Infinitive Difference Blog

Get in the know and keep current with big-picture thinking and actionable insights.

5 Page Tagging Best Practices

We believe that effective Web analytics requires both the right big-picture strategy and a focus on the important details. The strategic part starts with making sure your online operations and analytics programs are aligned to core business objectives.

The details are more about specific implementation steps for your analytics software and page tagging. In fact, page tagging may be the most important and powerful detail in ensuring your Web analytics approach pays off with tangible value. The following five best practices reflect our successful experience and proven approach to managing the common risks and issues associated with page tagging.

1. Plan carefully and thoroughly.

“Well begun is half done.” That old chestnut certainly applies to developing a page tagging plan.

In fact, insufficient planning may be the most common and damaging mistake that companies make in tagging. A good plan means everyone understands the immediate goals of tracking – from measuring raw traffic and open rates, to tracking conversions, to making real-time refinements to campaigns based on user behaviors and reactions to offers and content.

Further, it should be clear how different data sets support big-picture goals and why certain pages or sections of a site have unique design and business objectives. For example, some content areas or applications on your site likely merit custom tracking attributes and more granular data collection because of their importance to your core mission.

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Listening & Understanding with Social Intelligence Tools

When I was a kid, my parents always encouraged me to be a good listener. They wanted me to listen to them, of course, but also to teachers, other adults, my siblings and playmates. Little did they know that one day listening would become a big part of the business I’m in.

Listening is a hot topic in Web analytics today primarily because companies in all types of industries are coming to terms with social media platforms.

Facebook and Twitter give customers a place to talk, connect and share their feelings and ideas about anything and everything, including brands and businesses. Because they don’t control the conversation, many companies aren’t sure what these new channels mean to their business.

Specifically, organizations are not sure what to do first with social media.  Jump right in or keep out of the conversation altogether? Quietly seek friends among the current base? Perhaps advertise a little?

These are tricky questions to answer. Listening is a great place to start, because it helps companies understand who their customers are, what they want, and how they feel about current offerings. [Read more...]

Wall Street Journal on Privacy Concerns: Is It Really That Scary?

A WSJ series about data privacy is causing quite a stir in analytics circles. In general, the articles are accurate. For instance, flash cookies are very difficult to get rid of, and we advise our clients to steer clear of them.

But all the scary language is a bit too provocative for our taste. The series is entitled “What They Know,” as if some sinister entity is out there ominously collecting our data in order to commit mass identity theft.

The articles make claims that “your secrets” are fast becoming common (and lucrative) knowledge for Web marketers. Again, it sounds ominous, but most sites track what you do, not who you are. There’s a big difference.

As you read the series (and it’s worth reading), it’s important to remember a few things:

1. Privacy issues are a perennial in the industry. We’ve been in Web analytics for a dozen years, and the concerns were present in the early days and have never really gone away.

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Back to School with Web Analytics Education

It’s back-to-school season all across the country, which got me thinking about just how important education is to analytics success. Because Web analytics is a fast-moving subject that evolves constantly, analytics practitioners must do a little homework to keep up with industry standards, best practices and technology advancements.

But analytics leaders must also serve as teachers, educating a range of internal stakeholders and external partners, on the value of analytics, why it’s important and how it can help achieve unique business goals.

No matter where your organization is on the analytics maturity spectrum, there is always room to learn more or try a few new techniques. If your analytics practice is relatively new, then you’ll want to start with the fundamentals.

If your organization has been at it a while, you’ll want to keep steadily progressing toward advanced, “grad school” levels, like applying predictive analytics and regularly conducting multivariate testing programs.

Let’s look at few curriculum options for analytics education:

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Getting to a Gold Standard for Web Analytics Measurement

The announcement that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is trying to drive toward a “gold standard for Web measurement” is good news in many ways. Theoretically, standards are a desirable goal, but implementing IAB’s standards won’t solve several fundamental challenges in Web analytics.

The Web Analytics Association (WAA) presented its own standards a few years ago, and many of the same problems remain.

For one thing, there are still conflicting sets of numbers offered by different vendors and software packages. That means executives can’t get one clear set of trustworthy numbers to make investment decisions.

For another, agencies and media companies often exploit the gaps and variances in trying to negotiate the most favorable rates when buying or selling ads.

Why is this? One reason is that different online universes will always be measured differently. What matters to huge media companies and financial services organizations differs from what matters to small local businesses, and so each measures its audience differently.

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Soccer in America & Web Analytics Adoption at Your Company

Like a lot of people, I enjoyed watching the World Cup this summer.

Everybody knows soccer is world’s most popular sport, but the game remains a second-tier sport in the U.S. Sure, millions of kids play youth soccer here and a few American players compete in the top European leagues—and certainly, the U.S. national team has improved enormously in the last 10-15 years.

