Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Build your free competitor monitoring dashboard with iGoogle

Competitor monitoring dashboard with Google Insights for searchIf you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I am a big fan of Google Insights for Search. It can be used for many purposes; my favourite being as a “competitive” intelligence tool to monitor overall interest in your brand and products vs. your competitors. I covered an example last year with the Prius vs. Insight and earlier this year I illustrated how the tool can be used to “evaluate” the impact of offline events like TV campaigns for example.

The “problem” is how to make this valuable information usable on a regular basis? How to keep an eye on what is going on? How to get an overview at a glance without running each query? Of course, you can bookmark each query but still, you need to manually select these one by one to see if there is or not anything noticeable. This can be time consuming – especially if you are monitoring several markets or products. And if you want key users to use this tool you have to make their life easier :-).

iGoogle Insights for Search
iGoogle Insights For Search, when two Google services meet
The answer came from one of the comments made by a reader(1): use iGoogle to save your favourite queries. To be honest I have never been a iGoogle fan (shame on me!) but I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try. And what a good idea it was – soooo simple but how useful. Not only I really liked it but I got very positive feedback from colleagues at work. Therefore, I thought it would worth sharing it with you.

Here is a example I made – for once not an automotive one ;-) - that show interest trends for some smartphone brands (iPhone, HTC, Nokia and Blackberry) over 3 key European markets (By the way, look at the similar “impact” of the iPhone 4 launch across the different countries. Wow!). This is a simple example and I am sure "iGoogle Insights For Search" can be used in many different ways – depending on the context and needs.

example of monitoring dashboard in iGoogle for smartphone brands

Share it!
Building a dashboard in iGoogle allows you to see multiple queries in one screen (like comparing different products over different markets). You can build multiple tabs to easily navigate through different topics, terms or markets. On top, you can share a full tab with other colleagues using the Share Tab function. Don’t keep these valuable insights for yourself; communicate it across your organization!

How to do?
  1. Create a Google account – one you will use at work and that you may possibly share with colleagues
  2. Create a new tab where you want to regroup related reports (e.g. Smartphones – UK/DE/FR). Choose the layout that is best suited (In my example, I use 3 columns)
  3. Go to Google Insights for Search and create the report you need.
  4. Once done, add the trends line, rising searches and top search terms to your iGoogle account (under the tab you created) – just click on the “iGoogle” icon next to each item.
  5. Organise the various items – I use following order (from top to bottom): interest trends (very visual), rising searches (to spot “hot” or new topics) and top search terms at the bottom.
  6. Make you iGoogle your default homepage.

And voilà, there you go, whenever you start your browser, you will get your competitor monitoring dashboard displayed! No way you can “forget” to check it. Now you can keep a eye on what’s going in on – with direct access to key elements. And if you want to drilldown you can easily access the full reports. And all for free! Isn’t life great sometimes?

What do you think? Have you already built your own iGoogle Insights for search dashboards? How do you use it? Any example you would like to share with me?

(1) Special thanks to Urs Gattiker from ComMetrics for his valuable suggestion!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Journey Into Web Analytics (Part II): The challenges

Scream of terror - web analytics is so hard!
[After an introduction post on the business value of Web Analytics, the second part of this series covers some of the major challenges & obstacles that await you on the long journey to successful online analytics.]

“Web Analytic is hard”
Web Analytics holds attractive promises for businesses. After reading part I, it certainly sounds like online analytics is the magic silver-bullet that most businesses are dreaming for. Then why so many companies are failing in seizing such opportunities? A simple and common answer is that “Web Analytics is “hard, damn hard”!

Ok, let’s be honest with ourselves: most people would certainly say about their job that it is hard. But for sure leveraging Web Analytics value isn’t certainly easy – not as easy as many people think or as most vendors used to claim it. Creating an online analytics culture is quite challenging as there are many difficulties and obstacles to tackle on the way.  And these are not always lying where you think they are (ooh, the vicious ones!). Many companies fail because they underestimate the challenges behind successful Web Analytics.

I have a Web Analytics tool so…
Usually, the first challenge that comes to mind is the technology and the tools. I think too many people believe that Web analytics is just about deploying a great tool, getting online content tagged properly and that’s it. So how can that be so difficult? After all, nowadays most businesses have a Web analytics solution implemented on their websites. For example, last year I had a look at European automotive sites and only 4% had no recognized analytics solution. So does that prove that the other 96% are doing what is defined as “Web Analytics”?

