue reading and hopefully I’ll convince you to sign up as well !
I took the great and challenging opportunity to sign-up as a Mentor for the Analysis Exchange and participated to one project so far for WWF Vietnam.
What is the Analysis Exchange?

I signed up in July 2012 and finally participated to my first project recently. The project was with WWF Vietnam website that we helped to ensure that their analytics platform – Google Analytics – was properly set up and we tried to guide them into taking the most of it.
As a mentor, I tried to give guidance to Trish – the student – who was very involved and willing to provide the best to WWF Vietnam. On the first meeting with WWF Vietnam, we* came up with a simple project plan to define WWF Vietnam objectives in this project, our objectives as analytics consultant and deliverables they could expect from this project.
*By we, I mean Trish and myself knowing that Trish did all the hard work, I was here for her when needed and to give her advice and guidance in the way to approach this project and some documentation as well.

For privacy purpose, I will not go into too much details about WWF Vietnam expectations, however the project objectives were the following:

    • Ensure appropriate configuration of current Google Analytics tracking tools
      Identify key traffic metrics to be gathered, analyzed now, and monitored in the future
      Provide insight into Analytics data for WWF-V team moving forward

  • 3 main deliverables came out of this: we started with a 1) technical audit to understand their Google Analytics configuration and take this chance to help them configure some customized variables to get a better grasp on their users’ engagement against their content.
    We then configured for them 2) a dashboard displaying the key metrics and following a straightforward “visitor journey” structure and answering to their main business question.
    For instance:

    Lastly, we configured for them 3) two custom reports, one focused on the traffic sources performance and the 2nd one focus on their article performance.

    About the experience in itself, here is what I would bare in mind for the next ones:
    Pitfall : Timing and Scope
    Before participating to this project, I read another article where the writer, speaking of his past experience in the Analysis Exchange, encountered the same issue for his project. Even though the project is supposed to last around 3 weeks and even though I was aware of this possible issue, we end up spending around 2 months on the project.
    Why? It would be a fair guess to say that the issue was coming from a too large/vague scope which I should have notice and reduce from the beginning. However, at the end our project didn’t fail, we just spent more time than expected at the beginning.

    Tips for success: Communication
    – Good relationship with the student and the organization
    – Allow regular time to discuss with the student
    – Review and agree on the scope with the organization to make sure that the work scope stay reasonable
    All those items turn around Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
    If there is one thing, I’ll do differently for sure next time, it will be to make sure that the organization stay in the loop all along the way and engage them even though they are not very active.

    Aside from being pretty happy to have one of my action item from my 2013 Analytics roadmap achieved, it was a really interesting and rewarding experience that I look forward to renew ! And again, if you have the time and desire, sign up 🙂

    Why should you sign-up?

    Student: It’s a great opportunity to have hands-on experience on analytics and support from experience analytics professionals and your resume will certainly not suffer from it !
    Mentor: No need to emphasize a lot, as soon as you are passionate I guess it just make sense to spread the love…
    Organization: A great, great, great opportunity for FREE to get insight on your website, understanding users behavior and get some sense of what could be optimized, what is already working very well, where the budget should be spent…

    Want to know more? Need inspiration, Documentation for a Non-Profit measurement framework?
    Analysis Exchange Website
    Analysis Exchange Blog
    Analysis Exchange Twitter
    – I just ran into this fantastic post from Justin Cutroni which bring grist to my mill: “Measuring the Non-Profit: From Planning to Implementation“, in the nick of time!

    Multi-Channel Attribution: “What/How channel are contributing to the customer journey?”

    Multi-Channel Attribution: “What/How channel are contributing to the customer journey?”

    Digital Attribution: one of the coming subject I’ll be working on. Super exciting 😉 Knowing that Google Analytics just started a serie of webinar on the subject… lucky me.

    Appealing subject as posted before:

    “Consumers are now consulting an average of 10.7 sources when making a buying decision – double the rate of 2010.”

    (Sorry, this one is in French)
    I’ll not post anything for now about this, as I am discovering and don’t have any case study to share yet. However here are some quotes from this video which sum up the results of a must-read survey conducted by GA & eConsultancy, that I found relevant:

    Why using Digital Attribution? “The primary goal is to justify digital spending – ~60%”

    What’s the benefit of using Digital Attribution? “Better ability to allocate budget, ROI improvement & Better understanding of how channels work together”
    What kind of method do you use? “Between first channel, last channel, linear, customize by channel… Customize by channel get the highest score of effectiveness.”
    They are still companies using Excel [..] it’s hard and there is limitations… hum, hum… no kidding, I guess we all are!
    Attribution is a complex world, there is a lot of factors to take in account, you can first think on what’s going on inside your online world […] e.g time for conversion, time between touches, type of interaction, touch point… […] and then you can think of all the things going on outside your online world […] e.g TVC Campaign, pricing modification, seasonality, brand level of awareness, competitors…
    Last channel/click attribution model is flawed & missed signs of customer behaviour but is simple.

    On specific part of this webinar was calling: How to form prior hypothesis about upper funnel behavior? To anticipate the models you could look at.
    “Apply multiple models to compare assumption”
    Models being:

    1. Last click: 100% value to the last channel (used by 54% of marketers)
    2. First click: 100% value to the first channel
    3. Linear: value evenly shared to every channel
    4. Time decay: value assigned by how close-in-time the channel is to the last conversion point
    5. Position based :considering that 1st and last touch are more valuable than middle ones.
    (Here is a great tool to built your own graph from Luna Metrics)

    Regarding Google Analytics, it’s good to know that depending on the product you are using you will not have access to the complete range of models. When using the Google Analytics classic, you will have access to the multi-channel funnel feature & as Google Analytics Premium user you will access to the attribution modelling feature (which look powerful & super customizable). + When using Google Adwords, you have access to the search funnel tool (e.g very interesting to see how generic & branded KWD interact together on the conversion).

