Wednesday, August 26, 2009

3 Roles in Web Analytics

Despite slow economy many companies are hiring web analysts. A quick search on, a site that powers the Web Analytics job board on my blog, shows that there are currently 2,007 open positions and, another job sites shows over 4800 open positions. That is a huge number.

However, many job seekers I have talked to feel frustrated because most of the jobs have a laundry list of requirements and they don’t feel that they are a right fit for most of these open positions. A lot of “Web Analytics” job openings ask for many of the following:

  • Experience in online marketing

  • Experience in Web Analytics

  • Experience in – Google analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics etc.

  • Experience in implementing Omniture, Google Analytics, WebTrends etc.

  • Experience in A/B and Multivariate testing

  • Experience in Search engine optimization

  • Experience in search engine marketing

  • Experience with SQL

  • Experience in email marketing

  • Experience in Social media

The mismatch in what a company really needs and what they are asking in the job requirements is a cause of frustration on both ends. The issue really stems from lack of understanding of what web analytics is and what role a web analyst need to play in the organization.

Most of the companies looking for a “web analysts” are in one of the following three stages of web analytics staffing

  1. They don’t have any tool but they realize the need and are looking for someone who can help them with “web analytics”.

  2. They just installed Google Analytics or were sold one of the other paid tool but are not getting much value from their web analytics tool. They need an analyst to help them do “web analytics”.

  3. They already have a web analytics tool installed and have a web analytics team. Since the company is now using web analytics to made business decision they need to hire one or more analysts to support the growing demand.

Companies falling in the third stage know what they are doing and usually narrow down the requirements. They are usually clear on what kind of person they are looking for.

Companies who fall in stage 1 and 2 above are the ones who are usually not clear on the role of a “web analyst” and hence create this laundry list of skills. Hiring manger looks at few job openings posted by other to get an idea of what a “web analyst’ should do. She then includes all the buzzwords and sends the requirements to HR or the recruiting company. HR screens the resume and if the keywords shown above do not appear on the resume the resume is rejected. As a result, companies loose several good candidates while candidates loose many good job opportunities.

3 Roles in Web Analytics

If you are a hiring manager, you need to understand and thoroughly evaluate your need before opening the job req. This will help you remove the noise from requirements and find the best candidate for the job. To make your job easier I have categories web analytics work into 3 job roles.

  1. Implementation Specialist/Engineer – If you are looking to implement a web analytics tool then you will need an Implementation Engineer. Implementation Engineer is usually the one who manages implementation of the web analytics tool and/or maintains ongoing implementation changes. This is a technical role. For this role you will need a person who has experience in implementation of the web analytics tool of you choice (Note: Tool Selection is a complex process and you should hire a 3rd party consulting company to help you with it if you have not already selected the tool). An implementation engineer generally takes the business requirements and converts them into technical requirements for the web development team to implement the code on the pages. Implementation Engineer works closely with “Web Analyst” (described below) web development and QA to ensure that correct data is collected. The right candidate for this role understands how internet technologies work. She needs to have a good grasp of JavaScript (most of the web analytics implementations require JavaScript tagging). She might also need to understand how to integrate various data sources together. For many companies, once the tool is implemented there might not be a daily need to make changes to the tool so it might make more sense to outsource this function to a web analytics vendor, agency building/maintaining your site or a web analytics consulting company instead of hiring a fulltime person.

  2. Reporting Analyst – If you are looking for someone to pull the data from your web analytics tools or other reporting application then you need to hire a reporting analysts. A lot of the companies confuse “web reporting” with “web analytics”(See my blog post titled Are you doing web reporting or web analytics). Reporting analysts usually understands the interface of the various tools and can pull the data that is required by other stakeholder. A reporting analyst might need to have SQL skills to pull the data from databases. Some organizations might need a person who can make pretty scorecard and charts. For this role, it is good to have a person who has experience with the tools of your choice but don’t make it a deal breaker. If the candidate has worked on any of the web analytics tools then she can usually get trained in other web analytics tools. Determine what other tools do you have and what skills might be required to pull the data from all these tools, that you might need for you reporting and then write the job requirements.

  3. Web Analyst – This is more of a business role and truly a web analyst’s role. This is a person who can make sense of the web data and drive insights to impact the bottom line. She will provide business requirements to the Implementation Engineer to work on and will use reporting analyst to get the data for analysis. Web analysts are inquisitive and analytical, they question the data to come up with the story that the data is telling. Web Analyst has the ability to understand and analyze various data pieces such as competitive, qualitative, web analytics, social media, financial etc and drive business changes. Web Analyst should also be able to run A/B and Multivariate tests to improve website performance. Depending on the size of your organization and A Web Analysts will not be afraid to stand in front of executives to explain and defend their findings. If you are looking to get actionable recommendation and drive business changes based on web analytics data then you need a Web Analyst.

