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Smarter Survey Results and Impact: Abandon the Asker-Puker Model!

FoldsToday’s post comes from a source of deep pain. Analysis Ninjas are valued less than I would prefer for them to be.

The post is also sourced from a recent edition of my newsletter, The Marketing – Analytics Intersect. I send it once a week, and it contains my insights and recommendations on those two topics. Like this blog, the newsletter is geared towards being instantly actionable (rather than just theory-smart, which is pretty cool too). Do sign up if you want to deliver a small electric shock of simulation to your brain each week.

TMAI #41 covered a graph that resulted from a survey done by Econsultancy and Lynchpin. I received a ton of responses for it, and great discussion ensued. It prompted me to write this post, essentially an expanded version of TMAI #41. I’ve added new insights, recommendations, and two bonus lessons on how to do surveys better and a direct challenge to your company’s current analytics strategy.

If your heart is weak, you can stop reading now. I promise, I won’t mind one bit. I heart you. If you are open to being challenged… then here are the short-stories inside this post…

Let’s go and challenge our collective thinking!

The World Needs Reporting Squirrels. Wait. What!

Some of you know that I created the phrases Reporting Squirrels and Analysis Ninjas to emphasize the difference between those that puke data and those that puke insights with actions attached to them.

Here is my slide the first time I presented the concept in a keynote…

reporting squirrels analysis ninjas

Cute, right? 🙂

While companies, medium and large, often need both roles, I’ve massively pushed for every company to want more Analysis Ninjas and for analysts to have careers where they can rapidly undertake metamorphosis from Reporting Squirrels to Analysis Ninjas (after all the difference in salary is tens of thousands of dollars).

If you are curious, here is a April 2011 post: The Difference Between Web Reporting And Web Analysis.

With that as context, you can imagine how heart-broken I was when Jane shared the following visual from a study done by Econsultancy and Lynchpin. It contains the answers to the question which analytics skills are most in demand…

econsultancy analytics skills

Checkout the y-axis… what do you see as the common pattern across them all?

Just data puking.

One row after another of data puking skills.


Almost nothing that quite captures the value of Analysis Ninjas! N. O. T. H. I. N. G.

I did a random Google search and got this list of analytical skills:

+ Understanding relationships between numbers

+ Interpreting mathematical information

+ Visual perception of information

+ Ability to organize information

+ Pattern recognition and understanding trends

+ Argumentation and logical thinking

+ Ability to create insightful data visualizations

+ Hypothesis development and design of experimentation

+ Strategic thinking skills

And, that is just a random list!

None of these are in demand?

Look at the list in the graph, what kind of purple squirrel with ant legs and an elephant’s nose that nobody needs is Lynchpin describing?

This did not happen at Econsultancy, but the data did cause introspection at my end.

And, my first question was the one that is also top of mind of all readers of Occam’s Razor… Is the world so dark that the only “analytical” skills that are valued are directly tied to data puking and you should immediately shut down your Analysis Ninja efforts?

Let me share three thoughts for your consideration, then some guidance on how to do surveys right, and end with a call to arms for all of you and the “data people” you choose to work with.

Three thoughts that explain the Econsultancy/Lynchpin graph.

1. The survey design is at fault.

The otherwise well-respected Econsultancy and Lynchpin dropped the ball massively in creating the list of answers for the respondents to choose from.

I have to admit, I believe this is a major flaw (and not just for this question in the entire report). What is disappointing is that they have done this for nine years in a row!

It poses these questions…

How is it that in nine years no one at these organizations realized they were simply asking people to rank data puking answers? Did the survey list the skills Econsultancy and Lynchpin hire for and value in their own analysts?

The graph illustrates data for three years… Was the fact that almost nothing changed in three years in terms of priority not trigger a rethink of the options provided for this question? Anyone reading the report at the two companies creating it should have thrown a red flag up and said hey guys, the respondents keep rating the answers the same, maybe we are not asking the right question or providing the best choices for our respondents to pick.

More on how to avoid this flaw in your surveys, of any kind, below.

2. The survey is targeted to the wrong folks.

They might be the wrong folks to accurately judge what analytical skills and how to appreciate the value of each skill as they rank them. That could explain the results (not the answer choices though).

Econsultancy/Lynchpin provides this description in the report: “There were 960 respondents to our research request, which took the form of a global online survey fielded in May and June 2016. Respondents included both in-house digital professionals and analysts (56%) and supply-side respondents, including agencies, consultants and vendors (44%).”

The survey was 76% from the UK and EU. Respondents were solicited from each company’s database as well as Social Media.

Here is the distribution provided in the report:

econsultancy lynchpin survey audience

On paper it looks like the departments are to be what you would expect. It is difficult to ascribe any blame to the folks who got the survey. There is a chance that there is a UK and EU nuance here, but I don’t think so.

3. It is our fault.

My first instinct in these cases is to look into the mirror.

Perhaps we have not succeeded as much as we should when it comes to show casing the value of true data analysis. Perhaps all the people involved in all digital analytics jobs/initiatives, inside and outside companies, are primarily data pukers, and none of them have skills to teach companies that there is such a thing as data analysis that is better.

Then, you and I, and especially our friends in UK and EU, need to work harder to prove to companies that CDPs (customized data pukes, my name for reporting) do not add much value, the rain of data does not drive much action. You and I need to truly move to the IABI model were we send very little data, and what little we send out is sent with copious amounts of Insights from the data, what Actions leaders need to take, and the computation of the Business Impact.

The more we deliver IABI, by using our copious analytical skills, the more the leaders will start to recognize what real analytical skills are and be able to separate between Reporting Squirrels and Analysis Ninjas.

Bottom-line… I would like to blame the competency at Econsultancy and Lynchpin, especially because I believe that truly, but I must take some responsibility on behalf of the Analysis Ninjas of the world. Perhaps we suck more than we would like to admit. I mean that sincerely.

Bonus #1: Lessons from Econsultancy/Lynchpin Survey Strategy.

There are a small clump of lessons from my practice in collecting qualitative feedback that came to fore in thinking about this particular survey. Let me share those with you, they cover challenges that surely the E+L team faced as they put this initiative together.

If your survey has questions that cease to be relevant, should you ask them again for the sale of consistency as you have done this survey for nine years?

There is a huge amount of pressure for repeated surveys to keep the questions the same because Survey Data Providers love to show time trends – month over month, year over year. It might seem silly that you would keep asking a question when you know it is not relevant, but there is pressure.

This is even worse when it comes to answer choices. Survey Creators love having stability and being able to show how things have changed, and they keep irrelevant/awful/dead answers around.

If you are in this position… You will be brave, you will be a warrior, you will be the lone against-the-tide-swimmer, and you will slay non-value-added stuff ruthlessly. You will burn for from the ashes shall rise glory.

If you are the Big Boss of such an initiative, here is a simple incentive to create, especially for digital-anything surveys: Give your team a standard goal that 30% of the survey questions for any survey repeated each year have to be eliminated and 10% new ones added.

Your permission will 1. force your employees to think hard about what to keep and what to kill (imagine that, thinking!) 2. create a great and fun culture in your analytical (or reporting 🙁 ) team and 3. push them to know of the latest and greatest and include that in the survey.

If I feel I have a collection of terrible choices, do you have a strategy for how I can identify that?

This does not work for all questions of course, but here is one of my favourite choice in cases where the questions relate to organizations, people skills, and other such elements.

Take this as an example…

skills gap question

How do you know that this is a profoundly sub-optimal collection of choices to provide?

For anyone with even the remotest amount of relevant experience, subject matter expertise, it is easy to see these are crazy choices – essentially implying purple squirrels exist. But, how would you know?


Start writing down how many different roles are represented in the list.

That is just what I did…

skills gap question roles test

It turns out there are at least five roles in a normal company that would possess these skills.

So. Is this a good collection of skills to list? Without that relevant information? If you still go ahead and ask this question, what are you patterning your audience to look for/understand?

Oh, and I am still not over that in looking for what analysis skills are missing in the company, no actual analytical skills are listed above! Ok, maybe statistical modeling smells like an analytical skill. But, that’s as close as it gets.

I share this simple strategy, identifying the number of different roles this represents, to help you illuminate you might have a sub-optimal collection of choices.

There are many other strategies like this one for other question. Look for them!

If your survey respondents are not the ideal audience for a question, what’s your job when crafting the survey?

J. K. I.

Just kill it.

If you don’t want to kill it… Personally interview a random sample of 50 people personally (for a 1,000 people survey). Take 10 mins each. Ask primitive basic questions about their job, their actual real work (not job title), and their approximate knowledge. If these 50 pass the sniff test, send the survey. Else, know that your survey stinks. JKI.

I know that I am putting an onerous burden on the survey company, taking to 50 people even for 10 mins comes at a cost. It does. I am empathetic to it. Consider it the cost of not putting smelly stuff out into the world.

If your survey respondents won’t be able to answer a question perfectly, what is a great strategy for crafting questions?

Oh, oh, oh, I love this problem.

It happens all the time. You as the survey creator don’t know what you are taking about, the audience does not quite know what they are talking about, but there is something you both want to know/say.

Here’s the solution: Don’t do drop down answers or radio button answers!

The first couple times you do this, ask open ended questions. What analytical skills do you think you need in your company? Let them type out in their own words what they want.

Then find a relatively smart person with subject matter expertise, give them a good salary and a case of Red Bull, and ask them to categorize.

