Thursday, August 23, 2007

WAA Base Camp – An Analysts' View

I was lucky enough to win a complimentary entrée to this valuable event that was a hybrid interactive working session and web analytics conference. The morning format was logically divided into three working sessions which can be summarized as follows:

  • Intro to Web Analytics, led by Jennifer LeClaire, was designed to initiate users into the discipline of analytics with definitions, explanations and methods for getting off and running with analytics.
  • The next session, Online Marketing Campaign Measurement, was led by Anil Batra who educated participants on ways to lead visitors to their sites and how to effectively capture their hearts and minds.
  • Finally, Web Analytics for Site Optimization was led by June Li, who focused on site operations and the process of using analytics to create a more relevant and impactful user experience.

I attended the Site Optimization session and my only regret is that I couldn’t have been in more than one session at the same time!

In our morning session, June Li outlined some baseline information for us on page views, visits and sessions to ensure that we were all on the same page. This was followed by an engaging discussion on the use of personas and their value to site operators. We formed breakout groups and proceeded to develop our own personas with associated goals and measurable KPIs to track their progress. This exercise was extremely valuable because it forced a group of very different individuals to agree on common goals and a method to measure the success of these goals. Our group was challenged with some turbulence and a fair amount of animated discussion. I equate our experience to a realistic corporate exercise, where various stakeholders each have their own agendas and goals. For attendees taking this information back to their offices, it provided a valuable lesson of how to introduce concepts and effective ways of demonstrating the value of analytics as a site optimization tool to peers and superiors.

Lunch consisted of an intimate setting that was well suited for networking and getting acquainted with some truly expert analytics professionals and web analysts in the field. After lunch, we wrapped-up the individual sessions and the Base Camp attendees converged to learn from the Gurus of Marketing Optimization. The first presentation was delivered by Jim Sterne, arguably the Godfather of web analytics and the Grand Pu Bah of the WAA Base Camp tour. If you have never heard Jim Sterne speak, you are missing a very entertaining show and he did not fail to impress on this session as well.

Jim Novo dazzled the crowd with his presentation next through a combination of insight into his years of industry expertise and words of caution about getting too close to the data. He advocated seeking patterns in the data from a macro perspective and quoted a wise posting from a Yahoo! Forum that I will undoubtedly butcher in my paraphrasing, but here goes. When your data shows something revealing, don’t smash it with a hammer and shatter it into a million pieces looking for more, because it will fall into the dark corners and disappear revealing nothing.

The Guru Sessions closed with an entertaining and informative presentation by Jennifer Veesenmeyer called P.I.M.P. My Reports. I happened to miss this presentation at Emetrics in San Francisco this spring, so was glad to hear it at Base Camp and fortunate because Jennifer informed me that delivering the same presentation twice was against her nature, but she acquiesced to Jim Sterne’s influential plea. I walked away with actionable tactics for improving my charts and delivering more effective reports.

Overall the WAA Base Camp was an extremely worthwhile investment in time and education. The presentations were interactive, informative and entertaining - leaving me wanting more. I applaud Jim Sterne’s tireless efforts at organizing and providing access to the industry’s best and brightest stars of web analytics.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words John. It was great that you could make it!

Anonymous said...

Here's the quote John. The topic was "drilling too deep" into the data which causes the error rate to rise...a matter of precision versus accuracy. In other words, better to be directionally right than absolutely wrong...

��my experience leads me to believe that the harder you try to nail this stuff down, the more you simply move the problem from a known place to an unknown place. You take a spotlight and see the problem, pound it with a hammer and it shatters into hundreds of smaller pieces that disappear into dark corners. Crude analogy I'm sure, but there's some truth here.�

- John Marshall, CEO ClickTracks, Yahoo Forum

Thanks for the mention!