Hope this will help you in properly wording your job requirements and avoid the frustration of not filling the position.

Comments? Questions?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is CAPTCHA Eating Up Your Conversions?

CAPTCHA acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” is a way for sites to block spam. According to Wikipedia it is
“A CAPTCHA or Captcha (pronounced /ˈkæptʃə/) is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer. The process usually involves one computer (a server) asking a user to complete a simple test which the computer is able to generate and grade. Because other computers are unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human. Thus, it is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test, because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine. A common type of CAPTCHA requires that the user type letters or digits from a distorted image that appears on the screen.”

Below is an example of a CAPTCHA on craigslist.

Though CAPTCHA is a great tool for blocking spam it could be coming in the way of user experience and resulting in a lower conversion than you would have had without it.

I have come across many sites where CAPTCHAs are totally illegible. Such CAPTCHAs not only deter SPAM but also valid human visitors. Even if the CAPTCHA is totally legible it adds one extra step between a visitor and the conversion. Sometimes it takes few refreshes of the CAPTCHA before a visitors gets it right, resulting in a very frustrating experience.

You can spend all your time doing A/B and Multivariate testing the form layout, images, text etc. but probably won’t move the needle if your CAPTCHA is the culprit.

If you have CAPTCHA on your site then I suggest following 5 checks to ensure you have a good CAPTCHA on your site.

  • Clear - Is it clear to your visitors that you have to enter the CAPTCHA before the form can be submitted? Some sites don’t make it clear and leave visitors wondering why their form is not getting submitted. Make sure there is help available on CAPTCH if the visitors get stuck. Also make sure that there is a refresh button to refresh the CAPTCHA image incase visitors can't read it.

  • Readbility - Check all your CAPTCHA images. Can you read them? Will you visitors be able to figure out what your CAPTCHA reads?

  • Accessibility - Visually impaired visitors should be able to fill the form else you will loose them at CAPTCHA.

  • Time – How fast is your CAPTCHA? If it is slow to load or validate you might be loosing conversions.

  • Protection - Do you have a huge SPAM problem (that you need a CAPTCHA or did you put it because everybody else is putting them too? Keep in mind that event a CAPTCHA might not completely protect you from SPAM.

Is CAPTCHA hurting your conversions?

I suggest you conduct A/B testing to understand how CAPTCHA might be affecting your conversions. Create a version of the page that does not have CAPTCHA and test it against the control version (your current version with CAPTCHA).

Analyze the results. You should analyze the conversions you get from each version. Deduct any SPAM when calculating the conversion. Calculate true conversions per month/year from both versions. Make sure your results are statistically significant. Most likely you will see lower conversion from the version with CAPTCHA and higher SPAM from the version without CAPTCHA. Considering the impact of SPAM on your form, determine if the efficiency (clean data) gained by having CAPTCHA on your form outweighs the gain of extra conversion when you remove CAPTCHA. If CAPTCHA is doing more harm than good then remove it.

Examples of CAPTCHA

This CAPTCHA is hard to read but has help and accessibility built into it

This CAPTCHA is hard to read and does not have accessibility

This CAPTCHA is easy to read and has help and accessibility built into it

Have you seen a bad CAPTCHA that caused you to leave the site? Send me the link.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

URL Shortener: What and Why

About two months ago I got involved in developing a URL shortener called This service was inspired by the Twitter Google Analytics URL Builder that I had on my site.

Since then few people have asked me about the URL Shortner and the benefit of using them. This blog post is to answer those two questions.

What is a URL Shortener

URL shortener is a service/tool that takes any URL (long version) and converts into a short version with fewer characters compared to the original version. When someone clicks on the short version they are redirected to the actual URL (long version).

Long Version of URL:
Short URL:

Anyone clicking on will be redirected to

Why do you need a URL Shortener

There are several reasons why you might want to use a URL shortener, some of which are:
  1. Twitter – On Twitter you get only 40 characters to write your message. If you have to post a link in your message then you might need a short URL to maximize the use of those140 characters. Either you shorten it up with your choice of URL shortener or Twitter will do it for you with it’s choice of URL shortener.

  2. Emails – When you paste a very long URLs in the email, they are likely to be wrapped within email body leading them to break. Anyone clicking on those broken links will likely get an error. In order to avoid such mishap you might want to shorten the URL so that it does not break in the emails.