It will be eye opening.

The results will improve your understanding and now you’ll have a stronger assessment of what you are playing with, and the audience will not feel boxed in by your choices, instead tell you how they see the answers. (Maybe, just maybe be, they’ll give you my list of analytical skills above!)

Then run the survey for a couple years with the choices from above. In year four, go back to the open text strategy. Get new ideas. Get smarter. Rinse. Repeat.

I would like to think I know all the answers in the world. Hubris. I use the strategy above to become knowledgeable about the facts on the ground and then use those facts (on occasion complemented by one or two of my choices) to run the survey. This rule is great for all kinds of surveys, always start with open-text. It is harder. But that is what being a brave warrior of knowledge is all about!

If your survey results cause your senior executives, or random folks on the web, to question them, what is the best response?

The instinct to close in an be defensive, to even counter-attack, is strong.

As I’m sure your mom’s taught you: Resist. Truly listen. Understand the higher order bit. Evolve. Then let your smarter walk do the talking.

Simple. Awfully hard to do. Still. Simple.

Bonus #2: The Askers-Pukers Business Model.

The biggest thing a report like Econsultancy/Lynchpin’s suffers from is that this group of individuals, perhaps even both these companies, see their role in this initiative as Askers-Pukers.

It is defined as: Let us go ask a 960 people we can find amongst our customers and on social media a series of questions, convert that into tables and graphs, and sell it to the world.

Ask questions. Puke data. That is all there is in the report. Download the sample report if you don’t have a paid Econsultancy subscription. If you don’t want to use your email address, use this wonderful service:

Even if you set aside the surveying methodology, the questions framing, the answer choices and all else, there is negative value from anything you get from Askers-Pukers, because the totality of the interpretation of the data is writing in text what the graphs/tables already show or extremely generic text.

Negative value also because you are giving money for the report that is value-deficient, and you are investing time in reading it to try and figure out something valuable . You lose twice.

Instead one would hope that Econsultancy, Lynchpin, the team you interact with from Google, your internal analytics team, any human you interact who has data sees their role as IABI providers ( Insights – Actions – Business Impact).

This is the process IABI providers follow: Ask questions. Analyze it for why the trends in the data exist (Insights). Identify what a company can/should do based on the why (Actions). Then, have the courage, and the analytical chops, to predict how much the impact will be on the company’s business if they do what was recommended.

Insights. Actions. Business Impact.

Perhaps the fatal flaw in my analysis above, my hope above, is that I expected Econsultancy and Lynchpin to be really good at business strategy, industry knowledge, on the ground understanding of patterns with their massive collection of clients. Hence, knowing what actually works. I expected them to be Analysts. Instead, they perhaps limit their skills inside the respective company to be Askers-Pukers.

Both companies are doing extremely well financially, hence I do appreciate that Askers-Pukers model does work.

But for you, and for me, and for anyone else you are paying a single cent for when it comes to data – either data reported from a survey, data reported from your digital analytics tool, data reported from other companies you work with like Facebook or Google or GE – demand IABI. Why. What. How Much. If they don’t have that, you are talking to the wrong people. Press the escape button, don’t press the submit order button.

[Isn’t it ironic. Econsultancy and Lynchpin did exactly what their survey has shown for nine years is not working for companies in the UK: Reporting. The outcome for both of them is exactly the same as the outcome for the companies: Nothing valuable. This is explicitly demonstrated by their full report.]


I hope you see that this one survey is not the point. E + L are not the point. What their work in this specific example (and you should check other examples if you pay either company money) illuminates is a common problem that is stifling our efforts in the analytics business .

This applies to E+L but it applies even more to your internal analytics team, it applies extremely to the consultants you hire, it applies to anyone you are giving a single cent to when it comes to data.

Don’t hire Askers-Pukers. Don’t repeat things for years without constantly stress-testing for reality. Don’t make compromises when you do surveys or mine Adobe for data. Don’t create pretty charts without seeing, really looking with your eyes, what is on the chart and thinking about what it really represents.

Applied to your own job inside any company, using Google Analytics or Adobe or iPerceptions or Compete or any other tool… don’t be an Asker-Puker yourself. Be an IABI provider. That is where the money is. That is where the love is. That is where the glory is.

Carpe Diem!

As always, it is your turn now.

Is your company hiring Reporting Squirrels or Analysis Ninjas? Why? Is the work you are doing at your company/agency/consulting entity/survey data provider, truly Analysis Ninja work? If not, why is it that it remains an Asker-Puker role? Are there skills you’ve developed in your career to shift to the person whose business is why, what, how much ? Lastly, when you do surveys, of the type above or others, are there favourite strategies you deploy to get a stronger signal rather than just strong noise?

Please share your life lessons from the front lines, critique, praise, fun-facts and valuable guidance for me and other readers via comments.

Thank you. Merci. Arigato.

PS: I hope this post illuminates the valuable content The Marketing – Analytics Intersect shares each week, sign up here .

Smarter Survey Results and Impact: Abandon the Asker-Puker Model! is a post from: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

Source: Avinash

Be Real-World Smart: A Beginner's Advanced Google Analytics Guide

NectarBeing book smart is good. The outcome of book smart is rarely better for analytics practitioners then folks trying to learn how to fly an airplane from how-to books.

Hence, I have been obsessed with encouraging you to get actual data to learn from. This is all the way from Aug 2009: Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! Or a subsequent post about how to build a successful career: Web Analytics Career Guide: From Zero To Hero In Five Steps. Or compressing my experience into custom reports and advanced segments I’ve shared.

The problem for many new or experienced analysts has been that they either don’t have access to any dataset (newbies) or the data they have access to is finite or from an incomplete or incorrect implementation (experienced). For our Market Motive Analytics training course, we provide students with access to one ecommerce and one non-ecommerce site because they simply can’t learn well enough from my magnificent videos. The problem of course is that not everyone is enrolling our course! 🙂

All this context is the reason that I am really, really excited the team at Google has decided to make a real-world dataset available to everyone on planet Earth (and to all intelligent life forms in the universe that would like to learn digital analytics).

The data belongs to the Google Merchandise Store, where incredibly people buy Google branded stuff for large sums of money (average order value: $115.67, eat your heart out Amazon!). And, happily, it has almost all of the Google Analytics features implemented correctly. This gives Earth’s residents almost all the reports we would like to look at, and hence do almost all the analysis you might want to do in your quest to become an Analysis Ninja. (Deepak, would you kindly add Goal Values for the Goals. Merci!) You’ll also be able to create your own custom reports, advanced segments, filters, share with the world everything you create, and all kinds of fun stuff.

For consultants and opinion makers you no longer have to accept any baloney peddled to you about what analytics tool is the best or better fit for your company/client. Just get access to this data and play with the actual GA account along with Adobe and IBM and WebTrends et. al. and suddenly your voices/words will have 10x more confidence informed by real-world usage. No NDA’s to sign, no software to install, no IT resources required. Awesome, right?

In this post I’ll highlight some of my favourite things you can do, and learn from, in the Store dataset. Along the way I’ll share some of my favourite metrics and analytics best practices that should accelerate your path to becoming a true Analysis Ninja. I’ve broken the post into these sections:

I’m sure you are as excited as I am to just get going. Let’s go!

How to get Store Dataset Access?

It is brilliantly easy.

Go to the Analytics Help Demo Account page. Read the bit in the gray box titled Important. Digest it.

Then click on this text: ––>ACCESS DEMO ACCOUNT<––

Looks scary in the all caps, right? That is just how the Google Analytics team rolls. 🙂

You’ll see a tab open, urls will flip around, in two seconds you’ll see something like this on your Accounts page…

google analytics accounts view

Click on 1 Master View and you are in business.

If you ever want to remove access to this real-world data, just go back to the page above and follow the five simple steps to self-remove access.

Jump-Start Your Learning.

You can start with all the standard reports, but perhaps the fastest way for you to start exploring the best features is to download some of the wonderful solutions in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.

You’ll find my Occam’s Razor Awesomeness bundle there as well.

It is a collection of advanced segments, custom reports, and dashboards. You’ll have lots of features incorporated in them. You can customize them to suit your needs, or as you learn more, but you won’t have to start with a blank slate.

You can also search for other stuff, like custom reports or attribution models.

Another tip. If you are a complete newbie (welcome to our world!), you probably want to start your journey by reading about each type of report, and then looking at the Overview report in each section in Google Analytics. At this point you’ll be a little confused about some metric or the other. That’s ok. Go, read one of the best pages in the Analytics help center: Understanding Dimensions and Metrics. Go back into GA, you’ll understand a whole lot more.

This is a beginner’s advanced guide, so I’m going to do something different. Through my favourite reports, often hard to find in your company’s GA dataset, I’m going to push you beyond other beginner’s guides. I’ll also highlight frameworks, metrics, custom reports, and other elements I feel most Analyst’s don’t poke around enough.

1. Play with Enhanced Ecommerce Reports.

It is a source of great sadness for me that every single site is not taking advantage of Enhanced Ecommerce tracking and analysis . It is a complete rethink of ecommerce analysis. The kind of reports and metrics you’ll get straight out of the box are really amazing.

