Web Analytics History – Part 2 – SEO Becomes A Thing

Click here to read Web Analytics History – Part 1

In my last web analytics history post I mentioned that the reason we ended up switching to from web log files to cloud based analytics (Hitbox was the first one I can remember) is that the server logs were getting too big when combined together.  A million visitor site was getting at least 10 gigabytes of “hit” data, and the old Webtrends reports could not run properly.  Remember back in 2000 you had to move files around at pre-gigabyte rates, so just file moving was a big issue.

Sampling Data Is Never Going To Be Accurate

Anyway, this leads to what I refer to as “sampling”.  Sampling means that you will never have complete accuracy in the data.  But just the fact I could dive deep into the page views and visitor data through my browser for the first time was amazing.  I was able to get some basic KPIs (Key Performance Indices) for the first time.  There was no turning back, real analytics for the web was here to stay.

SEO before there was SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

So, in late 2001 when I was a web analyst on a big ecommerce company, we had just founded Pre-Dating.com, the speed dating company.  We found out right away that how we placed our text into title tags, keywords, meta tags, H1, H2 meant life or death of our fledgling speed dating company.  Since then, if you put the key word terms “Speed Dating Fort Lauderdale” or “Speed Dating Seattle” or most any city, our site comes up pretty high in the natural search if not #1.  Now we have some advantage with the aging of the domain “Pre-Dating.com“.  Sometime around early 2005, I was working on a web analytics gig for VictoriasSecret.com using Coremetrics as well as abcdistributing.com, when somebody pointed out to me that SEO is now a growing consulting field.   I understand the value of it, but not to the extent that the market valued SEO.  I was and I am an expert at SEO because of my experience.  A few of the guys who chatted with me about SEO became innovators in the field and some had multi-million dollar SEO companies within a year or 2.  Did not see that coming.

Anyway, the final part of this is Web Analytics was kind of pushed aside for these SEO cowboys who came to town and were all about SEO, which was getting more natural traffic, sometime the right way and sometimes black hat.  We were experts at this already, but the SEO guys and gals rode this train from the station.  Sadly enough the SEO people have relegated Web Analytics to a minor task. That would be a big mistake in most of these large enterprises.  If you are in a business that is serious about your data and your site, then it is critical you get somebody working on it today.  You need strategic thinking, business management skills, understanding of programming and web technology (helps to be a developer), being a writer and presenter.  That is the skills we bring. StrategicPoints can do this for you.  We have over 20 years of web experience and we can do the job. Contact us through this form below:

Web Analytics Consulting History Part 1

Web Logs Becomes Web Analytics

In 1999 I was working for abc distributing in North Miami.  We had been using Webtrends at the time for web analytics.  Actually I don’t think we called it web analytics.  We called it Web Log Analysis. Logfile analysis did not last long. These web logs were just the files that track every file (like image, html, etc.).  We actually call these hits.  Hits are anything that hits the server.  The problem with hits, which would eventually go away as well, is hits are not real people.  You can have one visitor who visits one time, but because there were 50 images in the page, 10 javascript libraries adn 10 other things, there were 70 hits during that one browser session.  Alas, hits goes into the bin of not so important history.

Accuracy vs. Knowing What Was Going On!

What drove this large ecommerce company I worked for to move to cloud based web analytics is that the logfiles got to big to analyze. I found this out the hard way when I was trying to merge together the log files of several large web servers.  There was like 4 gigabytes of data per server.  Maybe today that sounds like not so much.  Actually it is a lot still when it comes to trying to merge millions of lines in files. We needed at least 5 front-line servers at abc distributing, because at the time you needed a bunch of servers with an F4 in front to handle their traffic.  Unless I merged all those files and ran one report, there was no way of knowing the sites real traffic.  I needed an answer quick.

Hitbox To The Rescue

So at that time, the leading lower end cloud based analysis solution was called Hitbox, by Websidestory (always thought that was a nice play on words).   Hitbox would eventually be acquired and merge into Omniture Site Catalyst, which I also have expertise in.  Just happens I was around so early on in the web analytics field that I was helping the Hitbox team figure out what to actually look at.  Years later, as I look around for web analytics consulting work, I still see that web analytics has been relegated quite often to a not so important task done by a not so important employee.  Alas, that is where using a seasoned web analytics consultant like myself can make a big difference.

Seasoned Web Analytics Expert

So, if you are looking for a web analytics expert, do not hesitate to contact me to find out what I can do for your business.  It really does not matter if it is Omniture SiteCatalyst, Coremetrics, Google Analytics or one of a dozen others out there.  I have the experience to help you.  Getting the right consultant can make all the difference. Please fill out the form below to contact me.  Thanks, Dan Gudema.

Click here to go to Web Analytics History – Part 2 – SEO becomes a thing

Web Feature Discovery Process – Part 2

This article is the second part of 2 articles on the Web Feature Discovery Process. You probably should click here and read article 1 if you are here for the first time.

