Web Analytics Book Reviews

Web Analytics - April 21st, 2008 by .

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As I prepare to dive more into web analytics, I’ve ordered four books that I will be studying and reviewing. Here they are, with some of my insights before I read them. As a professional blogger and web publisher, I’m eager to see how these books apply to my real world of blogging.

Of the top four books I found on web analytics on Amazon.com, only one appears to service bloggers specifically. The others are designed towards business owners and managers, with heavy emphasis on the corporate market. The world is changing and corporate marketing think is evolving greatly, so I’ll be interested in reading their perceptions and see if it lines up with reality on the ground with Web 2.0.

will be changing the way we look at the numbers on our blogs and websites, so I’m eager to learn about how we evaluated web metrics in the past, and looking forward to watching them change in the future with new, more powerful analytical tools.

How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business

How to Measure AnythingHow to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business by Douglas W. Hubbard comes with very high reviews from top corporate officers and magazine and website reviews. According to the reviews, How to Measure Anything demystifies the numbers to help business managers understand how the demographics and metrics work and what they mean, and how to translate the numbers into business actions and decisions. How do you measure the immeasurable and turn them into actionable decisions?

Putting sense into the numbers, especially decisions on blog content and marketing, is highly complex, and this book looks like it combines business speak with common sense and practical number analysis.

Hubbard claims to be the creator of “Applied Information Economics” (AIE), developed as a “practical application of scientific and mathematical methods to the Information Technology investment process.” He is also the founder of Hubbard Decision Research.

The book has now been translated into Russian and Korean, and is supported by the website with a forum that isn’t very active and a bit difficult to use. I found some articles published a few years ago by the author, but no active blog or articles on his sites.

Without seeing the book, my first impressions are that this author lives in the corporate world of analytics, but not within the realm of the everyday business blogger. I’m eager to learn more about the application of numbers into content and marketing decisions to see if they will related to the sole proprietor blog business owner and online social networking for today’s virtual business world.

Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions

Actionable Web AnalyticsActionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions by Jason Burby and Shane Atchison describes itself as:

Knowing everything you can about each click to your Web site can help you make strategic decisions regarding your business. This book is about the why, not just the how, of web analytics and the rules for developing a “culture of analysis” inside your organization. Why you should collect various types of data. Why you need a strategy. Why it must remain flexible. Why your data must generate meaningful action. The authors answer these critical questions—and many more—using their decade of experience in Web analytics.

The reviews are fascinating, coming from the founders and CEOs of top online companies, calling this a “clear and concise guidebook for the marketing executive,” “inside look” at web analytics, and how to simplify the numbers to understand the meaning of the clicks within a website.

Jason Burby, Chief Analytics Officer, and Shane Atchison, CEO, of ZAAZ, have spent years building and analyzing web analytics. According to Matthew Roche, CEO of Offermatica:

These guys have forgotten more about analytics than we mortals will likely ever understand. Most analytics folks revel in the complexity of their work. Jason and Shane know how to simplify and communicate how analytics can really change marketing, and it is incredibly effective.

Insider SEO offers a good review by Andreas Ramos who explains:

I’ve been working with the web since it started. In the first few years, you could build just about anything and it made money because there were only a few websites. By 1999, you had to optimize for search engines, so SEO started. In 2002, PPC was added. From 2002 to 2006, our clients asked for SEO and PPC, but they didn’t know about analytics. Analytics was an add-on to SEO and PPC. There wasn’t even a trade show for the analytics industry. By early 2007, this flipped around and analytics has become the main issue. SEO and PPC, just like banner ads, email blasts, and other tools are ways of driving traffic into the analytics tool. Analytics unifies the entire process and turns it from a black art into profits. This is why analytics has become the core of the web industry.

…Throughout the book, Burby and Atchison apply analytics to the four types of websites (ecommerce, lead gen, content sites, and customer support sites) and how it can be used for each type.

Actionable Web Analytics has a wealth of practical information and ideas. It’s a good investment. Get the book.

I have to tell you right away that I’m not impressed as I visited ZAAZ to learn more about the company and the authors, presumably experts in SEO and web analytics and understanding how best to serve an online audience – and was hit by a non-textual, all graphic Flash page that isn’t user friendly nor web standard. I hope this doesn’t prejudice me against the book, but I do have to say that I like people who practice what they preach.

Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning

Competing on AnalyticsCompeting on Analytics: The New Science of Winning by Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris gets mixed reviews on as a good primer and introduction to web analytics, but also as being a bit past tense.

According to a reviewer, James Taylor of Enterprise Decision Management:

Tom and Jeanne have written an excellent new book (building on a paper they wrote some time ago) about what they call “analytic competitors”, that is to say companies that use their analytic prowess not just to enhance their operations but as their lead competitive differentiator. The book discusses a number of these analytic competitors and gives an overview of how analytics can be used in different areas of the business and how you can move up the analytic sophistication scale.

The book has two parts – one on the nature of analytical competition and one on building an analytic competency. The first describes an analytical competitor and how this approach can be used in both internal and external processes. The second lays out a roadmap for becoming an analytical competitor, how to manage analytical people, a quick overview of a business intelligence architecture and some predictions for the future.

Thomas H. Davenport writes for the Harvard Business Online (paid articles) and babsonknowledge.org (not current), and is the author of ten books including Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers and What’s the Big Idea: Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking. He currently holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College. Co-author, Jeanne Harris, is an Executive Research Fellow and Director of Research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business leading research in the areas of information, technology and strategy for over thirty years. She is an expert in business intelligence, analytics, performance management, knowledge management, and data warehousing consulting practices and has been published in notable journals.

The authors come from a corporate and higher education perspective with their business practices and experience, which I assume means their book will be educational in form and function, as the reviews state. Application in the real world of Web 2.0 will be interesting to find within the book.

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day

Web Analytics in an Hour a DayWeb Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik describes itself as written by an “in-the-trenches practitioner”. A step-by-step guide to analytics, I was intrigued by the title and its promise of “one hour a day” learning about web analytics. While more for the beginner than expert, this might be a good introduction to help the blogger understand web metrics and translate them into business decisions.

The editorial review explains:

Discover how to move beyond clickstream analysis, why qualitative data should be your focus, and more insights and techniques that will help you develop a customer-centric mindset without sacrificing your company’s bottom line.

It also promises to help the reader learn about data collection methodologies, understanding customers beyond pageview scorecards, testing the data, choosing the right analytics tools, and leveraging the data into business decisions. It also includes a CD with more than three hours of podcasts, a 45-minute video, and PowerPoint presentations, along with “other useful analytics resources”.

The author has an Amazon author blog, which hasn’t been updated in months, nor contains much content, however, the author does host Occam’s Razor, a web analytics blog run on WordPress 2.5, which is current and makes him even more interesting to bloggers as he lives what he blogs and writes about.

Recent articles on his blog include:

As a blogger, Kaushik has hands on experience with blogging, social networking, and WordPress, which can mean more to the basic user groping to understand their audience than the other authors appear to offer. Of the four books, I’m looking forward to reading someone whose been in the trenches – especially if they survived upgrading to .

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading when it comes to understanding the people behind the numbers on your website or blog? Any favorite books, sites, blogs, or podcasts?

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