This post is contributed by Burtch Works’ web and digital analytics team, led by Sandy Marmitt.
Digital is a fact of life. Unless you’re staunchly determined to live your life off the grid, for most of us there isn’t a day that goes by without interacting in the digital world in some way, whether it’s social media, email, shopping, or looking up directions. And these interactions continue to rise, touching every part of our business.
Despite the lines between web analytics and digital marketing continuing to blur, to truly reap the benefits of these two fields we usually advise our clients against searching for all of these skills in one individual, because you may miss out on some of the benefits of having specialists.
What is Web Analytics vs. Digital Marketing?
One of the best ways to start recognizing the differences in these two areas is to pit some of the buzzwords against each other. You start to see that the types of activities these professionals are responsible for may have some overlap, but that they are not the same. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it gives a good idea of what these groups do:
Customer journey (clickstream data)
Time on site/pages
User Experience (UX)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Social Media marketing
Data Management Platforms (DMP)
There are also digital marketing specialists who are responsible for running campaigns and ad buying, but not the resulting analysis.
How are these areas connected? How are they different?
In the end, both web analytics and digital marketing analytics are trying to give you a better picture of your customer or clients. Digital marketing efforts (such as social media or email campaigns) can greatly affect who visits a website, so the two are inexorably linked. That is ultimately the element that both of these areas measure – how many individuals engaged with the website/brand/product and how did they get there? However, the way in which it is measured is where the two roles start to differ.
Put simply, the main difference between these two areas is that web analytics uses website metrics to focus on customers, whereas digital marketers use a wider variety of sources to focus on the company as a whole. Web analytics focuses on website metrics like website sessions, average time on page, and bounce rate to paint a picture of the customer journey via the website, whereas digital marketing may encompass other business metrics like social media engagement, resulting sales, or email campaigns.
Why doesn’t everyone have these skills?
Some people do possess a wide range of skills across digital marketing and web analytics, but even though these areas have some overlap, you’re more likely to find someone who specializes in one area. For instance, you may find a marketer who has extensive experience with different types of campaigns and measurement tools, but has never learned technical aspects that are specific to the website, such as tagging or user experience. And vice versa, you could have an individual who could implement an entire set-up of Adobe Analytics on a website with custom tagging, but they have never once gotten into Adobe Audience Manager to create a very detailed customer segment for a new display campaign.
Why it’s still important to have specialists, not just generalists
Specialists can give you a more pinpointed view of the health of your business. Just like a family doctor can tell you that you probably broke your foot, it will take the specialization of a radiologist to tell you where the break is, how bad it was, and what your best course of treatment will be. If you hire a web analyst who, in addition to all their other responsibilities, is trying to launch and manage daily adjustments to the AdWords campaigns linked to your site, they may not have the experience to have a nuanced understanding of both areas.
What if you can’t afford to hire more specialists?
Depending on the nature of your business, you may not need, or be able to afford, a different specialist for web analytics, digital marketing, social media, and so on. In such cases, you may want to look for someone who has at least a top-level understanding of these areas and train them up on areas they’re not as familiar with.
Many companies seem to be perpetually searching for the “perfect” applicant – a single individual who can be hands-on with any tool, is a wiz with analytics work, knows the ins and outs of marketing campaigns and their measurement, and of course is able to speak eloquently about their work to executives and clients alike. Those individuals are out there, but they can be very hard to find because they are so valuable. More than likely, what you will find in is a candidate who has expertise in one or two areas with some exposure to a few others and that’s a great place to start.
This might bring to mind the hunt for data scientist “unicorns”, but we’ve found that the hybrid web/digital marketer can be a bit of a less common combination. This is because there often isn’t a necessity for one person to fulfill both of these roles in the same way that a data scientist might be required to extract, clean/organize, and then analyze their own unstructured data.
So who should you hire?
Hire a web analytics or digital marketing analytics professional for their skills – not just a list of tools. If you find someone who is an absolute rock star with Google Analytics and is great at aggregating data from multiple sources, but isn’t familiar with your company’s mainstay Adobe Analytics – talk to them anyway. Especially if that person has the drive and ability to learn many different tools, you may find that their personality may be more important than hiring someone who has direct experience with only the tool that you use.
It’s also extremely important to offer, or at least incentivize, training. There is a whole world-wide-web-full of information out there – and a lot of it is free! – so if someone is willing and able to learn, make sure you are capitalizing on that.
If you do hire specialists for these different areas, make sure they are talking to one another. Keep them sitting by each other – schedule meetings to discuss how website traffic/performance is doing in correlation to marketing efforts.
Web analytics and digital marketing analytics will always be best friends. They help to influence the data that each area is continuing to produce. However, to truly get the nuances and deep insights into the performance of each area, recognizing the difference in specialty will be the key to success. Finding those individuals who can truly champion each individual aspect of the digital analytics world will give you the sort of team that can take on advanced challenges.
Curious to see whether we have any roles that fit your experience, or looking to hire web and/or digital analytics experts for your team? Feel free to connect with Sandy Marmitt on LinkedIn!