Monday, April 30, 2007

Monthly Recap: April 2007

April was a busy month both on the work and blogging front. I had 17 blog posting, 18 including this one.

This was the first time I made it in Avinash’s top 10 web analytics blog list.. When Avinash released his rankings on April 16th, my blog was ranked 48,459 by tachnorati. In last 15 days the ranking has gone up to 38,710

Here is the list of articles that I posted

Behavioral Targeting

Web Analytics

Behavioral Targeting Moves by Yahoo and Google

A recent article by Brandweek, talks about how Yahoo is betting big on Behavioral Targeting.
Yahoo has been testing its BT like targeting since 2003 or so. I am from India but has been living in US for years, I signed up for my yahoo account in US. Sometime around 2003 when I logged out of my yahoo email, yahoo served me an ad related to an Indian company. I don’t remember explicitly telling yahoo that I was from India. I asked my co-worker (sitting next to me and who was not of Indian origin) to browse to the same location but she did not get the same ad. My thinking at that time was that that they were somehow reading the content of my emails (just like gmail), since I didn’t remember using yahoo search engine to find that content related to India, but I am not 100% sure though) and serving ads based on it.

According to this Brandweek article, critics say behavioral targeting is an invasion of privacy. Jeffrey Chester, CDD founder and executive director said he has no problem with behavioral targeting if advertisers disclose to consumers that they are tracking information. "They need to fully disclose and get permission, but they're afraid to do it," Chester said. I am not a critic of BT but I agree with Chester as I wrote in my posting on Google and Doubleclick privacy concerns.
Yahoo! rep Dina Freeman said the company protects its users' privacy. "It's anonymous. It's never tied to your name," she said. "Consumers in general are coming around to the fact that they like the relevancy."

I agree with the above statement but let’s disclose this to consumers so that everybody can feel comfortable.

Google on the other hand has been saying that it won't consider behavioral targeting. Even though Google is resisting Behavioral Targeting so far but a lot of people (including me) are predicting that Google will soon get into Behavioral Targeting. According to Brandweek article, however, now Google is saying they won’t consider behavioral targeting without getting consumers' approval. So they are thinking about it too if they get consumer approval. Richard Holden, director of product management at Google says "We're not opposed to it in principle, if it means showing fewer ads but ones that are more relevant." Yes, Behavioral Targeting is about showing relevant ads, so when can we expect first BT Targeted ads on Google network?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Google Web History - My Experience

As I wrote two days ago, I took Google Web History for a test drive. Here is what I found

1. Even though I signed for Google Web History on April 23rd, my history went back to April 25 2006. Not sure how that happened, I think it has sometime to do the google personalized search. It had all the searches and the sites I clicked in history dating back to April 25 2006.
2. Google Web History as a spy tool? – I signed on a computer which my wife and I both use. I forgot to signoff from my Google account and my wife started using it. I went back to my personal laptop, signed into my Google account again and started looking at web history. Guess what? I could see what my wife was searching on and the sites she was visiting. Pretty freaky…uh. Maybe you can use google web history to check on what kids are doing online.

Will update if I find anything more interesting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Great comScore Debate

comScore came out with a study saying cookie based system could be reporting 2.5 time more visitors.

I wrote a post with my view on the topic last week. My take was that we should not worry about this study for two main reasons
1. We don’t know the comScore methodology of this study
2. We know that two web analytics systems don’t report the same numbers so we were dealing with estimated numbers anyway. This is the reality of Web Analytics. We should make decision based on trends more than raw numbers.

Gary Angel from SEMphoice wrote a blog post where he disagrees with me and says he is worried about the accuracy of the data after this study.

Side note: Gary took my view and made them appear them as ZAAZ’s (my employer)view. One thing I want to make clear is that these views are mine only and do not represent the views of ZAAZ or any other employee of ZAAZ.

Back to the issue: Well, even before this study we all knew cookies were being deleted but we accepted this fact till comScore study came. We should have been worried all along but we were not. Why? I guess we had to work with whatever we had.

The point I was trying to make is that you have to take everything in context. Going to Gary’s example of a conference, let’s say conference A tell you they attract 5,000 visitors and the other conference B says they get 4,000 visitors. Next day a third party comes out and says that all the conferences numbers reported by any conference are inflated and actual number is 75% of what they state then what’s the net result? Well Conference A is still better than conference B. Only thing is that they each now have 3750 and 3000 visitors respectively. Every conference in the world will have the same issue, their rank is still the same. I don’t think based on this information conferences will start charging less for the booth. However the rate per visitor has gone up for you but you can’t do much, that’s the market rate. Same argument goes for sites that sell advertising based on how many users they reach.

I recently moved a customer from one web analytics tool to another, guess what? The unique visitors count was different (so was repeat visitor and visit count). They were using old system for 3 years, all their decisions were based on those numbers. We could have spent days to figure out which one was correct old or new. Was it worth it? No, I don’t think that would have made any difference to their business. We could have waited to get the perfect data but that was not going to happen no matter what. So what did we do? We verified the new system to make sure it is accurately configured. We have tagged all the pages, proper excludes and includes are there, Cookie is first party etc. and the accepted it, developed our baseline and started working from there.

I strongly believe in accuracy of data but accuracy is also within context. The system you are using has to be perfectly configured, has to be accurately measuring but accuracy is defined based on how that system works.

I am pretty sure that if you take logs from your server and process them with an old version of any tool of you choice and then with the latest versions you will get different numbers (DisclosureI used to work for a tool vendor). Which one is correct? Old or new? If new is correct than all your old decisions based on wrong numbers were wrong. How do I know for sure that new is good? All I know my trends were similar in both new and old system.

Now lets say based on cookies counting, one site reaches 2 times visitors than their competitors (assume both use same 3rd party cookie). Will this site be more or less valuable if both the sites were told they were over counting their visitors? They would still be the same. How they will compete is how much more visitors (or visits) they get. Panels have a potential to be faultier than cookies if panels are not true representation of the site’s visitors. Panel based counting is just like log file sampling, sampling at least is a true representation of your visitors but we all know that those numbers are not accurate.

