Here's a short-but-sweet article I wrote 2 years ago for the Web Analytics Association, in which I reflect on my first job in web analytics - at a dot-com, almost 12 years ago. Ancient stale content, right? Actually it remains pretty timely so I thought I'd repost it:
I remember what it was like to walk through the door at my brand new job, my very first job as a web analyst, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. In retrospect, what did I wind up learning the hard way? What would been helpful to know up front? What should I have been prepared to expect? With that in mind, here are 10 things I wish I knew when I started in web analytics:
- You will sit between the techies and the marketers. Figuratively, and maybe literally. Make friends on both sides of the fence.
- You will learn all about your business. Not just the stats part. Not just the web part. The work you do in web analytics will only make sense once you’ve put it in the general context of your business.
- Ahem, what is this thing you call a "Visit"? Know your standard web metric definitions by heart, and be able to recite them concisely for people who ask. They will ask.
- Dirty, dirty, dirty. Numbers won't match, they won’t add up, they won’t make sense, sometimes they won’t even exist. Know how much dirt you’re willing to live with, then accept it and move on.
- You will learn to love the query string. You will come to see it as a beautiful haiku. You will know it backwards and forwards. You will repeatedly explain its usage to people who need to append campaign codes to URLs.
- CSV stands for "comma-separated value" ... it's a file format, every data analyst's friend, and - inexplicably - it doesn't even have to be comma-separated. Huh.
- Operators are standing by. Know the support hotline number for your commercial web analytics vendor of choice, and don't be afraid to call. If you have one sticky note on your monitor it should be that number. Actually two sticky notes. The other one should say, “Patience is a Virtue.”
- Don’t fall into the “report monkey” trap. Manually-repetitious activities are not a good use of your time, so automate wherever possible. Strive to spend your cycles doing thinking fellers work, and leave robot work to the robots.
- You are not alone. Right now there are other web analysts sitting at their own desks, somewhere between the techies and the marketers, and they’re facing exactly the same issues that you are. You will meet them at Web Analytics Wednesday.
- Think long-term. From the very beginning, think about where you want your career to go and make every effort to develop in that direction. Your entry-level position in web analytics can/should/will lead to other things, so know what you're targeting and go for it.
Photo credit: Ibai Acevedo