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After contacting the writers of the best analytics books to read next year, I was lucky enough to get a response from Dunrie Greiling, one of the authors of Internet Marketing: Start to Finish, a book about how to drive measurable, repeatable online sales with search marketing, usability, CRM and analytics.

Greiling is the owner of Scientific Ink & Consulting, and currently the Executive Director of Marketing & Web Services at Washtenaw Community College. Internet Marketing guru, Dunrie Greiling works with analysts to derive actionable meaning and recommendations from complex web data, developing strategic internet marketing plans for customers. I interviewed her on internet marketing, business and of course analytics and got her advice for wannabe analytics experts, insider business and marketing tips and how to develop successful internet marketing strategies for customers.

In your book, Internet Marketing: Start to Finish, you talk about search marketing, usability, CRM and analytics. In your experience what is the most important aspect of internet marketing?

All of them work together! If you make me pick one, I would say start with analytics.

There’s a business truism, attributed variously to Peter Drucker, Karl Pearson, and others, which is “that which is measured, improves.”

Get a baseline from which to measure progress, get your customers and site visitors informing decisions. It will drive the rest.

You’ve stated that internet marketing can be a “confusion of conflicting advice from specialists in each silo (SEO, UX, PPC, Social, brand marketing…)” in the Top 25 Analytics Books to Read in 2016. How can business owners quiet the noise and find the best mix and approach for their company?

When you’ve got conflicting advice, test alternatives “in the wild” (=on the site) when you can. Paid search landing pages are great experiment zones because they are so compartmental. Typically, these pages aren’t part of the website, so they can wander a bit from the rest of the site.  If the scale of the change/conflict is too large to experiment with online, test on paper with potential or current customers. Let customer responses guide you.

Our book includes a story about a client for whom brand was trumping SEO. This client provided child care and resisted using the word “day care” on their website. They felt that “day care” insufficiently described their service and were quite specific about disassociating themselves from that term. They let us try day care in paid search, and we were able to show them that visitors who arrived on their site using the term day care converted well, which opened the door for us to start using the word on the main site.

What happens sometimes in corporate offices is that the internal team keeps each other busy, has their own language, and quite accidentally insulates themselves from the customer. Real customer data quiets the noise and settles the arguments.

Your book also talks about ‘dangerous data’, what exactly is dangerous data and how can we avoid it?

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. As a person or a company starts digging deeper into their web data, it can be tempting to act on incomplete information or a faulty understanding.

The examples we use in the book are eliminating a campaign that was driving phone calls based on its online conversion rate and evaluating a campaign by lead quantity rather than lead quality. In both cases, the company interpreted one data point correctly (campaign A is not driving online leads, campaign B is driving lots of whitepaper downloads) but missed the context.

We’re lucky that the web is resilient and easy to change. Campaign A was unpaused when the phone calls stopped–fixing all but the missed opportunities during the test. In the case of Campaign B, looking at lead to sale metrics showed that it wasn’t resulting in useful leads, and funds for this campaign were redirected.

With your work at Pure Visibility, driving insights and actionable recommendations from complex web data, what’s the most important thing you can share with us about developing strategic internet marketing plans for customers?

I know you asked for one, but I’m going to give you two “most important” things.

  1. Measure First

At the start of a new engagement, I’m often raring to go, excited to make a difference. Yet for a new client, if their website was not properly tracked, sometimes the best thing to do is wait and collect a benchmark.

“Not properly tracked” can be subtler than no analytics installed. Sometimes it comes from a siloed analytics installation, where subdomains are tracked separately or where conversions happen on different domains altogether (when third party systems are insufficiently integrated into the site or analytics). Other times improper tracking comes when paid search or paid social campaigns are run without conversion tracking installed. Another problem is when data from customers or employees confound customer data in analytics (public entrance to a login screen, traffic from corporate offices not filtered out of the data). Sometimes the current state can be pieced together from other systems (logfiles, analytics) and sometimes you can get by through limiting how old data gets used (exclude the direct channel, for example). Sometimes you just have to wait.

If you have to wait, how long to wait is a puzzle – a month? a year? Even though it would be good to have a year of data, no one wants to wait a year. A month has been a compromise I’ve used in the past.

  1. Then Act Quickly

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just start somewhere, anywhere. Don’t wait until you have the perfect plan or the perfect website. That time and that site will never come. Messing around and getting feedback is more fun than planning for me ;). Let timeliness and the flexibility of the web work together – publish and collect data and improve and repeat.

As a self-confessed web analytics geek, what advice can you give to other web analytics geeks out there, trying to carve out a career for themselves?

My path has been an odd one: I have a doctorate in science, worked for a software company and then worked in web for the last decade. I’m not an SEO, nor a paid search expert, nor a social media aficionado, nor a designer, nor do I code regex…I appreciate all of the specialties.

I have made a profession integrating across disciplines within digital marketing. I don’t know that it is common, but I came to manage teams of marketers and web folks through project management–organizing and communicating the work of the team to clients. I started as a technical writer, and for me, the entry point to this career was a lingering feeling that projects I was on weren’t being managed well. When I spoke to one of my bosses about this, he agreed and asked me to take on the project management.

So, for advice, follow your intuition and speak up! Get yourself into trouble by taking on new responsibilities.

JT Ripton