I understand Gary’s issue about repeat users and new users. But again, if you use two different systems they will report different numbers so which one is correct?
As Jacques Warren pointed out as a response to Gary’s post, the right solution (at this time) is to provide a reason for users to not delete their cookie (or give a reason to login). If Gary care’s about repeat users then I am sure he has strategies to get them engaged and give them a reason to login (or not delete cookies). Give users a reason to be loyal and they will be. Then you won’t have to worry about cookie deletion and hence your numbers will be accurate. Till you get to that level any number is a close estimate weather it is panel based or cookie based; and is not worth loosing sleep over.

I am not going to be worried till I have concrete proof that 1st party cookie system is completely flawed. Right now I don’t have any basis to be worried. IAB has asked comScore and NNR to show their measurement process, let’s see what comes out of that

Monday, April 23, 2007

Google Web History: Google and Behavioral Targeting - The Beginning

Google launched a new service called
Google Web History
This service will allow users to keep an archive of their web browsing history. The service will also allow integrated web and search history to personalize results based on previous search and viewing patterns.
This service requires a Google account and the Google Toolbar, and users will be able to access their histories from any computer with the service enabled.
As I have been talking about Google and Behavioral Targeting, this is one of the steps towards that goal. Google will track everything you do (of course with your consent) and then in near future will show you targeting ads based on this information.
Side Note: The most interesting thing to watch will be the effect on organic search listings. This is the free source of traffic (sort of free) that a lot of sites have become dependent on but with all the personalization they are bound to get hit.
To ease the privacy, this service is not enabled by default. It also requires PageRank feature in Google Toolbar to be manually enabled. Also, there is an easy way to remove items from you history, however not sure if Google will still keep those in their logs to understand a users behavior.
Giving user an option to opt-in instead of opt-out is the right approach to Personalization and Behavioral Targeting. I believe if you show the users the value and benefits for targeting and let them make the choice then you will create loyal customers and won’t have to deal with privacy backlash.
Stay tuned for more data integration news from Google, this is just the beginning.
I just enabled this services so am going to take it for test drive.

Seattle Web Analytics Wednesday (WAW) May 9th 2007

Web Analytics Wednesday (WAW) is the world's only distributed networking event for web analytics professionals. Open to everyone, practitioners and vendors alike, Web Analytics Wednesday is a free event allowing you to meet folks with similar work interests.

ZAAZ will be hosting the WAW on May 9th. I won’t be there as I will be attending eMetics, however Michal Watts and other members of my team will be there.

To read more about WAW, please visit

Snack and drinks will be provided at ZBar (ZAAZ Bar), sponsored by ZAAZ.

ZAAZ Headquarters
414 Olive Way
Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98101

Driving Direction:

ZAAZ is located on Olive Way between 4th Ave and 5th Ave

Get on I-5 North
Take SENECA Exit on the LEFT
Turn right at 4th Ave
Turn right at Olive Way

Get on I-5 SOUTH
Take the Stewart St. Exit
Stay straight on Stewart until 5th Ave

RSVP at or write a comment (with your name, email and company name) on this blog post.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Google Doubleclick deal concerns Privacy Advocates

The Electronics Privacy Information Center (EPIC), The Center for Digital Dempcarcy (CDD), The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has filed a complaint with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Google’s acquisition of Double will compromise privacy of internet users. Read the complete detail of this complaint at

I have been talking about Google and Behavioral Targeting even before the acquisition of Double click was announced. As I wrote in my first post on Google and Behavioral Targeting Google has been putting it’s footprint all of the internet even before Doubleclick acquisition. Acquisition of Doubleclick bought them way closer to building the biggest behavioral targeting network.

This is what these Privacy advocates are worried about.

According to CNET:

Privacy advocates are particularly worried that Google will merge the data from users' search queries with DoubleClick's records of people's general Web-surfing habits in order to build a centralized database of consumer profiles.

Google executives have said that for now, the company does not plan to merge personally identifiable information such as names and e-mail addresses, with search histories and Web-surfing habits. Rather, it hopes to combine both companies' (Google and Doublelclick) non-personally identifiable data, such as search histories and Web-surfing habits linked to a computer's IP address, so that it could better target advertisements.
But EPIC's argument is that an IP address can, with a little work, be linked to an individual, even if a name or address isn't associated with the IP number.
"Identity can be inferred," Marc Rotenberg, executive director for EPIC and author of the complaint, said in an interview with CNET "We believe that this complaint provides an opportunity for (the) FTC to look closely at whether the online-advertising industry provides adequate privacy protection for Internet users and (to) consider the privacy impact of non-personally identifiable information collected through search histories."
Source: CNET

We will have to wait and see how Google responds to this complain and the next steps by FTC. I will keep you posted as I get more information.

So what is the solution to all these privacy concerns?

I believe that if consumers are provided proper education (I will write about consumer benefits in one of my future posts) than they can infect benefit from Behavioral Targeting. It will be a win-win situation for all the parties involved. Proper education and disclosures by advertisers, publishers and networks will ease the concerns regarding Behavioral Targeting. Consumers have the right to opt out of Behavioral Targeting but what is lacking is proper education on how to do so. The networks currently opt-in users by default; however, in my opinion the proper process should be opt-out by default and opt-in if user chooses to opt-in, just like we do for emails and newsletters. This process will move the burden from users to the advertisers, publishers and networks.

In short run this could result in a lower reach for BT providers. But if the benefits to consumers are properly stated then most of the consumers will be willing to participate. If you (network or advertiser) tell a consumer that he/she does not need to go looking for deals or offers of products/services that he/she is in the market for, these deals/offers will be provided to him/her based on her online behavior no matter where in the network she is in, I think consumer will love it. If a consumer knows the process and she knows that she is willingly participating in the BT, the click-through rate on the ads will be higher too. Why force users into Behavioral Targeting and raise privacy concerns when you can offer them what they want (when they want) and make them your raving fans.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cookie versus Panel Based User Counting

comScore released the results of a study they did which claimed that cookie based measurement overstate Unique Users by as much as 150%.