Go to the Reporting section of our Store Demo account, click on Conversions in the left nav, then Ecommerce, and now Overview. You’ll see in an instant the very cool things you can track and analyze…

ecommerce overview

With a little bit of smart tagging you can track your internal promotions (buy one Make America Great Again hat and get one Stronger Together hat free!), transactions with coupon codes, affiliate sales and more. Very nicely summarized above.

Next go to the report with new things that will help you drive smarter merchandizing on your mobile and desktop websites. Go to Shopping Analysis and click on Shopping Behavior…

shopping behavior analysis google analytics

I adore this report.

Most of the time when we do funnel analysis we start at the Cart stage (third bar above). We rarely hold people responsible for Traffic Acquisition accountable, we rarely hold people responsible for Site Design and Merchandizing accountable. The former are promoted on silly metrics like Visits or Visitors or (worse) Clicks. The latter are promoted based on silly metrics like PageViews.

The first bar to the second shows the number of visits during which people went from general pages on your website to product pages (places were there is stuff to be sold, add to cart buttons). A lame 26%. See what I mean. Insightful. How are you going to make money if 74% of the visits don’t even see a product page!

The second bar the third is even more heart-breaking, as if that were possible. Of the sessions with pages with product views, how many added something to cart. A lousy 17%. One. Seven. Percent! On a site were you can do nothing except buy things.

See what I mean? Question time for your Acquisition, Design and Merchandizing team.

Do you know answers like these for your website? That is why you need Enhanced Ecommerce.

I won’t cover the last two bars, most of you are likely over indexing on funnel analysis.

Practice segmentation while you are here. Click on + Add Segment on top of this report, choose Google (or whatever interests you)…

google traffic segment

And you can analyze acquisition performance with a unique lens (remember you can’t segment the funnel that exists in the old ecommerce reports which is still in your GA account!)…

shopping behavior analysis google traffic

A little better. Still. You spend money on SEO and PPC. It should be a lot better than this. If this were your data, start with questioning your PPC landing page strategy and then move to looking at your top SEO landing pages, and then look at bounce rates and next page analysis for those that stay.

I can honestly spend hours on just this report digging using segmentation (geo, media, new and loyal customers, all kinds of traffic, product page types and so on). It has been a great way to immediately influence revenue for my ecommerce engagements.

While you are here, you can play and learn to use the new funnel report… it is called Checkout Behavior Analysis…

checkout behavior analysis google analytics

Much simpler, so much easier to understand.

You can also, FINALLY, segment this report as well. Try it when you are in the Store demo account.

Take a break. A couple days later come back and checkout the new Product Performance and Product List Performance reports. The latter is particularly useful as an aggregated view for senior executives. In case of the Store data, the first report has 500 rows of data, the second just 45. Nice.

I wanted to flag three metrics to look at in the Product Performance report.

Product Refund Amount is $0.00 in this dataset, but for your company this is a great way to track refunds you might have issued and track were more of that is happening.

I love Cart-To-Detail Rate (product adds divided by views of product details) and Buy-to-Detail Rate (unique purchases divided by views of product-detail pages). Remember I was so upset above about the poor merchandizing. Using the sorting option on these two columns I identify where the problem is worse and where I can learn lessons from. Very cool, try it.

I could keep going on about more lovely things you’ll find in the Enhanced Ecommerce reports, but let me stop here and have you bump into those cool things as, and I can say this now, you have access to this data as well!

Bonus: If you are a newbie, in your interview you’ll be expected to know a lot about Goals (I call the micro-outcomes). Explore that section. Look the Overview, Goal URLs and Smart Goals. Ignore the eminently useless Reverse Goal Path report (I don’t even know why this is still in GA after years of uselessness) and Funnel Visualization (almost totally useless in context of almost all Goals).

2. Gain Attribution Modeling Savvy.

My profound disdain for last-click reporting/analysis is well known. If you are using last-click anything, you want your company to make bad decisions. See. Strong feelings.

Yet, many don’t have access to a well set-up account to build attribution modeling savvy and take their company’s analytics the year 2013. Now, you can!

I am big believer in evolution (hence my marketing and analytics ladders of awesomeness). Hence, start by looking at the Assisted Conversions report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels)…

assisted conversions google analytics

Then metric you want to get your company used to first, to get them ready for savvier attribution anything, is the metric Assisted Conversions. The last column.

Here’s the official definition: A value close to 0 indicates that this channel functioned primarily as the final conversion interaction. A value close to 1 indicates that this channel functioned equally in an assist role and as the final conversion interaction. The more this value exceeds 1, the more this channel functioned in an assist role .

Now scroll just a bit back up, stare at that column, what would your strategy be for Organic Search if it is at 0.46? What about Display advertising driving which plays primarily an “upper funnel” introducing your brand to prospects 1.58?

The change required based on this data is not just your marketing portfolio re-allocation, that is almost trivial, what’ bigger, huger, crazy-harder is changing how your company thinks. It is painful. Largely because it quickly becomes about how people’s budgets/egos/bonuses. But, hundreds of conversions are on the line as well on insights you’ll get from this data. Learn how to use this metric to drive those two changes: marketing portfolio – people thinking.

Couple bonus learnings on this report.

On top of the table you’ll see text called Primary Dimension. In that row click on Source/Medium. This is such a simple step, yet brings you next layer of actionable insights so quickly. You’ll see some surprises there.

Second, look at the top of the report, you’ll see a graph. On to top right of the graph you’ll see three buttons, click on the one called Days before Conversion…

assisted conversions days before conversion

I love this report because it helps me understand the distribution of purchase behavior much better. I profoundly dislike averages, they hide insights. This report is the only place you can see distribution of days to purchase for Assisted Conversions.

If you’ve changed the think in your company with Assisted Conversions… You are ready for the thing that gets a lot of press… Attribution Modeling!

You’ll find the report here: Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison.

You’ll see text called Select Model next to Last Interaction. Click on the drop down, ignore all the other models, they are all value deficient, click on the only one with decent-enough value, Time Decay, this is what you’ll see…

attribution modeling last click vs time decay

Half of you reading this post are wondering why I don’t like your bff First-Interaction (it is likely the worst one on the list btw) or your bff Linear (the laziest one on the list)… worry not, checkout this post: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models .

The column you are of course looking at is % Change in Conversions. The GA team is also helping you out by helping you understand where the results are significant, green and red arrows, and where it is directional, up or down gray arrows.

This is the data you’ll use to drive discussions about a change in your marketing $$$ allocations.

Where you have CPA, it is is an even more valuable signal. And, such a blessing that the Store demo account has that data for you.

You’ll need all your brain power to understand the report above (make sure you read the models post above), and then some more to drive the change in how your company thinks. Attribution model is not a software or math problem, it is an entrenched human minds problem.

And because I’m the author of the quote all data in aggregate is crap I recommend scrolling up a bit in the attribution modeling report and clicking on the down arrow under the word Conversion….

attribution modeling goals analysis

This is admittedly an advanced thing to learn because even understanding marketing dollars plus user behavior overall is hard, this just makes it a bit more complicated because you can actually understand those two things for every goal you have individually or just ecommerce all by itself.

It is incredibly awesome to be able to do that because now you are this super-data-intelligent-genius that can move every variable in a complex regression equation very finely to have max impact on your company.

If you can master this, and IF you can evolve how your company does marketing portfolio allocation and how it thinks, then you are ready for the max you can do in Google Analytics when it comes to attribution… custom attribution modeling.

On top of the table, click on Select Model, then Create New Custom Model.

To get you going, here’s one of my models for a client…

custom attribution model

Custom attribution models are called custom because they are custom to every company. It requires an understanding for everything I’ve requested you to do above, business priorities (what the business values), and business strategy.

Creating a couple different custom attribution models, seeing how it affects the data, what decisions GA recommends, helps you have an intelligent argument with all your stake holders. Again, the decisions from this analysis will flow into changes to your marketing portfolio and how people in your company think.

Once you get into custom attribution modeling, and you spend serious amount of money on marketing online (a few million dollars at least), you are ready for the thing that actually will drive the best changes: Controlled Experiments (aka media mix modeling). Hence, it is critical that you approach your learnings in the precise steps above, don’t jump steps if at one of them you have not changed how your company thinks.

Bonus 1: You might think the above is plenty advanced. It is not. For the higher order bits, when you are all grown up, read this post and internalize the implications of it: Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check

Bonus 2: The Time Lag and Path Length reports in your Multi-Channel Funnels folder are extremely worth learning about. I like Path Length more, more insightful. When you analyze the data, be sure to play with the options under Conversion, Type (click AdWords), Interaction Type and Lookback Window. With each step absorb the patterns that’ll emerge in the data. Priceless.

3. Learn Event Tracking’s Immense Value

I’m very fond of Event Tracking for one simple reason. You have to create it from scratch. When you open GA, there is no data in these reports. It can only get there if you spend time trying to understand what’s important to the business (Digital Marketing and Measurement Model FTW!), what is really worth tracking, and then through intelligent thought implementing the tracking.

I love the fact that you have to literally create data from scratch. For any beginner who is trying to get to advanced, Event Tracking will teach you a lot not just about Event Tracking but creating smart data.

Lucky for us the GA team has created some data for us to play with. Go to Behavior in the left nav, then Events, and then Top Events… This is what you’ll see…

event tracking top events

The Store team is capturing four events, you can drill down into any one of them to get a deeper peek into user behavior.