Web analytics use by automotive websites in Europe, 2009 vs.2008
No. Having a Web analytics tool just proves that you are doing online measurements and possibly reporting but not that you are doing analysis (i.e. turning data into insights) or that you are taking actions. The purpose of Web analytics is about understanding and optimizing online usage!

Moreover, having one tool (or two) whether it is Google Analytics, WebTrends, Omniture or Analyser Nx is not enough as these are just measuring quantitative information know as the "What" (=what happened on your site) and the "When" (= when it happened). But what about the qualitative information - the “Why” (= why people came to your site) and the “How” (= how do they feel about it)?  Usually measuring qualitative information will require different and specific tools.

Finally, in many cases, the online channel is just a part of a (much) larger business picture. Online data can not sit alone on their side – they fit in a lager context (see further). Therefore to be really effective, online data has to be integrated with other data. That means integrating your Web analytics tool with other systems (such as CRM, other databases…). Oooh, system integration! That is where things usually get dirty. Now, we are talking about challenges! :-)

Too much data
Ok, let’s assume you have overcome the technical challenge. Now you are likely to face another typical challenge of Web analytics: having way too much data – more than any data geek can handle. The great thing with the Web is that it is probably the most measurable media we have so far but it is also a problem. Indeed, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the huge quantity of data that can be collected.

The measurement possibilities are so enormous that it is tempting to succumb to let’s-measure-every-single-click frenzy and to turn any Web analytics tool into a data-report-puking machine.

The problem is that the insightful information is usually a very small portion of this mountain of data. But this is the one you need, the specific data that will bring real insights and that will make you take the right actions. So finding this tiny piece of information is often like finding a hairpin in a haystack.

For that you need the right people and that is the next challenge…

Lack of “staffing”
Another typical problem with Web Analytics is that many limit its scope to a tool and technology. Too often, the focus is on allocating budget for implementing tagging, configuring the tool and the thousands of reports that come with it. But when it comes to allocating people: nothing, nada, nicht, que dalle!

Ok, now is the right time to slip in some intelligent expression like “Owning the best hammer doesn’t make you a good carpenter”. Just replace the words “hammer” by “web analytics tools” and “carpenter” by “analyst”. Amen. Web analytics tools are just er… tools. They don’t analyse nor interpret the data, they don’t make recommendations, yet (but who knows, I am sure people like Joseph Carrabis have probably their own idea on that topic).

This is the job of (Web) analysts to put the data in context, to grab its complexity and turn it into business intelligence. And, this is not a job you can assign to first person you will find. It is not something that can be done one hour a day. Don't get me wrong here, I am not picking on Avinash’s great book, “Web Analytics an hour a day” (highly recommended reading by the way) – I just want to say that analytics is not a side task, it is a real new job that requires specific skills and experience (more about this in Part IV).

Finding qualified Web analyst is not easy

And even if you decide to assign dedicated persons, you will need to find these. And you will not find them at the corner of the street. Experienced analysts are highly demanded and come for a price. What about hiring junior or freshly graduated Web analysts? The problem is that online analytics is not much taught in universities or high schools – apart for few exceptions (but it is slowly changing). Online analytics is more something that you learn by yourself, on the job. It may get easier in the future thanks to great projects such as Web Analytics Without Borders and Analytics Exchange that offer the opportunities to beginners, students to develop their skills and acquire experience on real projects.

Siloed organizations& the reluctance to change
But then even if you have good tool and a good analyst, it will not be a guarantee for success (at least it is a good start). You will need to face “organizational” challenges. It is very typical (and even almost unavoidable) that big companies are organized in a vertical way, with what are commonly called silos. Each department focusing on its own area: Internet marketing takes care of the website, media department handles advertising, sales department is responsible for lead & sales management… All these departments contribute to the whole business process and it should be the same for Web Analytics. Its scope shouldn’t be limited to the website (or online channels) and to the few departments that are managing it. Online data are part of a more global context: business processes.

What is it the point to measure online lead conversions and increase these if it is not linked with sales? I mean, a Internet marketer, may be doing a great job at using the website to double the number leads but if these don’t turn into sales because of their  poor quality, it makes no sense. Online data can prove to be useful for many departments inside the company: product design, sales/production planning, brand strategy, marketing intelligence... The problem is that there is often a lack of awareness and sharing. It is very likely that most departments are not aware about the existence of online knowledge and about possibilities.

