Careering through Analytics – My Journey and Top Tips

In Autumn 2017 I was honoured to speak at both Econsultancy and MeasureFest in London. Both very high quality analytics events with a host of great speakers. Normally I give talks on practical tips for Google Analytics. Such as using Enhanced Ecommerce or the many uses of custom segments. But this time, it was time to mix it up and talk about something else – me!

Having been working with analytics for about ten years now, I felt it was a good time to pass on my top tips for working in different types of companies, across different teams.

These slides take you through my journey and the tips I have for each area of strategies, in an agency, client side or doing web analytics consultancy by yourself.

And here is the transcript I wrote for the walk, although in real life each talk came out a bit different!

Hello. I’m Anna and I fell in love with Google Analytics nearly 10 years ago. I’m here to share with you the tips I have picked up from working in agencies, in house and through running my own analytics consultancy business. Whichever position you fall into today or in the future, I hope to be able to share experiences that you can relate to and give you strategies for dealing with different situations moving forwards.

Firstly, I’d like to let you know how these experiences have shaped the path I’ve taken and helped me make the life changing decision to work for myself. And as I’m sure there are others here today considering doing just that or who have undertaken the same decision, I will share some tips on how I have made it work for me and why it is worth the effort.

seo link building

Having done a degree in advertising and landed a job as a junior online marketing executive, I was thrown into the world of SEO and tasked with carrying out link building and writing reports for what become around 20 clients per month.

Imagine my pleasure when after working on some clients of my own I came to write a report and saw that the client’s target keywords had improved their ranking results because of work done by myself and the team around me.

drip hooked on

Suddenly I was hooked on results for life.

I soon discovered Google Analytics and how many different things we could measure and improve through this data, and quite frankly, there was no turning back after that!

Koozai

I moved agencies, picked up PPC but also, having expressed a love of spreadsheets, landed the position of Analytics Specialist within the agency as the long term spreadsheet lover was leaving. This gave me a brilliant opportunity to dig into GA further than I had before. Carve out a strategy for measurement and tracking of the agency’s website and also what we could do with our clients.

With no formal training I taught myself based on solving every issue that we discovered with 100+ client’s we had within the agency. And where I couldn’t find a good enough resource online to help me, I set out to write my own.

My blogging grew and grew, turning into video tutorials and soon I was pushing to go and speak at conferences about the platform I loved.

Having reached what was possible within an SEO and PPC agency that didn’t have any client’s spending on analytics work itself, when the opportunity came up for a Google Analytics Analyst at local yet global sport retailer Wiggle, I leapt at the chance.

Wiggle was my first in house role and helped me understand a lot of the issues I’d been having at an agency, where I had never been able to see a client’s business from top to bottom and understand the issues my contact had with getting things implemented.

Being the first ever role focused on analytics, I had no guidance or strategy laid out for me. I undertook the goal of making Google Analytics a trusted, well used and high quality data platform across the business.

Work included:

  • Implementing new tracking functionality
  • Ensuring new functionality on the website had tracking in place and a measurement plan
  • Helping teams with before and after measurement of website updates
  • Automating reporting
  • Migrating a complex set of tags from being inline to GTM (13 domains, 40 custom variables and lots of event tracking)
  • Training over 100 people so they understood what was being discussed and how to find metrics relevant to them
  • Updating core business reports such as customer journey reporting
  • Assisting marketing teams with attribution modelling
  • Setting up a CRO strategy and process
  • Forcasting
  • Estimating value of website updates and forecasting return from proposed changes
  • And more…

But then life changed forever.

baby

And suddenly I didn’t want to go back to working 9-6 plus over an hour in the car every day. Or even 4 days a week. But they didn’t want me back in a team lead position for only 3 days a week. And I had nursery bills and a new mortgage to pay.

I loved what I was doing, but wanted to do it for me, not the board who didn’t know who I was.

I loved my work but not the role enough to compromise now I had a bigger priority in my life.

