Web analytics careers: web analytics is a whole world in its own right!

When I chose to go into pure web analytics 3 and a half years ago, I thought it was both a risk and an opportunity. My previous jobs had been in marketing where I got involved in all sorts of very exciting stuff from conducting market research to managing online, press and even TV advertising campaigns. I thought going into web analytics was risky because one, this type of job was practically unheard of at the time and second because it meant specializing in one area and one area only of online, marketing, e-commerce, IT; I could dedicate a whole post to where web analytics belongs or should belong but you get the idea that web analytics can belong to different departments depending on the company . The latter reason is also why this move felt like a real opportunity: specializing in one sphere means being an expert at what you do which I think is a very good and satisfactory position to be in.
Having said all that, what I have actually found out over these past 3 to 4 years is that although you do web analytics every day, you constantly evolve around very different areas: traffic acquisition, design&usability, web operations and web development. Because of this or thanks to this rather, your understanding of the web channel expands constantly and you can become very knowledgeable not just about web analytics but about other spheres despite doing web analytics everyday! That’s very good as it’s a way of discovering other areas of interest for yourself. Personally, I have discovered that I have a very strong interest in search and usability and it makes my job even more interesting. So web analytics can significantly expand your knowledge outside of pure web analysis.
Now, the reason for this post is that I have been thinking about the different avenues that a web analyst can take not outside of web analytics but areas of specialism within web analytics. To me, there are 3 routes: the technical one, the business one and the process one.
The technical route consists in translating business requirements into a web analytics vendor technical specification. There is obviously a heavy element of testing consisting in making sure that every single bit of code is populating a report (ideally the right one!) in the web analytics interface. I also know of web analytics technical consultants who spend a large part of their day fixing existing broken web analytics solutions.
The other route is obviously the business route and that consists in using web analytics to answer very specific business questions. These business questions can be as varied as: is there an opportunity for a mobile site? How much money am I losing every time my online payment system is failing? Which of my marketing channels are undervalued when I look at sales reports per marketing channel from a last click perspective? I think that’s one of the beauties of web analytics by the way: it allows you to spot business opportunities so it can reveal things that you would not have thought of otherwise and it also allows you to get closer to the truth by confirming things that you suspected already but was not able to prove until analytics came in.
The other route would be the process route. I really think that this is a route that has not been fully exploited yet by the web analytics industry. Processes exist to create more efficiency and to ensure that things are done the right way. Personally, I think that every aspect of web analytics should come with the right process in place. Data quality: has everything that is being collected been tested? Data reporting: is everything that is being reported on necessary? Is everything that can be automated really is? Data insight: is the data that is being sent being used? How? How often?
Personally, I have a preference for the last 2 routes because I think that implementing an analytics solution is only the start of the web analytics journey, not a goal in itself.
On the subject of the different web analytics routes that a web analyst can take , I should also refer you to Avinash’s post on the matter which I think is really good.
As always, I would love to hear your feedback on the topic. Do you have a specific route in mind? Can you think of any other?
Thanks for reading!

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2 Responses to Web analytics careers: web analytics is a whole world in its own right!

  1. DJ says:

    Hi Penny

    Good post!

    I think there is a lot that can be said about career choices that isn’t often considered by people on their first, second or third jobs. When you specialise in an area (analytics, UX, whatever…) you get engrossed in what you are doing and the way things are moving forward and it’s often hard to take a step back and see the wood from the trees. Also (small plug!) it’s rare that you get a good manager – more on this here: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2011/10/10/experienced-designers-choose-your-next-manager/

    I think Avinash makes a very good point about becoming a team leader/manager. In most corporate companies there is very little scope to go up the ranks *without* getting into managing people somehow. You have to be *very* smart and sit with all the strategy MBA management consultancy types to avoid it, in my experience. So acquiring and learning as much as you can about whether you think managing people is ‘for you’ is very wise in my book. If you don’t think you would enjoy it, then consider where you think you’ll most enjoy yourself (life’s not just about money obviously!)

    The other set of skills that I think are very important are those of consulting.
    By this I mean building positive working relationships, probing effectively to find underlying needs and objectives, facilitating discussion and driving a consensus, aligning needs with a set of solution options, presenting ideas powerfully and coherently. Very few people I’ve met can do this stuff really well, even quite senior managers, and I view this stuff as essential to career development even if you’re not cut out for management.

    These two elements – managing people and consulting – I think are my favourite bits of my job. They are always frantic, sometimes exciting and often frustrating. But when they go well they are thankfully colossally rewarding.


    • Penny says:

      Thanks DJ!
      I could not agree more on the 2 options you are talking about and how they can help take someone’s career to the next level. Managing your own career requires quite a lot of thinking in terms of what you want to do and it’s about asking yourself the right questions and that’s not definitely not the easy bit!


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