I choose Contact Us to analyze the Event Labels, I get all these strategies that people…

event tracking event lables

It would be valuable if the Event Value had been populated, which would also give us Avg. Value in the table above. Still. Understand that data, how it is collected, what it implies about user behavior is incredibly valuable.

You can also create an advanced segment for any of the events above, example Email. Then, you can apply that segment to any of other reports in Google Analytics and really get deep insights. What cities originate people who call is on the phone? What sites did they come from? How many visits have they made to the site before calling? So on and so forth.

The event tracking reports have three options on top of the report. Event, Site Usage, Ecommerce.

Try the Ecommerce tab…

event tracking ecommerce drilldown

While we did not see any event values, you can tie the sessions where the events were fired with outcomes on the site. Really useful in so many cases where you invest in special content, rich media, interactive elements, outbound links, merchandizing strategies etc. This report, in those cases, will have data you need to make smarter decisions faster.

Bonus: While you are in the Behavior section of Analytics, familiarize yourself with the Site Speed report. Start with the scorecard in the overview report. Move on to Page Timings to find the pages that might be having issues. One cool and helpful visual is Map Overlap, click the link on top of the graph on the Page Timings report. Close with the Speed Suggestions report. Your IT team needs this data for getting things fixed. Your SEO team can do the begging, if required. 🙂

4. Obsess, Absolutely Obsess, About Content

It is a source of intense distress for me that there’s an extraordinary obsession about traffic acquisition (PPC! Affiliates! Cheat Sheet for Video Ads!), and there is huge obsession with outcomes (Conversion Rate! Revenue!), there is such little attention paid to the thing that sits in the middle of those two things: Content!!

Very few people deeply look at content. Yes, there will be a top pages report or top landing pages report. But, that is barely scratching the surface.

Look. If you suck at content, the greatest acquisition strategy will deliver no outcomes.

Obsess about content dimensions and content metrics.

Since you know some of the normal reports already, let me share with you a report that works on many sites (sadly not all), that not many of you are using.

The Content Drilldown report uses the natural folder structure you are using on your website (if you are) and then aggregates content on those folders to show you performance. Here is what you’ll see in the Store demo account you are using…

content drilldown report google analytics

Nice, right? You are pretty much seeing all of the content consumption behavior in the top ten rows!

A pause though. This report is sub-optimally constructed. It shows Pageviews (good), Unique Pageviews (great) and then three metrics that don’t quite work as well: Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, % Exit (worst metric in GA btw if anyone asks in an interview)…

content drilldown report google analytics 2

At a folder level these really help provide any decent insights, and might not even make any sense. Think about it. Bounce Rate for a folder?

Good time for you to learn simple custom reporting.

On top of the report, right under the report title, you’ll see a button called Customize. Press it. Choose more optimal metrics, and in a few seconds you’ll have a report that you like.

This is the one I created for my use with valu-added content metrics that work better: Average Session Duration, Cart-to-Detail Rate (as it is an ecommerce site) and Page Value (to capture both ecom and goal values at a page level)…

content drilldown custom report google analytics

Much better, right? Would you choose a different metric? Please share it via comments below.

Ok. Unpause.

Even a quick eyeballing of the report above already raises great questions related to overall content consumption (Unique Pageviews), merchandizing (Cart-to-Detail Rate) and of course money.

You can now easily drill-down to other more valuable bits of content and user experience.

I click on the first one, most content consumption, to reveal the next level of detail. I can see that Apparel is the biggest cluster of content, with pretty decent Cart-to-Detail Rate…

content drilldown 2 custom report google analytics

Depending on the business priorities I can ask questions like how come the summer olympic games stuff no one seems to want (and we spent $140 mil on an Olympics sponsorship, kidding).

At the moment the company has a huge investment in Google Maps branding, so we can look at how various brands are doing… YouTube FTW!

content drilldown 3 custom report google analytics

Maps is not doing so well. You can see how this data might make you curious if this list is what your business strategy is expecting will happen? Or, is this how we prioritize content creation? I mean, Go! People are interested in something esoteric like Go (programming language in case you are curious) rather than Nest! What a surprise.

That is what this type of content analysis is so good at.

You can continue to follow the rabbit hole by the way and get down to the individual pages in any folder, like so…

content drilldown 4 custom report google analytics

Ten percent Cart-to-Detail Rate is pretty poor, compared to some of the others above. Time to rethink if we should even be selling this combo! If not that, definitely time to look at the page and rethink copy, images, design, and other elements to improve this key metric.

The above custom report is really easy to create, for Subscribers of my newsletter I’ll also email a downloadable link for this and other custom reports below.

Bonus: Most people stop at what the reports show in the default view. The GA team does a great job of adding good think and express it all over the standard reports. For example, in context of our discussion here, try the Content Grouping primary dimension. Here you see what happens to the report when I switch to Brands (Content Group)…

all pages report content groupings

Even more useful than what was there before, right? So, how does GA get this data? As in the case of Event Tracking above, the Analyst and business decision making combination are thoughtfully manufacturing data. In this case using the immensely valuable Content Groupings feature. Invest in learning how to use it in the Store demo account, learn how to create content groupings to manufacture useful data. When you interview for higher level Analytics role, or for a first time Analyst role, you’ll stand out in the interview because this is hard and requires a lot of business savvy (ironic right, you stand out because of your business savvy in a Data Analyst interview!).

5. SEO & PPC, Because You Should!

Ok, you’ve waited long enough, time to talk about the thing you likely spend a ton of time on: Acquisition.

Since you likely already know how to report Traffic Source and how to find the Referring URLs and Sessions and… all the normal stuff. Let me focus on two things that are a bit more advanced, and will encourage you to learn things most people likely ignoring.

The first one I want you to immerse yourself in when you are in the Store data is Search Engine Optimization. You know that this is hard because when you go to Acquisition > Campaigns (what!) > Organic Keywords you will see that 95% are labeled “(not provided)”. This report is completely useless.

You do have other options to analyze SEO performance. Here’s the advanced, advanced, lesson: Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future.

But, you also have some ability in Google Analytics itself to do keyword level analysis for Google’s organic search traffic. Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. This report shows you the top thousands of keywords (4,974 precisely today in the Store report today). The data is available because the team has configured the Search Console data to connect with GA.

Here’s what you’ll see…

organic search queries report google analytics

I sort the data by Clicks, because Impressions is a lot less valuable, and with Clicks I get something closer to Sessions (though they are very different metrics). I immediately value CTR as a metric in this context, you can see the variations above. This is perfect immediate data for SEO discussions.

Average Position is also interesting, perhaps more so for my peers in the SEO team. As a Business Analyst I value Average Position a lot less in a world of hyper-personalized search.

My next data analysis step is to take this data out of GA (click Export on top of the report) and play with it to find macro patterns in the data. I’ll start with something simple as creating tag clouds, using Clicks or CTR as contextual metrics. I’ll classify each keyword by intent or other clusters to look for insights.

Try these strategies, can you find weaknesses in the Google Store’s SEO strategy? How do your insights compare to what you just discovered in the content analysis in terms of what site visitors actually want? Really valuable stuff.

What you cannot do with this data is tie it to the rest of the data in GA for these visitors. You cannot get conversions for example, or Page Depth etc. This is heart-breaking. But, see the not provided post I’ve linked to above for more strategies and meanwhile you can do some cool things in Google Analytics when it comes to SEO.

Bonus: In the Search Console reports, I also find the Landing Pages report is also helpful because you can flip the center of universe, for the same metrics as above, to landing pages rather than keywords. The insights you get will be helpful for your SEO team but more than that it will be critical for your site content team.

A quick note on the above… for the current data you’ll see the Landing Pages report looks a little weird with no data in the Behavior and Conversion columns. Something weird is going on, on my other accounts there is data. The team can fix this in the very near future.

Next, spend a lot of time in the AdWords section.

Both because Paid Search if often a very important part of any company’s acquisition strategy, and because at the moment there are few digital acquisition channels as sophisticated and complex as AdWords. When you are getting ready for your interviews, being good at this, really good, is a great way to blow your interviewer away because most people will know only superficial stuff about AdWords.

As if those reasons were not enough, in Google Analytics AdWords is a great place to get used to the complexity that naturally arises from mixing two data sources. In almost all GA AdWords reports the first cluster of data (pink below) will come from AdWords and the second cluster (green brace) is the normal collection of metrics you see in GA…

adwords plus google analyitcs

This will naturally prod you into trying to understand why are Clicks different from Sessions? After-all it is a click that kicks off a session in GA when the person arrives. It is internalizing these subtle nuances that separate a Reporting Squirrel from an Analysis Ninja.

Above view is from the Campaigns report. I usually start there as it gives me great insights into the overall PPC strategy for the company.

While you are learning from this report, here’s a little smart tip… Click on the Clicks link on top of the graph you see (you’ll see it along with Summary, Site Usage, Goal Set 1, and Ecommerce), you’ll get a different set of metrics you should know intimately as well…

camapign clicks deeper outcomes

The combination of CPC and RPC is very important. It is nice that they are right next to each other in this view.

When you look at Store data I also want you to live-see why ROAS not even remotely a useful metric. It looks alluring. Return On Ad Spend. That sounds so awesome, surely it is in some holy books! No. It is not.

For now, invest in understanding what is is measuring, what the data shows, is that good or bad, and what’s missing. When you already to move to advanced-advanced stage, read this post: Excellent Analytics Tip #24: Obsess About Real Business Profitability

Once I’ve exhausted the value in Campaign reports (drilling-up, drilling-down, drilling-around), it is time to shift into detail. While it might seem that the very next step will be the AdWords Keyword report, it is not. I like going to the Search Query report first.

