The 7 Habits of Successful Web Analysts

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Given that the web analytics field is growing at a pretty fast pace, I thought for my next in my series of ‘Win at Web Analytics’ it might be interesting to talk about some of the habits/traits that great, successful web analysts should have. So if you are new to web analytics, or trying to get into this field, you might want to consider brushing up in a few of these areas…

1: ‘Big Picture’ Thinkers
A sign of a great web analyst is someone that can look beyond the reporting. Web analytics does not live in a silo – it blends very closely with many aspects of online business, particularly online marketing and the creation of sites. A great web analyst will also understand ROI and how online marketing and web analytics work hand in hand to improve this. Go ahead, get to know the folks in these departments. Its easier to get them to listen to you and your insight and recommendations if you understand the basics of online marketing like SEO and how sites are built too. That way you don’t go making unrealistic and unreasonable requests either!

2: Customer Centric (Not Reporting or Developer Centric)
Just remember. Without website visitors, then there would be no need for web analysts, and you would be out of a job. And a sign of a good web analyst is someone that is always concerned with the needs and expectations of their website visitors. Its easy to get lost in page views and average time spent without remembering who causes these metrics to appear. So whenever a good web analyst creates insight and recommendations, they think in terms of what would be best for the website user – a great web analyst will also understand website usability issues and how they relate to making great analytics insights, and ultimately a wonderful customer centric website. 

3: Excel Super Users
You can have the all the data and insight in the world, but if you can’t convey this in an understandable, easy-for-your-boss-to-act-upon-way, then its like trying to sneeze with yours eyes open (try it – its impossible). A sign of a great web analyst is someone who knows all the tricks and bells and whistles in excel, like pivot tables, advanced graphing abilities (see my recent post about creating great excel charts), and use these to influence their boss and colleagues to the full extent. For example, have you tried building interactive features like drop down menus into your graphs and spreadhseets that let users change the information presented to them? Try it. It works wonders.

4: Innovative, Curious Thinkers
The world of web analytics is constantly improving and changing. Those web analysts who keep their eyes fully peeled on the web analytics world (web analytics news and blogs), are more likely to try out new theories, develop new KPIs to track, and test and adopt advanced analytical tools, like Google Website Optimizer or ClickTale. Their innovative and curious mind for new tools and ways of thinking therefore give them a greater chance of being successful than most web analysts who simply stick to basic reporting. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for some blog updates for some of the best web analytics blogs out there (see my post on this). Also having a curious proactive mind rather than a reactive mind really helps – don’t just wait for your boss to request a standard report. Go ahead, think of a new way of doing things, or do some analysis on a problematic area of the site you have noticed. Believe me, your analysis will be appreciated.

5: Great, Diplomatic Communicators
There is no room for mice in the world of web analytics. Sure you can be a geek and a nerd, but a successful web analyst will have a great communication style, particularly when it comes to diplomacy. The insights that you present can often have the potential to make tremendous impact to the business. If you can’t communicate these ideas in a persuasive and passionate form, and you don’t know how to carefully explain your recommendations without treading on other departments or managers toes, then you are destined for mediocrity as a web analyst. Often HiPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion) will shoot your ideas down – and its important you learn how to be diplomatic and work with them. I recently wrote a blog post explaining how to influence HiPPOs too. 

6: Actionable Insight Driven
Its so easy to just crank out reports that your boss or other departments want to see, that you have no real say in or don’t care about. Unfortunately, data squirrels like this (as Avinash Kaushik so eloquently calls them) who actually enjoy just doing this, will never be a successful web analyst. Instead of just building reports with hundreds of metrics, use fewer KPIs but actually offer insight into why these trends are occurring – and then make actionable recommendations based on these insights. A great web analyst also looks beyond the clickstream quantitative data, and understands the need to analyze and develop insights from qualitative data which can be derived from surveys and testing.

7: Amazing Sense of Humour
Okay, just joking around here a bit – this one isn’t essential to a web analyst, but I find it definitely helps change the atmosphere in your department to a more lighter one. There are far too many serious people at work (which are needed on occasion though), who take their jobs far too seriously. So why not inject some humor into others day to make their days more enjoyable?

So there you have it. Some habits to try and live by to become a succesful web analyst. But i’m also curious to know what other good web analysts think their habits are? Go ahead and comment below and let us all know :)

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  • http://www.palmerwebmarketing.com/blog Justin Palmer

    1 and 3 are huge. It doesn’t matter how much you understand the data you’re looking at, if you can’t report actionable, easy to understand data to management. Before I show anything to a client, I need to be able to answer 2 simple questions, what does it mean and what should we do about it?

  • http://www.my-room.co.jp My Room

    I think you are spot on with the part about presenting the report in an easy to understand format. If we cannot clearly explain what the numbers mean, the numbers don’t have much value.

  • Chophouse

    Nice summary. And hard to debate … at all. But you need to get this drilled into the heads of the people who hire analysts. perhaps it’s my own frustration talking, but what I see is a **LOT** more focus on ‘have you used this tool before and how long’ than on the items you present. In fact I see almost a complete lack of interest in those topics in favor of tool-based experience.

  • http://www.rich-page.com Rich Page

    Chophouse – I totally agree with you here. I remember having a quite a few interviews where that was a main area of focus. I always told them, its not tool knowlege or years experience with tools, its what you actually do with the tool that is important. Any old monkey can pull reports. Its providing the insight and recommendations from the data that is the hard part.

  • http://www.emetrics.org Jim Sterne

    Bonus Habit -

    Act like a 4 year old. No – not like this one:

    Act like the 4 year old who always asks, “Why?”

    When they ask you for reports and numbers find out what business problem they are trying to solve. Half the time, they are just curious. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it shines a light on the fact that web data is overwhelmingly interesting and insufficiently useful. Ask they why they want to know – then you can lead them toward insights that are actually actionable.

  • http://www.webanalisten.nl Webanalisten.nl / Ton

    Thanx for your post. I made a Dutch translation on http://www.webanalisten.nl/beheer/organisatie/de-7-gewoonten-van-succesvolle-webanalisten.html

    But added a different number seven (yes humor is important, but). Imho a good webanalyst knows whats happening with the competition. He is an awesome benchmarker and always is matching with the competition on amount of traffic on campaigns, conversion rates but also features and usability. The more you know from you competitors, the better your (benchmarked) advice will be.

    Ofcourse you can also see this as point number 9, because maybe social webanalytics is number 10. A good webanalist knows about the buzz online around his website / brand / products / services and scans through this information to get more insights on customer wishes. KPI’s that will tell you about website (or total company) success do need to be (partly) build on if your word-of-mouth is positive or negative (which will influence your traffic numbers and conversion rates).

  • http://www.ProTrackerPlus.com Mark Brown

    Hi Rich,

    This is a great post and I sumarized it and gave you props over at my blog as well. You have great content man, keep it up.

    Mark Brown (Proud Owner) http://www.ProTrackerPlus.com

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