    Well, that’s it for now but I should be back on this subject very soon I hope.

    Don’t make me think! Few simple and concrete web usability principles – Part 2

    Don’t make me think! Few simple and concrete web usability principles – Part 2

    The 2nd half of the book and so the 2nd part of my article deals with the following subjects:

        1. How to get the best of your homepage design ?
        2. Why, When and How conduct usability testing?
        3. User-friendliness and Accessibility

    Like in the 1st article, I’ll try to briefly expose what should be remembered from this book. It may not be 100% loyal to the book, 1st because of my interpretation and 2nd because I also express my own point of view.

    1. How to get the best of your homepage design ?

    Even if your homepage is not the first page that user will get through – it’s commonly known that an entry page is not always homepage, and the less it is the better as your landing page should be reflecting the path the user used to access your website.
    Anyway, the homepage is still the page a user will go through during the navigation to have an overall impression, to look for guidance, to restart his navigation… That’s mainly why you need to make sure that on the homepage, people get it!
    Here is what they should get:

        – an homepage should give the website identity and mission : a logo and an tagline should be enough – make it clear, short and it should convey differenciation and benefits
        – an homepage should show the website hierarchy : your navigation
        – an homepage should allow to search through a search box, shortcuts, teases and deals
        – an homepage should allow users to complete primary goals (sign up, registration to newsletter, fill a form for a free trial, …)

    Your homepage should stay concise and understandable for any users and answers those:

        – what is this site?
        – what do they have?
        – what can I do here ?
        – why should I be here and not somewhere else?

    The design of a website especially the homepage and main pages could be a very frustrating and conflicting process. Each team: design, IT, marketing, stakeholders, CEO… want to be a part of it which is certainly a good thing but when you get to a conflict of opinion – which may happen on every feature, every pixel, every color… “who hold the truth?“.
    Hopefully, I can answer to this question : “Nobody” pfiouuuu, that’s a relief!

    Nevertheless, the real question should be :”How can we realise this feature to provide a good user experience to our web users”. I would say by asking the web users their opinion & testing. This bring us to :

    2. Why, When and How conduct usability testing?

    I kind of already answer to the Why question, but let’s sum up the reason why you should conduct a usability testing:
    Mostly because, using usability testing will improve your revenue through enhancing customer satisfaction & retention, but also:

        – if you want web users to complete the goals you have in mind when building your website, better to ask them directly if they get it or not! (the purpose, the value proposition, the concept, how it works…)
        – if you think that web users will use your website the way you build it for: you’re wrong!
        – if you want to avoid endless discussion with your team, please ask the web users to settle this for you
        – if you think that you are objective (and you’re better not be…): you’re wrong!
        – if you think this is useless: try once with neighbours, friends or anybody to browse the same website (with a similar goal for all : like buy a pair of Nike on Ebay for instance) and watch! You’ll be amazed!
        + it’s easy and fun to do

    How not to do usability testing... (Image credit:

    First of all some guidelines of usability testing concept from Jakob Nielsen and a definition from Wikipedia:

    Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.

    Here are few guidelines for testing:

        the sooner in your process the better
        – testing with one web user one is better than nothing
        – testing is an iterative process
        – 3 to 5 users is enough
        – don’t hold the testing because of problem to find the perfect tester- take “anybody” to test “if your grandma can use it an expert/ targeted audience will do”
        + most of all here the Steve Krug’s guide to conduct your testing.

    1 rule that I think would be amazingly great, useful and revenue oriented: “Each web dev team should make once morning a month a usability testing and debrief over lunch”.

    To conclude about usability testing, I think it’s really a great tool to increase user satisfaction and thus revenue, which finally is the goal in a ecommerce website :). Using usability testing is one tool among others, like AB Testing, Focus group, Card sorting… but each tool have a “perfect timing” during the process of building or enhancing your website.
    This leads me to conclude on:

    3. User-friendliness and Accessibility

    Few guidelines to “behave” and make your web users happy:

        – don’t ask for useless or really annoying form fields: this will lead the users to ask himself why are you asking him those informations and either he will lie or he will quit
        do not hide informations from the users: anything you would want to hide thinking that you can “trick” the web user in filling in registration form first, hold it!
        – no marketing only flash slide intro… which get on the user way to accomplish something
        – do not punish the user for not filling exactly how you think they should – for instance don’t erase all the credit card information because the cardholder name is missing (you should adapt to the web user not the opposite)
        do everything to make the web user navigation on your website easy!

    Accessibility meaning that people with disabilities can use the Web is considered as part of usability.
    I’ll not dig into too many details for this part as there are already a lot of guidelines online about this subject and the rules to follow.
    Nevertheless here is a quick list, you can follow:

        make things usable for everyone will help users w/ disabilities (fixing common issues)
        – use CSS and allow your text to resize
        add alt text to every image & link
        – make your forms work with screen readers
        – make all content accessible by keyboard
        – use client-side image map

    That’s it for today (and for the book also)!
    You can go on with reading the following book of Steve Krugs “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” (focus on Usability Testing) and also follow his work on

    From my point of view, this book is a good reminder of a lot of usability guidelines we easily forget and also a great great guide to do some usability testing! I hope this will help you too and lead you to pick some tips, buy the book or conduct some usability testing!