SES Speaker Profile: A Conversation with Avinash on Analytics

Avinash Kaushik is an author, blogger, and respected analytics evangelist. With over 7000 inbound links from other bloggers his web analytics blog, Occam’s Razor, is on many a serious SEMs’ blogroll. Avinash recently published his new book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day. Avinash speaks here at SES San Jose Thursday @ 9AM on the “Analyzing the Analytics Players” panel.”

An independent consultant who has a holistic focus on helping companies unlock the power of Web Analytics 2.0, Avinash uses data to strategic advantage and is the official Analytics Evangelist for Google. He’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences in the US and Europe, such as eMetrics summits, Ad-Tech, Web 2.0 Expo and SES. We had a chance to sit down and chat here at SES San Jose.

Marty: Serious search marketers have gotten well-past the numeric metrics of analytics to concepts of user behavior. What’s been the greatest revelation for you in your analytics journey towards harvesting actionable behavior?

Avinash: I think there are several different things. A true revelation for me was the fact that I had been doing quantitative stuff for a really long time like data warehousing, CRM systems and all other hard-core quantitative stuff. After I took my last job at Intuit I started to do web analytics. I went down the same road as everybody else to say hey-here are all the web log files, the numbers, let’s find some insights, let’s run all these numbers.

Marty: There’s lots of numbers.

Avinash: There’s lots of numbers and they don’t always make sense. There are weird trends in patterns. I’m used to doing hardcore data mining…this is intelligence and it doesn’t make sense!It was really hard to find actual insight.

Marty: So then you started to use that harvested data to form your KPIs and target behaviors right?

Avinash: Exactly. So we started to use the data to try and understand- if people are coming to our website for all these specific purposes…why not solve things for them? No wonder our conversion was a pathetically small number. We needed to figure out how to understand the web more intelligently and why people come to our sites more efficiently…and then we have to figure out how are we going to meet their needs? What are we doing to help you complete your tasks? If you really do want a founder’s picture [as the KPI], are we going to help you? [laughing]

Marty: [laughing]

Avinash: If you want our 800 number are we going to help you? If you want a job from us are we going to help you? We have to go through this laundry list. I think understanding that was a true turning point…realizing that no matter what you think your site is about people will use your website for purposes that only they can figure out-and only they think about, and you don’t think about.Then what do you do?

From then on I think we went on this journey to try and create websites that meet the needs of a majority of our customers not a minority, but also moved into other areas that allow you to do more intelligent things. It sort of moves me and our company to think about how is it that we react to people when they come to our site to create better customer experiences.

Marty: Multi-variant testing becomes a very abstract concept when there are multiple nodes. You’re testing the promise that you make with each ad with multiple ads that make different promises on multiple versions of landing pages. It’s exponential in nature…and deep.

Avinash: Exactly.

Marty: It’s not for the feint of heart.

Avinash: No, it’s not. The interesting thing is, once you realize that the only way for you to improve conversion rates on your website is to figure out how to solve the customer’s problem, not how to shove yourself into their faces.

Marty: Right.

Avinash: Once you get to the realization that you have all these different kinds of people coming to my website, they have different personas and profiles, they have different needs, and let me create content for each of them and then figure out how to intelligently show it to them. Or, you know, I have 16 different ways in which I could sell you something on a page. Why should I decide which one of the 16 you want? Why don’t I ask you?

Marty: It’s the same thing that’s always driven SEM, either market based on what people want and how they behave and how they ask for content with the actual words they use…or we could just do whatever the hell we think is cool.

Avinash: Exactly.

Marty: Let’s make the landing page the FIRST way we think about it because WE think it’s cool Avinash.

Avinash: [laughing] It’s not uncommon for you to get a really hard core targeted piece of email, the content and price point that speaks to you, you are in love with [the product], and you click on the site and you come to the site, and there’s no connection to the product at all…

Marty: Doesn’t keep the promise.

Avinash: It does not keep the promise. Content needs to keep the promise.

Other Interesting Avinash Blog Links

Video Interview with Avinash Kaushik of Google Analytics

Beth’s Blog: New Screencast: Web Analytics Demystified

Bounce Rate: Sexiest Web Metric Ever? | Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog

Lies, Damned Lies…: The miserable business of making a living

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