I was not surprised by the results, not because I knew that cookies was over estimating because this is what I would have expected based on who was sponsoring the study. Since the study was conducted by comScore I wouldn't have expected them to come up saying panel data is worse than cookies based counting. If this study were done by Omniture or WebTrends we would have probably heard a different story. For example, if we were to compare wine and coffee and see which one is bad for health, wine company’s research will say wine is good for health while coffee is not. Coffee company will come with their research which will say coffee is good and wine is bad.

It is very likely that the users who participated in the study knew that they were being tracked (and they participated to get freebies) so they developed a tendency to clear cookies and hence skewed the results. There could be several reasons why comScore survey might be correct or not but comScore did not publish those so we can’t say for sure if panel based is really better than cookie based count.

It is likely that comScore is trying to solidify its position as a standard in audience calculation by releasing this study. In my article on Google and Behavioral Targeting I mentioned that Google is putting it’s cookie everywhere and could potentially get in the business that comScore is in currently (measuring audience size). This possibly could be a preemptive move by comScore. Don’t know for sure since I don’t have the details on how this study was done.

The crux of the matter is that no matter what system you use you will never get an accurate count of UU's. Even pages views are reported differently by different systems. Two panel based systems don't report the same numbers and two web analytics tool do not report the same number. To assume one system is not accurate or is better than other system is jumping to conclusions without basis. Both systems have their own advantages and disadvantages.

For individual site owners you need to pick one system, cookie based or panel based, and stick with it and accept the numbers. How does it matter if I told you that you actually get 3,000 users (or visits) and not 5000? What will change? What will you do differently? Have you ever moved from one web analytics system to another? You know they don't report same numbers. Say, your new system reports lower number than your old system than what are you going to do? Which one is correct, old or new? It is about trending and growth. You will probably use same growth and retention strategies no matter what the number is. If you goal is to increase the visitors by X% no matter what visitor count you use you will try to do X% of your current system weather that is cookie based or panel based.

If you are trying to compare sites then do the same thing, choose one system for comparison and stick with it. The same goes with advertising, if you are buying or selling ad inventory based on Unique Visitor count both buyer and seller will have to settle for one system and stick to stick to it.

However, one thing that surprised me in this study was a quote from Tacoda. Their whole business (Behavioral Targeting) is dependent on cookies and now they will validate with panel data because....(...they don't believe the size of their segment? Does that mean they will adjust the reach they claim they have?) Can someone from Tacoda please help me understand it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Top 10 Web Analytics Blog

Aviansh released his list of Top 10 Web Analytics Blogs yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised to make the list fo Top Web Analytics Blogs. Though I had this blog for quite a while I only started serious blogging about 3 months ago. To make this list is great however, now it puts a pressure on me to continue to blog so that I can maintain my position in this list(one of these days I will have top come up top 10 reasons why I blog).

Here is Avinash’s list

1. Occam’s Razorby Avinash Kaushik
2. Web Metrics Guru by Marshall Sponder
3. Google Analytics Blog by Jeff Gills
4. Web Analytics World by Manoj Jasra
5. Eric T. Peterson’s Analytics Weblog by Eric Peterson
6. Increasing your website’s conversion rate by Robbin Steif
7. Unofficial Google Analytics Blog by Michael Harrison
8. Lies, Damned Lies…by Ian Thomas
9. Blog by Aurélie Pols
10. Web Analysis, Behavioral Targeting and Advertising by Anil Batra

Since Avinash published his rankings the ranking of my blog has increased to 44,005 from 48,459.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Web Analyst Interview: Jaisri Chety

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Jaisri Chety.

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?

I am working at present in as Asst. Manager (Insight)

How long have you been working in Web Analytics?

I have been working in the dotcom industry right from 2000. I started my career in, where I had a fantastic initiation into the dotcom industry. I was handling corporate communications here, which included advertising and public relations. This is where I implemented advanced online advertising techniques and was initiated into a very crude form of web analytics. After the dotcom bust, I gained some experience in conventional advertising. However returned back to online advertising in 2004. I joined as campaign manager. BharatMatrimony was one of the leading advertisers in the online medium in India. Here I handled the complete advertising budget and was given the task of optimizing effectively for every buck spent on the Internet. Subsequently, I had a very brief stint in an online advertising firm called Regalix, before I moved to present job in Tesco.

Tell me about your work, education prior to making a switch

Before entering into the online industry, I was in a completely different profession. I completed my education in commerce from a reputed college in Chennai – Stella Maris College and had also done a course in advertising, from the Madras Advertising Club.

I started my career as a professional cricketeer with the Southern Railways. I had taken to the sport right from my school days, I had played at the state and zonal level at both junior and senior level. I had been a wicketkeeper – batswoman and played at the highest-level national championships representing Tamil Nadu and South Zone. I realized that my scope was limited at getting selected to play for India, as I was a wicket keeper and the Indian team already had an established wicketkeeper. And my only chance existed if this player performed poorly. Instead of waiting for someone to fail, I thought I should choose the other passion of mine, which was online advertising.

Wow that was a big change from Cricket to Online Advertising. Tell me about your move to Web Analytics, how did that transition happen?

My role in BharatMatrimony was to optimize and justify the online advertising spend. This not only meant that I had to negotiate and clinch the best deals, also how we used these ad units and got the maximum returns from them.

Here I realized once we got the audience from the various sites, it was equally important to sell the proposition on the site and keep them engaged for succeeding. Hence I started different CRM programs, which included various email campaigns and on-the-site experience tasks.

To gauge the effectiveness of this combined effort of online advertising, CRM and site improvements, I needed a tool; that is when I started researching the various web analytic service vendors. At that time WebTrends was one vendor who had a sales force in India and the support system. Hence I persuaded the top management on the need for a web analytics solution and they realized the potential and invested in the systems and software.

From 2005, I have been using different web analytical solutions.

How did you find your current job? How long did it take?

One my colleagues from an earlier firm who was working in Tesco, referred my profile to the employer, as they were looking for a senior person to manage their analytics team. The interview process took nearly 2 and half months as there were various rounds, the HR, operations manager, Sr. manager in UK and the business head.

