Web Analytics Association is born

Web analytics is becoming an increasingly important area in the online world and a new group is preparing to help it grow.

The growth of the Web, it's popularity as a marketing medium and the vast amounts of money being spent on measuring its effectiveness have prompted a group of vendors, users and consultants to form the industry's first association for Web analytics.

The Web Analytics Association (WAA), officially launched today, will promote Web analytics education, advocacy, research, standards and communication, said Jim Sterne, president of the WAA and president of Target Marketing.

"The Web has finally become mainstream," Sterne said. "People realize they're spending millions on this; they want to know what they're getting out of it."

For example, 54% of companies expect to spend more on Web analytics in 2005 and the market should reach $367 million, according to a report from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Additionally, with nearly two-thirds of Web-based consumers doing research online and purchasing offline, companies will need Web analytics to track customers across channels, according to the association.

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Based in Washington, D.C., the WAA has a seven-member board of directors made up of vendors, consultants and practitioners. Executives from WebTrends and WebSideStory sit on the board, as does Hewlett-Packard's director of worldwide customer knowledge management and analytics. The WAA also intends to establish an advisory board with 25 members.

One of the first key initiatives the association will undertake is establishing a common language for measuring Web success. For example, the WAA will identify the difference between commonly misunderstood terms like "visit" and "session," or "visitor" and "unique visitor."

"As consultants, we need a place to go for definition of language," Sterne said.

Companies often have difficulty discussing Web metrics internally. For example, one of Sterne's clients got so discouraged by constantly having to explain to management the difference between "hits" and "page views" that they just started calling page view reports hit reports, he said. Sterne added that in the Web analytics industry "hits" is jokingly used as an acronym for "How Idiots Track Success."

The WAA will also establish committees to tackle six different initiatives. Individual vendors and consultants have already begun working with legislators to stress the difference between measurement and privacy as Congress rushes to pass antispyware legislation. The WAA and its advocacy committee will take up that charge, Sterne said. Additionally, an education committee will focus on developing a universal Web analytics skill set, identifying best practices and ultimately promoting a certification program.

"There's a whole lot of people looking for Web analytics smarts and those jobs are going begging," Sterne said.

Members of the association will ultimately include people with titles like director of Web analytics, managers of customer management, chief marketing officer and search engine, and e-mail marketing professionals. The organization should eventually number several hundred, Sterne said.

Memberships to the WAA will cost $129 for an individual, $39 for students, a $2,500 membership for smaller companies and $5,000 for a corporate membership, which will include a handful of individual memberships.

The WAA has a Web site up at www.webanalyticsassociation.org with a statement of purpose and hopes to have a more formal online interaction center ready at the end of March.

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