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Eric T. Peterson, the man behind Web Analytics Demystified, is in London later this month for Web Analytics Wednesday. We asked him about these networking events and also got his insights on some hot topics in analytics.

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Can you tell us a bit about Web Analytics Wednesdays and why you started them?

June Dershewitz (who is currently running for WAA Board of Directors) and I started Web Analytics Wednesdays back in 2005 when we simultaneously realized there was a profound need for some place for web analytics professionals to meet face-to-face. The Yahoo! group (that I founded in 2004, which currently has over 4,500 members worldwide) was great but it didn't connect people to their local community, something June and I both believe to be incredibly important.

The events started pretty small but have subsequently built tremendous momentum. In any given month there are hundreds of web analytics professionals meeting over drinks in dozens of cities around the world! All that is required to participate is the willingness to meet new people - there are no dues or fees or applications, just plain old fashioned drinking pints in pubs, talking about work.

Your readers can learn more about Web Analytics Wednesday, join a local event, or plan their own event by visiting my site.

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Who is welcome to the event in London later this month?

Everyone and anyone who has at least a passing interest in measuring one's audience. Web Analytics Wednesday event participants are incredibly open to newcomers and the fine folks running the event in London (SCL Analytics) run a tremendously good event I am told. Since this is the first WAW in London I'm able to participate in, and since London has historically had one of the largest turnouts worldwide, we're hoping to have well over 100 folks join us on March 31! Your readers can register to join us.

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There has been a lot of consolidation in the web analytics sector recently, with Omniture in particularly acquisitive mode. How do you see the market further evolving?

It is definitely interesting times in the web analytics market. On one hand we have Omniture aggressively (and somewhat opportunistically in the case of Visual Sciences) acquiring marketing technologies and consolidating some part of the measurement market. On the other hand, we have a dozen new start-ups emerging to measure niche Web 2.0 technologies like widgets, video, social media, etc.

Not to be too coy, but at the London event I will be giving a short presentation on "The Future of Web Analytics" in which I will speak directly to your question ... hopefully your readers will join us on March 31 and hear my answer! (If they cannot, I'm happy to follow-up with you after the event.)

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How would you compare the UK and US web analytics industries?

The differences between US and UK usage of web analytics appears to be lessening all the time, perhaps in part due to the US vendors (Omniture, Coremetrics, Unica, WebTrends) further establishing their presence in Europe. It seems that I'm routinely talking to clients and prospects in the UK who have the same level of sophistication and same type of measurement needs that I deal with every day in the US.

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Is the type of website optimisation offered by the likes of Offermatica and Optimost part of web analytics or something separate?
 
An excellent question, one perhaps unsurprisingly I have a fairly strong opinion about! I firmly believe that if you're not doing some type of testing (A/B, multivariate) that you're not really doing web analytics. The Web Analytics Demystified RAMP methodology (Resources, Analysts, MULTIVARIATE TESTING, Process) is built around this idea, as is my thinking about the Web Site Optimization Ecosystem.

If you're not testing, you're not really taking proper advantage of the data your analytics provides, are you? I first described this in 2005 while at JupiterResearch when I talked about the stages of analytics maturity. You cannot cross the "Action" chasm and become a Stage Four company until you've established the ability to test in a structured, repeatable, statistically relevant way.

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What is your take on the definition of “customer engagement”, its importance and whether or not this can be measured?

I've been writing about measuring visitor and customer engagement since December 2006 and for good or ill have become somewhat of a focal point for this measure worldwide. If you go to my site and search for "engagement" you'll likely find yourself overwhelmed with the volumes I've written on the subject, so that's my bias.

Personally I think that the measure of visitor and customer engagement has the potential to re-shape the web analytics industry and is perhaps the most fundamental measure in a Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 (digital ubiquity) world. Page views, time spent, bounce rate, etc. all suck as measures of "engagement" on a website, at least when considered individually, and we still don't really know what engagement means in the online world  ... try Googling "define:online engagement".