What are you responsibilities in your current job?

I handle a team of analysts, in the Insight team. We are responsible for having a sense check on the performance of the business on daily and weekly basis by running various reports. This includes running, querying and retrieving data from the data warehouse, formatting the same, draw inference and present it to the various users of these reports. The scope includes reporting on category-based performance, performance of the various marketing channels like email, online advertising and CRM. It also includes site intelligence, which is web analytics software. Apart from the regular reporting we do various adhoc reporting and analysis on customer behavior changes, uplift of sales due to activities, targeting specific audience, etc.

What are the skills that you think are important for a web analyst?

In my opinion a web analyst needs to understand the data and site dynamics of their particular website. Should have decent technical knowledge, good customer focus and attention to details. Should intuitively pick insight from an otherwise burgeoning deluge of data.

What, if any, education or work experience helped you in making this transition.

My experience in online advertising and decent technical knowledge helped me in making this transition.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in Web Analytics?

If I had more structured technical education, it would have made my transition smoother.

What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?

I have read and own "Web Analytics Demystified" and "Website Measurement Hack" by Eric Peterson

Which book(s) have you helped in your new job or finding new job?

The "Website Measurement Hack" acts as my reference, as I keep going back to this book if I run into any technical issues.

What were the major challenges you are facing in this industry?

The challenges in this industry is that it is rapidly emerging and growing, hence one needs to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?

I am regular on the yahoo web analytics forum and read up the various blogs of Eric Peterson, Avinash Kaushik and also try to organize a "Web analytics Wednesday" meetings here in Bangalore

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?

I do have a blog its called I try to write on my understanding of web analytics, though I must confess I am not a regular.

One unrelated question, What do you think of Indian teams disaster in World Cup 2007? What is your advice to selectors or the team members?

In my opinion the Indian team is lacking in team spirit and coming together for a higher cause like winning for you country. They tend to place more importance on getting their individual scores, breaking records or proving a point to themselves or to someone else about their position in the team. Rather than spending time and effort in such detrimental attitude, if they can come together as just cricketers (shedding their star status) and played with passion, drive and above all character, we would form a better team.

My advice to selectors would be to pick a cricketer with not only by assessing them on the potential but also on their (right) attitude.

Thank you for your time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Google and Behavioral Targeting Part III – Google Buys Doubleclick

Google buys Doubleclick for record 3.1 Billion.

Remember 1999 - 2000 when Doubleclick tried Behavioral Targeting but had to shut down efforts due to privacy concerns. Since then things have changed. Many Behavioral Targeting networks have sprung up. Dave Morgan, founder of Tacoda provided several reasons why BT will work now.

Will Google revive BT capabilities of Doubleclick? As I wrote earlier in my blog posts Google is preparing for the largest BT network (see my previous articles) and this is one of the biggest step deep into that direction and further confirms what I wrote in my article.
See my old posts at
Google and Behavioral Targeting
Google and Behavioral Targeting Part II

Here are quotes from Sergey Bin, Google's Co-Founder & President, Technology and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google on Doubleclicks's acquistion. Source: Yahoo
"It has been our vision to make Internet advertising better - less intrusive, more effective, and more useful. Together with DoubleClick, Google will make the Internet more efficient for end users, advertisers, and publishers," said Sergey Brin.
"DoubleClick's technology is widely adopted by leading advertisers, publishers and agencies, and the combination of the two companies will accelerate the adoption of Google's innovative advances in display advertising," said Eric Schmidt.
So far Google analytics, Adsense, Google checkout codes were only available on small – medium size websites. With this deal the big brand sites will have Google code on their sites as well (DoubleClick Publishers and Advertisers). Obviously by having a code on virtually every site on the internet Google will have such a wealth of information about individuals (see my previous article) that it will be foolish for them to not use that information to target individuals with ads that match their interest shown by online (soon they will tie in offline with something like GoogleTV, Google Times, Google Radio and so on) behavior.

Another effect of the widespread code of Google could be the death of companies like Alexa, Compete comscore etc. Google can provide the internet usage data that won’t be based on a sample of those who participate (voluntarily or by installing some kind of application such as a toolbar) but on the Google cookies which will be on almost every single computer connected to the internet. However, this business might not be so lucrative for them. Why would they want to let others know how people use internet when they can use it to make it Googlenet (formerly known as internet) or GWW - Google Wide Web (formerly know as World Wide Web).

You are about to enter the world of Targeting.

Books Recommended by Web Analysts

In past two months I have interviewed a few web analysts. One of the questions that I asked all these analysts was about the web analytics, SEO and marketing books that they have read or are planning to read. In this post I compiling a list of books recommended by these web analysts.

If you are starting a career in web analytics or are already working in this field but are looking for some good reads then this list is for you. Please note that this is not a list of recommended books by me, these are from the analysts I interviewed (except for Competing on Analytics). I have not even read most of these books yet.

Here is the alphabetical list of books:

Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business DecisionsJason Burby and Shane Atchison
Big Book of KPIsEric Peterosn
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant W. Chan Kim , Renée Mauborgne
Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, Lisa T. Davis
Competing on Analytics: The New Science of WinningThomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris
Drilling Down: Turning Customer Data Into Profits With A SpreadsheetJim Novo
Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data Stephen Few
Measuring the Success of Your Website: A Customer-centric Approach to Website Management Hurol Inan
Search Analytics: A Guide to Analyzing and Optimizing Website Search Engines Hurol Inan
Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site Mike Moran, Bill Hunt
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten Stephen Few
Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Websites Andrew Chak
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of MoreChris Anderson
Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, Lisa T. Davis
Web Analytics Demystified: A Marketer's Guide to Understanding How Your Web Site Affects Your BusinessEric Peterson
Web Analytics: An Hour a Day Avinash Kaushik
Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success Jim Stern
Web Site Measurement Hacks: Tips & Tools to Help Optimize Your Online Business Eric Peterson

As per Apurba’s recommendation I just ordered <>Blue Ocean Strategy. I also ordered Competing on Analytics, this was recommended by a friend of mine. I am also going to order Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions and Web Analytics: An Hour a Day when they come out.