In AdWords context, Keyword is what you buy from Google. Search Query on the other hand is what people are actually typing into Google when your search ad shows up (triggered by the Keyword of course).

Here are the two reports from the Store account, you can clearly see why I like starting with the Search Query report….

search keywords vs search queires reports

I would much rather learn to anchor on what people are typing and then go into the Keyword view to see what I can learn there. The Search Query performance report helps me re-think my AdGroups, Match Types, bidding strategies and more. It also helps me optimize the landing pages, both from a content they contain and what ads I recommend send traffic there.

You could spend three months in these reports just learning and finessing your PPS savvy, so I’ll leave you to that. 🙂

Bonus: Shopping Campaigns are incredibly successful for most ecommerce properties. Spend time in that report in the AdWords section, drilling-down and segmenting, to learn what makes these campaigns distinct and if you were tasked to identify insights how would you go about it.

6. Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences

Having grown up on cookies, we have typically have had a finite understanding of our audiences. This has slowly changed over time, most recently with the awesomeness of User-ID override empowering us to understand a person. Still, most of the time we are not great at digging into Audiences, and their associated behavior.

Hence, to assist with your evolution from beginner to advanced, three often hidden areas of Google Analytics for you to explore now that you have access to real data.

Go to Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments.

Here’s the official definition of what you are looking at: Users in these segments are more likely to be ready to purchase products or services in the specified category. These are users lower in the purchase funnel, near the end of the process.

I’ve developed an appreciation of this report as I think of my performance marketing strategies, especially the ones tied to Display advertising. Far too often we rely on just PPC or email and don’t use Display in all of the clever ways possible. This repor, leveraging insights from my users, help me understand how to do smarter Display.

in-market segements google analytics

You can drill down to Age by clicking on the in-market segment you are interested in, and from there for each Age group you can drill-down to gender.

Per normal your goal is to identify the most valuable ones using micro and macro-outcomes for your business.

After I’ve mastered in-market segments by adding near term revenue to my company and helping shift the thinking about Display in my company, I move to leverage the data in the Affinity Categories. Also a report in this section. Affinity categories are great for any display or video advertising strategies you have to build audiences around See Intent (See – Think – Do – Care Business Framework). A bit more advanced from a marketing perspective (you would have had to master strategy #2, attribution, above).

For the second hidden area, go to Audience > User Explorer.

This lovely beast shows something you think you are dying to see. It is also something I really don’t want you to obsess about (except if you are a tech support representative). But you want it. So. Here it is…

user explorer report google analytics

What you are looking at is a report that shows you the behavior of an individual user on your website, as identified by an anonymous Client-ID. You can loosely think of it as a person, though it is more complicated that. If you have implemented User-ID override (congratulations, you deserve a gold star!), then you areas close to a person as you’ll ever be.

Because this is everyone on your website, there is no wrong place to start and a hundred thousand terrible places to waste time. You can literally watch each person! See, what I mean when I say I don’t want you to get obsessed about this?

On the rarest of rare occasions I look at this report, my strategy is to understand the behavior of “Whales”, people who spend loads of money on our website (why!). I sort the above report by Revenue, and then look over the users who form the first few rows. The data, fi you do it in the Store account for the person who’s at the top at the moment, looks like this…

user explorer report google analytics detail

The report is sorted from the last hit (08:16 above) to the first hit (which you don’t see above, the person browsed a lot!). You can quite literally watch the behavior, over just five minutes, that lead to an order of $2,211.38! You surely want to know what this person purchased (Men’s Cotton Shifts FTW!), what pages did they see, where did they come from, how did they go back and forth (this person did) and so on and so forth.

Looking at the top few of these Whales might help know something about a product merchandizing strategy, a unique source, or how to change your influence with your acquisition strategy to get a few more of these people. There will always only be handful of folks.

The higher order bit is that the best analytical strategy is to analyze micro-segments rather than individuals. Small groups with shared attributes. You can action these, at scale. Nothing in your marketing, site content delivery, servicing at the moment has the capacity to react to an individual’s behavior in real time. And if you can, you don’t have enough visitors. Hence, obsess about micro-segments. That is a profitable strategy.

The spirit above is also the reason why I don’t mention real-time reporting in this guide. Simply not worth it. (For more, see #4: A Big Data Imperative: Driving Big Action)

For the third hidden area, ok, not so hidden but to expose all your analytical talent, go to Audience > Mobile > Devices.

With greater than 50% of your site traffic coming from mobile platforms, this audience report obviously deserves a lot of attention (in addition to segmenting every single report for Mobile, Desktop, Tablet).

The problem is that the report actually looks like this…

mobile analytics

It is poorly constructed with repetitive metrics, and an under-appreciation for mobile user behavior (why the emphasis on Do outcomes when Mobile has primarily a See-Think intent clusters?). It makes for poor decision making.

So. Time to practice your custom reporting skills. (Oh, if you as an Analyst only use custom reports, you are closer to being an Analysis Ninja.)

Scroll back to the top of the Mobile Devices report and click on the Customize button. On the subsequent page, pick the metrics you best feel will give you insights into Acquisition, Behavior and Outcomes. While you are at it, you’ll see just one dimension in this report, Mobile Device Info, you can add other drill-down dimensions you might find to be of value. I added Screen Resolution (matters so much) and then Page (to analyze each Page’s performance by resolution).

Here’s what the report’s Summary view looks like for me…

smart mobile analytics

Nice, right? Smarter, tighter, more powerful.

My obsession is with people on mobile devices and not just the visits. Hence Users come first. Then, paying homage to See and Think intent, my focus is on Pages/Session. For the same reason, my choice for success is goals and Per Session Value (ideally I would use Per Session Goal Value, but as you saw in the opening this account does not have Goal Values). I would delete the Revenue, it is there mostly in case your boss harassed you. Delete it later.

Depending on the role, Acquisition, Behavior or Outcomes, I have everything I need to start my mobile analysis journey.

As I recommended with AdWords analysis above, the tabs on top of the report hold more analytical insights for you…

smart mobile analytics site usage

You will discover that you’ll have to go and practice your custom reporting skills on all these tabs as there are sub-optimal elements on all three of them. For example with Site Usage, I added Think intent metrics. For Goals and Ecommerce tabs there are fewer and more focused metrics. Now almost all of the stuff I need to make smarter decisions from my mobile data is in one place.

This exercise requires a lot of introspection and understanding business needs as well as what analysis makes sense. That is how we all move from Reporting Squirrels to Analysis Ninjas! 🙂

As with the above custom report, I’ll email a downloadable link to the Subscribers of my newsletter The Marketing – analytics Intersect. You can contrast your choices with my choice of metrics and dimensions.

Bonus: If you present screenshots from GA to your management team, make sure you take advantage of the option to show two BFF trends. In my case above you can see I choose to pair mobile Sessions with Goal Completions (again to put the stress on See – Think intent).

7. Icing on the Cake: Benchmarking!

One final beginner’s advanced recommendation.

You just finished looking at a whole bunch of mobile metrics. How do you know if the performance of the Google Merchandizing Store is good or bad? Yes, you do see trends of past performance. But, how about with others in your industry? Others who have your type and size of website?

I’ve convinced that most of the time without that competitive / ecosystem context, Analysis Ninjas are making incomplete decisions.

The cool thing is, you can get benchmarking data in Google Analytics.

Audience > Benchmarking > Devices.

And now you have a really strong sense for what is good performance and what is non-good performance…

benchmarketing report device category

You might have come to one set of conclusions doing the analysis in the mobile section above, and I suspect that now you have very different priorities with the lens pulled back to how the ecosystem is doing.

And, that’s the beauty.

There’s a lot more you can do with benchmarking. You can explore the advanced-advanced version here when you are ready: Benchmarking Performance: Your Options, Dos, Don’ts and To-Die-Fors!

I hope you have fun.

That is it. A beginner’s advanced guide that hopefully accelerates your journey to become an Analysis Ninja.

As always, it is your turn now.

Have already gotten access to the Store demo account? What elements recommended above had you not explored yet? Which ones do you find most easy/frustrating to get actionable insights from? Are there strategies that you use as an Analysis Ninja that are not covered above?

Please share your recommendations, frustrations, :), joyous strategies and guidance with all of us via comments below.

Thank you.

Be Real-World Smart: A Beginner’s Advanced Google Analytics Guide is a post from: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

Source: Avinash

Suck Less | A Plea For User-Centric Design: Powered By You!

SlicesAnalysts, honestly, make the world go round when it comes to any successful business – yes, data is that important. As you might expect from any role, they also make a handful of important mistakes. I’ve written about the biggest mistake web analysts make.

Today’s post is an adjacent mistake: The cardinal sin of spending too much time with data and in reports!</p

Wait. What?

Yes, I worry that Analysts, and Marketers, are spending too much time with their head buried in custom reports and advance segments and smart calculated metrics and strategic or tactical dashboards. Yes. They are all things I love and have repeatedly asked you to care for. But, perhaps I’m at fault for creating the problem of you spending all your time with data. Additionally, you are spending your day in the warm embrace of Adobe or Google Analytics because your job is set up as “data people.”

