Stay aware of Sampling to keep your reports accurate in Google Analytics.

Today I reviewed Google Analytics Platform Principles modules which explain how the Collection, Configuration, Processing and Reporting elements work in the Google Analytics platform. Compared to the Digital Analytics Fundamentals modules, which I blogged on a couple of days ago, the four units of Platform Principles provide a much more practical and technical explanation of Google Analytics. Google recommends taking reviewing the Fundamentals first as the the Platform Principles does assume some basic knowledge of Google Analytics.

Among all that is delivered in these units what I found most interesting is the use of Sampling in the reporting function. Google delivers what they call “standard reports” but you can customize these reports by adding things like additional segments or dimensions. When this is done, both the size of the data collection and reporting process grow. To ensure that these reports can still be generated quickly Google employs the method of statistical sampling, which takes a portion of a total population and assumes that it represents the population as a whole. This technique is used in all kinds of research from psychological studies to election polling.

Marketers using Google Analytics will likely want to customize their reports and therefor must confront the question: What is the right sample size?

Google does allow marketers to alter their sample size, though warns that larger sample sizes will take longer to produce reports from. In determining a sample size, marketers must first be aware of how many sessions will be occurring within a set of reporting specifications. Next, Marketers must determine how varied the actions that users take within sessions will be (variance). Finally, Marketers may consider how confident they must be in the accuracy of the data and the acceptable margin of error. An April 2013 blogpost from Qualtrics explains how these discrete values can be used to calculate a desired sample size. However, it is difficult to determine an accurate variance in session data (and therefore the standard deviation) so a simple theoretical consideration of these statistical principles will be enough to improve the accuracy of reports.

If time is not of value in the reporting process, it is tempting to simply sample the entire data set. However, Google does have a sampling limit and will impose sampling if a report exceeds a maximum number of sessions. If you encounter this, keep in mind that the greater your total number of sessions compared to the sample size and the greater your expected variance in sessions, the less accurate this sample will be in delivering the value of the whole.

If all of this back of the envelope statistics is seeming like it might be a bit more trouble than it’s worth, Google will happily put a price on it as their Premium set up of Google Analytics does not have a sampling limit.

The value of Web Analytics to Digital Marketing and how Google delivers this value.

As the global culture continues its rapid transition to the digital space the importance of marketing in this digital space grows even more rapidly as a function of the opportunity created. While much of the marketing applied in the digital space is different from traditional marketing, what remains the same is the essentiality of analysis of marketing strategies. In the digital space, this analysis is being delivered more comprehensively than ever before and in real time via various Web Analytics offerings. Web Analytics are automated services that can be set to automatically retrieve, process and format data on customer interaction with a company or brand’s various digital presences.

James McCormick differentiates and positions the various competitors in the Web Analytics market in his Q2 2014 publishing of “The Forrester Wave.” McCormick chose to evaluate Adobe, AT Internet, Google, IBM, SAS Institute and Webtrends based on each of the competitor’s significant base of enterprise clients, status as a healthy and sizable business and their investment in the future success of the product. Of these six providers of Web Analytics, Adobe, AT Internet, IBM and Webtrends are classified as “Leaders” while Google is a “Strong Performer” and the SAS Institute is a “Competitor.” These designations were made based on an evaluation matrix that weighted ratings of different competencies such as data handling, support and integration.

What interests me about this report is the relatively low ranking of Google Analytics as it seems to serve as the poster child for Web Analytics. I would attribute this the McCormick’s matrix giving a weight of 0% to cost and not including usability or customization, all of which Google trounces the competition in. Also, I believe that McCormick is too focussed on the function of these tools to large enterprise clients. In many ways the digital space is the great equalizer, where it can be just as easy to find, engage with and purchase from companies and brands of all sizes. This insight further elevates the status of Google Analytics as their platform is entirely scalable to any size of business.

This is leading us to the question, “Why Google Analytics?”

On the home page of Google Analytics, Google will happily answer this question for you, explaining how their product will help you find the right customers, sell to them and then learn to do these two things even better through insights delivered by Google Analytics. After going through Google’s Digital Analytics Fundamentals course it seems to me that Google can certainly deliver on this to almost any user. Not only can Google Analytics provide a full range of analytics to to aid you in evaluating how customers find and use your websites and mobile apps, but you can choose how this data is delivered. For example, the default setting is to give the value of the sale to the action from which the purchase was made, the macro action. However, you can choose to allocate value to the various micro actions that may have lead to this macro action.

Usability is expected from Google but I was truly blown away by how easy Google Analytics is to navigate. During the fundamentals course, Google has you build a practice account. Throughout the process this account is used to set filters, form reports and many other functions. The instruction to execute these tasks are rarely more than two sentences long, which to me seemed to be not nearly enough for the layman. I was wrong. After being guided to the first step, the rest of the process is quick and intuitive. So “Why Google Analytics?” Scalability, accessibility, cost, customization and ease of use.

John Paul Mains sees yet one more reason to use Google Analytics: Tracking. Mains begins a November 2014 blogpost by explaining as new as the digital analytics industry is, simple possession of unique analytics tools is no longer enough. Rather, it must be about customer engagement. It’s not the page views that count, but what is actually done on the page. This can be monitored through the process of Event Tracking. Mains explains that while this is available through Google Analytics, very few companies use it despite the short and simple amount of coding necessary. Mains reiterates the ease of use and customization that Google possess by recommending it for Event Tracking to all users except the most advanced, to whom he recommends Heap or Mixpanel (not one of McCormick’s “Leaders”).