Have you read any books that you would like to recommend? Send it to me and I will include them in my next update.

Here are all the interviews if you missed them
Interview with Web Analysts
Web Analyst Interview: Julien Coquet
Web Analyst Interview: Adam Berlinger
Web Analyst Interview: Michael Notte
Web Analyst Interview: Thomas Carrillo
Web Analyst Interview: Joel Collymore
Web Analyst Interview: Apurba Sen
Web Analyst Interview: Pere Rovira
Web Analyst Interview: Scott Baldwin

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Google and Behavioral Targeting Part II

In my last article titled "Google and Behavioral Targeting" I talked about how Google is putting its footprint all over the web and could be preparing for the largest Behavioral Targeting Ad network.

I got several emails in response to that article. Two main questions that were raised are:

  1. Won’t there be technical challenges to aggregate all this data and make it meaningful for behavioral targeting?

  2. Won’t there be privacy and trust issues if Google were to go that route?

This article is to address these two concerns.

  1. Technical Challenges
    Yes technical challenges will be there but that’s why I believe if anybody can successfully do it today then it is Google. Last I head Google had a pretty good team of engineers. If all the best engineers can’t overcome these technical challenges then Google should change its hiring process. In my opinion technical challenges are not such a big deal. Even if you delete a cookie Google will be able to identify a visitor via their Google account. This is where Google has the biggest advantage over other BT networks such as Tacoda or Revenue Science.

  2. Privacy and Trust Issues
    Privacy and trust issues are everywhere on the internet.
    Google will of course have to get a buyoff from all the parties involved i.e. consumer, advertisers, publishers etc. Below I show how they could get a buyoff from each one of them.

  1. Consumers – How many consumers know what the cookies are? Not a lot. How many know that they are being targeted online in some way e.g. Google Personalized Search? Not a lot. How do Behavioral Targeting companies target the visitors on their network? They give visitor an option to OPT-OUT. Yes, they opt-in visitors by default and then give them an option to opt-out. Can’t Google do that? Sure. They could opt-in everybody, just like they opted me in on personalized search. Yes I can opt-out but how many visitors do know the meaning of opt-in or opt-out? So getting a visitors buy-in is simple. To calm any privacy and trust issues give users a tiny little link to opt-out.

  2. Publishers – There are two avenues to sever ads today, these same avenues could be used to serve BT ads.
    1. Google Search – Their own search engine, they don’t need anybody permission to target ads here, they own the site.

    2. Adsense Publishers – How many Adsense publishers really know how Google chooses what Ads to show on their site? I don’t think anybody really knows. If Google starts showing behavioral targeted ads than what do Publishers have to loose? Nothing. Instead their click-thoughs will go up resulting in an increase in their revenue. It will be a huge win for them. No privacy or trust issues here.

  3. Advertisers – They will benefit the most from this network. They will get quality visitors to their site. Visitors who are really interested in the advertisers offer will be targeted. These visitors will be determined via their behavior on the Google network. Easy buyoff here.

  4. Providers of Behavior – These are the individual sites on which the behavior will be collected. Such sites include Google Search, those using Google Analytics, AdSense Publishers, Google Checkout Sites, and Advertisers etc. This will be the hardest to convince and this will be the main source of all the behaviors. Let’s take them one at a time
    1. Google Organic Search – Nothing new here, organic searches are easy to collect behavior on since nobody is paying for it. Google can do (and is doing – personalized search) whatever they want to.

    2. Advertisers – Advertisers will mind if the click behavior on their ads is used to help their competitors. However, if Google gave them a way to filter their competitors than they might have a lesser issue. To make it even better for them Google could provided them some free advertising in lieu of letting Google use the click behavior on their ads. Google can make up for all these free advertising by charging a higher rate for behaviorally targeted ads.
    3. Google Checkout Users – Same as advertisers, they might let you use the behavior only if you don’t empower their competitors with that knowledge. So if I am selling dress shoes, I don’t want you to empower somebody else selling dress shoes but you can use it for advertisers who are selling dress shirts. Again, Google will have to provide a way to filter out competitors or certain types of sites. You provide a good enough incentive and site might be ready to participate.
    4. AdSense publishers – A majority of the publishers are small content sites and they make their money via Google Adsense. They will let you use the behavior on their site if you provide them incentive. Well there are two incentives that I think will do the trick.

      1. Allow them to make more money from the Adsense network – Google will pay higher click-though for behavioral targeted ads (they will charge more) if the publisher agrees to allow them to use the behavior on their site for the behavioral ad targeting.

      2. They might be able to monetize those users who have left their site. Google might be able to provide a cut for their (Adsense publishers) traffic that they use in Behavioral Targeting, if I make a cent for every visitor I get on my site just by participating in Behavioral targeting network won’t that be great? Again, as long as I can filter out the sites I don’t want to benefit from my sites visitor behavior. How you can monetize when visitor leaves your site will be covered in detail in another post.

    5. Google Analytics User – Same as Adsense publishers if you provide them incentives a lot of them will be able to sign-up as long as it is not empowering their competitors. As mentioned above in 4 b, Google might be willing to pay for your visitors by having them use their behavior in the BT network. Alternatively Google might keep this tool for Free for only those who will allow them use their visitors’ behavior and charge a fee to others. Why will a company give anything for Free?

This is my view on how Google could get all different players involved in their BT network and build the largest BT network.

I welcome any comments.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Web Analyst Interview: Apurba Sen

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Apurba Sen from India.

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?
I am working as a Product Manager at India Ltd

How long have you been working in this fields?
About 2 Years

Tell me about your work, education prior to your job in Web Analytics.
My work encompasses understanding the Indian consumers need gap and developing & managing solutions fitting that requirement. Prior to Rediff, I pursued my MBA in marketing & information science.

Why did you chose a career in Web Analytics?
Web Analytics and Web data interpretation forms a very crucial part in Product Managers key responsibility areas in analyzing online user behavior & segmentation. So I did not actively seek web analytics job, it is part of my core responsibility.

