Interview with Caleb Whitmore, Founder and President of Analytics Pros
I decided to catch up with Google Analytics veteran Caleb Whitmore about the first ten years of Google Analytics, and the fact that he will be speaking at Google Analytics Conference in Stockholm, August 26, 2015.
So, Caleb, what would you say is the biggest change in Google Analytics 2015 compared to 2005?
There’s a lot in this question! I’d say “everything” for starters ;).
If I had to pick one, I think the single biggest change and advancement for the product is indisputably Advanced Segments.
The power that this feature has is absolutely amazing and largely overlooked or misunderstood by the marketplace. Here’s a simple trick: create a complex segment, like this one that isolates the 1st session of users who have had 4 or more sessions. Once this segment is created, click the “preview” link and then copy the entire URI from your browser. Take that URI to a site like http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/dencoder/ and decode it.
You’ll see something like this in the decoded version:
Good luck trying to do that in BigQuery or Redshift or any other database platform for that matter. What takes a data scientist hours or days can take mere minutes, even seconds, in GA. That’s a pretty amazing capability if you ask me! And Google has done this for everyone. For free. For a decade.
Would you say that demand is driving the development of the product or that the development of the product is driving demand?
From spending a decade working as a certified partner for Google Analytics I’d say there is a strong mix of both.
Google Analytics can, I believe, be fairly credited with not only responding to market needs, but in defining them. A decade ago people “demanded” to know hits. Today, the level of complexity and sophistication at the bottom-end of the market is much higher than it was in 2005. On the other side of things, there are a lot of areas where demand for more capabilities, more insights, more features, and more scale has absolutely driven the direction of the product.
I’ve had the privilege to work with the Google Analytics product team over the years on many initiatives by representing the needs of the clients I’ve served, and I know for a fact that the feedback from us users has a huge impact on the direction of the product.
So, it goes both ways!
Is there anything you miss from 2005 that you feel has been lost since then?
Hmm… The Urchin blue? No, not really. The first generation of Google Analytics and the Urchin product that preceded it were amazing in their time, but I am so much happier with the product where is is now. OH, one thing… organic keyword data! But, we know that’s not a Google Analytics issue so we can’t blame them for it ;)
What’s the one thing you wish GA had that it doesn’t?
I think we’re in a place where today we need more user-level reporting and insights. While this is possible to do through customized implementations or with BigQuery and GA Premium, it’s not easy or integrated. That’s something that the legacy Urchin software versions had that GA doesn’t and I miss.
Sometimes being able to drill down and evaluate the behavior patterns of an individual session is just really illuminating. NOT that this is the kind of analysis that you should live and die by, or even rely on regularly, but it is very useful.
In this same theme, having reporting that is designed around more flexible metrics and user-centric analysis would be really great. GA has gone “user centric” with Universal, but core metrics are still derived from session-based calculations. That data set is still valid, but the user-centric derived metrics are increasingly important too.
What should participants expect from your presentation?
We’ll take a talk down memory lane looking at where GA has been. There just might be a fun photo of the Crosby brothers in there :). And, I’ll look at what I believe the next decade is going to afford, and demand, for us in digital analytics and in digital marketing as a whole to be successful. One thing I can promise: the next decade is going to be more exciting and have more change than the last… and that means we’re in for an exciting ride!
Thanks, Caleb! I’m looking forward to it!
Caleb lives and breathes digital analytics, and has worked with hundreds of companies globally to develop and implement successful digital analytics strategies, execute implementations, and develop digital marketing optimization programs. Caleb is co-author of Performance Marketing with Google Analytics (Wiley, 2010), a frequent blogger and an internationally sought speaker on Digital Analytics and Google Analytics.
Since founding Analytics Pros in 2009 Caleb has built a globally respected team and works with brands including Starbucks, GoPro, Yelp!, Tableau Software, and many more.