Web Analytics Guru Interviews: Alex Cohen

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Welcome to the second in my series of web analytics guru interviews. This time, I had the pleasure of interviewing a budding, very smart, passionate web analyst called Alex Cohen. I have been impressed with his way of thinking for quite some time now, so was delighted to get some insight into his web analytics thinking.

Alex Cohen is an interactive marketing generalist at Commerce360 (and blogs for them).  He does a bit of everything: web analytics, multivariate testing, paid search, SEO, and account management.  He also has his own optimization blog, Digital Alex. Anyway, on with the interview…

Q: Great to interview you Alex! Can you tell us a little about you and what made you get into the web analytics field?

Alex: I got into the field by accident.  I was working at a direct marketing agency on pharmaceutical clients and I was recruited by Refinery (now G2 Philly) to do web analytics for pharma websites.  I knew nothing about interactive marketing or web analytics.  It was months before I even found one of Eric’s books.

Q: What is your web analytics tool of choice, and why?

Alex: Well, you have to pick the question you want to answer before you pick the tool, right?  For paid search, I recommend ClickEquations (watch them for news and thoughts on PPC).

I’m often limited to using what my clients have available.  That often means Omniture or Google Analytics, which are just fine depending on your needs.  Personally, I don’t much care for WebTrends, but I haven’t had a chance to customize it myself.

Q: How does the future of web analytics look in your crystal ball?
Alex: Action.  Measurement without action means nothing.  Multivariate testing has started to bridge the gap between data and action.  The best tools will help you filter out the signal from the noise. 

We’re also facing a lot of data quality issues.  Web analytics tools are rife with bad math and, as we mature, that’s going to have to change.

And we all know mobile is going to be huge.  It’s the area for pioneers right now.

Q: What do you think of the ludicrous things that have recently happened between Yahoo, Microsoft and Google?

Alex: Microsoft has bungled search at every opportunity possible.  I think this is terrible news for the search industry.  We really need a diversity of search engine/advertising providers to keep the competitive pressures on.  Google isn’t as forthright with their data as they ought to be (take search queries for example) and we could all start paying more.
Q: What is your favorite, most revealing web analytics metric, that provides you the most customer insight?
Alex: Hmm… I’m kind of obsessed with form abandonment.  I love conversion rate optimization.  Small changes can have profound effects on your bottom line.  There is always room for improvement.
Q: To Twitt or not to Twitt, that is the question. Do you find that Twitter helps you or hinders you in your career?
Alex: It helps.  Twitter is a way for me to help people and network with them.  I link out to many of the articles that I find most useful.  All of the executives at my company read my tweets and I actually get more opportunities because I understand social media better! Follow me on there! 
Q: You have a very insightful blog. What made you start start blogging in the first place? Who are your blogging idols?
Alex: Avinash Kaushik (famous web analytics author/blogger) told me to!  I’m not kidding.  Avinash is on the board of directors at Commerce360.  He visited the office and said “You should all be blogging and have an ecommerce business.”  I did the first one and I’m working on the second.  I also saw how Li at www.SearchMarketingGurus.com advanced herself with her blog.  Plus, she invited me to write there (Thanks Li!) And there are tons of great bloggers out there.  I couldn’t pick one.  Avinash is a good example.  Eric always has very authoritative posts.  June and I have a dorky blog friendship 😛
Q: I recently did a post about habits of successful web analysts. What habits of yours do you think make you successful?
Alex: Delegating!  I have 8 clients and there’s no way I can possibly do everything.  The good news is that I work with some smart people, like Matt

Teaching is also important.  Lu (our CEO) and my coworkers make fun of me all the time for being hyper-analytical and asking tons of questions.  I try to teach people how I dissect things and my expectations about analysis so we can find a good middle ground.

Well thanks Alex for some great insight, and some good blog links! I look forward to reading more of your blog posts and twitts! And if anyone has any questions for him, he can be contacted at alex@alexlcohen.com.