How did you find your new job?
I found the job through Campus Recruitment.

What are your job responsibilities?
My day to day responsibilities include, keeping track of services I manage through KPIs, accounting any abnormal changes in the metrics, keeping track of trends and adding up features to the services fitting the trends.

Describe your typical work day.
I reach office by 10 AM .After replying back to important emails and customer complains / requests its time to analyze MIS report. Any reported issue calls for immediate brain storming with concerned team(s).

A Product Manager is generally single point of contact for cross functional internal & external teams i.e. design, development, marketing, sales. Pre-lunch and post lunch sessions are generally spent in meeting various in house and remote teams to assess the developments on individual services in pipeline.

Evening…its time to hit some interesting sites like Techcrunch , Web Analytics discussion forum, thus getting involved into some serious reading till I leave for home at around 8 PM.

Has you MBA helped you in Web Analytics?
Of course my MBA in addition to great forums like Erics ,Web Analytics Discussion Forums has helped me in Web Analytics.

What Skills and education, in your opinion, are critical for a Web Analyst?
In terms of education any advanced course in statistics should work as a passport to Web Analyst job. He/She should be genuinely good at collating different industry information.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped?
I suppose, a very specific courses in line of WAA-UBC could be little more helpful in delving further into this arena. :-)

What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?
For web Analytics, I mostly read white papers. But I read a lot of books on Online marketing.

Which book(s) have you helped in your new job or finding new job?
One name I must mention: Blue Ocean Strategy

What is this book about?
It is a book by professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, from the INSEAD. It’s on making the competition irrelevant through “blue ocean” value chain.

What are the major challenges you are facing in this industry?
Strictly in Indian context-lack of web analytics vendor support. They are too obsessed with selling solutions only. The other side, online industry end, people are very little aware of WAs true strength.

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?
I keep learning by participating discussion forums and reading books.

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?
Yes, I have a blog, The articles are management thought oriented and ranges from Branding to game theory.

What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?
I would say, there is a bright prospect ahead, especially if you are into Indian Internet market. You can make your mark here, if your basics are just right.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Web Analyst Interview: Pere Rovira

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Pere Rovira.

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?
I am Head of Web Analytics for, a company of e-interactive.

How long have you been working in this fields
I was previously a web manager for several large commercial websites in Spain, with a focus on classifieds. As a web manager, analytics was part of my day to day work, even though it was not my only task. It has not been since I joined e-interactive last month that I've started to work exclusively on web analytics.

Tell me about your work, education prior to Web Analytics?
I am a physicist, though later I specialized in information systems with a postgraduate course from University of California at Berkeley, and a MSc. in Administration, Design and Management of Information Systems from the London School of Economics (LSE). Web Analytics is quite an interdisciplinary field; you need number skills but also broader analytical and business skills. A physics background helps me with number analysis and modeling, while an information systems background helps me with an understanding of the technology and the business we work with.

As for my working experience, having worked as a web manager for a big internet company really helps. I got the chance to experience the day to day tasks required to run a web site, as well as interact with all the players involved: management, IT, marketing, sales force… Each of them has different interests and ways of seeing the web business. To me, it is essential to know what their needs and tasks are in order to provide them with what they need from a web analytics tool.

Why did you decided to switch to Web Analytics?
First, because I think it's a field with an enormous potential for growth, especially in Spain. It's always exciting to start working on something you believe in, and that in addition is still not widely used in your own market. Second, because web analytics encompasses so many areas I really enjoy. You need to really understand your client's business in order to be a good analyst, but also the marketing strategy, and of course the technology behind your client and your web analytics tool. Finally, and that's something I did not know when I decided to "switch", I am finding a community of web analysts who are really enthusiastic about their job, always willing to help and attentive to your comments and opinions. It's a charming professional sector.

How did you find this job? How long did it take? Did you interview a lot?
I applied to a job post on a major online job board. I went through two interviews and some emails, and that was it. Pretty straight forward and to the point.

What are you job responsibilities? Describe your typical work day.
Right now, my main responsibilities are understanding deeply the different web analytics tools available in the market and help with business development. Also, I will be implementing Omniture SiteCatalyst for one of our clients. So my typical work day revolves around reading a lot, writing a lot, and networking. I have my own blog at (mostly in Spanish); we hope the web and in particular the blog will be an excellent tool for business development.

What education or work experience, other than that you mentioned before are helping in your job.

Other than what I already mentioned, Omniture training to become certified for implementation was also a good source of know-how, but above all, I am learning so much from some blogs on web analytics and SEM, written by really smart people with lots of interesting things to say. It really helps to be able to read from very experienced analysts who share tips and advice from their broad working experience.

What education or experience is lacking, education or experience that would have helped?
I am a believer in self-education for specific subjects (like web analytics is). However, if I was to dream of the perfect course / seminar right now, I would go for one tackling the organizational aspects of web analytics that deals with questions such as: How does web analytics fit into an organization? What are the factors involved in decision making (economic, politics,… )? What should be the role of the analyst in different types of organizations?

What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?
I have read Web Measurement Hacks by Eric T. Peterson, which I really enjoyed, and so now I am reading two more of his books: Web Analytics Demystified and The big book of KPIs. I went through a couple of tool-specific books which were a bit disappointing, and right now I'd like to go for a good book on marketing… any suggestions?

I am sure some the visitors of this blog will recommend some good marketing books.

Which book(s) have you helped in your new job or finding new job?
Eric's books are being really useful. As for finding a new job, I haven't really used any book (but, I worked a couple of years for a major online job board, maybe that helped J)

What are the major challenges you are facing in this industry?
I suppose the situation is quite different from one country to another. Right now in Spain, I think the challenge is to make web analytics easy to use and understand, as well as actionable. Managers and decision makers need to perceive real value in web analytics solutions, and it is our job to help them do so. I like to think of web analytics now in Spain as of usability a couple of years ago. Not many companies were putting usability at the centre of web development two years ago, but now it is unthinkable not to do so if you're serious about online business. The same will happen with web analytics: it will simply be the standard methodology/techniques to manage websites and online marketing in general, and even carry on some usability studies J.