While we can’t claim to be a truly elite side (as they say), we’re almost always ranked in the top 20 globally. We advanced to the knockout round in the World Cup and could have – probably should have – gone further.

After the U.S. team was eliminated, I found myself wondering how soccer might evolve to become a major sport in the U.S. Clearly, the game is poised for more growth, but how will it reach the next level?

First and foremost, a great performance at the World Cup would provide a big boost to the game’s profile. A great and truly unique talent – a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods – would also help. Of course, such players only come along when the game’s basic infrastructure (like youth training programs and facilities) is functioning well.

Analytics is in the same sort of position. More and more companies “play” at analytics. They see its potential to greatly enhance management decision making.

There is lots of talk about applying analytics to create visibility and perhaps some limited applications in a few business units. But very few firms take it all the way to world-class performance – that is, a fully integrated, disciplined and repeatable process that underpins all online operation and directly aligns to core goals.

So what would it take for analytics to make a major breakthrough in its maturity level? [Read more...]

Churn Is the Enemy of Successful Web Analytics

One of the more serious challenges companies face as they seek to establish and mature their practice of analytics is “systems churn.”

That is, companies regularly switch out web analytics tools and software, replacing old systems or adding new ones for new business units. For instance, a 2009 Forrester report found that the majority of organizations surveyed have had their analytics solutions in place for fewer than four years, and nearly half (46%) for fewer than three.

We suspect that even higher percentages use several different tools.Given that analytics is a relatively new discipline, this may not sound like a big deal. In reality, it’s a formidable barrier to effective analytics.

For one thing, it highlights that many companies haven’t embraced analytics as a standard part of the management toolkit. For another, constant “solution-hopping” suggests that analytics is all about the technology; if only you pick the right solution, you’ll gain magic insights across all your online properties and campaign and start making perfect decisions about how to boost traffic and engagement. [Read more...]

Apple as Walled Garden: the Risks of Exclusivity

In one of my past professional lives, I worked in IT for a mid-sized regional bank.

For a number of years, we were an Apple shop. Nearly everyone used Macs, including some of our front-line staff in the branches and most of our back-office managers, lenders and administrators. We had all the desktop software and applications we needed.

In IT, we loved the simplicity, security and ease of use. Yes, the individual hardware units were on the pricey side, but we more than made up for it with much lower maintenance and user support costs and higher user satisfaction.

Our staff loved using Macs. And many corporate customers noticed, too, which helped our brand in that we seemed a bit smarter and leading edge. [Read more...]

Adobe vs. Apple: What’s Really at Stake

We recently wrote a full Executive Brief on the state of video on the Web, but the intensifying of the Adobe vs. Apple war over online video formats bears further comment.

Some believe Steve Jobs is willfully misrepresenting – okay, lying – about this being a “technology” debate.  Adobe has done some finger pointing, too.  And “lawyering up” looks inevitable. (Apple’s official position is here and Adobe’s here.)

This is a compelling horse race to be sure, but it’s a lot more than VHS vs. Betamax Part II, or Coke vs. Pepsi for online video. There’s no doubt that this is a major platform battle, as well as for video delivery standards and advertising on smartphones, mobile devices and tablets.

The first thing to remember is that Adobe’s Flash already owns 75% of the online video market. It is an established standard, which Apple is hoping HTML5 can unseat.

However, because the browser makers have not yet agreed upon a common approach for which HTML5 video format to support, it can’t “replace” Flash for some time to come. So, there is plenty of reason to believe that both technologies will be big players in the future.

The penetration rate and switching costs of Flash are a significant factor for traditional desktop applications, but the explosive adoption of Apple’s mobile devices is accelerating the push for a cross-platform solution for mobile video. [Read more...]

Good Golf & Effective Analytics

After a very cold and snowy winter, I know I’m not alone in having golf on the brain.  And like a lot of golfers this time of year, I’ve been thinking about how to improve my game.

Some guys I play with spend the winter shopping for new clubs. They’re convinced that new driver technology will straighten them out off the tee and those new wedges will shave a few strokes, too.

But lucky for me (and my checkbook), I learned a long time ago that new clubs do only so much for my game. Practice is more important for me, as is having a consistent pre-shot approach and a unique strategy for different types of courses and rounds.

What’s all this have to do analytics? Quite a bit, actually.

There’s no doubt that analytics software – like golf clubs – is more sophisticated and powerful today than ever before. There’s almost nothing you can’t track in terms of user behaviors on the Web and who’s seeing your online ads. Still, as with golf, there’s a lot more to analytics success than having the latest, greatest (and most expensive) tools.

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