Web Analytics – An Hour a Day: Book Review

One of the books I looked forward to reading this year was Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik. I’ve hesitated making this post because I met Avinash at SES San Jose earlier this year, I sat in on one of his sessions, was in talks to get involved in Market Motive with him and a few other people. He’s a good speaker (see video below) and a very nice guy, but the book just was pretty disappointing for me.

I’ve been using web analytics for quite some time, I remember taking some very expensive training classes with webtrends, back before the program became so outrageously overpriced it bordered on ridiculous. Understanding I had a firm base for web analytics I was fully prepared to gloss over and skip some of the introductory chapters.

For me the book just never delivered. First off it was wordy, much wordier than it needed to be. I’d much rather have a 60 page book that costs $75 without the fluff and gives me only the info, as opposed to a 400 page book that’s 75% longer than it needs to be and costs $30. However that’s a personal preference from someone who lives in a time pressed sound bite world.

Secondly the book tends to really focus on conversion based ecommerce sites. Since I tend to run primarily adsense and affiliate websites, whole chapters were entirely useless for me. Run single or multiple sites where you have access to the full conversion data, you will probably get more value out of it.

Additionally there was very little new, and no leading edge analysis methodology in the book for me. To be completely honest I get more insight looking at my own crazyegg reports.

Lastly there were two things in book that drove me batty to the point of wanting to throw the book out of the nearest window in a fit of rage. First on page 206 there is section on SEO where he says black hat tactics are illegal … yes illegal. Breaking search engine guidelines is not illegal, you may find the practice morally reprehensible, but please don’t give Google any law making authority it doesn’t have. This kind of deification of Google, or any other company, pisses me off to no end.

Second is the continual reference for employing analysts who have college degrees. Just because you sat through 4 or 6 years of college is no indication you have any clue or idea what the hell you are talking about. I’ve been exposed to numerous college grads over the years and I’ve seen absolutely zero correlation between having a diploma and knowing your ass from your elbow. There’s a difference between being educated and being intelligent. In fact I’d make the argument the college grads with zero real world experience are more dangerous, because they have some delusion that they might actually know what they are talking about, when in fact they usually don’t.

So if you’ve never taken a course on analytics, or are in charge of a single conversion driven ecommerce website you’ll probably learn something from this book. If you have any meaningful experience with with analytics or deal mostly with affiliate and adsense sites skip it, it’s not worth your time.

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