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?
Reading as much as I can, as well as trying to answer my clients and colleagues questions.

Tell me more about your blog what kind of article do you write?
My blog is available at . It's mainly written in Spanish, and I am now writing on organizational aspects of web analytics. I always have in mind a non-technical reader, quite business oriented, looking for solutions to her everyday tasks.

What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?
Read as much as you can, and try to action what you learn. Having your own website really helps to learn by trial and error, but if you can work for some large websites for some years, you're going to get invaluable insights that, even though not directly related to web analytics, will be really useful to become a good analyst. Finally, it really helps to find a good mentor at work who can teach you and guide you through the vast amounts of resources available out there.

Thank you for your time, this was great.

Thanks to you Anil for giving me the opportunity to have this chat with you and your readers. Your series of interviews is one of my favourite reads from all of the online resources available on web analytics

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Search Retargeting – My View

I recently read an article on ClickZ by Robin Neifield title Search Retargeting It’s ready. Beahviroal Targeting networks currently selling search retargeting include, BlueLithium, and Revenue Science.

Basic concept behind Search Retargeting is to target Visitors who come to your site via search and then leave without converting. The idea is to reintroduce them with relevant message on the network once they leave your site.
For example a Visitor searches for cellphone arrives at your site (that cells cellphone and other electronics) but than leaves without buying one. Sometime in future (next day or whenever) visitor arrives to a news site (which does not cell phone), the visitor is shown a targeted message from your company trying to bring the visitor back to your site so that visitor can purchase the cellphone.

In a nutshell what these networks selling Search Retargeting are implying is that the fact that visitor searched something on a search engine and then clicked on paid or organic listing to arrive at a site is a strong indication that a visitor is interested in a particular products/service. I agree that such a behavior (searching for a keyword) indicates strong interest.

But isn’t the fact that visitor who arrived to the site (no matter how) and looked at product pages (cell phone in above example) indicates the visitors strong interest? Isn’t the whole idea of behavioral targeting based on determining visitor intent via their behavior on site or on the network? So why only target those visitors who arrived via search? Is search stronger indication than on-site behavior? Maybe it is, I don’t think Behavioral Targeting companies will agree with that. By just focusing on retargeting the user who arrived via search only you will be missing out an opportunity to fully utilize Behavioral Targeting. So why do I think so?

Let’s look at a scenario of a visitor:

A visitor searches “cell phone” on a search engines and lands on your site. As soon as visitor arrives on your site you should make an attempt to engage the visitor by having a well designed and optimized landing page. If the landing page is generic then you should use the tactic I described in my article title “Follow the search”. Granted not everybody buys in the first session and so you need to target them with right message based on their behavior (intent to purchase cell phone in this case) even after they leave your site, this is behavioral targeting.

Now there are two scenarios after the visitor arrives on your site.
1.Visitor looks further into the site – Great you landing page probably has done its work. Which leads into the following two scenarios
a.Visitor converts
b.Visitor does not convert
2. Visitor leaves the site without looking further than landing page – Your landing page or the offers are not enticing enough for this visitor.

Let’s analyze each of these scenarios one at a time

1a. If Visitor looks around and converts then no more targeting need. Mission accomplished.

1b. Visitor looks deeper into the site and then leaves without converting– In this case you need to target them. But the question is - How is this visitor different from those visitors who did not come via search and then browsed you site for cellphones? Didn’t their behavior showed that they were interested in cellphones and need to be retargeted?

So my point is that weather a visitor comes from search or some other way, if they have looked around on your site for a particular category or product and their behavior (on site usage) show they are in market or aremost likely to buy a product then they should be retargeting (if you are going to invest time an money in retargeting). How does it make a difference how they arrived to the site? Search is one more element of the behavior but on site behavior (BT Company’s core strength) is suggesting the same thing. By Offering Search Retargeting are BT companies indicating that search is better indicator than on-site behavior so we should only target those visitors who came via search? Does not make sense to me because this goes against their core offering which was based on the premise that onsite behavior is a better indicator of visitors interest.

2b. If a visitor leaves the site without going any further then you have a bigger problem which won’t be solved by search retargeting. It won’t matter how user arrived at your site. It requires landing page optimization and over all product/or service that your company offers. No matter how much you retarget if your landing page sucks or you don’t have the products or services that Visitors want then you are not going to convert.

If BT networks are going to place their bets on search retargeting (by showing that search is a better indicator than onsite behavior) than they better watch out because Google, Yahoo or MSN will have a more understanding and control of Search than them. For example, Google knows a lot more about visitor’s search behavior (I am not talking about Google and Behavioral Targeting that I talked about last month). Google knows not only which keyword drove visitor to your site but also which other sites the visitor clicked on before and after. Google also know what kind of keywords and keyword combinations (e.g. cellphone battery or buy a cellphone) Visitor searched before or after she searched “cellphone” to reach to you site, this is far better information for retargeting than just knowing “cellphone” keyword drove them to your site. Google can easily target the Visitor with their “Personalized Search” or Adsense network.

What do you think? I would like comments from BT providers as well as those who have tried search retargeting.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Web Analyst Interview: Scott Baldwin

Interview with Analysts series is back again. Here is my interview with Scott Baldwin.

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?
My job title is Manager, Web Services at North Shore Credit Union ( We're one of Canada's fastest growing credit unions.

How long have you been working in this field?
I have been working in Web Analytics for over an year now. Unlike many of those you've interviewed, Web analytics is not my only job role and accounts for about 20% of my time. At work I wear many hats including web, usability, SEO/SEM, Internet marketing, project management and much more. I'm trying to make web analytics a larger focus but we don't have the people or budget to enable me to move over full-time.

Tell me about your work, education prior to this job.
I have a degree in Music (I'm a drummer). Most of my formal marketing and web analytics training as has been on as needed basis. Over the years I've taken courses in design, usability and whatever the job demanded. I'm now working towards an integrated marketing certificate at UBC in hopes of being a bit more formal with my education and long-term career plans.

