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Avinash answers my questions about his book: Part I

Did you have questions when you finished Web Analytics: An Hour a Day? I did.

The book was truly amazing. But when I was done, I had written all over it. Sometimes my notes read, “This is awesome, we have to try it.” But sometimes they read, “I don’t understand.” And other times, they read, “I really disagree.”

So I got an interview with the author. It came to nine pages (count ‘em, 123456789), so I am going to reprint it in parts. Avinash, you are truly wonderful for devoting this much time.

So let’s get started. And in my usual “in your face” fashion, I’ll start with a question that most people wouldn’t ask the Guru of WA:

Please allow me a quick interruption. The word Guru is of Hindu (Indian) origin and having grown up in India I have to say that I do not consider myself a Guru. One has to meet an astoundingly high benchmark to get that title and I am very very far away from even the starting point of meeting that benchmark.

For more context on that word here’s the wonderful wikipedia [definition]

In the introduction – why do you write that your book is for everyone? Is it for my mother, who is retired and spends lots of time taking care of my father? Is it for my daughter — the one who can drill down in her Quicken, but refuses to do anything academic? No, of course not. But that’s what customers do. We ask them, “Who is your site for?” and they answer, “Everyone!” So – who is your book for?

You got me.

Perhaps that was overuse of the word everyone.

Here are the specific people / roles that are mentioned in the introduction of the book:

· Mr./Ms. Web Interested


· C-level or VP-level or just No-level person

· Marketer

· Sales Person

· Web-Designer

· User Researcher

· Analyst

The introduction describes how the book will be helpful specifically for each role.

As an example, here’s the one for Web Designer: If you are a Web “Designer” then this book will share with you how you don’t have to compromise on the number of ideas you can put on the website to improve the site, that you can have all of your ideas (even the radical ones) go live on the site and measure which one solves the customer (or your company’s) problems most effectively.


Question: I love the idea of surveying, continuously. However, it has not worked out well for me or my customers. We figured out how to delete the pop-up blockers, only to find out that customers hated it. And shouldn’t it be “customers first?” Any advice about the best way to *administer* exit surveys?

In my experience surveys that are shown at the right time with the intent of allowing the customer to express their opinion go ok. Typically we cram so much into a survey that only we care about that a customer looks at it, pukes and exits.

If you ask customers “nicely” they want to tell you about their experience.

My advice:

1) Experiment with different invitation types (pop up, pop under, on exit etc) and see what your customers prefer. And you only have to do this a few days each to get a feel for it.

2) Start with small number of questions (remember the “golden questions” post?) and then expand.

3) Put a really large close button. Make it apparent, clearly, that the survey can be closed. In a very subliminal way it works very effectively and actually gets closed less (if you have done #1 and #2 above first!).

From a mindset perspective you want them to share with you what they think rather than do a quick little interrogation with a battery of questions. Fine balance. :)

While we are on surveys – how do you feel about surveys that force the visitor to answer certain or all of the questions? It is infuriating to me when I answer a BizRate survey for the chance to get a “free” magazine, and they force me to answer questions (so instead, I just lie.) Thoughts?

I skip it.

I also rarely do any other surveys. I often read them to study them from a knowledge / awareness perspective, but I don’t fill surveys.

Here is the thing. I am not the customer and it is irrelevant what I think about surveys.

The first time we did a survey it was 20 questions and I was positive it would bomb, after all who in God’s name has that much time. Turns out that it had a consistent 18% response rate (compared to an internet standard of 1% response rate for surveys).

My lesson was that I should try not to impose my views and opinions and check them in at the door. Because I am not the customer, no matter how much I think I am. It is a tough pill to swallow because we tend to think we are “experts” because we have so much knowledge and data.

Experiment, it is cheap, see what works and what does not, refine and try again.

Why do you have a Trinity? I really see a duality, clickstream data and qualitative data.

It is qualitative (Experience), clickstream (Behavior) and the third prong is Outcomes.

Some people mix clickstream with outcomes. I choose to break it out for two reasons:

1) I want people to outrageously focus on outcomes. It is easy to be hypnotized by all the clickstream data and reports and forget to set goals or measure in a very hard core way outcomes. Yet the thing that drives action is not all your clickstream analysis, it is the tie to outcomes.

2) I want people to think of outcomes more than conversion. I am not big on obsessing about conversion, which will almost always lead to solving for a minority of your site traffic. Outcomes are improved customer satisfaction numbers, increased task completion rates, increased depth of visit over time, problem resolution rates on support websites, better recency trends on non-ecommerce website.

By putting outcomes as a separate part of the Trinity I am trying to emphasize the importance of understanding outcomes, and different types of outcomes beyond just revenue/conversion.

Do you think that makes sense?


Notice that I didn’t answer his last question (“Does that make sense?”) — I hope some of you will.

Coming next: Part 2, where I ask Avinash about first and third party cookies, where to put the code on the page when you are torn between conflicting needs, and other really “down in the weeds” Q&A.

Part2   Part 3   Part 4



Robbin Steif

About Robbin Steif

Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, is an analyst herself. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association (formerly the Web Analytics Association.)


4 Responses to “Avinash answers my questions about his book: Part I”

steve says:

What I love about the Big A’s ;-) interruption is what that says about him.
Despite all he knows, the huge success he has achieved in this field etc etc etc etc etc, he still sees that he has room to grow and learn more.
If anything, that alone speaks to me as him being someone who has achieved the pinnacle aka Guru: That determination and *desire* to go beyond!

As for the “Did that make sense?” I had to re-read half a doz times to “get it”, but suspect I now do. eg in work’s case a successful outcome would be a GP demo’ing our site to a patient. They wouldn’t of necessity “convert” as it were – that being for the patient to do later, but by any measure a successful outcome has been achieved. How we *actually* measure such a success? Well I have a few ideas…

Eagerly awaiting the rest of the series!

- Steve
PS Any chance of getting Avinash to answer some RegEx questions? :-P

Robbin says:

Steve – I think it is time that you recognized that you are the King of RegEx. Avinash is amazing in many (many many) ways, but I’ll bet he would never claim to know more about RegEx than you.

I will continue tonight with the series, I wanted to write about Justin’s book last night.

steve says:

“King”? Ha! I think not.
I appreciate the flattery :-) but I personally know and have met too many people that leave me for dead as far as RegEx’s go. Let alone the field specialist “names” that one comes across online.

Getting them to share the knowledge? Well that’s a different perspective on the issue. ;-)

- Steve