So I went solo.

I put the word out to people I knew in the industry and on LinkedIn, and the leads started to come in. Month 1 I got two clients from friends in the industry. Month 2 I got 2 more, and so it continued.

In order to ensure I am able to pay bills I’ve not focussed on one proposition for client’s alone, I have taken on a range of projects and if I don’t have the experience or time enough to do a good job I bring someone on board to help me with that project.

I’ve now been up and running for 14 months and have worked on INSERT HOW MANY clients. Half of which have been directly working with the client and half have been working with agencies who specialise in SEO and PPC but need support in analytics.

I have had the pleasure of employing someone full time and several other contractors ad hoc and am hoping to make my second full time hire shortly.

3 major achievements of note:

  • I love running my business
  • I made enough money to pay for my share of the nursery AND mortgage.
  • I feel prouder than ever of the work I do.

So how, in whatever situation we are in, do we handle the trials and tribulations to make sure what we do is efficient, progressive and amazing.

Managing relationships

The first thing about any role, is who you work with and how. Before you even start to do the work in your first ever job, you meet the team, find out about the people. Then you get to see the details. The people are far more important than any resources.

Get to know the stakeholders, who holds the purse strings and who has objectives or KPIs you haven’t heard about yet.

 

In an agency though, you tend to only have one contact

Learning who the contact has to work with and what else they’re working on at the time is beneficial.

My biggest tip here is to talk off topic

Starting a conversation with a question about how another project is going gives your client the opportunity to tell you how busy and stressed they are without anyone feeling it is directed at what you are about to discuss. It also helps you know if there are bigger fish to fry or other business considerations you would benefit from knowing about.

Maybe they’re about to launch someone that they’ve not mentioned which you could work on too. Maybe you could take some work off their back if their every day reporting is wearing them down and needs automating. Maybe they’re relying on a piece of data that you wouldn’t suggest is the best piece of data for the purpose but you hadn’t realised they were relying on.

 

In house, you have teams of people wanting your resource, you need to find allies

tip – find allies

A tip I was given by a colleague, was to talk to everyone individually before attending a meeting at which I might want their support and approval. This was to ensure they understood the benefits of the discussion for them and well, to get all of them to be your ally.

It sounded creepy and fake to me, but I used the tactic on a couple of people here and there and could see it would only be beneficial. Personally though, I preferred to not have to fake it and would only start the conversation if everything in it was genuinely beneficial or interesting to both parties.

As an owner of a company,

Tip: don’t forget that the client buys you

I’ve been told by a few people and had it said directly to me in the form of a job offer, when choosing whether to use your services, “people buy you”.

Understanding this is very important. It doesn’t just mean that you have to be you through and through the journey together, it means you are likely to need to be involved throughout the whole process. Passing the work to someone else you work with won’t keep the client happy – I learnt this the hard way!

If people come to you, for you, you need to manage expectations as to how much “you” they can get for the money. And sometimes, if you haven’t got the capacity to work on the client yourself, you have the opportunity to explain that if they want your time they will have to pay a premium for it. This makes it worth your time to shuffle the priorities around and be there for them, without anything having to give. If they come in on a lower rate and still expect you, the expert, to be the one serving their every need, you may have mis-sold and be at risk of the relationship going sour.

All positions:

The other tip here for all positions is to get a real feel for the customer of the website you’re working on and the people you are working with by going in and visiting the client, spend time with customer service teams, understand how the business works as a unit and get involved to see how you can really make a difference!

So now you’ve won the work and have a happy client, how do you get the work done to a high standard every time?

Processes

I’ll openly state I didn’t have a single process written down or followed for the first year of my business. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, or something I that would have changed my success levels if I had implemented it sooner. But it is definitely something to think about, especially when you have a team around you or will need to hand over to anyone in future. It is also something that you, the expert in your area, need to be in control of.

Development teams will have strict processes and release schedules. A lot of database teams will too. Why do some analytics teams not?