In the biggest mistake post above, I’d encouraged you to spend time with the business, with the site (mobile or desktop) and dig from a non-data point of view. Today, I want you to do the same… Spend less time with data and a bit more time with your website. Specifically, the most key elements of the website.

The higher order bit is simple. In the second post on this blog (one million words ago), I’d shared the value of qualitative analysis because it is the only way to get context you need to answer the question why something was happening, rather than just relying on data which only answers the question what happened. Lab usability testing and online surveys both provide great strategies to obsess about user centric design. My love for heuristic evaluations is sourced in the fact that they are relatively straightforward, require the best possible cost – almost free -, and rely on you and your team.

My idea today is even simpler. The four-point self-driven path-to-business-glory:

1. Find the most critical experiences in your digital existence.

2. Try them yourself as if you were the actual user.

3. Cry.

4. Now that you have the why, use the what to highlight the importance of improving the experience.

You must be freaking out, you have a huge website and 25 mobile apps.

While I do think it is a great idea for you to carve out 30 mins each week to execute the four-point approach above, I want you to start with places where your for-profit or non-profit entity is most likely to make money. Then, because this will be so addictively sexy, you should make time every week (might I suggest 1330 – 1400 hrs each Friday).

The initial focus of the above four steps will be the last-mile (core) experiences on your website. The starting point will be as simple as it can possibly be so that everyone in your company will care tons: Are we fabulous at the things most important to us making money as a company?

It does not matter if you are are B2B or B2C. Neither does it matter if you are a for-profit or a non-profit (it takes capital – human and financial – to change the world, right?).

My advice for you how to execute this massively important process is broken into the following sections, using delicious real-world examples:

Intrigued? Ready to learn from three wonderful companies, and their real-world reality, how be a one-woman/man user-centric design revolutionary?

Let’s go!

HTC Does Not Check-out

Let’s look at one example of the four step process above in action. It comes courtesy of a personal experience.

We all know HTC is in trouble. I’ve always thought they pushed the edge and took risks. I have had three HTC phones, and I loved HTC One. They have an approach to simplicity in software that is closer to a pure Google experience (when compared to the nails scratching a blackboard irritation that is personified in the Samsung phones).

I was in the market for a new phone recently (turns our tripping on oneself and falling into a swimming pool for a quick ten seconds is enough to fry a Nexus 5X). The announcement of an HTC 10 was that very day. A quick review of the even simpler approach by HTC to software (very close to pure Google, most default apps are Google) and pictures of the HTC 10 and I was sold.

Within ten seconds of getting the available for order email from HTC, I was on the Buy Now page.

And then… I was stumped…

HTC Checkout

Select Carrier was pre-selected as unlocked, exactly what I was looking for.

I could not figure out how to Select Color, which presumably would ungray the PRE-ORDER button.


I reloaded. No dice. Opened the page in the Edge browser – sometimes Microsoft is all you need to do the trick. No dice.

Extremely frustrating.

I am a usability expert after all, I did figure it out.

Turns out you have to click on the Unlocked green icon. It does absolutely NOTHING when you click on it. But, that click opens up Step 2 for you to Select Color. That in turn opens up the PRE-ORDER button.


Now consider this. Here is a company in deep financial trouble. They desperately need early order like mine (at full price!), a full month before they’ll ship the phone. They really need to know if their marketing, and last hope the HTC 10, is going to be received well. Yet, no one bothered to try the web experience to check how much it sucked. AND, it was the only way to submit a pre-order!

The insanity of it all makes my blood boil. And, I don’t even work for HTC. As someone who loves the web, who is passionate about digital experiences, it makes me bat-crap cray-cray when I see this level of staggering incompetence.

It should upset you too. This is happening on your website.

When was the last time you submitted a product review on your site? Or, tried to submit a lead? Or, unsubscribe for your company mailing lists? Or, download a piece of software? Or, customize the layout of the car (boo BMW boo!)? Or, tried to return a product? Or…. or anything else that is directly connected to you making money?

Just do it.

My recommendation will yield two great outcomes:

1. You will get insights you can use for your data/campaigns. The why for your what .

2. You are going to become stark-raving mad at the incompetence you’ll see from your own company.

Thing 2 is priceless. And, your career will really, really take off.

United Breaks Hearts.

To prove that these experiences come in many different shapes and sizes, let’s look at another example.

united wifi

I humbly believe the worst checkout experience in the known universe is buying Wi-Fi on United planes. It does not work with password managers like Dashlane (which would greatly reduce the nightmare). The form has a crazy captcha that will require prayers to Buddha and the layer of magma in the middle of planet Earth. Drop-downs in the form related to credit card expiry date or other elements are terribly organized. It is missing primitive intelligence, like the city does not get auto-filled after you type in the Zip Code. It does not remember that I’m a United 1k member, and that they have all my credit card, underwear size etc. info already, and let me press one button to buy.

I would keep going on, and this is a one-page experience, but let me stop.

It honestly is the worst. I challenge you to submit an experience worse than this via comments below.

Oh, and one more thing. Set everything above. United is experimenting with pricing, you can buy Wi-Fi by the hour.

How about making it easy for me to figure out how much to buy…

United Wi-Fi Checkout

I’m flying from SFO to ORD.

It is not an 81 hour flight.

Not wanting to pay too much, I had to buy Wi-Fi twice because I guessed wrong the first time. Frustrating.

Why is something so gosh darn easy so very, very hard? I understand times are tough at United-Continental, but don’t United employees buy wi-fi on United planes? Or, even better, tried to buy Wi-Fi on competitor planes and realized how much better they are? Why do they put up with this atrocious horribleness? Don’t they love their company?

While I’m being a bit more passionate than you might expect me to…. consider that, literally, hundreds of thousands of people each day sit on a United flight – which is already frustrating for reasons that have nothing to do with United – and the very first thing they have to deal with is avoidable pain.

Patagonia Returns No Love.

Here’s a story of unrequited love.

There is perhaps no brand I love as much as Patagonia. I love, love, love Patagonia. I love the clothes, the quality, the fit and all that normal stuff. The reason I love, love, love Patagonia is the depth and breadth of their corporate responsibility and the fact that as a B Corps company doing good for the world is in their legal charter.

Patagonia though refuses to return my deep love for it because of how difficult it makes the most basic thing an ecommerce company should be good at: returning products.

Let me explain.

If you see me out and about, anywhere in the world, I’ll be wearing my well worn scratched blue nano puff jacket. I love them so much, I buy them for others. Recently though, my aunt did not like the green color and I had to return it.

It is easy to start a return…

patagonia returns step1

When you click continue you land on the Shipping & Billing Page. The Shipping Cost is described as “flat rate repair shipping cost.” I don’t actually want to repair anything, I just want to return the jacket. I don’t know if that is what Patagonia will charge me to return the jacket, or returns are free as I’m not sending anything for repair.

patagonia returns step2

What is also a tad bit confusing is that they are asking for a shipping address.

My mind goes back to the multitude of returns we have made via Amazon Prime, and I can’t recall having to confirm my shipping address.

Is the assumption of the Patagonia digital user experience team (if they have one) that most of their customers move after they buy Patagonia products?

Worse is yet to come.

When I scroll down on the above page, I see this… REVIEW ORDER.

patagonia returns step3


What order?

Order to return a jacket?

Is Patagonia so short of buttons that they could not make a separate one for the return process and call it PROCESS RETURN?

I genuinely pause at this moment not sure how much the return costs, and what I’m ordering. Perhaps an address label?

But remember, I love, love, love this company. So, I persist.

Here’s the next page…. It is called Shipping & Billing. What the hell happened to REVIEW ORDER!

patagonia returns step4

I would have assumed at the minimum the above step would happen when they asked me if I had moved homes after ordering the jackets.

I persist of course and give them my credit card, which will be charged for $5 or $0. I’m not quite sure.

Then I have to go to two pop-up windows to separately print a page I have to include in the package and the page I have to stick outside the package.

The whole experience is so bad, it hurts my feelings. Especially because I really do love this brand and I can’t believe they suck so much.

I don’t understand what the problem is. Is this so bad because Patagonia run out of money having created a order submission process that they had to re-use it for processing returns? Is this so bad because no human at Patagonia has experienced returning anything they’ve purchased on the internet? Is this so bad because I am the only person who has ever purchased anything at and hence honestly they don’t need to give a crap for one person?

As an outsider to United, HTC and Patagonia, it is hard to understand why companies that put so much money into trying to provide a service seem to run out of money, or love, at the last-mile.

Fix that for your company. Fix the last-mile.

Oh, and remember my beloved blue nano puff jacket? Don’t bother searching for it using the search box on any webpage. You get zero product results. Zero. For a jacket that costs $199 list. Zero results via search. Patagonia is making me cry, I don’t know how I’m going to fall asleep tonight.

Your Turn | Ideas To Impact Your Bottom-line Today.

If you are a part of an ecommerce company, order something right now (in a different tab, keep this one open to read the rest of this post!). Make note of what frustrates you. Email it to the CMO. Then tomorrow. Try to cancel the order. Take notes. Email them to the CMO. If it won’t let you cancel the order, try to return the order after you get it. Take notes. Email them to the CMO.

That is what it takes to drive change.

If you work at Salesforce, submit an online lead, experience your company in all its frustrating glory that your potential customers do.

If you work at Unilever, go to any brand’s active Facebook page and submit a problem using the comment system. See what happens.