  3. Phone Call – Every now and then customer service reps need to give out URLs to customer, prospects etc. on the other end of the line. It is not an easy task to spell out a very long URLs. This is where a short urls might come in very handy. It is much easier to give the short version shown above over the phone than the long version.

  4. Adding Campaign Tracking Variables – If you want to append few query strings to the URLs so that you can track them as campaigns then it is much easier to hide them in a short url. For example, you might want to track the user who called the call center and got a link from customer support. In this case append the campaign variables to the URL, shorten them and then provide it to the customer support for their use. When the user views the url , you will be able to track the onsite behavior of people who called the call center.

Challenges with URL Shorteners

  1. Service - URL Shortener services are generally free and do not have any SLA (service level agreement) with the end users. If the service goes down then anybody clicking on the short URLs created by that URL shortening service will get an error message. Your only option at that point might be to just wait and hope that the service comes back up soon.

  2. Branding – Since the URL Shorteners have their domain name in the URL you loose any branding impact of posting the URLs. The user will not see your domain until they have clicked on the short url. e.g in the example above user will see instead of as the URL domain, they won’t know that the URL belongs to unless they click on it. (Note does allow you to have your own domain in the shortened urls, contact if you need more information or need to get it setup for your domain).

  3. SEO – Depending on how the URL shortening service redirects to your site, you might loose the Search Engine Optimization benefits when someone links to your site but uses a short URL instead of the full URL. In the example above someone might link to instead of

  4. SPAM – As spammers start using the short URLs to hide the actual URLs the user and applications will start distrusting the short URLs (a lot of them already are very wary of short URLs, some sites have even banned the posting of Short URLs). To combat such issues many URL shorteners such as let user preview a link before redirecting them to the actual URL.

There are over 100 URL shorteners today. Mashable has a list of several of the URL shorteners (Note: This list is old and does not list several newcomers such as

The two most common URL shorteners are and My personal favorite is

More on make it easy for you to append campaign tracking variables within the shortened urls. It also provides a dashboard which shows the total clicks by date, referrers, twitter mentions (delayed by 30 mins) and geo locations of the clicks. Now also allows you to have your own domain for the short URLs.


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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Individual Visitors Tracking v/s Aggregate Data

Should web analytics tool track visitors as unique individuals or at the aggregate level? John Squire, Chief Strategy Office of Coremetrics says that tracking at Individual level is the way to go and this is how his company is differentiating itself (from Google analytics). Brian Clifton, former heard of Google Analytics in EMEA, responded by saying that aggregation is the way to go.

In my opinion both of them are right. Which route to go really depends on what you want from the web analytics tool?

Aggregate Data

If you are new to web analytics or you just want to track and analyze the overall health of your website, aggregated data will work for you. If you want to know how your marketing efforts are performing in terms of driving traffic or online conversions than aggregate data will just work fine for you. If you want to know which pages of your site are bleeding and then conduct A/B testing or Multivariate testing to improve them then aggregate data will work for you.

Individual Visitor Tracking

However as companies mature in their use of web analytics data they will need individual level tracking.

A company which is ready to do personalization will need to understand each individual browsing/purchase behavior to put the right offers/products in front of her. That is not possible with aggregated data.

It sounds perfectly ok to know that 75% of visitors abandoned the shopping cart but won’t it be nice to know who those 75% are or a way to convert at least some of those 75%? This is where individual tracking will come in handy. If visitors, who abandoned the shopping cart, leave an email during the process then you can send them a targeted email based on how far along they were in the shopping process, what products they had looked at, what product they had in shopping cart, etc. You don’t need to analyze every single data point but you can have business rules that can trigger those emails. However, to do so you will need to track at individual level. Even if you don’t want to send an email if you know the cookie id of the visitors you can put a personalized offer in front of them when they return back to your site and this will require tracking at individual level.

Individual tracking also comes in handy when the sales people call the lead that they just got from the website. Knowing what the person, who filled the contact us form, did on the website could provide a lot of information to sales person who can then tailor their conversation based on this information.

There are several more scenarios where aggregate data just won’t work. You will need individual level tracking.

I agree that tracking individual has privacy implication that need be properly addressed before tracking each person. However privacy issues also exist when you anonymously track visitors at aggregate level and those need to be addressed too.

So should you choose a tool that aggregates the visitor data or the one that tracks them individually? It all depends on what you want to do with that data. If you need help in figuring out what tool will work best for you feel free to email me at batraonline at


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Have you used a URL shortner with real time analytics?