If you want to learn how to optimize your business just do analytics

I was asked advice by someone a lot younger than me, something, that is by the way, becoming more and more common as I get older… I think there may be some kind of correlation. But I digress :). Yes, I was asked about how to learn to do analytics.

My reply was just do it.

Of course it didn’t end there.

The next question was “but where do you start?”

The answer… “Google Analytics and your own website.”

The next question, “yes but how do you know what to look for?” to which I replied “why do you want to learn about analytics before knowing why you need to understand it?”

That’s a question people don’t ask themselves but they should.

A lot of students have read my book and I get asked questions about various things in it from time to time. That’s cool by the way. I like helping people in my own small way.

But you won’t learn analytics by reading a book, it’s by doing what you need to learn for a reason. Don’t get me wrong the books are treasure troves of information, there are dozens of things you can use in Eric’s books, Avinash’s books, my book (shameless self promotion.. I know!), or many of the others on the market. My point is that you really should apply what you’re learning in those books to your own specific situations or you’ll forget most of what’s in them.

Learning by doing

When you actually do analytics in order to optimize your business somehow then you’re learning, whether you succeed or fail, you’re learning. Your business could be to save money, to earn more money, to get leads, to support your customers better, to understand your market better or simply find out where you stand in comparison to your competition. It doesn’t really matter.

In the early days of my career in this industry I didn’t have a clue what I was doing with the tools or what they could show me but I knew what I wanted to find out. In most cases I only got part of the answer but it led me onto different questions which in turn taught me things like how to use benchmarking, segmentation and KPIs to test out theories and ideas. Then I realized I could apply something else I’d learned earlier, direct marketing and statistical thinking to what I was doing. In the end analytics became a good tool for me to apply to a number of different business questions.

So the discussion ended with “take the business problem and start from there. Then ask why.”

Not enough sales? Why not? Not enough leads? why not? Not, how do I do analytics?

So as they say at Nike. Just do it.

Steve is a well known analytics specialist, author and speaker. A pioneer since 2002, he established one of the first European web analytics consultancies (Aboavista), later acquired by Satama (now Trainers’ House) in 2006. In 2008 he wrote his first book Cult Of Analytics published on May 14th 2009. He currently serves as CEO at Quru and has presented and keynoted web analytics topics across Europe. These include The Internet Marketing Conference (Stockholm), The Search Engine strategies (Stockholm), IIH (Copenhagen), the IAB Finland (Helsinki), Media Plaza (Amsterdam), Design For Conversion (Amsterdam) The eMetrics Summit (London, Munich, Stockholm), Divia (Helsinki) in addition to sitting on dozens of panels.

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9 comments on “If you want to learn how to optimize your business just do analytics
  1. That’s exactly how I got involved with web analytics. I was curious of what people are doing at my website. You are putting time and money in so maybe you want to know what you are getting out of it. When I look collected data I really like the “so what?” question of Avinash. Simply way to get data into action.

  2. Joan Cole says:

    I am an MBA student, working on an independent study on Web Analytics. Do you know of any businesses that might need help with Analytics so that I can practice what I am learning? I do not have a website of my own.

  3. Joan Cole says:

    Thank you so much for connecting me to the Analysis exchange! The program looks great, and I am now signed up as a Student. I am looking forward to a great experience. :)

  4. Joan Cole says:

    Re: my original post on 3/3; Do you know of any other options that I can pursue, as well?

  5. Hi Joan,

    You could try the UBC courses via the University of Columbia run by the WAA.

    UBC link;

    The WAA;

    Neither of these are free so it does depend on your budget. I have heard good things about the courses though and the WAA is a great place to start networking with like minded individuals. The fee for the WAA is relatively small ($199) and there is usually a local branch depending on where you are in the world.

    Hope this helps.

    You could ask a local agency to take you on for free to learn as well. Most are looking for good analysts all the time and by offering to learn as part of your studies you could not only help yourself, but help them and you may even be offered a job at the end of it.

  6. Joan Cole says:

    Thank you for the additional resources. I really appreciate your help. I am happy to say that I have been assigned to a project with the Analysis Exchange!

  7. Hi Joan,

    Pleased to have helped, pass on my regards to Eric and the guys as Analysis exchange.


  8. Piyanka Jain says:

    Can’t agree with you more, Blackbeak.

    Defining “what you are looking for?” prior to diving deep into data is paramount. I call this “Sherlock Holmes” (Detective) Approach v.s. Da Vinci (Explorer).. Holmes will win hands down in a gold hunt…

    Elaborated further in my Google Analytics User Conference keynote (http://online-behavior.com/googleanalytics/data-to-decisions)… Enjoy!

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