Therefore to really leverage the value of online analytics, one will have to “break” the silos. I don’t mean re-organizing the whole company - that would be impossible :-) - but making people communicate and work more together, change people habits, change processes, change the culture. And if there is something difficult in big organization, it is change. Finding the right organisation is a challenge on its own – as who should own Web analytics? Where should it sit in the organization? Vertical vs. horizontal? Centralized vs. distributed?

Patience & perseverance, you will need!

Beware the Hippos
HiPPo, the Highest Paid Person Opinion will give you hard time - can be worse than a real hippo
The people you work for can be a serious challenge as well. Internet marketing managers had a quiet life – as long they could persuade people around that their job was brilliant. The boss could impose any idea because he/she was the boss and there was nothing to contradict it. Web Analytics means a possible end to this “state of grace”. Web Analytics is often a painful reality check -  “bye bye” judgement based on gut feelings or influence and welcome to facts & figures! And the Web analyst is likely to be the bad news messenger. So the persons that are supposed to support you may do it to a certain extent only – as long as it serves their interest. Many people prefer to live in ignorance (I call it the “ignorance is bliss” syndrome), they won’t say it out loud of course but in practice…

Your findings may go against the HiPPO’s - highest paid person opinions. How will you handle that? How will you make people accept something that may show they are not doing such a great job? You can’t just come in and throw your facts & conclusions at your boss face while saying victoriously “Ah! Ah, see how wrong you are!”. When it reaches a certain level, political aspects get in the way and you will have to deal with these with extreme caution.

And there are more…
Challenges don’t stop there. The media itself make it challenging. The Web is a (super) fast evolving media. First, there is what some call the “decentralization” of the Web, induced by social media. Content is not centralized anymore in a limited number of sources (typically your sites) but it is disseminated across multiple types of sources and platforms. Companies now have RSS feeds, blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook brand page, Twitter account… Brand content can be shared by consumers or embedded in other sites. Each source and platform need to measured, usually in different ways, leading to multiple data sources that you will have to put together in order to grasp the your full ecosystem.

Web can be accessed via more and more platforms - each being measured in a specific way

Secondly, there is also the multiplication of technical platforms as well. Until not so long ago, it was easy as the majority of people used their computer to surf on the Web but now they can access Internet via their mobile phone, their tablets (like the iPad for example), their TV, their game console or even from their car systems. The same person will use different platforms at different moments for different usage, bringing more challenges in terms of measurements and data reconciliation. For example, measuring mobile sites does not work exactly the same way as measuring websites.

The consequence is that online analytics is constantly evolving (and fast), setting new challenges. No time to rest…

Don’t despair!
The challenges covered here are just examples. I could keep on enumerating more but this post is already quite long (you can find more for example in last year Econsultancy’s Online Measurement and Strategy Report or in this great post from Avinash) but I guess you get the idea. Web analytics is certainly not that easy, it is not just a matter of having one tool implemented that provides you with tons of sexy reports. Technology is just one of the difficulties with other aspects like organization, company culture, people, expertise and others. Like in many other areas, whenever significant changes are required, you are up for a long and difficult battle. Even the constantly changing nature of the media itself adds its own set of difficulties.

But don’t get desperate – successful web analytics exists (well, I truly hope so – I keep repeating that to myself :-)). All challenges can be overcome. How so? Find out in Part III – “Critical factors for successful Web Analytics”


Your turn now: based on your experience, what are the toughest, trickiest, most vicious challenges you encountered on your Web analytics journey? I am curious to know so please share your experience.

Interesting posts on Web Analytics challenges:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A journey into Web Analytics (Part I): The Value of Web Analytics

This post is the first one of a series of posts inspired from presentations I did at the eDataXchange automotive forum in Brussels and more recently at FeWeb conference on Web Analytics. The purpose of this series is to give a general overview of Web Analytics: the “business” value of Web Analytics, the typical and not so typical challenges that lie on the way, what it takes to make Web analytics successful in an organization and the Web Analytics profession. I hope you will enjoy this series. So let's get started with the value of Web Analytics...

Internet - the new revolution.
Gutenberg’s invention, press printing, was a revolution in its time as it played a key role in making knowledge and information accessible to the mass. In a similar way, many consider Internet as the revolution of our time. It has given us access to almost unlimited information and knowledge. It changed the way we communicate and it is even changing the way we interact socially (the famous “social media revolution”).

But Internet not only changed people’s life – it also impacted many businesses and industries. Just look at the news, music or travel industries for example. In the automotive industry, Internet has become an important sale & marketing tool. In 10 years, the percentage of car buyers using Internet as source of information went from 20% to almost 90% (1).

