Book Review: Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik
Sadly, it’s tougher and tougher nowadays for me to pick up a book and really stick with it. What with commuting everyday an hour each way, a buzzing iPhone that won’t stop after 5pm, and maintaining a blog in an industry that doesn’t sleep – it can be hard to find the time to read. So for the past few weeks, I’ve made the time to crack open and read every page of Avinash Kaushik’s latest book, Web Analytics 2.0: The art of online accountability and science of customer centricity, and I’m glad I did. So I’m going to give you three reasons you should buy this book today.
Reason #1: Buy the book because your website sucks
Hear me out. Your website DOES indeed suck in some way. So does mine, so does Dell’s, so does Amazon’s. In some way, shape or form, all websites suck, and they suck in varying degrees of suckage. Do you know how it sucks? Do you know what people think of it? How is your sucktitude affecting real-deal business goals like lead generation, revenue, engagement (whatever the heck that is), and stickiness. (Why anyone would like stickiness is beyond me…)
If you do indeed know how your website sucks, and where it’s costing you money or opportunity then either a) congratulations, you’re a psychic and an analytics ninja, or b) you’re a damn filthy liar. Chances are, none of us really knows EVERYTHING there is to know about how our website sucks, and that’s Avinash’s point. Consider the “low hanging fruit” and areas for vast improvement, measure the critical few business metrics (not necessarily out of the box analytics metrics), start the “virtuous data quality cycle”, and take action to become data-driven today.
Then maybe, just maybe your website will suck just a bit less and you’ll get a raise!*
*Disclaimer: May not actually get raise.
Reason #2: Buy the book because your web analytics reporting sucks
“Well, our page views went up last quarter and that’s good because that shows our website is attracting people to more pages.” Yeah? Says you! What if you have a cellular e-store and your page views skyrocket when RIM releases the newest Blackberry, but you don’t offer it. Is that because your website is cool, or because people can’t find the latest and greatest smart phone? Maybe both? “Guaranteed, maybe™”.
That’s another strong point Avinash brings up. Pare down all the damn top 10 reports, metrics, sProps, eVars, traffic sources, all of that nonsense! Find the metrics that really matter, the ones that your CEO, CFO, CMO, and even your janitor can look at, understand, and take decisive action upon.
Visualize your juicy data, make it come alive, put numbers behind your initiatives, but most importantly recommend change and back it up with evidence.
Reason #3: Buy the book because your career sucks
Do you see yourself cranking out the same reports every day? Are you really taking part in making moves within your organization that will cause people to sit up and take notice? Are you losing touch with new and exciting marketing tactics, social media platforms, competitive intelligence, or usability testing concepts that seem like an unobtainable nirvana? If so, Avinash has about 150 pages of real-world advice for you, my friend. Your career might totally suck the big one.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the same predicament, and you know what? You can keep falling into the same pit no matter where you find yourself. It’s tough to find data-driven allies, move beyond the boring monthly reporting machinery, and fail faster through testing. But those are all the things that make a rewarding career versus a grueling nine to five job.
The name of this blog contains the word advice, so here’s some advice right out of the book. Whether it’s tough love such as “find a new boss” or a shining example of good karma such as “make someone who will listen a hero,” Avinash fails to disappoint (or pull any punches).
BONUS! Reason #4: Buy the book because it’s for a good cause
There are a few reasons buying the book goes towards a good cause. First, becoming Avinash’s web analytics ninja is no small task. It’s not easy. Second, it may contain advice that will talk you down from a ledge one day and bring you back to what can be an extremely rewarding discipline, both personally and professionally. Third, proceeds of the book go to some solid charitable causes.
Failing Faster in Print, but not that bad
Avinash, buddy, you didn’t think you’d get away from a book review without a few items of constructive criticism, did you? Heck, I need something in this post to prove I’m not totally biased, or have a Kaushik shrine in my back yard.
- Rightly so, Avinash doesn’t marry any one web analytics solution in his book. However, it’s obvious that certain functionality is only available from certain solutions. Although that’s not terrible nor is it the end of the world, it can be somewhat frustrating not to be able to take action on his advice if you already married the wrong tool. (“That’s what she said…”)
- Mention of emerging technologies in social media, mobile apps and video, albeit a pandora’s box of ever changing tools and gizmos, is somewhat brief in scope and almost felt rushed. It would have made sense to tie this section back to competitive intelligence with some examples of how companies are learning to change with the tide of new technology.
- Avoidance of Google. Here’s what I don’t quite understand. Everyone knows Avinash works for Google, and he does make disclaimers throughout the book about his involvement with several companies, but he seems hesitant to talk in depth about other great tools Google provides. It’s less of a criticism about the completeness of his argument, and more a complaint about maybe being too timid in fear of coming across as a kool-aid drinking employee. You rarely pull punches buddy, so come out and say it. Google does generate the bulk of search traffic, Google Adwords does afford a lot of great insight that Analytics solutions may not be able to offer. That’s just the way it is.
I hope this section doesn’t come off too critical, because the book does promote a lasting feeling of quality insights into our online industry and the discipline of web analytics in particular.
In conclusion, I don’t have much else to say aside from my own personal hope that this book will soon become standard reading material in some very progressive course material. Honestly, books don’t stay at my house very long before I give them away to people that might benefit from reading them, but I might just hold onto this one. I gave you three reasons (and a bonus), so go buy your own!