We have a very special person whose interview you are going to read. When you talk about Web Analytics, his name comes right there on the top. He is the author of a very successful book on Web Analytics ‘Web Analytics: An Hour A Day‘. (Ed: This book is absolutely recommended for anyone who wants to understand Analytics. Also, his new book Web Analytics 2.0 will be out soon. Watch out).
Avinash Kaushik works with some of the largest companies in the world and helps them evolve their online marketing and Analytics strategies. He is an Analytics evangelist with Google and spreads his philosophy that investing in talented analysts can be more profitable than simply investing in metrics tools. A must read interview for all bloggers and people who manage websites.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A couple months before that I had just finished a speech at a conference and this person came up to me and said: “You have to start blogging, you have great insights and so much passion!”. His name was Andy Beal (even at that time a hugely popular blogger). At the conference I met Jeremiah Owyang, who said the same thing to me.
I was not so sure initially but I started reading Andy and Jeremiah’s blogs. Then a few more blogs. That experience sold me on the medium and I decided to start my own blog. My goal was simple: I had benefited from the wisdom of others, I wanted to share what limited expertise I have with others and in that sense give something back.
I expected nothing back. I still don’t have ads on my blog. I don’t solicit any business. I don’t monetize it in any way. Yet, reflecting back, it is astonishing how much I have gotten back. I feel lucky.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
I believe that blogging was the very first scalable two way conversation mediums.
If you are not going to treat it as a two way conversation, don’t participate. It won’t be impactful for you, it certainly won’t be fun for people who consume the content you produce.
I reply to every single comment I get. It was easy initially since each post only got three or four comments. Now each blog post gets between 30 to 70 comments. It is harder. For every comment on the blog I get three email, with comments about what I wrote from people who are too shy to post a comment. I still reply to every single person.
The result is that people feel connected, they feel like they are a part of your community, it flattens the distance between two people. Here is the other result. I have written 201 posts in three years. I have written 400k words in posts and I have received 560k words in comments.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
Changing how people think. About data. About making decisions on the web.
Also my first book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day came about as a result of me writing the blog. I was still at my job at Intuit when I wrote the book. My wife and I decided that since I write because I love writing we were going to take 100% of my proceeds from the book and donate them to charity. The book as been out for a little less than two years and my proceeds from the book have been $70,000. We have donated 50% of that each to The Smile Train and Doctors Without Borders. I cannot describe how amazed I am, how blessed I feel, that something as small as a blog has helped in a small way to help other people.
Q: Way back at the end of 2006, you had said that Social Media would play a big role in web analytics. That’s happened. 🙂 We would love to have your predictions for 2012.
I wish I had the wisdom to predict the future, sadly I don’t.
Here are three trends I see on the horizon that will transform analytics on the web…..
I don’t think data is far too fractured today. To make a simple decision about how my Search strategy is performing I have to go to Analytics, WebMaster Tools, Insights for Search, Compete and a couple other tools. That is criminal. All this data needs to come together and be in one place.
I believe that influencing people is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Banners and push tactics and spamming people is losing effectiveness, at a faster pace with each passing day. The data implication of this is that we need to get a lot better at understanding influence channels and then figuring out how to measure effectiveness. I don’t think we have spent enough time on this.
Q: When we think analytics, we immediately think quantifiable data, numbers, pie charts.. With the increasing use of the social web, several changes are happening in the usage of the web – ’emotional’ responses on services like Facebook and Twitter, real time data, conversations happening on multiple destinations, as opposed to say, a single website, and so on.. Do you think the field of analytics requires a paradigm shift in focus areas now? If so, actually, even if not so, what are the developments happening in this area?
Asked by Manuscrypts
See my answer above.
As to your latter question…. One of the coolest outcome of the Twitter API is that there is massive amount of innovation when it comes to metrics and measurement platforms. I am thrilled about this. The world is now working to create the next generation of principles as to what measurement should be.
You don’t notice that in a walled garden like Facebook, which is disappointing because there is no innovation being powered by Facebook (and there is a ton of opportunity there!).
It is no surprise that even web analytics platforms like Google Analytics and WebTrends now have a fully published working API’s to their products and data. The reason is simple. The next set of innovation in measurement will likely not come from some big company sitting on lots of data and guessing what metrics / reports are important. It will come from users and developers who are close to the problem, they will invent. I am very excited about this.
Q: What do you think are the Key Measurements for a site to measure their success?
There are only three outcomes from a website:
- Increased revenue.
- Reduced cost.
- Increased customer satisfaction / loyalty.
For your business figure out how everything you are doing solves for one of those three things and you’ll be fine. Oh and stop doing anything that does not directly solve for one of those three outcomes.
Q: Is there a single tool according to you that will track analytics correctly? If not, how many analytics tools does for example, a very popular blogger, should use and what should one be tracking regularly?
I believe in the strategic mindset of Multiplicity, the quest for a single tool is futile, you need to pick the best tool for the question you want answered.
Here’s my post on Multiplicity:
Multiplicity: Succeed Awesomely At Web Analytics 2.0!
Blogging is unique. I think you have to think a lot more holistically about measuring success. I have six recommendations (only one of which will come from a web analytics tool).
Here is my post on how to measure success of a blog:
Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
If I could summarize: Provide something incredible of value to your readers.
Here is a post with my guidance for new bloggers.
Thanks a lot Avinash for this wonderful interview. We would like to thank Avinash for giving us his valuable time and also for all what he is doing for Web Analytics. He is one of the people that is driving Web Analytics to the next level.