How did web analytics fell into your job responsibility?
About a year ago I approached my manager and asked to change up my job role to include web analytics. As an organization we're very data driven in our decisions around marketing and I felt that web analytics was a good fit with much of the segmentation we do. I also wanted to shift from making site changes based on "gut" to more data driven decisions. My boss has been very supportive and it's help differentiate us from many of our credit union competitors.

Before NSCU I taught web production at the Vancouver Film School; worked at Inovera Solutions (a Credit Union eCommerce joint venture) where I was Product Manager, Design; as well as stints at Citizens Bank of Canada, Vancity, Blue Zone Entertainment in publishing and as a full-time musician.

What are you responsibilities now as far as web analytics goes?
I oversee all our web analytics work and work with internal departments to provide them with information as needed. That might involve one-time reporting or ongoing. Since the web is more immediate the feedback we can provide on things is faster than most of our offline analysis.

Describe your typical work day.
No day is "typical" for me. I wear such a generalist hat that I can get pulled in all kinds of directions. From an analytics perspective I do try to set aside at least a couple hours each day to look at the data and discover something about our customers use of the site that we can use to make improvements. I have some ad-hoc reports I run as needed or weekly (that are built using HBX's Report Builder Excel plug-in) which help me keep an eye on site performance issues (broken pages, internal site search), content issues as well as monthly reporting to see where we are with our conversion, campaigns, SEO/SEM and content effectiveness.

Have you done any web analytics course?
Yes, I have done two of the UBC web analytics courses and will be starting my third course shortly. I've really enjoyed the courses. The first course was an overlap of much of what I already knew -- I could have probably audited it. The second on website optimization was fantastic and really challenged me. I've found them to be very helpful in clarifying my self-learning done to date.

What skills/education is helping you in your current job?
The UBC courses, some recent Excel courses (to become more proficient), and webinars/online training with our vendor WebSideStory when I can. Getting in touch with people in the industry has also been of great help. Robbin from LunaMetrics (who I approached this year to help out), Avinash Kaushik, people locally, Eric's Yahoo group and many in the blogosphere have been of great help.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in your current job in Web Analytics?
I've always wished I was a bit more specialized, rather than such a generalist. Some education in mathematics, or stats/data modeling would have helped.

Which book(s) have you read or own?
I have got pretty big library and read as much as I can. I have read Eric's books (I'm on my third copy of Web Analytics Demystified I've used it so much and love the big book of KPIs and Web Measurement Hacks); Jim Sterns Web Metrics; the Einsenberg's two books “>Waiting for the Cat to Bark and Call to Action; Hurol Inan's Search Analytics and Measuring the Success of Your Website; and Submit Now by Andrew Chak. I just picked up two of Stephen Few's books on dashboard design ( Information Dashboard Design and Show Me the Numbers) but haven't read them yet. I've also already ordered both Jason Burby and Avinash's books.

Wow that’s a big library.

What are the major challenges you are facing in this industry?
I'd say advancing my career, learning and the affordability of web analytics tools.

Here in Canada, Web Analytics does not seem to be given the same attention as in States. Most business don't seem to understand the value of Web Analytics. There are not many jobs in this field in Canada, while in States it seems like there are never ending opportunities to develop a career with a good mentor and grow into something larger.

As a beginner in this field there is not enough training so I've had to do a more self-learning than I'm used to. The UBC course has helped, but it is only online. I'm still finding it hard making the transition from just measuring to taking actions. There's a bit of a gap in this area (maybe Avanish's book will fill it) and it isn't always clear as many books start at the 10,000 foot level, rather than working up from the basics.

Another challenge has been finding Web Analytics solutions that are affordable for small and medium size business since most price based on page views. Google Analytics and a couple others like ClickTracks look more-and-more interesting. I'm a big fan of Avinash's 10/90 rule (see:, but it's not always practical given that many of us have minimal budgets to begin with. I'd love to leverage more outside consultants or hire someone permanently to pick up some of my other duties so I can concentrate more on analytics but my my current budget won't allow me to do it. Fortunately we've been lucky to be able to leverage the size of the credit union system in Canada to get a better deal on our tool which has allowed me to leverage folks like Zaaz and LunaMetrics.

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?
I read a ton offline and online (blogs on various verticals not necessarily web analytics). I like to get input from lots of different areas -- be it banking, web analytics, usability, user experience design or art. I talk with friends and we share ideas frequently. I really like that people in Eric's Yahoo Group and those with blogs are willing to answer questions -- that's a wonderful resource.

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?
Yes I do. It's called benry blog (benry means "useful" in japaneese) and it capsulates nicely the type of work I do. You can read it at:

What do you write about, analytics, SEO, usability?
Everything, my blog is used as a reference by me. If I find anything interesting I put it there so that I can go back later and use it. Sadly there are two types of people who write blogs -- Those who create unique and interesting content and those who regurgitate it. I'm the latter.

What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?
Try to understand what the business is trying to achieve and make sure the goals of website and business are aligned. Other than that read a lot, take courses, ask questions, don't be afraid to connect to with others (I just organized a WAW event in Vancouver, 20+ people came to it, was awesome meeting everyone locally many whom I didn't know), and attend the eMetrics Summit (I'm going to my first this year).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Web Analytics Jobs Trend Update: April 2007

To followup on my predictions here is the latest update on “Web Analytics” jobs.
This snapshot was taken on April 1st.

Starting this month, I chose to include They are also a job aggregator site like but they also provide job boards called job-a-matic, like the Job Board I have on my blog.
These job boards allow individual bloggers or site owners to quickly create a job board specific to their site’s content. have more jobs listed than simply hired, not sure if is aggregating all these jobs on job-a-matic job boards or not.

After dipping about 10.87% in March, open jobs listed on April 1st were up 8.33% on and up 20.34% on simply hired. “Web Analytics” jobs listed on are up 61% from Jan 1st numbers. It is still a very hot market for “Web Analytics” jobs.

Overall job postings containing “web analytics” as a percentage of all the open jobs positions listed on is shown below.

To see which tools are in demand, I did some search on tool related job openings and found the Omniture was in lead closely followed by WebTrends.