Start Building Your Analytics Toolkit and Put it to Good Use

February 27th, 2011

analytics-toolboxOver the last few months, I have received emails asking for advice on how to get started in Web Analytics.

I’m honored that I am getting asked that, but I am by no means even close to an expert like Avinash Kaushik or John Marshall.  BTW – I have to say that they are tough instructors! I highly recommend the 3 month Analytics Certificate that they offer through MarketMotive.

It’s hard to give advice to someone on where to start, because their past experiences may or may not be related.  But I try to give context to the paths I have taken and to what training, resources and tools I use.

So here it is. My journey towards web analytics.

My curiosity started in 2001.

Back in 2001, I was a web designer working in the marketing department for a fully-managed hosting company. It was then, that I acquired an everlasting love to get a hold of the web analytics data. I chuckle to myself now though, because I remember that I had to beg the IT department (with a lot of “pretty pleases”)  to have access to our Web Analytics. After a few attempts of good “use cases”, I was successful and I went on my merry way to find insights and investigate nuggets of opportunity to summarize for my boss. Get this, I was in the marketing team and responsible for the website, but back then the technical team did not want marketing to have access for some territorial reason. Hmmn, things have changed since then.

Appoint yourself as the web analyst.

Since 2000, it has been an interesting path for myself. I did not jump into 100% Analytics right away, but it did play a huge part for me every career move I made. I took the path of Traditional Marketer>Web Designer>Web Master>Online Marketer (SEO,SEM,Social), Online Marketing Director> Online Marketing Consultant> Web Analyst.

Early on, in most cases I appointed myself as the web analyst because there was no one in the company wearing that hat.

Just dig in and spend the time.

I took this extra role home with me on many occasions and taught myself advanced tracking, reporting and segmenting. Also, most of my extra time spent was making sense of the data and investigating what was really happening. Much of this time was invisible to my employers at the beginning of my career, but I didn’t care. I was learning and digging in.

Fast forward to now…I don’t want to bore you too much.

Some things to consider to lead you on a path: Your Analytics Toolkit.

Take certificate courses.

I found it very beneficial to get a client to sign on for services while I am taking any courses. So I can get paid taking them through the process/assignments,  but I make it very clear to them that I throw in extra time (a win-win for both parties) as a thank you for the real-life business data.

Get certified – take the Web Analytics Certification test.

By making the WAA Certification as your goal, it will push you to learn more and pay attention to the UBC courses and everything else. I took the certification test after the UBC courses, it primed me for the test. Be prepared though, this is a tough exam and I believe it has approx 59% pass rate for North America. Once you do pass, you get listed on their Certified Web Analyst page.

Immerse yourself in Web Analytics community.

Yahoo Web Analytics Group is a good group to subscribe to. I make an effort to read my email of all topics every day. Some topics I relate to, some I learn from and some are way over my head. Here’s the link: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/webanalytics/

Attend related conferences.

eMetrics conference is very good (eMetrics Toronto is in April 2011 and San Fran’s just passed). At previous conferences, I have learned tons from the tracks as well during networking sessions or even breakfast in the lounge just chatting over coffee.


Get familiar with vendor tools.

If you want to focus on Google Analytics solely- watch all of the Conversion University videos and take the test (Tip:  if you have Brian Clifton’s book, there’s a coupon code in it for the test fee!)

Omniture is a higher end and is used by larger enterprise companies. Some companies use both Google Analytics and their solution, so if you have knowledge of this tool, you can have the upper hand for some opportunities. Omniture courses are expensive though.

Subscribe to blogs.

Here are feeds that I have in my reader:

Attend webinars.

Many web analytic vendors and service providers offer webinars. I make an effort to attend 2-4 webinars per month. If you can’t make the scheduled times, they always have recorded ones.

Interact on social media – twitter.
I curated a list for all people on twitter that are in analytics, feel free to check it out and follow it or pick and choose people out of the list to follow: http://twitter.com/#!/Shannonyelland/webanalytics


Read the following two books.

Excel features that you may want to be skilled in.

  • Formulas: Vlookups, Trim, MID, Concatenate
  • Pivot tables
  • Graphing

Try out Excel plugins to import Google Analytics data.

Try out Analytics audit tracking tool:

Use other Google tools (outside of Analytics).

If you like to share your favorite tools, tips and resources that is in your own web analytics toolkit, feel free to share below!

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