Alan K’necht: Spotlight on the expert

In this new series, we dig deeper into the stories of our expert contributors. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

When we say contributor Alan K’necht is a long-time web analytics expert, we really mean a long time. He was working on search and analytics before nearly all of today’s tech giants existed. He attended the University of Waterloo in Canada, studying business and economics. While there he developed a fascination and expertise with computer programming. This lead him to roles and titles, like webmaster and desktop publisher manager, that have since gone extinct.

We sat down with Alan and asked him about his career.

Q: So what’s this I hear about you and the dotcom bubble?

A: I worked for a dotcom startup that eventually went belly up like so many did. But those stock options at one time were looking really good. The company was about to be bought out and the stock was going wild. We were all excited.

The buyers sent someone to come and look at our weblogs to find how much traffic we were getting. I had to tell the person doing the auditing that the numbers wouldn’t match up. They thought I was inflating the numbers, but I explained I had written a program that scrubbed out bots and other traffic to get more accurate results.

Q: The exact opposite of inflating.

Yeah, it was hilarious at the time. And so I started speaking at events about web development analytics, that kind of thing. In March 2000 I was giving a keynote at a web developer type of conference in Sydney, Australia. And of course, between sessions, everybody was checking how much their stocks are going up.

So I’m speaking on a Saturday morning there, but that’s late afternoon, the end of business Friday in North America. And one of the things I was talking about is why we need to measure our success. Why we can’t just be reporting page views. That we have to understand what a conversion is and make sure we’re driving quality traffic. What I used to say was, “If we don’t start doing this soon, this bubble we’re all enjoying is going to burst.”

When I came off the stage I went to a computer to look at my stocks and back then you had to use dial-up for that.  And I saw the NASDAQ had dropped 25% that Friday. So, I was forecasting the burst even though I didn’t know it had just happened or was happening, as I was giving the talk. 

Q: What was the impact when Universal Analytics came out?

A: When Google Analytics became free, they cut the knees out of all the low- and middle-priced analytics products and some of them were fantastic. And Google targeted a specific audience: the marketing departments and people who are not technically savvy. They didn’t care what the numbers really meant, they just wanted numbers to report on. They took out the products that used to sell from $100 to $200. They were called log analyzers. They took over in a matter of years.

And they also took out a particular product where I was one of the most highly recognized trainers in North America. So much so that I was recruited to do some custom work for the Navy. Being a Canadian I had to go into a US military base. It actually took an act of Congress to get my permission for that.

This was back during NAFTA and NAFTA work permits were always flaky about what work you could actually do. And you had to be able to show the permit when you crossed the border. So the Navy offered me the job and I said sure, but I don’t have the proper paperwork, and because it was all so rushed, they couldn’t get it to me. They couldn’t even send me any documentation about the system because of security. But they said they’d take care of it.

As I was going through customs into the U.S., if I’d run into any trouble I had a piece of paper with an admiral’s phone number on it. And I was supposed to give it to customs and say call this admiral if I had a problem, which I didn’t. 

So I come in, to do this work for them and they say, “You can’t touch a computer and you have to sit behind our programmer and tell him what to type.” 

Q: They went through a lot just to have you look over someone’s shoulder.

A: Yes they did.

Q: From way back when until now, has there been anything constant in web analytics?

A: What it always comes back to is how many eyeballs do you get to your site? Are they quality eyeballs? How are we going to define quality eyeballs? 

Q: How did you figure that out?

Many years ago, I worked for a technology startup in the data warehousing industry. I think I was employee number 12 or 13. At that time, I was a webmaster. It was the early days of the Web. Everything was still dial-up. I built their website. And I get called into the president’s office and he brings out some from our major competitor press release that says they’re getting 200,000 hits on their website. And we were getting like 5,000 to 10,000 hits.

 He goes I want an action plan by the end of the week. Now, how are we going to increase the number of hits? He wouldn’t give me a chance to explain what a hit was. And why, in that number they just reported, I don’t know what they meant by a hit. They’re telling me I have to make up the number now.

End of the week and he goes, ‘What’s your action plan?’ I say, ‘Here’s the latest report from yesterday and hits are up 20%.’ He’s suspicious. ‘How did you do it?’

I said did you notice some changes on our website? And he said, “Yeah, I really like those two new graphics you added to the page.” I told him each one of those is a hit. He goes, Okay, so explain to me what a hit is. 

I told him whoever wrote that press release didn’t say how many visits their site was getting. They probably grabbed the biggest number they had under their analytics tool and used that. To this day, that’s what I try to explain to people. If you’re using YouTube and say our videos have been hit this many times, okay, but how many people viewed it? How many people click the View button?

If I tell you you have a thousand visitors a day or a thousand fifty visitors a day, the important thing is what’s your trend? Is it increasing? Is it stable? You need the context. And so that is how I approach everything in the world of analytics.

Get MarTech! Daily. Free. In your inbox.

See terms.

The post Alan K’necht: Spotlight on the expert appeared first on MarTech.

Deja una respuesta


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email