Spotlight on Search - Interview with Eric T. Peterson

When you think of authorities on web analytics, one person that should be on your list is Eric T. Peterson. Eric is currently Vice President with the Visual Sciences division of web analytics firm, WebSideStory, is the author of several books on web measurement and moderates several popular discussion lists on analytics. He also manages an excellent site on web analytics called Web Analytics Demystified. He previously worked as an analyst with JupiterResearch and has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Business 2.0 and others as an expert on the topic.
Eric will be speaking at a MIMA event tomorrow evening here in Minneapolis so I thought I would check in with him and do a little interview.

Please share a bit about your background

I’ve worked in the web analytics field since 1998 when I started at WebTrends as a webmaster. Since then I’ve worked mostly as an analyst (WebSideStory, JupiterResearch) and currently head up the Strategic Services group at Visual Sciences (a division of WebSideStory.) I’ve written three books on the subject of web analytics–Web Analytics Demystified (Celilo), Web Site Measurement Hacks (O’Reilly) and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators (self-published in PDF format only)–and have founded a few web analytics “community” groups–the Web Analytics Forum at Yahoo! Groups and Web Analytics Wednesday. You can learn more about my activity in the web analytics community at

What do you think are some of the most significant unrealized opportunities for companies regarding web analytics?

Most companies aren’t realizing the full benefit of their investment in web analytic technology because they’ve failed to assign proper/enough resources to the task of “improving the web site.” Measurement tools are a critical piece of the continual improvement process–basically working to improve your site incrementally rather than hoping that a massive redesign will solve your problems–but too few companies are leveraging this opportunity effectively.

What are some of the most common mistakes companies make regarding measuring web site performance?

Not taking the time to clearly define their business objectives and activities before they start generating “reports” that they push out to people. In my experience folks don’t need more reports, they need the “right” reports that speak directly to the business problems they’re trying to solve. The act of clearly defining value the web site is supposed to deliver and then mapping those goals to measurable clickstream helps clarify which data and reports are valuable at the strategic and tactical levels.

What are a few of the most important new trends companies should pay attention to regarding the future of web analytics?

At the recent Emetrics summit in Santa Barbara, one thing I was really impressed by was the fairly dramatic increase in the quality of questions people were asking from 2005 to 2006, which leads me to believe (at least in the microcosm) that the overall level of web analytics maturity is increasing. Given that there is already some pretty sophisticated technology out there, I think the most important trend that we should all watch for (and encourage) is how companies think about this type of technology and the impact it can have on their overall business.

Can you recommend educational resources for companies that want to improve their practical knowledge about web analytics?

Sure. I personally really like my site, which is about to get an overhaul and has links to tons of web analytics resources, jobs and community events like the Web Analytics Forum and Web Analytics Wednesday. Another good resource is the Web Analytics Association, our communities “professional association”.

You’ve written some excellent books on web analytics. (Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators) What are some resources you rely on for information on web analytics regarding best practices and up to date information?

Well, the Web Analytics Forum at Yahoo! Groups helps me keep my finger on the pulse of the larger community. I subscribe to a number of different RSS feeds written by “web analytics bloggers” like A. Clinton Ivy (Instant Cognition) and Minnesota’s own Mike Keyes (Ciceron). I read Jason Burby, Bryan Eisenberg and Neil Mason at Clickz and have a persistent Google search set up for the keywords “web analytics” which uncovers a bunch of interesting articles every week. Now that I’m at Visual Sciences, I also rely on our customers who, by and large, are a pretty sophisticated group of companies.

What are your favorite search engines?

Google. I pretty much only use Google.

Thanks Eric!

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July 10, 2006

Lee Odden is a 9 year internet marketing veteran and President of TopRank Online Marketing, a leading search marketing agency that helps companies increase sales and brand visibility online. Lee has worked with hundreds of companies to develop and implement winning online marketing programs with particular expertise in search engine optimization, online public relations and blog marketing.

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