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2Inspire Interview Series
"I am deeply enamored by the Web and its power and beauty."
Avinash Kaushik is the author of the recently published book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day published by Wiley in May 2007 and the founder of Market Motive, a Silicon Valley startup that focuses on online marketing education.
He is also the Analytics Evangelist for Google, and a frequent speaker at industry conferences in the US and Europe, such as eMetrics summits, Ad-Tech, Web 2.0 Expo and SES.
I was thrilled when Avinash agreed to do this interview since he is so well known in the web analytics field and I am a huge fan of his web analytics blog: Occam's Razor .
Adriana Iordan: Can you please, tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you got involved with web analytics?
Avinash Kaushik: I am the author of the recently published book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day and the Analytics Evangelist for Google.
I am a Mechanical Engineer who has an MBA in Finance and Management Information Systems. Most of my career has focused on working with Decision Support Systems both on the Business and IT side of the house.
I am deeply enamored by the Web and its power and beauty. The last time I was in the market for a job (almost five years ago) I ended up taking one that focused on Web Analytics (though it was just a small role with just me and one other person). That was at Intuit and it has been a fun ride since.
Adriana Iordan: From your experience, what are the common problems the ecommerce websites face today towards measuring their web marketing efforts?
There is an orchard full of low hanging fruits that you can capture within two hours of installing even a free tool. People miss this about 98% of the time.
Avinash Kaushik: Making the task way way way more complex than it needs to be.
Everyone wants to have a massive data warehouse that will provide multi dimensional real time segmented data that will answer every question under the sun instantly and easily. There is an orchard full of low hanging fruits that you can capture within two hours of installing even a free tool. People miss this about 98% of the time.
For anyone wanting to be successful in measuring the impact of their web efforts my advice is one word: Evolve.
Tools are not an issue, technology is not an issue. Tools are now free or quite affordable. Technology vastly surpasses all our measurement needs. What is important is to invest in people (I have a 10/90 rule about this) and to evolve to complexity, to being best of breed out there.
There is so much money to be made from simply low hanging fruit insights that it will really blow your mind. Try simplicity first.
Adriana Iordan: You speak at conferences quite often about web analytics. Can you share 5 of your most valuable tips for ecommerce websites owners out there that want to increase their sales online?
Avinash Kaushik: Start focusing on where your traffic is coming from (referring urls, search engine keywords, campaigns etc etc). If you understand where your Visitors are coming from then you'll get great clues about their intent. If you know intent then there is a pot of gold waiting for you if you solve for customer intent.
Don't get obsessed with your home page. You don't control your home page anymore, Google does, Yahoo! Does, MSN does. Treat the top 50 Entry Pages on your website as the home page of your website and make sure they are communicating effectively what you are about.
You don't control your home page anymore, Google does, Yahoo! does, MSN does. Treat the top 50 Entry Pages on your website as the home page of your website and make sure they are communicating effectively what you are about.
No matter how hard you try your overall conversion rate for the website will be around 2%. You could focus on getting that 2% to 2.1% or you could focus on getting most people on your site (who are not there to buy) to be happy and satisfied. Consider broadening the scope of what you decide for (BUY NOW!), it is the right long term strategic thing to do.
Most website owners have a very poor understanding of why Visitors come to their website. Consider running the short "three golden questions " survey to get a true understanding of why Visitors come to your site and what they say you should do to fix it.
It is now almost mandatory to have a robust multivariate testing tool. Why kill five design ideas in a conference room and only put one on the site? You can now easily put all six on the site and let your customers tell you which design / promotion / offer / layout / content / whatever works best for them. You can optimize to conversion and all the reporting and math is bundled in. The best part is you can start for free tomorrow if you want using Google's Website Optimizer or if you want a paid tool you can use Offermatica which I also like.
Adriana Iordan: Talking about analytics, can you share a quick list of mistakes others have made that a ecommerce website owner should be aware of when starting with Analytics?
Avinash Kaushik: Pay someone to audit your initial installation for the web analytics tool to ensure it is implemented correctly and your website is configured correctly to cough up all the data the tool needs. This applies even if you use the free Google Analytics tool.
The tool will only give you data. If you actually want to find insights then invest in people who can take that data and convert it into insights. For more see my 10/90 rule.
