Analytics As a Subversive Activity

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Analytics As a Subversive Activity

Your analyst is the most dangerous person in your company.

A good analyst is one that cannot be trusted to follow the company line. They probably always ask for proof or data to back up claims, they challenge long-standing assumptions, and they don’t settle for status quo. That’s their job. Analytics is Subversive

A company needs to be questioned to grow. Questioning is the only way that companies can get past lock-step obedience to notions. Many companies are held captive to beliefs about their website and how effective it can be. Unfortunately, they don’t have someone so subversive as an analyst that will ask the right questions which will result in increased profitability.

The Best Tool for Success
Questioning is an untapped fundamental human resource. Cultural Critic Neil Postman wrote that “question–asking is the single greatest tool human beings have. Is it not curious, then, that the most significant intellectual skill available to human beings is not taught in school?”
Precisely because question-asking is subversive. Teach someone to ask questions, and they will invariably question the teacher.

Question-asking is not comfortable. Question-asking can quiet any business meeting. What tends to be interpreted as rebellion is usually someone interested to know the “why,” and couldn’t there be a better way? Or simply, “why?” However, in our society we have frowned upon those that ask questions, and many employees feel that their position would be threatened if they were to question processes, decisions and memos. Unfortunately, someone needs to question if success is to be attained.

Can You Answer these Two Questions?

  1. Why do you have a website?
  2. What do you want visitors to do on your website?

A good analyst will hold a company hostage to the answers of these questions and ensure that the website strategy is able to meet these goals. Unless these goals are specific and stated, there is no purpose to having an analyst. Without clear goals, you are simply reporting information, month-to-month, and trying to justify small changes in visitor numbers. Analysts evaluate everything in order meet the goals of the company, and ensure that every page of the site is evaluated to ensure that these goals are in sync with the design, copywriting, layout and call to action that will support those goals.questioning the status quo

This is the role of the web analyst. Questioning long-standing beliefs about the behavior of the website visitors and examine them under the scrutiny of neutral data. Finding the things that don’t work and constantly searching for the things that do work – by asking questions. Testing is done by asking questions, improving conversion rates accomplished by asking questions.

Socrates held that the unexamined life is not worth living. I believe that the unexamined website is not worth hosting.
So do something subversive and start questioning your strategy.

Related Articles:
Analytics 1.0 – A Case of Velleity
Marketing Without Metrics?
Analytics is Not a Passive Activity

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. Matt Bailey July 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Passive acceptance – wow, i like that.

    Yes, I think perceptions about analytics is also shown by the other name it is called – stats. Stats don’t offer much, and people are used to opening a dashboard of charts and graphs then tell them nothing.

    Confusing and overwhelming data is typical, and so people are always surprised when someone is able to report action according to organizational goals.

  2. Colin July 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Hi Matt,
    As always a challenging take. But isn’t the argument really the same for most things in life or do you think that analytics is particularly open to passive acceptance?
    Many thanks

  3. Craig Smith August 15, 2008 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    As a web analytics consulting company, we see few organizations that leverage analytics to the degree that it makes an impact.

    Instead of looking at bounce rates and trying to optimize underperfoming sectins, companies are still over concerned with page views – the most worthless metric ever!

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