To this end, I have recently partnered with the smartest guy I know (Joseph Carrabis of NextStage Evolution) to form The Engagement Project. Joseph and I, along with anyone else who is sufficiently interested, are going to keep working on this measure until we're sure we have it right. I have great faith in Joseph, and the results of my work to date have proven very interesting to some of the biggest companies and most well-known brands in the world.

If your readers are interested in participating in The Engagement Project, I encourage them to write me directly at eric@webanalyticsdemystified.com.

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There is a lot of concern this side of the Atlantic about overly proscriptive European Union legislation on privacy … how worried should the industry be about this?

Given the industry's dependence on browser cookies it would certainly be a bad thing if the EU came out against anonymous tracking. Imagine how much more complicated metrics would be if EU visitors and non-EU visitors were tracked differently over time based on differentiated use of cookies - what a nightmare!

It is ironic that invasive-sounding services like Phorm and Facebook's Beacon show up just as these debates are going on. Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would go too far, probably so, and I'm sure we haven't seen the last of it.

Personally I worry more about what Google knows about me than what Facebook does, but that's another story I suppose.

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What are the hot topics at the moment which you expect people to be talking about at the WAW event?

Folks in the US seem to focus a lot on Omniture's acquisition and product strategy, Google Analytics, hiring good analysts, and the continuing quest to actually do something useful with web analytics. It seems at least three if not all four of these topics cross my email inbox every single day. As I mentioned I will be giving a short presentation on "The Future of Web Analytics" at Web Analytics Wednesday and I will inevitably touch on all four plus a half-dozen more, hopefully encouraging folks to keep up the conversation well after I've moved on to Amsterdam (and Brussels, and Helsinki, ...)

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What are you working on at the moment?

Since I founded Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. just over one year ago I have been fortunate to work on a wide variety of projects and consulting engagements. Some of my clients, like Nedstat, have engaged me to write white papers with them, others have had me come in and help focus their internal web analytics efforts. Nedstat is actually the group brining me to the UK and Holland, and your readers can register to attend my presentation on "Measuring Multimedia Content in a Web 2.0 World" by visiting: http://www.nedstatexpertforum.co.uk/

Aside from the consulting work, I have been blessed with the time and resources to focus on altruistic efforts like helping Web Analytics Wednesday to grow. I have been to WAW events in Boston and New York so far this year, and am doing same in London and Brussels in March and April. My goal is to make a dozen events around the globe in 2008 and to help encourage 5,000 people to participate in these events! Web Analytics Wednesday is already the largest and most popular event in the web analytics industry but there are still a lot of people to bring into the fold.

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Do you think you’ve succeeded in demystifying web analytics?

Ha, an excellent question! Web Analytics Demystified has sold nearly 15,000 copies worldwide since its first publication in 2004, making it the most popular and most successful book on the subject in the history of the world. And boy have I been working hard to bring clarity to the work we all do, especially in the last 12 months. But I suppose realistically, despite the hard work, we still have an awfully long way to go to say that "web analytics has been demystified".

The good news is that, compared to when I first started providing web analytics services back in 2002 in the US when it was me, the Jims (Sterne and Novo), Bryan Eisenberg, and a few other folks, now there are a ton of bright people all working to "demystify" the subject. It seems like every day a new web analytics blog pops up, the WAA launches a new idea, and three more consultancies are born which is truly fantastic!

In a truly strange way I look forward to the day I can answer your question by saying "without a doubt, the job is done". When that is the case businesses everywhere will make excellent business decisions based on the available data, online marketing will all be brilliantly focused on the things that prospects actually react to, and advertising budgets will be efficiently spent on driving results. I say I look forward to this in a "strange way" since it will necessitate my getting a real job and not just doing what I love, but we all have to sacrifice for the greater good, don't we?

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Linus Gregoriadis

Published 14 March, 2008 by Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis is Research Director at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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