Lean analytics: Questions VCs should ask (and you’d better answer)

Thanks to Flickr's Aussiegirl for thisRecently, I was in Israel for a cloud computing conference and some meetings with local VCs. The folks at Gemini, a VC firm, organized an evening with their portfolio CEOs to discuss lean analytics for startups. I concluded the presentation with a list of metrics that a web-based startup should track. I guess they were the right questions; at the end of the evening, Guy Horowitz, my host for the event, said,

“I feel bad for the CEOs of my portfolio companies that aren’t here. Their next board meeting will be miserable.”

Not measuring the right things can be fatal. And VCs are in the business of separating the soon-to-be-dead from the fledgling successes. There’s nothing quite as good at doing this as the cold, hard light of analytics. So here’s the list, with a slide deck and some examples.

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Guest Post: How I increased traffic 1,176% in 24 hours

Alex BowyerAlex Bowyer (@alexbfree) is a research analyst at Bitcurrent in Montreal, where he blogs about emerging technologies and their social impacts, and co-organizes events such as Bitnorth and Enterprise Cloud Summit. He is passionate about using computers to solve human problems in new ways, and all the things that encompasses – user-centric design, productivity, human-computer interfaces and exploring social trends. Before that he worked at IBM UK, specializing in Voice systems, Java and information management.

In this post, Alex shows us that sometimes, attracting pageviews isn’t rocket science, which you might be forgiven for thinking if you follow this blog regularly:

Unlike my colleagues Alistair and Sean, I’m no analytics expert. But like all bloggers and social media enthusiasts I have an interest in sharing ideas about technology and society, and getting those ideas out to as many  people as possible.

percent Change

I’ve been exploring ways to get more traffic to my personal blog, and yesterday stumbled upon something quite remarkable. In one day I was able to achieve 2,579 new pageviews, a 1,176% increase in traffic. And all it took was about 30 minutes of effort.

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Google Analytics Alerts: the start of a complete view?

Google Analytics recently added a new feature, called Alerts. At first glance, it’s an elegant way to show someone when a KPI on their site has changed significantly from what’s expected. It’s baselining, applied to all KPIs — even the ones you’re not looking at.

Daily Alerts - Google Analytics

This is a great idea for folks who forget to check their analytics data, because now they can find out about significant events. It tricks you into being a better analyst. It encourages baselining, segmentation, and thinking about your business. But we think it’s the start of something bigger, once it incorporates the things Google and others know about your online presence.

Details, and some juicy UI mockup speculation, after the jump. [Read More]

How Twitter’s Retweet creates Pagerank for humans

We’re finishing a busy week in New York, with presentations at both Web2Expo and Interop New York. We had a great time running our first Communilytics Boot Camp, and O’Reilly’s bookstore sold out of our book.

The Communilytics stuff was really interesting; we proposed a new “long funnel” model that incorporates both community metrics (such as followers, amplification, and the like) and traditional analytics (conversion rate, checkout value, and so on.) It’s a holistic approach, and we’ll write it up here soon.

We also looked at message propagation in communities a bit. Here’s a clip from the session, which discusses how the combination of Twitter’s formalized Retweet and an understanding of relevance can create “pagerank for humans” in microblogging platforms that share Twitter’s asymmetric-follow pattern.

Completely independent of this, Alex Bowyer over on Bitcurrent wrote a thoughtful piece on how Twitter should have formalized Retweeting, and some of the issues with the current model.

Unfortunately, there’s some strangeness going on between Youtube and Keynote’s video export, so the last 30 seconds of this are clipped. Basically we make the point that this is how to monetize microblog analytics, either by selling sentiment propagation analysis, finding out who influential proponents and detractors are, or knowing where to display ads and to whom.

International stores, video advertising, and the Windows 7 launch

We’re in Amsterdam this week, presenting at a Measureworks conference on web performance and optimization and attending a Tweetup.

Our host, Jeroen, told us yesterday that since the introduction of GPSes in Amsterdam, traffic accidents in the narrow-streeted city have risen significantly. Many people are focused on their instruments, rather than looking around them. This made me think of some issues I’d seen with web advertising recently that would have been hard to detect through instruments alone, and underscored some of the shortcomings of a purely instrument-driven analytics approach.

