Web Analytics Responsibilities Will Move to Media Agencies

By Jeff Campbell
Appeared in Web Analytics, Demystified

Based on my experience, the majority of web analytics (WA) tools are currently managed by a single, in-house person. More than likely, the WA tool is underutilized and the WA team is too small and undertrained. Heck, web analytics is hard. ;) I predict that within three years, media agencies will build out ‘web insights’ specialties and capitalize on the web analytics opportunity. Why will they be successful? (Disclosure: I work for an Omnicom Agency)

Current Lack of In-House Ownership

Where does WA expertise & ownership reside in your organization? Marketing? IT? Somewhere in the middle? Both? There is no consistent answer. And I doubt everyone in your organization that could find value in WA data uses it (or even knows it exists). Rarely is WA tied into major company marketing priorities, but most analysts agree it should be. The proverbial WA ball has fallen (or will fall) through the cracks somewhere between Marketing, IT, Web Dev firms, and interactive agencies. My argument: the group spending the most money to drive web traffic should “own” the full user experience and thus, web analytics. Typically, this group is an outside agency focused on display, email, paid search & SEO. Website performance, usability, and page optimization has a large impact on these online investments and are factors directly tied to performance/ROI and overall marketing strategy.

Current Lack of Talent & Economies of Scale

There are not enough talented analysts to meet the current demand, much less the future needs of our data-driven, B.I.-focused industry. “Experience”, although important, is not the same as talent. Similar to SEO, scarcity of talent leaves a large gap between those who dabble and those who specialize/excel. Independent specialists/consultants will realize that nearly the same WA tactics (data insights and actions) have major gains for clients and economies of scale are found. To get access to the top tier of clients (and dollars), these specialists will either join or become acquired by large agencies to add additional value to the current agency optimization techniques.

WA Insights Improve Agency Work

Tastes Great or Less Filling? …Put it on the website and see what visitors respond to more. If a company invests in a regional TV/Radio media buy, what results were seen online from the area – and was it ROI positive to justify expansion into new markets? For the Fortune 500, agencies are firmly entrenched in building the websites and driving the traffic to increase the company’s revenue. With WA being the ultimate tool of understanding the online experience and improving it, shouldn’t agencies put it to work to support their vision? I can’t think of a more appropriate group to gain insights and take action from the data that results in a major impact to the entire business. When you can make millions of dollars in online spend convert 1% better by improving the cart process, you just made the client a heck of a lot of money and the agency more valuable to the client by increasing the media ROI. Further support of the growing importance of the media agency was seen in AdAge’s “Why You Should Be in the Media-Agency Business.” The article cited a recent Booz Allen Hamilton study that asked marketers which organizations would become more important to them by 2010. Media companies, media planners and communications planners topped the list, with 52% of respondents believing they would be more integral.

Media strategists will seize the WA opportunity. Clients are demanding agencies to be more accountable for online performance as well as more data-backed “proof” for business strategies and tactics. The recent trend of the digitalization of offline media will only increase the need for talented analysts to interpret the data for the media agencies. Only time will tell. In the meantime, please share your thoughts.


Unknown said...

I believe you hit it on the head. Webpage level analytics will become a large focus of client’s and agencies alike, as Search Engine traffic plateaus. While the Search Volume will never die off, the rate of growth cannot continue forever. When your flow of potential customers slows in a channel that is direct response heavy, what do you do? You shift goals to increase the rate of conversion.

Currently, Agencies have the ability to select landing pages for SEO and SEM efforts. In some cases they might even have say in some content; Meta tags, titles, or other page level content optimizations. But moving buttons to different parts of the page, editing the checkout process, or changing the information on the page is usually decided by Marketing/IT departments on the client side.

In order to capitalize on all the traffic Search Engines drive, the Agencies and Clients will have to work together…at the minimum. The better option will be to have the team that picks what creative copy, what landing pages to use, and what bids to select… should have the ability to test design and ease of use on the landing pages as well. I think the data within Website Analytics will be a focus as soon as the 2008 Holiday Season.

Dean Collins said...

Totally agree. Web marketing and content spend will be allocated and rewarded based on performance.

The person best tasked to track and monitor that performance is in the interactive agencies themselves.

Part of www.Amethon.com sales strategies here in the USA is to work with interactive agencies building and billing for mobile content.

With our Mobile Analytics server application you can track the effectiveness of your spend.

At the end of the day the old adage applies "...if someone visits your mobile site and you dont know they were there .... does it really matter"

Dean Collins

Andrew Edwards said...

It's true that agencies should digest WA data and make changes based on that, but the technical gulf and the numerical objectivity gulf represent two critical parts of the WA task that agencies are not well equipped to cross.

What's needed are third party web analytics companies that provide both current expertise on a variety of tools plus the objectivity to present them as they are to the customer and their agency.

Agency developers have been known (at times) to do an especially poor job of custom javascript tagging, the lack of which hobbles any real reporting.


Andrew Edwards

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