Today, businesses don’t do websites anymore because it’s cool or because the neighbour has one (well, I hope you do have better reasons than these :-)). Whether you are investing 10,000 EUR, 100,000 or a million EUR in online channels, it is to server business purposes with specific direct or indirect objectives. And performances against these objectives need to be measured. You need to be able to assess if you are doing a good or crap job and to understand how to make it even better.

That’s where Web Analytics (or shouldn’t we say online analytics - I tend to prefer this name more and more) comes in play as its main purpose is not about measuring, collecting or reporting Web data but to understand and optimize web usage. It really irritates me when people think that Web Analytics is just about counting visitors, measuring most viewed content or time spent on a site.

Listen, ask, understand and optimize!
Compared to traditional media such as TV, print media or radio, Internet is probably the most measurable media we ever had so far. There is a (almost) endless list of what can be measured online. And it doesn’t stop to measuring online activity – the impact of offline events or campaign can be measured online too in some cases, using proper tools and techniques.

There are unique opportunities for businesses that will manage to leverage the use of online analytics:

  • Listen to customers: For example, social monitoring offers to possibility to listen to what people say and think about your brand and products: what they like, what they don’t, what they dream of. You can learn what products your customers are interest in using Web Analytics - for example by collecting configurations made on a online car configurator tool. Of course that’s a big change – we have been so used to talk to our customers, not to listen to listen to them. But there is a beginning for everything.
  • Ask your customers: Not sure about what your customers want or think? Stop doing wild guessing, ask them. Online surveys and other Voice Of Customer (VOC) tools make it possible to gather valuable qualitative data. Combined with your clickstream data, it will bring you real actionable insights fulfilling your analyst wildest dreams.  
  • Understand your customers: All this input together with quantitative measurements will help you to really learn about and understand your customers: who they are, what are their needs and desires, how they use your services and more. Customer intelligence - it is right there so help yourself.
  • Target your customers: By better understanding your customers, you will be able to offer them what they want – not what you think they want. Competition is too tight today – by delivering the right services or information at the right time can make a difference.
  • Keep an eye on the competition: You are not alone in the ecosystem – it is not just you and your customers. There are competitors!  Web analytics is not just about measuring your own performances. There are tools and benchmarks - whether free or paid ones - that make it possible to monitor your competitor activities and their impacts. Welcome to online competitive intelligence

All this will help you OPTIMIZE YOUR BUSINESS - not just your website or online campaigns but the whole company business.

Customer comes first
In the end, online analytics ultimate goal is to contribute to the main goals of any business, that can be summarize in 3 main objectives:
  • Increase customer satisfaction by offering them the best online experience. Any online interaction with your brand should not create any unsatisfaction nor frustration. I am not saying it should be a climax moment (but you can manage it, why not?) but online experience should be smooth, straightforward and pleasant – certainly not a pain in the ass (as it is too often the case). Online analytics helps you identify what works and what doesn’t – so you can fix it 
  • Increase revenues by improving your site efficiency and customer satisfaction, it should lead to better lead conversion and hopefully more sales i.e. more revenues. Online analytics brings valuable information to help you optimize your processes, your content and better target your different types of audience (segmentation rules!)
  • Reduce cost, improve return on investment (ROI): Online analytics provide you with the information you need to prioritize your investments according to the potential (positive) impacts. Invest your money where it worth it – make the best out of your investment based on measurements and facts, not anymore based on gut-feelings. For example, you can reduce your media cost per sale: drop low performing advertising channels and formats, promote performing ones. 
(Note that I put customer satisfaction in first position because customer comes first – it is the basis of any customer centric approach)

Web Analytics is not just copying Google Analytics code in your site. It is not about measuring basic stats and throwing these in nice sexy Excel charts. It is an outstanding opportunity to improve the whole damned business! Are you ready for this?

So, it looks attractive. It sounds like online analytics is the magic silver-bullet any business is look for. Then why so many companies are failing in seizing such opportunities. Well, unfortunately Web Analytics value isn’t certainly easy. It is quite a challenging task, much more than majority of people think. There are many difficulties and obstacles to tackle on the long Web Analytics journey. And these are not always lying where you think they are (ooh, the vicious ones!).

But what are these hurdles? Where are they hiding? Well, you will find out in part II - "The Challenges of Web Analytics"


Any feedback? Any thoughts on the value of online analytics? Please feel free to share your comments, it will be very appreciated.

Other posts from the series:

(1) Source: Cap Gemini Car Online 08/09 study
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