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. [Read more...]

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. Just like my folks believed listening would make me a better person and help me learn, businesses can better understand their online marketing and service opportunities by listening to what people – past and current customers, future customers, advocates, influencers – are already saying about them.

Technology is part of the story. Listening software and tools are attracting lots of attention. A recent Forrester reporter described the evolution beyond “basic brand monitoring tools” and toward technology that can “turn social media data into actionable insight.”  That’s the heart of effective analytics, in our view.

The end game is what Forrester calls “social intelligence – the concept of informing marketing and business decisions with insights found in social media data.” To get there, “the technology and analytics infrastructures that mine and analyze social media to deliver insight … become essential tools within the enterprise.”

We can’t argue with that perspective, but technology isn’t a silver bullet here. Just because technology enables you to listen and can notify you when your brand pops up in an online conversation, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have the insights you need to improve your online operations or strengthen connections to customers.

Like analytics more generally, listening means committing resources, opening up to new ideas and perspectives, and being prepared to action on insights.  Yes, you need technology to listen, but you need to people to learn and decide the best course of action based on what you’re hearing. In our experience, few companies put enough people behind their analytics technology.

Gatorade, for instance, has created a “mission control center” where a number of full-time associates monitor Twitter and Facebook, 24 hours a day, using tools to “aggregate and weigh real-time opinions.” They may reach out when customers are looking for more information, but seem to be thoughtful about jumping in too quickly or intrusively. That’s good listening. It’s also important to note that the effort is focused on the big idea of the business – which is to sell more sports drinks. All analytics efforts should be grounded in the reality of the business.

Here’s another example, from the usually very chatty media industry:

News organizations are getting more scientific about studying the value of … social media services…  The Washington Post … is looking for patterns that could illuminate whether certain types of stories are more appealing to audiences in social networks … and has started compiling a daily tracking report showing what social networks are driving audiences to the Post and what those users are reading.

Again, that’s good listening and, because it’s linked to core business objectives, effective analytics.

Both Gatorade and Washington Post recognize that they are just getting started in the listening business. That’s fitting because social media users are a constantly moving target. Listening isn’t something to be done for a short time or during a one-off initiative. New media requires long-term ears.

One other point about listening and understanding: because social networking is in its infancy and all the hype is distracting, companies may be tempted to overlook the basics of analytics. You must keep “listening” to the activity from your core online efforts, like traffic patterns on your web site and the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Listening to Facebook and Twitter is not a shortcut to analytics success. But, listening can lead to understanding, which can allow you to properly weigh and balance the impact of social media on your web site.

These same principles apply for smaller organizations. You don’t need advanced software or daily tracking reports or a huge technology budget, but rather only Twitter and Facebook accounts, maybe a few freeware tools and the willingness to invest some time. In return, you can hear firsthand what people are saying about your company, products and industry. Some consider this an alternative to focus groups.  The next step – figuring out the best way to connect with them to grow your business – is what social media is all about.  That’s why it’s so popular with small businesses.

Think about it – if word of mouth is the best marketing there is, you have to have your ears open to understand how well you’re doing and how you might get out the right word to your target listeners. It’s not a stretch to say that you have to listen before you can say anything people will want to hear.

Or, as my parents would put it, listening helps you learn and then you can join the conversation with something intelligent to say.

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. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

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. [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. [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. [Read more...]