Analytics: Is it Fun or Easy? Part 2- “Ambiguity is Opportunity”

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Analytics: Is it Fun or Easy? Part 2- “Ambiguity is Opportunity”

Part 1: Is Analytics Fun or Easy

Part 2: Ambiguity is Opportunity

Hamster-Wheel Analytics
hamster-analyticsFrom Part 1, setting goals is the first and only place to start when developing an analytics strategy. Otherwise, the analyst or the website marketing manager will spend the majority of their time developing reports with numbers on them. The rest of their month will then be spent justifying why those numbers are higher or lower than the previous month. Without goals, there is simply no direction.

Large numbers become the goal, and people become enamored with large numbers, even though everyone knows that more visitors is not necessarily the goal. Qualified visitors are the goal . This is hamster-wheel analytics. The endless cycle of doing the same thing and going nowhere.

Why Do You Have a Website?
Clearly stated goals are the first place to start. I find that the best answers are the clearest and simplest. Points are awarded for brevity. Two word answers are clear, and everyone involved in the website should have these printed out and displayed clearly, as they are your new measuring stick – The measurement upon which every decision about the website should and must be based.

No guesswork, measurement.
1. What is the purpose of the website?
2. What is the company goal for the website?
3. What do we want visitors to do?

One of the best goal statements I heard from a company was the simplest. Make Money, Sell Shoes. Simple, to the point and a clear measuring stick from which to base every decision. From design, analytics, social media strategy and continued development, the questions are simple – “Does it make us money? Does it sell shoes? From that, a successful website marketing strategy is born.

Into Action
How these are answered provide the framework for building measurement outcomes for the website. By now, I am hoping that the numbers developed for typical reports would start to seem like foreign concepts. How can you measure company goals and visitor expectations by unique visitors and page views? Hint: you can’t.

Clearly, we need to think differently about our concept of analytics.
This concept was made clear when I read Iconoclast. The book features examples of those individuals who went against common thinking and the wisdom of crowds. Gregory Berns, a neuroscience attempts to explain how iconoclasts think differently, respond differently and can even learn things differently.

Pursue Ambiguity
In one of the sections he discusses the concept of Bayesian updating. Most people learn by entering a subject with a preconceived idea of what they need or want and then find the information that develops and reinforces those ideas.

People tend to avoid ambiguity – as ambiguity is traced to a fear of the unknown. People desire some semblance of structure, which is why it is easy to cling to the concepts of unique visitors, hits, page views, time on site, etc. However, when the goal is to increase sales and get to the “why” of analytics, it requires foraging into the unknown and making guesses. Some of those forages may not yield substantial information; most will reward the analyst with a gold mine of information. analytics-discovery

The most important trait is the ability to learn and respond as new information is found.

Bayesian updating is important to an analyst as it is the process of using new information to update probability. As Berns writes, “The key reappraisal for ambiguous circumstances is to view ambiguity as an opportunity for gaining knowledge.”

Once the goals have been established and the analyst has been freed from the shackles of mundane reporting, the process can be viewed as a blank slate. Start from the company goals to determine how the website is doing.

The very first report I would recommend building is an acquisition report based on motivation. Who came to the website and why? Segmentation is the principle that answers motivation.

Part 3: Segmentation Finds Motivation

Related Articles:
Why are Analytics So Difficult? Can you appreciate the irony of this title?
Analytics 1.0: A case of Velliety
The Lost Art of Sales

About the Author:

Matt has taught Google employees how to understand and use Google Analytics, consulted with Experian on how to present data, developed online marketing training for both Proctor and Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and presented analytics methodologies to Disney, ABC & ESPN. As founder of SiteLogic, Matt teaches marketers how to create measurable and profitable strategic marketing plans.


  1. Business Finder July 6, 2009 at 1:03 am - Reply

    “Hamster-Wheel Analytics” – what a great analogy.

    Your marketing should definitely be market specific. I found that users want to get straight to the point when visiting a website. The marketing (especially online marketing) should point the user to the correct page. E.g. if you are advertising shoes, then your advert should take the user directly to the shoes page instead of the main page of your website. This increases your chances of sales.

  2. Jenny July 9, 2009 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Strategic thinking is crucial when designing a website. Both designers and marketers have to work together in order to achieve the results expected. Larger numbers may not be the main objetctive, or getting visits from India when our target market is in Europe. If what you want is to increase your sales of a certain product, then people should be guided to that page especially.

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