Digital Marketing Session One

Howdy I’m Zach Cohen, an MBA candidate at Western Washington University. My BA is in Financial Economics so my experience in MBA program has been a significant contrast to my undergraduate work as until this past summer I had never taken a class in management, operations or marketing. Of the new subjects I’ve engaged in, marketing has been the one to best grab my attention as it blends creativity with the analytical skills that were so important to my BA. On a more personal level, I came out to Bellingham after high school in Colorado, where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life. When I’m not completing class work I like to be outside either mountain biking, climbing, running, kayaking or pretty much any thing else I get a chance to do. I hope this blog becomes a positive outlet for my progress in Digital Marketing and maybe even a bit enjoyable to read.

As stated above, marketing has really struck a chord with me, motivating my choice to take this class. As I’ve moved through my MBA it seems that marketing is an increasingly important aspect of the success of a business and as there is only one marketing class built into the MBA curriculum I feel that marketing courses are worthy electives.  Digital Marketing is particularly appealing as an elective as much of the growing impact I’m seeing marketing have on business atmospheres is occurring in the digital atmosphere.

In this class I hope gain a sense of not only the tools available for digital marketers, but also a framework of when it is appropriate to use certain tools and how to discern the efficacy of the tools. Additionally, as there is a limited amount of marketing incorporated in the MBA program I would like to leave this class with a better sense of the field as a whole.


Knowledge and Skill Requirements for Marketing Jobs in the 21st Century

In this study, Schlee and Harich seek to discern the balance between skills, broken into technical and meta skills, and conceptual knowledge needed in entry-level, low-level, mid-level and senior-level marketing positions on a comparative basis. The study was conducted in 2009 based on job descriptions posted on Monster.com for the cities of Atlanta, New York, Las Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. Job postings were found on Monster over a three month period by searching the term “marketing.” These jobs were classified into the various position level based on required education level and experience. Previous studies on this subject gathered data by surveying alumni and employers. Schlee and Harich believe that their method of using job postings provides a less biased data set, though they recognize that it is not perfect. This study is believed to be significant as it illustrates a greater need for the teaching of technical skills in marketing schools.

The authors broke their study down into three questions:

1) Do entry- and lower-level positions in marketing require mostly technical skills rather than conceptual knowledge?

No, the study shows that while technical and meta skills are important and entry and low-level positions, there is not a statistically significant difference the the requirements for various technical skills across the four job levels.

2) Do middle and upper-level jobs in marketing require mostly conceptual knowledge of marketing rather than technical skills?

No, while there is general evidence that middle and upper-level jobs do require more conceptual knowledge, the research shows that it is important to employers at all job levels.

3) Do the skills required for marketing positions differ in the five metropolitan areas included in the sample?

Yes, in different cities different skills were more highly valued. The authors attribute this to the different industries that thrive within each of the cities.

My $0.02:

This study provides a question that to me seems to be the fundamental question of general business curriculum: theory vs. skill. Within the realm of marketing the need for skills is certainly growing in the digital era as skill in utilizing digital tools seems to be more important than the theory surrounding the presence of the tools, at least in a day to day sense. I think that the authors are incorrect in generalizing their findings about the theory heave nature of marketing to all of business school. Many of the finance classes I took along with a class such a project management have an extremely technical focus.

I also have on issue with the research method of this article; in reviewing job postings the research team treated all listed skills as holding equal importance. This is not the case in any of the job postings I have read (and I’ve read a lot lately) This could lead to a bias of general skills required for marketing jobs appearing to be more important.


US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 To 2016

This study professes the growing importance and presence of digital marketing as measured by the portion of marketing budgets. The study predicts growth across all aspects of digital marketing with the greatest amount of growth being in social media and the smallest being in paid search listings. However, search will still dominate as the largest form of digital marketing as measured by spending while social media remains relatively light in comparison. The study attributes much of this to the greater opportunities to spend in SEO as compared to social media platforms. Also, this study (published in 2011) boasts that previous predictions on 2011 being the year of mobile have proven to be true. There is also an explanation that proves the continuing importance of email marketing as a connector.

My $0.02:

Looking at this study four years after the predictions it is easy to look at many of the predictions as obvious. What interests me most is the work on email in this study. I would like to see further research in email as the study supports the importance of email marketing primarily as a way to connect and deliver other marketing forms. Would email still be a useful marketing tool without the presence of the other tools that it connects and brings customers to?


State of Digital Marketing Talent

By surveying businesses and marketing agencies, this study reveals that there is a definite gap between digital marketing needs and the ability of marketing teams to fulfill these needs with “71% of large brand/enterprise organizations believe their digital marketing team is strong in some areas, their employees exhibit mediocrity/ weakness in others when importance and strength are analyzed together, with sizeable gaps in every area studied.”

This study reveals that the greatest gap exists in the area of analytics, which is also surveyed as the most important are of digital marketing to large companies and brands. The study almost serves as a call to action, claiming that the success in closing the talent gap will make or break the field of digital marketing.

My $0.02:

Companies concern with their inability to objectively and accurately determine the quality of a digital marketer before hiring them is particularly interesting to me. It reminds me Akerlof’s paper The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.” I see this issue companies are having not as an issue of digital marketing but rather a frustration with the asymmetric information that exists in the hiring process. Perhaps companies could issue some sort of test in their hiring process to vet out lemons or even hire employees on a trial basis, allowing them to “warranty” employees. As Akerlof’s theory provides, lemons will not subject themselves to a trial period they will fail.

Also, as an aspiring digital marketer on the job hunt, the presence of a “talent gap” is welcome news to me.