If you work at AT&T, try to review the current month’s bill to understand the charges on a family plan before you use the online bill pay feature. Then, get really, really mad. (Or, ask me to send you a video of my pain as I try to do that each month.)

If you work at the Lutheran World Relief, try the funky box that opens up when you hover over the red Donate Now, see how it feels. (Then fix it please.)

I hope you’ll be the bright star whose obsession with true digital simplicity and glory will infect others in your company. Imagine how many problems will be found, how much improvement can be driven…. all without Google or Adobe Analytics.

Oh. And, before I forget. Try all of the above on your mobile websites and mobile apps. I would post screenshots, but I fear the pain it would cause you. So. Be sure to have a friend or lover hold your hand before your dive into your company’s mobile experiences. It is going to suck a lot, but consider the fact that you are going to be doing God’s work and making the world a better place.

Bonus | Download: The team at Google has already spent loads of money on research to identify the mobile best practices, with loads of cool examples. Why not benefit from Google’s spend and improve your mobile experience? PDF Here: 25 Principles of Mobile Site Design.

[sidebar] I’m writing a weekly newsletter that shares tips on how to make sense of data, my favourite data visualizations, marketing strategies and things to avoid in your quest to be a smarter digital person. No advertising, just amazing advice. You can sign up here: The Marketing-Analytics Intersect. Thanks. [/sidebar]

BUT I Want Data-First!

For some in our audience here, it is hard to leave analytics and data behind no matter how desperately I want you to. I understand the pain of trying to let go of years of accumulated comfort from never having to experience your business, and only living through data. I’ve done it.

You can use data as a starting point, if you really want to.

It is possible that the HTC team could have found their heartbreaking Pre-Order page via the fabulous Shopping Behavior Analysis report that is part of the magnificent Enhanced Ecommerce Reporting in Google Analytics.

shopping behavior analysis google analytics

The above data does not belong to HTC (15% also might be a bit too high!). But, the first column is what we would be looking for. That could trigger a visit to the website to try the user experience.

I do want to caution that not everything broken will be so easy to find, hence I want you to complement your data skills and analysis efforts with just going to the site/app and trying to emulate a normal person (you!).

Another source of starting points, if you insist on using the data, is to leverage the Behavior Flow report that automatically helps you unpack the complexity of the user experience on your website or mobile app.

behavior flow report google analytics

I am not a huge fan of path analysis, so do know that you have some of those issues here. But, the GA team has done a wonderful job of trying to avoid some of the issues. Besides, you will likely be most intrigued by the red bars above and any really dark gray bars that are ending up in odd places.

By reflecting the actual behavior, GA is trying to get make this a productive use of your time and when it comes to trying to walk in the shoes of the user this report does a pretty decent job.

There are other reports you can use as well. I hesitate to give you a complete list because my core ask of you is to skip the whole data bit and just use your site/app.

Everything’s Fine. Our Digital Experience Rocks!

It does not.

If you want me to prove it to you, reach out with your URL. It won’t take too long to find the issues. 🙂

I do not believe in the everything’s fine mantra. Stay hungry, stay foolish. If my four step process outlined at the start of this post does not yield anything meaningful, I take it as an indicator that I’ve become assimilated.

In these cases, my strategy is to use the blessings of the multitude of online usability testing tools to identify problems my beloved users might be facing that I’ve become blind to.

Steps One and Two are the same as I’ve recommended for when conducting Heuristic Evaluations.

Then, you’ll pick a unmoderated usability (or moderated if you insist) tool you like, from UserTesting to UserZoom to Loop11 to UX Recorder (for mobile) to the many others out there. Conduct your studies, wait for the result to roll in, reflect on how much there is to do (a good thing!) and get stuff fixed.

Testing Kills/Delays Good Ideas.

If you have read either one of my books, or even bits of this blog, you would have learned of my extreme stress on experimentation in terms of fixing the user experience. And, I do stand by it. Most Analysts and Marketers are less than ideal proxies for actual users (you are too close to your own company).

There is a class of fixes, everything above, where you should not recommend testing anything. First, stop the bleeding. Just fix the primitive problems.

(I’m not sure there is one, but if there is one…) What should the United digital user-experience team to first? See what two of it’s main competitors are doing, take the simplest things, implement them right away.

No testing.

HTC team? Patagonia?


Or, just copy Bonobos or Amazon or someone who has already figured it out.

In these cases, testing becomes another boondoggle that will continue for another trillion years while the bleeding continues. You can even quantify the bleeding if you use any of the above report. It is very expensive.

Once the core is fixed, then use experimentation and testing to elevate yourself beyond your direct competitors, beyond how great your customers thing you could ever be.

Closing Thoughts.

I really did write this post for you, the person whose job description does not have one word about user experience or user-centric design. No matter what your title, dogfood your own digital experiences. You’ll find valuable insights that give context (why) to your data (what). Besides, you’ll get mad and pity your customers, and, because you are awesome, you’ll get things fixed.

And, once you fix all the last-mile (core) issues, don’t stop there. Most Analysts, Marketers, rarely search for their own brands on Bing or Google or Baidu and follow the experiences that come up to the end. Rarely do they click on their display ads and see what happens (remarketing to death!). Most don’t follow their brands on social media and are self-tortured by the embarrassment that is their social media presence. Most… You catch my drift.

User-centric design powered by you can transform your company. You can get a ton of enriching insights if you set aside 30 mins every week to use your mobile and desktop website, your mobile app, your Search ads and your social channels. So… make time, solve for world peace.

As always, it is your turn now.

Does your company have an existing user-centric design practice? If yes, are all the last-mile user experience problems solved in your digital experiences? Is there a cultural incentive in your company to do what I’m recommending above, even if your job is not UX? What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve discovered about your company? What is the most delightful phone buying, wi-fi ordering, order returning experience you’ve seen? Is there a painful experience you want to share, perhaps we can get it fixed (!)?

Please share your tips, best practices, painful experiences, joyous clicks, and masterful guidance via comments below.

Thank you.

Suck Less | A Plea For User-Centric Design: Powered By You! is a post from: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

Source: Avinash

Four Stories: A Decade of Writing Occam's Razor!

An off-topic post this week, to celebrate this incredible outpost you’ve helped create on the web, Occam’s Razor.

This month my beloved blog is ten years old. T. E. N!

It feels more like five. But, I’ve already celebrated the blog being five years old!

I have to admit life has been a tad bit busy lately, and it took a note from a reader to remind me of the birthday. Her note read: “…. and it is pretty impressive that you’ve managed to stay relevant for a decade, it is a very long time in digital years…”

It gave me a pause. I had to go check how long I’ve been at this.

My very first post was audaciously titled Traditional Web Analytics is Dead (05/15/06). Given that title, it is amazing that the whole thing has lasted a decade! 🙂

What is frankly shocking is how topical the content seems to be. Five minutes ago, 05/30/06, in my stream I saw a tweet by Christian Bartens referencing a post I’d written on 05/19/06! The 10 / 90 Rule for Magnificent Web Analytics Success.

So today, a little bit of reporting back to you how things have been, a little reflecting my sense of pride on the journey, and an invitation to you to contribute a little story about your experience with my beloved blog. Would you please add it to the comment below? Where are you, how long have you been reading it, what value have you found in it?

The Story In Numbers.

You’ll see in a moment just how much you have been a part of my success, I have actual numbers! 🙂 I’ll share below my journey over the last decade, what it took, I think, to keep Occam’s Razor at such high quality, and the decisions big and small it took to stay relevant and keep the brand of the blog so pure.

But, first, the numbers.

Here’s the Google Analytics trend for Sessions, or Visits as they used to be called back in the day. 🙂 A nice and steady increase in traffic until 2013, then then a flattening out.

occams razor traffic

What’s interesting is that I started the blog, very deliberately, only writing two posts a week. It was quite abnormal as most people blogged multiple times a day. Then as I grew busy after the first book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day was published, June 2007, I started writing once a week to keep the quality high. I’d switched jobs by now and after the second book, Web Analytics 2.0, Oct 2009, I started writing every other week. Then once every three weeks, then, as you start to see the curve flatten after 2013, once a month.

What is pretty surprising is that traffic that stayed loyal kept increasing. I have 80k RSS Subscribers on Feedburner (what, it is still around!). And, there is also a feed available via Feedly, which currently has 39k Subscribers.

feedly occams razor subscribers

My rough estimation is that 200k people read the blog’s content each month.

I have always been a bit surprised about this because I only write once a month now. But, having analyzed the data in Google Analytics, it turns out a whole bunch of that traffic is reading older content.

And, people engage! There are 28 comments awaiting moderation right now, eight of them are on posts prior to 2010.

Speaking of which…

You are a massive part of my this blog is successful.

Not counting this post, I’ve written 913,661 words in ten years (I still can’t believe it has been ten years!). And, you all have contributed 939,657 words on comments!!

raw author contribution occam's razor

Honestly, it is simply unbelievable.

I’ll admit that encouraging comments, getting you to engage was a very deliberate part of my blogging strategy. I would reply personally to every single person who wrote a comment (I still do). And, it would be thoughtful. I would reply on the blog in a timely manner. Etc.

But this is well beyond my wildest imagination.

Here’s a comparison of you and myself…

conversation rate full stats occam's razor

27 comments on average per post. It used to be much bigger, but like on other blogs the comments have been impacted by social media’s evolution.