Agency

Tip: Create template documents and checklists

Agency life can often be a challenge balancing multiple client’s needs. So it is important to stay on top of everyone and keep lists in place with what has and hasn’t been discussed, approved, implemented, analysed and learnt on everything you do.

Using the same checklist for all clients and having a notes field so you can monitor progress can be very beneficial, especially if you pass client’s between people. Keeping the historical log is so much more important when you are a short term part of something. <reword to make more diplomatic…>

Time management is also very important here, so I would also recommend finding a good system that works for you, can integrate with other platforms you use and project management tools clients may use.

In house

Tip: keep processes in line with other business processes

As I mentioned initially on this point, many development teams have processes in place they have to stick to, so implement the same thing for your team and productivity, prioritisation and performance are all likely to improve.

The core benefit here is that if you implement processes to data requests or tracking requests, they all need to go through an information gathering and justification / prioritisation route. Doing this means you will also manage to remove about 20% of the requests you get through and do the rest to a better level than you might have done without core KPIs and objectives being written down initially. It also gives you a way to prove a value for the work you are doing, not just what you’re helping others do, which justifies resource on your team even further.

^ This is probably the biggest tip of them all and applies to any role.

Owner

I learnt the hard way that we need processes.

When launching something but GTM was still in preview not publish mode.

When you were about to tell the developer something was wrong with the data layer but actually your colleague had set the GA GTM tag up without ticking the box to enable enhanced ecommerce.

When you’re about to send an analysis piece to a client and realise half of it has been done in the wrong date range.

A DataStudio report is sent to the client for approval but some of the widgets have filters on them.

It starts to sound like we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but actually these were all caught very quickly before or after they arose. And maybe I’m being optimistic in thinking a process would have prevented all of them from happening. But the truth is it absolutely would have helped. Especially when you delegate tasks and can’t do everything yourself anymore.

We already had template documents in place to use as a framework to avoid repeating work or missing things. We have since implemented check lists and processes to follow. Only certain people are allowed to take responsibility for hitting publish and checklist documents are used as a “are you sure it’s finished, please review it once more” final checking point in order to ensure time is used efficiently by everyone.

Tip: Have a checklist and process for core tasks – especially sign off and launches

All job roles:

Another tip I learnt recently was something I have tried to put in place but never achieved in the way it has now been described by a UX specialist I met recently.

In his talk at BrightonCRO, Chris Unitt recommend that when you’re running tests or analysis you ensure you keep a document of every test you’ve ever run that was NOT successful and what the results were.

This can be applied to more than UX. Having a log book, Implementation documentation or fail book gives everyone a written history of what has and hasn’t been done as well as the results. It can give you ideas for the future or halt things you may have otherwise repeated. New people coming into the business can use it to learn processes and background understanding of customers.

A version of this I’m taking for my business is to have a Success book too, where we don’t just write about great results, but we write up useful things. References to helpful materials, top excel formulas or google analytics filters to use. I hope it will become a very useful bible for everyone on the team now and in the future.

Tip: Document everything and have a fail book

Strategy

Strategies

  • Prioritisation

Understand objectives before doing ANYTHING. EVER.

Why does your client want to have a GA audit?

  • Because they want to run new PPC campaigns
  • Because they think they had an SEO penalty in 2016 but results are still poor so was it something else
  • Because …

Why are you being asked to track weather data in Google Analytics?

why

Planning and Organisation

We tried a lot of tools, but in the end, the whiteboard won!

We use a matrix for urgent and important and add a post it note for every to do, prioritised by this.

And finally…

Other top tips for Life and Productivity –

  • Have a playlist for each type of work or mood to improve productivity
  • Have breakout areas in the office – have a cup of tea in a ball pit if you need to!
  • Care about what you do – if you don’t care enough find something better for you
  • Find what you are good at AND enjoy – find other people to fill the gaps
  • Be honest with yourself