Using Google Analytics like a data scientist
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Published on November 23, 2015
Understanding web analytics and information about website visitors remains a highly valuable skill, and there are many reasons to learn Google Analytics (GA) and other web analytics tools along with techniques to processes and analyze data. It has been three years since data scientists were proclaimed to have the sexiest job of the century in an article from Thomas Davenport and DJ Patil published in the Harvard Business Review. Since the publication of that article, there has been continued increase in demand for those who can obtain, organize, and structure analytics data such as what is available from Google Analytics.
Using Google Analytics like a Data Scientist
A data scientist examines company data and turns it into actionable insight. They understand how to read, interpret and organize data with both statistical and technical skills. These are the skills used by anyone that is using Google Analytics in a meaningful way. Using Google Analytics in a way that empowers a business involves going beyond counting visitors that come to a website or use an app and involves turning the data into actionable intelligence. Stopping at a single data point from Google Analytics is not enough. For example, looking at the number of visitors on a given day is interesting, but a data scientist would want to compare it to the previous week or previous year. Similarly, they would look for trends, and see the locations of the visitors as well as determine what marketing efforts are causing visitors to arrive at a site. This is the approach that American Graphics Institute takes in the Google Analytics courses, taking participants beyond learning how to count visitors and into the realm of understanding how data can be turned into information, and how that information relates to a business or organization.
Hire or Train in Google Analytics
When looking to use GA for your business, the starting point is determining whether you will hire or train for Google Analytics. You can have existing staff go through Google Analytics training, or hire a professional who is skilled in Google Analytics, or even hire a Google Analytics consultant. There are considerations for each of these options:
Providing existing staff with training in Google Analytics makes sense if the staff understands the need to make data-driven decisions about marketing efforts and online content. Existing staff know your business, and may be in a good position to use new-found Google Analytics skills to enhance their current roles.
Hiring new staff with existing data science background may be difficult in the current economy. The job site Indeed recently indicated that both job listings and job postings for data scientist roles increased dramatically this year, meaning that it may be difficult to locate qualified staff. With more openings for these roles, salaries are likely to be increasing as well.
Hiring a Google Analytics consultant makes sense if you have a short-term web analytics need and need expertise for a specific project.
Regardless of the option that is the best fit for your business, organizations should not ignore web analytics. The risk goes far beyond falling behind competitors as it involves ignoring data-driven decisions that can help to move a business forward.
About the author
Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the creator and editor of the Digital Classroom book series. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, and Microsoft. He delivers workshops relating to digital marketing, web analytics, SEO, and SEM. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.