Ok, so you have finally figured out the key assets and are starting to go down the road of making your new web feature happen… well let’s just say you are only 20% towards the finish line. There are some major hurdles involved for most of us, including even the big guy or gal at the top. The thinking part of discovering ripe juicy revenue or visitor producing features is the easy part. The difficult part is making it happen, navigating the human beings all along the way, especially when you know they are all trying to make sure you either fail directly, fail indirectly, fail just by the fact that you don’t have the energy to fight anymore, fail because you left the job or fail because the job left you. It is a fight to the death my friend and its all because you sorted through the company assets with a flashlight at night when nobody was looking and you had an idea, you brought it into the daylight, and now you are a pure unadulterated target for those who don’t want you to succeed. So how do you proceed in the most murky of environments…

Social Engineering

I first began to understand social engineering, when I was reading a great article about Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker who broke into Sprint and stole tons of information about their customers. He was not genius. He was not very technical. He was basically a petty thief. How did he do it? He used social engineering. If you think about it, social engineering (in the Mitnick version) is about figuring out how to use information and people of an organization to think what you want them to think and do, using that information wisely. Mitnick figured out that when executives names where mentioned, people lose their minds and do what you want. “Uh, Dick Lynch the VP said we need that report now!” Minick found out that if you know some small piece of information or just a name, you could easily navigate an entire organization, call around to people and they would hand you off like you were a friend. He would use person X’s name and say hey person Y, Person X recommended me. What really did is say the VP wanted me to get onto System Z, now so get me a login and password…

The point is, you need to understand the dynamics of the organization, the motivations of people in the organization and the hierarchy of decision-making. Getting the organization on board with you is what I am getting at! But ultimately, like I have said before, you can take the high road or the low road. Taking the high road means bring the organization along on a ride towards success (success means getting your feature implemented).

Education Camp

Sometimes unusual methods are needed in order to gain the trust of execs and the whole organization. For instance, some of the features I was trying to get implemented at my last company required me to make sure that the organization understood the features. What did I do about it? I ran a seminar. Now people in my company who came to my seminar looked at me in strange ways as I ran them. Once again who was I to run a seminar? I was just a programmer there, sometimes a manager, but in no way did I have the keys to the kingdom or really was in charge of much there. Fellow employees would look at me with confused looks. Who was this guy standing up there talking about things? I ran periodic internal seminars at the office. This means a short 45 minute talk, on WordPress for instance. I ran a seminar on Whois. I was planning a seminar on a variety of subjects. What was I doing in my crazy convoluted method was starting the social engineering process by planting seeds through my seminars. I wanted this company to adopt certain strategies and methods. Once again, nobody stopped me from running a talk at noon time in the conference rooms. This is a great place to flesh out your ideas and don’t freak if someone shows up to show you up. My answer to them would be, show me how to do it better!

Plan 32

One thing that a great product manager should always have is a pile of ready to go plans in their back pocket. You have all the plans (I mean PPTs, Power Points) that are company planned, on the so called “Road Map”. Actually I am going to digress here and tell you that if there is a Road Map beware! The kind of process and thinking a Road Map can create can be a real negative, because from experience nay-sayers love to use the Road Map as a way to block new Road Entrances. Never let the Road Map not allow the process to be re-prioritized and redeveloped. I have yet to see the Road Map (in the web feature world) be the best guide. Now, as far as plans are concerned, you have the top line plans already planned out from the execs and board. You have the plans that others know about that you are promoting, and you have a dozen others that they are not aware of, but you have them ready to go, in standby mode, in a file on your hard-drive or cloud, just in case the time is right. Why the three types of plans? Well, part of succeeding is not giving it all away too soon. You have to release plans periodically to the organization, who can’t handle all the plans at once. They have to be part of a series of changes over time. Once again, as a champion, of a lot of other people’s ideas (OPIs), you need to map out these features properly and get your presentations just right. Sometimes you have to sit on things and let osmosis occur. You wake up some morning and your brain somehow figures it out. Who knows why things work that way, but often they do. I would highly recommend sitting down with all the guys and gals who thought them up and show them where there idea is now!

The Shadow Government

Sometimes all the education and all the presentations and all the board room brawls are insignificant compared with the reality that something has to be done subversively. It is a rare thing to do, and there are some well documented cases where it is a necessity. A great example is the case of the James Cannavino at IBM. I read a great story about Jim in the late 1960s trying to convince management that he could speed up the IBM Mainframe. They rejected his notion, but in a subversive move, he had the technology developed outside the company and when it was finished went over his bosses and showed it to the board. He faced either being fired or being promoted. Luckily he was promoted. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but sometimes getting things done in an organization require unusual activity, because like I have been inferring there are many more forces at work trying to not make things happen than happen, even on the smallest scale.

Project Mercury

Those funny project names, that often mimic Nasa project names are not just wild imaginative words that are spread around at a company. They are used to get your attention, to try to get the organization to recognize a plan. These project names may sound strange and odd, but customer oriented, improved website features are often a shift and they may seem quite odd at first. Social networking stuff like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook. These are now household names, but 10 years ago they would sound strange. And it is only going to get stranger. When I say Tweet, Joomla, Droopal, lamp or soap to people in the web world, they better know what I mean… What should be happening in most American web firms is an injection of militarization combined with humor and something to spice it up. That’s what a project name is all about. If project names are not attention-getters, they should be. I would always try to make the name relevant, but a good bit of creativity is a positive not a negative.

Misdirection And The Book Of 5 Rings

Talking about military tactics, people’s military training can go a long way in corporate America. Just because I was not in the army, doesn’t mean we can’t learn from military tactics. They are important. At the end of my MBA program I took a class which revolved around Musashi’s “The Book Of Five Rings“. Musashi is a Japanese expert on war in the middle ages who survived to his old age and therefor, because he was only one of the very few warriors to survive, he wrote about his tactics. One of the tactics listed is a method of drawing an enemy towards oneself and at the last minute let the enemy run themselves off a cliff. In our language we call it misdirection. Sometimes you have to lead people down a path and not stop them from their self destruction. Often your plan has one way of doing things and another person has their plan. If you see their plan is faulty you don’t always have to stop it from failing. Sometimes it is best to let it fail. When I worked back at the phone company we used to leave documents around about projects that were never in existence in order to confuse people about what our real intentions were. Sometimes it is important to not reveal these intentions until you are ready to present and make it happen.

This the second of a 3 part articles. I have not yet finished article 3 about Making the Web Feature Happen.

This is the first article (You should read them in order)