Thank you for being such an engaged audience. I will honestly tell you that when the going has gotten tough, your engagement, your questions, your kind words have been a huge motivator. Merci!

Speaking of which… One number I’m very proud of is the result of the decision my wife and I made when we published the two books. We decided that since this blog is a labor of love, that rather than me making money on it, we would donate all the proceeds we make from the book to charity.

web analytics 2

As of today, that number is slightly north of $320,000.

It is an unbelievable amount of money, I don’t think I could possibly donate that much from my other earnings. It has gone to three charities: Doctors Without Borders, The Smile Train and Ekal Vidyalaya. Of all the things that I do with this blog, this is the one I’m most proud of.

Thank you again for helping me do it.

The Story Of My Decade.

I was the Director of Research & Analytics at Intuit when I started this blog (LinkedIn). Writing was a delicate balancing act between doing a full-time job, being responsible for a team and writing in the night. I could not imagine how I did it. (And, it only got crazier and crazier!)

I then did a year of consulting, via my company ZQ Insights, with a few companies like Dell and AOL, and a little entity called Google. At the end of that year, I accepted a full-time job at Google as an Analytics Evangelist. Brett deserves my eternal gratitude for creating this wonderful position for me. My second job at Google was to as the Digital Marketing Evangelist – primarily as a result of me realizing that data was not the problem, in fact it was not even fifth on the list and I wanted to go solve the real strategic problems for the largest companies on the planet.

Avinash Kaushik

My current job at Google is perhaps my most exciting yet, leading a group of storytellers who use data and strategic business frameworks as the bedrock to do something hard and magical: Changing minds.

Along the way, I’ve been on the board of advisors of four companies (two successful exits!). It was an amazing experience each time, and as you know what does not kill you makes you stronger.

I also started Market Motive to transform education for digital disciplines with my friend John and Michael. Selling it recently to Simplilearn was a thrill, we are all so excited for the hockey stick growth that we expect MM to have now.

Market Motive was fantastic as I was also the Faculty for Web Analytics. This meant Live Class every week, new videos of the latest content, engaging with students on most days, grading their final dissertations, constantly trying to solve for the higher order bit… I cannot share how influential this was in forcing me to be not just current but two steps ahead.

A source of deep satisfaction during this decade has been the ability to influence analytics products. There are parts of Google Analytics I can point to and feel a sense of gratification that I had the privilege of working on it or initiating the creation of. There have been other tools at Google like the Keyword Tool or Webmaster Tools or even etc. I feel so happy that, literally, millions of people in the world use something I had the privilege of working on. Beyond Google, I’ve advised, for free, many startups on their work, many of you use these tools today, bringing me great joy. Posts from this blog have also influenced many metrics, reports, and dashboards you see in other tools. In one case at least, TrueSocialMetrics, the entire tool and company started from one blog post (Best Social Media Metrics). Money cannot buy the sense of pride I feel.

The whole time, there were keynotes to be delivered around the world, new audiences to engage, deep diving into different countries, business environments, hunting for the good an the not-good, all in a constant to be the most memorable and valuable speaker for every audience! That is how you end up with more than a million miles flown in less than ten years (just on United).

Having three jobs at the same time means seventy-hour work weeks (and no keeping up with the kardashians). It was been absolutely unbelievable, an amount of professional growth, powered by curiosity I express every day to come back to you on this blog with something incredible and of value.

The Story Of Three Early Choices.

Here are some decisions that, in hindsight, had a huge impact on me and the blog.

1. I’d decided early on that I would not have any advertising on the blog, in fact I would never ask people to hire me as a consultant or speaker or anything else. I never wanted to directly make any money from the blog, that gave me the freedom to focus just on teaching by sharing my knowledge as I accumulated it.

The only commercial stuff here are the links to Market Motive or my books in the side nav. I rarely, if ever, ask you to buy either.

I think this was huge for me because I never had to pimp, and that always pollutes intent, and it brought focus. It also became easy to say yes or no to things that lead to commercial things. Guest posts. Pimping other people’s stuff. Getting you to show up at my events. Etc. Etc.

All of this made it easier to see the knowledge here is in the purest way it was intended.

2. I also decided that I would only write if I had something incredible and of value to share. Else. Shut up and post nothing.

This allowed me to serve the God of Quality beyond all else. As I got busier, I kept posting less because it would compromise quality. It also meant that I had to be very good at things before I could write about them (forcing me to be amongst the first in the industry to get into things that were not yet mainstream – mobile, social, analytics evolutions, marketing, competitive intelligence, decision making challenges etc. etc.).

This was huge for me because the reason people came, and kept coming, is because they were a little more than reasonably guaranteed to get fantastic, bleeding edge thinking in a non-pimpy environment. This is also the reason that I’ve managed to have three jobs at one time and evolve in each of them (to an extent that web analytics itself forms a much smaller part of my core).

3. I deliberately decided not to syndicate the content on this blog. This was hard for me because I know that I am lot less famous because I’ve refused to have the content of this blog on the HBS blog or one of the industry blogs or Huff Po or LinkedIn or so many other places. They are all glorious places where there is a ton of traffic and it would have benefited me.

But, the upside for me is that you can only find my content here. And, if you want to be intelligent about analytics and marketing, you’ll have to come here. My house. My terms. My customer (you!). This has turned up to be a great strategy because my presence is not fragmented all over the web and I’m not at the mercy of sites becoming famous or dying for the attention of my precious audience.

There are many other choices I’ve made, big and small, along the way. But these three have had a huge impact, and I hope as you think of your own platform (and you should have one) you’ll find them to be of value.

The Story Of Benefits To Me.

So, so, so, so many.

I have made so many brilliant friends. People out there that inspire me, Thomas and Mitch and Seth and Bryan and so many others. People that make me so happy when I see them around the world, like Marco when I visit Germany or Zoli when I’m in Hungary. My circle is huge. For an introvert to have so many people to know and to care for and engage in an exchange of ideas is an immense gift.

The blog has helped me be “famous.” As I tell my kids, medium-sized fish in a small fish-bowl. 🙂 This has brought with it so many benefits, indirectly financial and otherwise.

The blog has helped me build a unique brand for myself. For the fifth year anniversary, I’d asked folks in Social Media what three words come to mind when they think about “Brand Avinash,” this is the resulting tag cloud…

brand tag cloud non-analytics avinash kaushik-big[1]

Could a person ask for anything more? Such a gift from you all, from this blog, that I get to read those words. I was deeply touched.

But above and beyond all else, my absolute favourite benefit is the stories strangers tell me when I see them after my keynotes around the world, or in the emails they send to me.

Here’s an example:

Hello Avinash! I wanted to pass along a big thank you for your blog posts and newsletters. I enjoy reading and more importantly, learning from your experiences. I have yet to read a post from you that did’nt simultaneously educate and entertain me.

I am particularly digging your comparison of own vs. rent in the context of platforms. I am also really pleased with your recent newsletter approach.

THANK YOU for being awesome! I look forward to learning more from you in the future.

How very kind is that?

And people are so wonderful to write. Here’s another one:

Hi Avinash,

Just wanted to let you know that every time I visit your blog I spend somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes reading your articles… and 3 or 4 hours with crippling self-doubt about my own way of doing stuff.

It means you write excellent stuff and I’m actually learning something.


I literally LOLed! I loved that someone out there was filled with three to four hours of self-doubt. 🙂 I wrote back to check if they were back to normal after that. He said, I end up in a new and better place. 🙂

Some of my absolute favourite emails have this spirit in them…


You are a huge inspiration and have contributed to the intellectual, financial and emotional well being of many.

When I started reading your blog, I was living below the poverty line, and carrying the financial responsibility for my family. With the traditional world view, I had little chance of success in the job environment because I didn’t have fancy degrees nor a valuable skill set and I had entered the workforce in my mid to late 30s.

Reading your blog and books taught me to think intelligently and cut through a lot of years of work otherwise required to gain experience. It also inspired me to pursue excellence and a whole lot more.

I am sharing this with you so you can see the impact you have on lives. I know there are thousands reading your blog and many of their lives are impacted. In little ways and big ways.

I know you get a ton of email. No response needed. Just sharing parts of the story so you have visibility on the huge impact your work has on many lives.

Keep shining!

Every kind email touches me with the generosity of the words strangers write, emails like this one move me deeply.

I write because I love writing and I want to share what little I know. To learn that it has a material impact on someone gives the kind of meaning to my work that money, fame or anything else simply can’t buy. In those moments, you all make me realize that I will do a lot in my life, my kids will be my biggest legacy, but that this decade spent writing close to a million words have had an impact that I could never have imagined. Beyond a doubt a huge impact on me, and some impact on you.

In my wildest dreams on May 15th 2006 I could not have imagined that I would end up here a decade later. Not in my wildest dreams.

Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for your encouragement.

I am beyond grateful.

And, I’m going to keep trying, keep learning and keep sharing. My email newsletter, I’m the last human to get into newsletters (!), The Marketing – Analytics Intersect, is the latest iteration of this.

Thank you again.

As always (!!), it is your turn now.

How long have you been reading the blog? Which post was/is your favourite? If you had to describe “brand Avinash” in three words, what would be your three words? Why do you think this blog has been successful, or relevant, for a decade?

I would love to hear from you. Merci.

Four Stories: A Decade of Writing Occam’s Razor! is a post from: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

Source: Avinash

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