If you actually want to find insights then invest in people who can take that data and convert it into insights.
Of all the data that you can get out of any web analytics tool remember that you are not going to need about 80% of it. Figuring out the 20% you need takes effort, and if you do figure it out then it can actually be a strategic advantage.
Over the long haul it is important to put a process in place so that your key dashboards are produced, there is a mechanism to take action and measure results produced. This is how you can truly scale in a complex organization.
Adriana Iordan: There are a lot of rumors in the forums and blogs about the "cost" of using Google Analytics. As the Google's Analytics Evangelist can you comment on this theory? Is Google Analytics using the data to increase AdWords costs?
My advice is turn off Google Analytics for 90 days, or whatever time period you choose, and continue your AdWords purchases and see if it makes any difference. Or run Google Analytics on one site and don't run it on another and measure the difference. Or other combinations of such things.
It takes a small energy to move beyond speculation but since the tool is free, it is easy to put in the effort and test.
Google provides Google Analytics as a free tool with the hope of making it easy for you to get the data you need to create a better customer experience on your website. At the end of day you can use any tool (there are a whole bunch of other free or paid options) you want to aid your efforts to create a better website.
Adriana Iordan: The software authors often have problems with measuring with their AdWords campaigns and from Google Analytics the number of downloads (trial versions). Can you suggest some methods to track this goal?
Avinash Kaushik: You can track downloads with Google Analytics. Here is a article from the official GA help center and here is one from a blog :
One of the best ways to get help with Google Analytics is to use the email help (available in 17 languages).
Just pick the option that is closest to what you are looking for. Each email is answered by a human being usually within 24 hours.
Adriana Iordan: For those that still don't have the time to check their logs or analytics what do you think are the most important benefits of measuring and analyzing their website?
Avinash Kaushik: Someone asked me this recently: Why should someone do web analytics?
Here is my answer: Because it feels good to make lots of money, rather than staying poor, and it feels good to have happy customers who love you, rather than those who hate you with passion because your website is.
If you don't have time to do web analytics then you are playing the Super Bowl with your hands tied behind your back.
If you don't have time to do web analytics then you are playing the Super Bowl with your hands tied behind your back. The chances of you winning are very low.
Adriana Iordan: What are your favorite tools / applications online?
Avinash Kaushik: I am very impressed with open source software. One of my favorite is wordpress . I can't believe how totally awesome the program is and how incredible the developer community around it is.
Ditto for Thunderbird for email, it totally rocks.
Recently I have come to admire the possibility that Adobe AIR holds for improving customer experiences. I think there is a lot of promise there about creating desktop based online customer experiences that are fluid and blur the online and offline, well, lines.
Adriana Iordan: What basic metrics an ecommerce website advertiser should follow to receive actionable data?
Outcomes: Revenue, Average Order Size, Segmented Conversion Rates, Days & Visits to Purchase.
Behavior: Loyalty, Recency, Depth of Visit and Length of Visit, Bounce Rate, Top Entry Pages, Top Referring URLs and Search Keywords.
Experience: Task Completion Rates, Likelihood to Recommend.
Adriana Iordan: How hard is to make multivariate testing and how should a company start?
Avinash Kaushik: It is extremely easy to start with either A/B or Multivariate testing. I had mentioned the free Google Website Optimizer and you can do both A/B or MVT with it, and it will take you less than a few hours to implement a test.
The core limitation with testing is not the technical work or getting a tool (the Optimizer is free!), rather the challenge is our ability to create relevant content for tests and coming up with valid hypothesis to test.
The core limitation with testing is not the technical work or getting a tool (the Optimizer is free!), rather the challenge is our ability to create relevant content for tests and coming up with valid hypothesis to test. You can test different colors for your buttons, but it will not lead to any massive conversion improvement.
I recommend that you identify a page on your website that you have always wanted to improve. Could be your home page, could be a top landing page to your website, or could even be the top landing page for your Paid Search Campaigns. Go get the free Website Optimizer tool (or if you prefer one of the wonderful paid multivariate testing tools) and implement it on your website. Get going and put some good ideas out there. Trust me you'll get hooked, involving customers in making decisions is awesome.
I also recommend that after your first few tests you find a resource in your company who can take ownership and be a champion.
Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview.
Adriana Iordan: Thank you Avinash for your time and this insightful interview.