The role of the web analyst has changed dramatically, with a diversity of work that didn’t exist two or three years ago. 

For the sake of our sanity I set about trying to define the role of the web analyst.

I have our most recent hire to thank for this train of thought. Adam joined us in summer 2011 and was quickly consumed by the whirlwind merry-go-round that is agency-side web analytics.

One day Adam came up for air and attempted forlornly to quantify his new career. In his email to me he expressed surprise (and delight) at the diversity of work that lay ahead.

In Adam’s words, this is what a web analyst does:

  1. Set up site tracking.
  2. Set up profiles.
  3. Set up reporting.
  4. Analyse and evaluate PPC traffic.
  5. Analyse and evaluate organic traffic.
  6. Analyse and evaluate referral traffic.
  7. Analyse and evaluate navigation through and use of the site.
  8. Advise on web design/content issues on any given site in as far as they affect points 4-7.
  9. Behavioural modelling of online consumer behaviour.
  10. Evaluate market landscape for online product. What are primary competitor sites, what are important secondary sites in the user ecosystem?

The web analyst will one day rule the world

My point here is two-fold:

  1. The role of the web analyst is not easily defined.
  2. It is diverse and diversifying all the time.

Platforms, channels, apps and tools

As agency-side analysts, much of the time we get a call when things are going badly, meaning all of the below are common features at the point where we get involved:

  • Poorly implemented analytics tool.
  • Lack of important technologies for tracking specific aspects of the website (e.g. e-commerce).
  • Badly tagged campaigns.
  • Incomplete or fragmented marketing plan.
  • Disconnect between multiple tools (e.g. marketing platforms & website or WA & CRM).
  • No definition of different user populations and how to segment to analyse each one individually.

Thinking about what this means to the analyst, it’s easy to build a picture of the skills and disciplines required:

  • Implementing the primary tool(s): html, javascript, cookies, in depth knowledge of the primary tool. 
  • User population segmentation or ‘persona creation’: knowledge of online survey tools, customising tracking on primary tools, heatmapping, call tracking, ecommerce platforms, payment platforms, CRMs, CMS, SPSS.
  • Marketing plan: in depth knowledge of the characteristics and mechanics of SEO, PPC email platforms, affiliate, social media, offline media etc.

We haven’t even discussed what happens when we go multi-platform with tailored content and marketing plans for each channel and each platform.

Art & Science

Once the data has been collected we must apply as much science to its analysis as possible. Where science reaches limitations, art, intuition and experience take over.

The pay-off for analysis is of course the point where we come up with some improvements to our understanding of our customer base or to the website or one or more marketing channels.

We then go into optimisation mode. Optimisation mode requires in depth knowledge of the latest testing platforms, web design trends, apps, technologies and widgets and then lashings more art, experience and intuition. 

Our plucky web analyst must now be able to communicate all of his ideas eloquently and persuasively in order that his client /colleagues implement his recommendations in order for any of this to have been worthwhile.

Shift online

Despite sustained economic difficulties, digital marketing and most forms of online advertising have continued to enjoy very healthy growth thanks to increasingly large proportions of marketing and data collection moving online.

With this move database marketers have had to learn online, applying their segmentation and persona building methodologies to the world of web analytics. And so more critical business decisions are made by online teams.

Who ties it all together? If it isn’t already, it certainly could be the web analyst.

Quantifying the Issue

I’m conscious that some may believe I have gone beyond the role of the web analyst and into some kind of overarching online consultant role.

My belief through experience is that this is the reality for all but the very biggest web teams where an expert in each discipline can be sustained by the web traffic and revenue created.

Through necessity and the skill of a talented web analyst, the role has gone far beyond the archaic paradigm of the web analyst as database cruncher/spreadsheet geek. Where a big team isn’t possible, the web analyst becomes the lynchpin of these diverse disciplines and the strategy of the business.

Being a web analyst I thought what better way to try and define this role than with data. The below table, courtesy of itjobswatch.co.uk, is a great attempt at describing this role with data.

To my mind it tells a similar story to the above; anything from SQL to SEO to project management are commonly required skills for web analysts as suggested by data gleaned from web analyst roles posted on their site.