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Key Issues in Web Anaytics Implementation and Rollout

By Gary Angel

I spent most of the last two weeks on the road – teaching down in San Diego at the WebSideStory DMU and manning a booth at the Omniture Summit. Going out and talking to so many people is always interesting (if a bit daunting for an essentially shy guy) – and if you take out the travel parts it was all pretty enjoyable.

As I think back on the conversations, there were a couple themes that seemed to come up quite a bit. One thing I heard over and over was how many companies struggle in the tagging and implementation phase of web analytics. Information which convinced Paul Legutko (our East Coast VP of Analytics) and I that we should develop more formal implementation checklists for both Omniture and WebSideStory rollouts. That’s something we’re going to be working on, but it also reinforced the direction for my next blog.

Last time, I put forth some pretty tentative (at least for me) views on placing a web measurement department in an organization. Today, I wanted to discuss some of the major problems and mistakes I often see when companies roll-out web analytics.

1. The Plain-Vanilla Tag

Tool vendors often bring this problem on themselves and their clients by overselling the ease of putting a tag on a page. Yes, you can have measurement in an hour. Will it meet your real needs? Probably not. I see lots of companies commit to the plain-vanilla tag knowing that they will have to come back and fix it but wanting to get a deployment out as quickly as possible. Usually, I think that’s a mistake. The pressure to release numbers is always overwhelming – and whatever gets rolled out is immediately in-play. That means the organization starts to use and react to the numbers – almost always before they’ve been adequately tested.

Low Rate eCommerce & Retail Plans

2. The Tag as Software-Development Project

There aren’t two sides to every web measurement coin – but it’s surprisingly easy to either under or over-do your tagging effort. At the opposite end of the Plain-Vanilla tag spectrum is the tendency to treat the tag like it must be a fully-engineered software development project. It’s this tendency that sometimes causes business managers to just throw their hands in the air and scream – ‘Let’s just roll the damn thing out!’ A tag is simply not as complicated as even a very basic software development effort. It has no GUI, the number of options is paltry and the amount of code is about 1/1000 that of even the smallest software developments. IT organizations that haven’t ever implemented tags and don’t really understand the technology often give Business Units wildly inflated estimates of the time and effort involved. If you’re seeing big-ticket numbers around tagging, your best solution is to work with your vendor to train and hand-hold IT (we do this too – but for this particular service the vendor will be just as good). A little bit of training will almost always bring on the aha moment where the IT guy says – "Is that all there is to this?"

3. Rolling out Analytics to High-Level Managers

There are several related issues around rollout, training and reporting that cause no end of implementation problems. Many organizations have the strong desire to train everyone in the company who might need information on using the tool. Don’t do it! Most managers – particularly senior ones – will not be effective users of tools like SiteCatalyst and HBX. And when they do use the tool, they are highly likely to have questions/issues that send shock waves through your organization, suck down ridiculous amounts of time, and often enough damage the whole measurement effort. You need to grow usage of the tool in your organization organically – starting with the analysts and managers who absolutely must have the information. You can grow out from there – but cautiously. And with tools today providing excellent integration to Excel, you need never expose many of your managers to a web analytics tool even while driving home the value they provide.

Continue reading this article.

About the Author:
Gary Angel is the author of the "SEMAngel blog - Web Analytics and Search Engine Marketing practices and perspectives from a 10-year experienced guru.

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