Microsoft Canada's website for the Windows 7 launchWith much fanfare, Microsoft launched Windows 7. By many accounts, it’s a good operating system, despite the widely derided launch parties they tried to encourage (which, to be fair, did get people talking about the launch.) The launch involved a massive online ad buy, as well as a new online store for the company. Two aspects of this launch caught my attention: The differences between regional stores, and the state of video advertising.

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Guest Post: How much is enough when it comes to Voice of Customer?

jl1Jonathan Levitt has spent the last 5 years as a pioneer in the voice of customer analytics space. Through his speaking, writing, and evangelism, he was instrumental in legitimizing voice of customer analytics at a time when traditional web analytics still dominated the online business intelligence conversation. Jonathan has worked with world leading brands like Bank of America, Verizon, Dell, Procter & Gamble, Ford, and Reebok and has been featured in several industry publications including 1to1 Magazine, ClickZ, DM News, and MediaPost.

One of the best sources of business intelligence for companies of any size is raw Voice of Customer data.

This is particularly true for start-ups, where early, frequent, and consistent interaction with customers is critical to getting off the ground. The more customer-centric your decision making processes are from day one, the more likely you will get to the next stage in the development and maturation of your business plan.

This explains the recent growth in the selection of free and low cost Voice of Customer collection tools. User Voice, Kampyle, Survey.io, 4Q Survey (disclaimer: I helped conceive and build 4Q) — all of these are examples of popular Voice of Customer collection tools that can provide site owners with a pipeline of cheap and actionable visitor-sourced insights.

Once you put on the VoC practitioner’s hat, however, questions about respondent count size inevitably come up. Simply put, you need a way of knowing how much data is enough.

At what point can you act on the findings coming through your shiny new tools, with full confidence that you have collected a representative sample of your audience? If you’ve been running a User Voice customer feedback tool for 3 weeks and you’ve only collected 20 respondents, is that enough to act on? These are certainly agonizing questions for a data-centric marketer.

Now’s the time to start glancing over enviously at the big sites, because they don’t have this problem. The laws of probability are such that feedback from 500 respondents is usually enough to deliver reliable data at even the strictest confidence intervals. A big site like Dell.com can pull in 500 respondents within a day or two; at that clip, statistical significance comes through in a heartbeat.

But since your traffic generation muscle isn’t likely to match Dell.com’s anytime soon, I’ll let you in on a little secret: for small, startup websites that want immediate answers to their questions, the size of your sample almost doesn’t matter.

Here’s why. [Read More]

brilliant example of surveying users about a feature before it is built

lightbulb.jpgThere’s been alot of talk lately on the idea of prototyping and demonstrating a product to solicit feedback.  The catch?  The product isn’t actually built.  This goes hand in hand with the MVP concept practiced by lean startups.

I was on BackType today, and I just witnessed an awesome example of this concept in action.

BackType is a search engine that indexes millions of comments across social media platforms and lets you query for particular topics that interest you.  Cool, right?  I performed a search query for “analytics”, and the resulting page had a small tab called “Trends”.

Curious, I clicked on it and was brought to this page:

backtype feature launchDrat, it’s not released yet!

Brilliant!  BackType has given me an excuse to come back and check to see if the tab is active.  Even better – they were able to collect my expectations before the feature has even been released (or built!).

This is product management crowdsourcing at its finest.

Well done, team BackType.

Slides from performance and KPI webinar

We had a good discussion about performance and its impact on KPIs like analytics and conversion with Strangeloop this week. Here are the slides, available for download or viewing, on Slideshare.

Proof that speeding up websites improves online business

conversion rate and order valueDo faster web pages mean better business? Definitely. We’ve seen hard evidence from major web operators like Shopzilla, Google, and Microsoft. But what about other websites? How big an impact does performance optimization have on the business metrics of a typical media or e-commerce site?

Here’s some concrete data on how reducing latency changes the key metrics, such as bounce rate, pages per visit, conversion rate, and shopping cart amount. It’s a pretty detailed discussion, but it if you want to understand the ROI of improving web performance on your site, dig in. If you want to read this more easily, here’s a PDF.

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3 reasons why real time analytics tools are essential

SonarA real time analytics solution lets you see who is currently visiting your website.   You get granular session-level detail (IP addresses, technographic information, geolocation, and sometimes even a username).  They differ from tools like Webtrends, AT Internet and Google Analytics in that they’re not well equipped to deal with trending and goal tracking.

If you run a website, we strongly suggest that you install a real time analytics solution.

Here’s why:

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