Thursday, May 03, 2007

Are you doing Web Reporting or Web Analytics?

I run into lot of people who confuse web reporting with web analytics.

Here is what I heard from one marketing manager when I asked her if she had a web analyst on staff - "Yes we hired somebody, she knows XYZ web analytics tool so I am all set, she will be pulling the data for us."

What does this mean? Does knowing a tool and knowing how to pull data from that tool, web analytics? Send somebody to Omniture or WebTrends training and you can have a web analyst if that’s you definition of web analyst. Well that certainly was her definition and a lot of others that I have come across, I am sure there are lot of companies out there that have the same definition of a web analyst.

In my opinion that is web reporting not web analytics. A person who only knows how a web analytics tool works and knows how to pull the data is doing web reporting not web analytics. Web Analytics however is different from web reporting and tools knowledge.

While web reporting deals with “What Happened”, “When it Happened”, web analytics deals with “Why it Happened”, “What if it continues to Happen”, “Recommendation on what you should continue to do or change”. Web Analytics is way more than just reporting numbers.

Note: Web analysts will soon have to get into predictive modeling to determine “what can happen in future”. Not a lot (read very few) companies are currently doing predictive analysis but it is coming soon.

Web reporting is one portion of web analyst’s job role. A successful web analyst spends more time focusing on Web Analytics (Analysis) and less on pulling the data from web analytics tools. Web Analyst has to understand the business, the business and site goals and business initiatives to provide meaningful and actionable analysis. Web analytics requires analytical mindset which makes web analytics much harder to learn than web reporting. (To read about what skills a Web Analysts needs, read my article on Starting a career in Web Analytics)

Web Reporting is like looking into a rearview mirror while Web Analysis (job of a web analyst) is about knowing where you are coming from, knowing your destination, looking into rearview mirror, learning from it, focusing on the road ahead and surroundings so that you can get to your destination safely and successfully.

So are you doing web reporting or web analytics?


  1. Great post, painfully true - what I find is that even if you really are a web analyst, the other demands on your time can sometimes limit you and shift the balance more to least in a smaller business, where resources/time are tight.

  2. Based on a study I'm conducting, it appears Reporting is the task that takes the largest amount of time (no surprise), but it's also the most "captive and unavoidable, negative" of our attention span.

    Shameless plug: I'm still conducting the study, so if you are an analyst, fill out my survey! More info at

  3. Anonymous11:38 AM

    Nice post - Web reporting definitely isn't web analysis. Reporting is the norm in some places, but change can occur.

    Sometimes magic happens if the report builder engages the recipient in a meaningful conversation when the report is delivered. The report recipient begins to look for the analysis first and the report second.

    Try this next time a report is sent out:

    Engage the report recipient in an actual conversation, not email (they wont read it) and not more reports (they won't take the time to learn a new report.)

    The conversation will help move reporting to analysis.


  4. Anonymous12:39 PM

    Hi Anil,

    SPOT ON!

    It could not be more true and I think time (based on when you initially posted this) – proved you right!

    Dennis R. Mortensen, COO at IndexTools
    My take on: Web Reporting vs. Web Analysis!

  5. Nicely put Anil. I find it is hard, especially in this economy, to try and juggle the many hats I wear, one being Web Analyst. Any advice?

  6. NM,

    Not sure if I understood your question, so email me offline and we can discuss.


  7. Interesting post. I find that most clients are looking for reporting data. While they find the web analysis helpful, they want to see numbers and ROI.

    I agree though that for making decisions looking at analytics for trends (both forward and backward)is necessary.

    Ecendant Interactive


I would like to hear your comments and questions.