Author: Brent Dykes
Publisher: Adobe Press 2011
Audience: Web analysts, marketers and executives
Reviewer: Janet Swift
It was the James Bond silhouette on the cover of this book that led me to pick it up. Why do we need action heroes in web marketing?
The movie theme surfaces again and again in this book - and so do its heroes - expect to meet MacGyver, Indiana Jones and even Sherlock Holmes as well as Bond. Full color is used throughout the book. The action movie motif used on the cover is on each of the chapter headings and color and is used to pick out various panel, the most frequent being Villain Profiles - problems cast as characters in a spy scenario, more of which later.
Every chapter is prefaced by a quote and quotes from a wide range of authorities not just the world of literature and entertainment but also business and politics turn up frequently in the margins and within the text. They are even listed in the index, taking up almost two full columns!
Although the use of quotes and movie references might be considered a gimmick, it is an effective gimmick that adds to the book's readability. Other gimmicks are the use of illustrations that could be called pictographs in that they are often a cross between pictures and diagrams and reinforce the arguments spelled out in the text.
Chapter 1 differs from later chapters in that it lacks color and illustration - it is simply text. It's title is "Wanamaker's Quote is Dead", a reference to its opening quote, which a note admits is also attributed to people other than nineteenth century American merchant John Wanamaker is "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don't know which half". The chapter proceeds to say that we now suffer the opposite problem - too much data - but this is coupled with a shortage of manpower to perform the task of analysis. The chapter also answers the question of what constitutes a Web Analytics Action Hero with this paragraph:
Action heroes are web analysts who are able to get their companies to act on their recommendations and whose analysis work leads to significant returns for their firms. Like the successful actors portraying the popular action heroes, they can command much higher salaries than analysts who may be smarter, better educated and more experienced but who are not able to translate their abilities into tangible business value.
It goes on to say that aspiring action heroes in the arena of web analytics need to be:
curious like Indiana Jones, street smart like James Bond, resilient like Rambo and resourceful like MacGyver. (Being a little bad-ass like Chuck Norris couldn't hurt either).
Chapter 2: On the Road to Actionland tells us that before we get to Actionland we first have to go through Setupland which has three main stages:
- Alignment stage - gathering business objectives and requirements
- Collection stage - tagging, data validation and data collection
- Reporting stage - reports and dashboards.
We now meet our first villain Stale Data - but although the description tries to extend the movie theme the list of Tips to Defeat are all useful and pragmatic, including advice such as Audit current reporting to identify gaps between business needs and implementation.
Fictional cameos are provided to make points. The example in this chapter contrasts a "reporting robot" with the action hero and a clever illustration is used to make the point that reporting robots are shaped by their business environments, backed up by a discussion of the five possible scenarios. The section "Reporting Robot Rehab" outlines remedial steps and towards the end of the chapter we encounter the first of the Insider Insights panels containing a tip from an established expert. You'll find at least one of these panels in the remaining chapters and informal anecdotes are also used frequently with Brent Dykes own experience and those of other people he has worked with.
From this point in the book chapter titles are pretty straightforward:
- Chapter 3: The Makings of An Action Hero
- Chapter 4: Prioritize for Impact
- Chapter 5: Analyze for Insight
- Chapter 6: Mobilize for Success
- Chapter 7: Analysis in Action
- Chapter 8: Ready for Action?
While a high proportion of the advice in the book is about the soft skills of communication and interpersonal relationships to influence people and win allies, it becomes more and more practical as it book progresses - see Techniques for Analyzing Data Visually or The Three Amigos of Monetization in Chapter 5 and Data Visualization Matters in Chapter 6.
Chapter 7 stands out from the rest by being devoted to practical techniques. It covers four major analysis areas starting with "Acquisition" where includes where visitors come from and looks repeatedly at "drilling into the data" to answer questions such as "How can I Optimize Our Paid Search Campaigns" and What Caused the Spike in Traffic on our site". In Site Interactions the questions tacked include "How Can I Improve a Particular Landing Page" with the answer again being a six-step recipe. More concrete examples are given of how to tackle conversion process and visitor value analysis.
Overall this must be a niche book. Its audience of existing and aspiring,Web analysts/marketers is further cut down by the need to be in a fairly large organization - even though the author envisages it being useful to those in small as well as large companies for there to be big bucks to be earned as a web analyst I think we can rule out most of the smaller outfits.
Although at the beginning you might think the author is taking his movie analogy a bit too far, once it settles down there is a lot of useful ammo provided for the right reader.